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Sports Management Degree, PhD in Sports Management, online doctorate in Sports ManagementThe sports industry is massive. There are only an estimated 5,000 athletes that play for the four largest sports leagues in America, which are the NFL, the NBA, the NHL, and the MLB; however, there are almost 500,000 NCAA athletes. With this many people involved in just the playing of sports, you can imagine that a lot is going on behind the scenes. If you have a passion for the world of sports but don’t see yourself entering that realm as a professional athlete, this could be a great degree option for you. It’s also an awesome option for those of you who want to get involved in education or research.

What is Sports Management?

football, soccer, sports management, phd in sports management, online phd, online degreeSports management is a term that covers a vast industry and includes every business aspect of the world of sports. This means that there are jobs in public relations, marketing, events, and more. A sports manager may work one on one with professional athletes, professional teams, national sports programs, public schools, colleges, university, sports marketing firms, stadiums, recreational facilities, and so much more.

You could also use a degree like this to propel you into a career in research in the field of sports and recreation, which is just as multifaceted as the business side of things. The Bureau of Labor Statistics has a favorable projection for jobs in this area; they are growing at nearly twice the national average.

What does it take to work in Sports Management?

Sports management degree online phdTo work in such a dynamic and competitive field, there is a range of skills that are going to help you to succeed and be more competitive in the job market. A strong foundation in business is key because it is going to give you the broad base of knowledge to understand all of the smaller moving parts that keep the industry afloat. You need to be able to think critically and analyze the business aspect of sports, and you need to be a strong communicator that exudes professionalism, understand ethical conduct and have good sportsmanship.

Skills in communication, marketing, business strategy, and leadership are all great to have in your arsenal. Sports as a whole is a close to $80 billion industry. There is a lot of money involved in professional sports, municipal recreation, the private sector, and so on. Because of that, it is going to be a competitive industry and employers are looking for someone that they can trust. Being motivated, passionate, energetic, and committed to teamwork are personal values that can also help you get ahead.

Your Sports Management Degree

basketball, sports management degree online, phd, online doctorate, online phdFor those of you who are ready to pursue your sports management education at the highest level, it may seem like you would have to sacrifice a lot of your current responsibilities. There are not many online degrees in the field but the ones that exist come from reputable institutions and offer you an incredible amount of flexibility. We’ve ranked the best of those programs according to the following.


In order to create this ranking, we researched to find all of the schools that offer distance-based online doctorate programs in sports management. We considered hybrid degrees alongside those that were fully online.

We then researched these three factors:

  • Freshman Retention Rate (⅓ of final score),
  • Graduation Rate (⅓ of final score), and
  • Affordability (⅓ of final score)

These factors are represented as percentages and we used each as a whole number and added them together for a possible score of 300 points. Once all of the institutions were scored, we ranked them accordingly.

We collected all of the data used to score and talk about each institution from the schools’ websites whenever possible. If we weren’t able to find what we needed on the individual school site, we also used the databases of the National Center for Education Statistics, U.S. News & World Report,, and CollegeData.

Cost information is represented by the residential cost of attendance as determined by CollegeData. Due to the fluid nature of tuition rates and the uniqueness of everyone’s financial situation, please keep in mind that you will likely not pay the amount described, it’s just to help give you a complete picture of the schools and the programs they offer.

OnlineCollegePlan prides itself on transparency and providing students with the most accurate and helpful information and resources. In light of that, we want to point out that no institution is ever given preferential treatment for any reason. However, some schools that may have placed in this ranking have been omitted either due to insufficient data or per their own request.

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  1. MERIT: 236
    View Profile Average Cost: $32,300

    Temple University offers an online Doctor of Athletic Training program. This type of program is a good option for those who want to work in athletic training and want to be able to distinguish themselves as leaders in a clinical or academic setting. This is a 36-credit program, and the coursework is delivered exclusively online. However, there are synchronous and asynchronous components so there will be times that you have to attend live classes virtually.

    The curriculum of the program will help you to work collaboratively with a healthcare team if you’d like to approach your career from a clinical standpoint; the program will also equip you with strong leadership skills geared towards a clinical profession. You will also learn how athletic training fits into the field of public health. You will learn about evidence-based decision making and how to appraise athletic training materials to improve patient outcomes.

    Tuition for this program is a flat rate that doesn’t consider your state of residency. You will pay the same thing as all other online students. It is calculated on a per-credit basis, and online students are eligible for financial aid. This program is a post-professional program that is open only to certified athletic trainers.

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  2. MERIT: 222
    View Profile Average Cost: $21,300

    The University of Idaho was the nation’s first university to create a clinical Doctor of Athletic Training program, and it is offered online. The degree is designed to help students expand their clinical practice in the field of athletic training. While the coursework is primarily online, there is a mandatory four-week stay on campus during every summer of the program. You will also be required to complete a clinical residency at a location of your choice.

    This program consists of 66 credits in total. Over summer, you will have to take courses such as Leadership and Mentoring in Athletic Training Clinical Practice, Advanced Evidence-Based Practice in Athletic Training, Research Methods in Athletic Training, and more. The program begins in the summer with a four-week stay on campus; all of the coursework in the fall and spring semesters can be completed entirely online.

    The program can be completed in just six semesters of full-time study. Online classes will cover topics like Current Issues in Clinical Practice, Quantitative Methods and Statistics, Advance Action Research in Athletic Training, and more. The program does culminate in a dissertation. Clinical practice accounts for over a third of the required credits. Similar to Temple’s program, this is post-professional and open to certified trainers only.

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  3. MERIT: 205
    View Profile Average Cost: $26,177

    The California University of Pennsylvania offers a Doctor of Health Science and Exercise Leadership. It is 100% online and is open to those of you who already hold professional certification as an athletic trainer. This program is designed to help you develop the skills you need to be a leader in health science, health promotion, and general wellness. This degree is a good option for anyone who’d like to expand in their roles as a manager, educator, researcher, or even those in clinical positions.

    There is only one on-campus requirement in CalU’s program, and that is to present your professional portfolio and defend your dissertation if that is relevant to your plan of study. This is a 48-credit program that places heavy emphasis on research. You will create an evidence-based professional portfolio as you progress through the program; and learn to integrate trends in health science, exercise science, and fitness to improve your clinical practice or related professional career.

    Some of the classes you’ll take include Health Promotion and Wellness for the Individual; Leadership in Wellness Education and Professional Practice; Curriculum and Course Design and; Community and Corporate Wellness. You will also have the opportunity to take electives that are in the areas you want to focus on professionally. This program can be completed in just two years.

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  4. MERIT: 202
    View Profile Average Cost: $21,728

    8 ETSU-logoEast Tennessee State University offers an incredibly innovative and unique degree program, its Doctor of Education in Global Sport Leadership. The program is 100% online, but there are global study abroad components such as a two-week field trip for the International Model of Sport Leadership course. Attending an international sporting event is a requirement. While this is a Doctor of Education program, there are plenty of multifaceted components that would allow you to apply it in other fields as well.

    Some classes you’ll take include Interpersonal Relationship in Sport, Interpreting and Applying Analytics in Sport, Effect of Governing Bodies on Sport Leaders, and Strategic Planning and Thinking for Global Sport Leaders. You will also be able to choose a few electives. There isn’t a dissertation associated with the program, but there is a Doctoral Capstone Project instead.

    In order to be eligible for the program, students must hold a master’s degree in sports or a related profession. You will also need a passport in order to attend the study abroad components. It is preferred that applicants have a minimum of three years experience working in professional, collegiate, or high school sports; however, some exceptions may be made. The cost per credit hour is $670 for students that don’t reside in Tennessee.

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  5. MERIT: 194
    View Profile Average Cost: $24,536

    Troy University offers an online Doctor of Philosophy in Sports Management. This program is designed to create graduates that are able to solve complex problems in sports, conduct effective research, and gain all of the skills that they’ll need in order to be successful in professional sports management roles. It is available entirely online; online classes at the university are presented in short nine-week terms to increase the flexibility of Troy’s distance programs.

    This online Sports Management PhD is made up of 60 credit hours and has a tuition rate of $494 per credit hour regardless of your residency. The program is broken down into four major components which are the Doctoral Core, Research and Statistics Requirements, Cognate Area Requirements, then your exam and dissertation. You are encouraged to defend your dissertation in person, but it is not required. You can use Skype or a similar program.

    There are several different cognate areas to choose from. The university lists the following: Sport Organization Behavior/Theory; Sport Marketing, Sport Finance, Legal Aspects of Sport, Athletic Administration, Sport Communication, or Sport Tourism. However, students can work with an advisor to construct a cognate area that suits their interests and goals. This program is available to students that hold a master’s degree.

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Is Sports Management a good career?

Sports management is a very rich field because it is full of diverse positions that you can choose from. As a whole, sports is a multibillion-dollar industry that is only going to continue to grow. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, it is growing at nearly twice the average rate of other fields in the nation. Sports management is a great career option if you’re someone who is equally as passionate about business as you are about sports. But it is important to consider that there are plenty of other jobs in the public and private sector that this degree will qualify you for so even if business isn’t exactly for you, you are surely going to have other options.

You can add an area of focus such as education, health science, or nutrition if you’re not extremely dedicated to working in business. There are also business-related areas of focus you can explore like finance, marketing, and more. Sports management is a great career, and it is a great degree to pursue if you’re interested in a sports-related career. The thing to keep in mind is that going to college is always going to be a big investment of your money and your time. Choosing to earn an online sports management degree can help you fit your classes into your schedule, so you don’t struggle with having enough time to juggle all of your responsibilities. You may also find that taking a sports management degree program online helps you cut down on costs; this could be tuition and fees, but also supplies, commuting, and so on.

What do you learn in Sports Management?

There are a lot of program options to consider in sports management; any field that is so broad is going to give you a lot of options to choose from, and that can seem incredibly daunting from the outside; however, the perfect program for you is out there, and you could be just one application away from reaching your career goals.

If you’re taking a traditional sports management program, you’re going to learn a lot about business. Some of the topics that you’re likely to cover include organizational management, public relations, public speaking, sports sociology, administration of sports/recreation management, sports marketing, and so on.

If you’re approaching sports management from another angle, such as an academic one, you’re going to learn the same principles of sports management as above, but you’ll also see courses in how to conduct sports-related research, adult learning, curriculum design, and other educational courses. You are likely to learn this type of stuff if you’re looking to enter a research career as well, along with additional skills in analyzing data and contemporary issues.

You can also approach sports management from a more clinical standpoint if you want to work on the border between the healthcare and sports field. You will learn about athletic training, exercise, nutrition, wellness, fitness, and also explore clinical research to encourage evidence-based clinical practice in your professional life. There are also careers in event planning, facility management, and sports media. Based on the concentration of your selected program, you will learn the fundamentals of sports along with extensive skills in your area of focus. Working with an academic advisor will also help you tailor what you learn to your specific interests.

What are jobs in Sports Management?

As a rough estimate, only one in every 52 million people is going to become a professional athlete, but that doesn’t mean that you can’t have an incredible career in the sports industry if that is what you’re passionate about. You can get a career in sports management or work in another peripheral area to the field and be able to work in sports every day. We’re just going to touch on some of your options here.

You could work as an athletic director at a school or a recreation center; a facilities manager at a stadium, a gym, or rec center; an event coordinator for a sports team, industry, or stadium; you could work in sports marketing for a company, franchise, or organization; a financial and contract analyst helping to support the financial success of a sports-related organization or negotiating contracts. You could also work in public relations, accounting, sales, and more.

You could find a different type of job in sports management if you don’t see the business aspect of it attractive. You could work as a fitness director, a wellness coordinator, an athletic trainer, or a coach at a school or rec center. You could get a job for a large corporation or work in the private sector. It’s all up to you. Working with an academic advisor is key to making sure that you can learn everything you need to pursue your ideal career.

What are the requirements in Sports Management?

The typical first step in securing a career in sports management is a bachelor’s degree in the field. This is the most common degree in sports management that students choose to pursue. There are not many prerequisites to this type of program; however, some schools prefer that students have a few related classes in their freshman year of college. The field is extremely competitive so while there are not many set requirements, it is very important to keep in mind that you need to have relevant courses with passing grades on your transcripts.

Some of the core classes you’ll encounter throughout your course of study include:

  • Management
  • Finance
  • Public Speaking
  • Sport Facility Design and Management
  • Sports Marketing
  • Legal Issues in Sports
  • Economics
  • Physical Science
  • Sport and Society
  • Sports Research Methods

Choosing a specialty will not change the core curriculum of the program, but it will allow you to take more specific courses that are aligned with your career goals. Just a handful of potential specialties include athletic administration, marketing, and communications, facility management, and so on. Every student has unique goals and will have individual requirements to complete the sports management program that’s best for them. Consulting with an academic advisor is recommended to get a complete picture of what you’ll need to do.