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Sports Management Career Guide & Overview
Sports management isn't just one job. It's an umbrella term that covers several different roles in the sports world. The exact duties you'll take on will depend on the job you choose. For instance, as an athletics director, you'd take on take on the responsibility of hiring, scheduling, budgeting, and planning for an athletic department. As a public relations specialist, you'd ensure the team, facility, or athlete you work for maintains a positive press image and relationship by communicating with the media and scheduling interviews.
Sports management can be fast-paced and demanding, so you'll also need to be ready to put your education and your love for sports to work
"I think the amount of work that goes into sports surprises people," says Maggie Vlasaty, a social media engagement specialist at Uncommon Sports Group. "Those in the sports industry are typically working the average, everyday hours and on top of that, they're working after-hours for games and events, and on weekends and holidays."
What Are Some Popular Jobs in Sports Management?
The field of sports management encompasses multiple jobs. Some roles are administrative in nature, while others put you face-to-face with athletes.
Administrative Roles in Sports Management
In an administrative sports management role, you'll handle the operations, marketing, and business end of sports. This includes roles such as facilities manager, sports data analyst, marketing manager, and more.
"You see a lot of sports management students settle into careers on the business and front office side of things," explains Vlasaty. "A very common beginning experience for people is a role in sales with an organization. Marketing and corporate partnerships are also common."
Administrative sports management roles can be found in athletic departments, sports facilities, and with sports teams at all levels. Professionals in these roles ensure all the details are handled before, during, and after the game and season.
About the job: An athletic director is in charge of the operations and management of an athletic department.
What you'll do: In this role, you'll take on tasks such as hiring coaches and other staff members, creating and maintaining a budget, ordering needed sporting equipment, creating schedules, promoting the department and recruiting new talent, and overseeing all daily operations.
Where you'll work: Athletic directors work for high schools, colleges, universities, and other organizations with dedicated athletic departments.
About the job: A facilities manager is responsible for the daily operation of a sports facility. You might also see this job referred to as stadium manager, arena manager, or general manager.
What you'll do: You'll ensure an athletic facility is running smoothly as a facilities manager. You'll keep track of events, organize the leasing of your facility, oversee staff, ensure grounds and facility are safe and up to code, and handle operations of the facility on a day-to-day basis.
Where you'll work: Facilities managers can work at athletic facilities of all sorts including stadiums, arenas, pools, boxing rings, fitness centers, and ice rinks.
Public Relations Specialist
About the job: A public relations specialist is the communication bridge between a team, athletic facility, or athlete and the media.
What you'll do: As public relations specialist, you'll be in charge of your facility's or team's image in the press. You'll create press releases, prepare reports, answer questions from publications and news outlets, schedule interviews, and design and implement media campaigns.
Where you'll work: Public relations specialists can work for teams, facilities, athletics departments, or even individual athletes.
Sports Data Analyst
About the job: Sports data analysts monitor, collect, and analyze sporting statistics.
What you'll do: In this role, you'll collect data about the performance of an athlete or team, then analyze it to identify possible areas of improvement or to make predictions about future performance. You might provide this information to a coach or team manager to boost performance or a media source for publication.
Where you'll work: Sports data analysts work for athletic departments, teams, facilities, and media outlets.
Sports Marketing Manager
About the job: Sports marketing managers design campaigns to attract new fans and new sponsors.
What you'll do: As a sports marketing manager, you'll design advertisements, promotions, branding, giveaways, and endorsements. You'll perform market research to determine the best strategies to bring in new fans, attract new sponsors, and keep your team or facility in the public eye.
Where you'll work: Sports marketing managers work for sports teams, facilities, and athletic departments.
Athlete-Facing Roles in Sports Management
Athlete-facing roles in sports management put you in direct contact with athletes. Whether it's helping to negotiate contracts as an agent or helping to sharpen skills as a coach, you'll be a major part of a player's athletic career.
About the job: Sports agents act as representatives for athletes during contract and other business negotiations.
What you'll do: You'll handle the fine print of negotiating contracts, endorsements, recruitment deals, and more on behalf of the athletes you represent. You'll look out for the interests of your clients and ensure they are being paid fairly, and you'll seek out new ways for them to increase their income and image.
Where you'll work: Some sports agents are employed by agencies while others work as independent contractors.
About the job: Coaches and scouts work directly with athletes to build a team and create athletic success.
What you'll do: As a coach at any level, you'll help athletes reach their full potential. You'll oversee practices and games, and you'll create team rosters and schedules. As a scout, you'll seek out and recruit athletes for a team. You'll look for athletes that meet the needs of the team you work for, and meet with athletes to recruit them for that team.
Where you'll work: Coaches can work for teams of any size and at any level from youth recreational leagues to professional leagues. Scouts often work for collegiate and professional teams that are seeking top athletic talent.
What Education Do I Need?
You have a few educational options to look into when you're starting your sports management career. Many professionals in this field have a bachelor's degree in sports management, but associate, master's and doctoral degrees are also available—and also available in an online format. The right path for you depends on your career goals and on the amount of time you can devote to school.
Do I Need to be Licensed or Certified?
There are a few different certifications available for sports management professionals. In most cases, these certifications aren't required nationally or by any state. Generally, certification is only a requirement if you want to work as an agent for specific professional leagues or if you work in combat sports such as boxing or fencing. However, even when certifications aren't required, they can help you boost your career. A certification can be a great way to show your professional dedication and expertise.
Salary and Job Outlook
Your salary as a sports management professional will vary depending on a number of factors. For instance, roles such as athletic director or sports marketing manager have higher average salaries than roles such as coach or scout. However, your job title isn't the only thing that can influence your salary. Your individual employer as well as your level of education, certification, and experience can all make a big difference in your take-home pay.
Plus, there's room to grow in the world of sports management. Since job growth is predicted across several sports management roles, there will likely be job opportunities at all levels. You can follow your career path from the entry-level all the way up to a director or management role and see your salary increase along the way.