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Top 6 Online PhD in Sport Management

Sports-Management-Degree-Guide-Top ProgramsBy SMDG Staff

This ranking was originally published in October 2018 and was updated in June 2020. The ranking order may be affected by the 2020 updates, but the original list was not re-ordered. 

Earning an online PhD in the field of sports management is a great way gain valuable knowledge and training without the need to relocate or leave your job to pursue a doctorate degree. Graduates of an online PhD program in sports management can find employment in a variety of areas including facility management, sports marketing, sports law, or education. The completion of a doctorate degree in sport management can be an asset in career advancement, self-employment, or education.


To identify the top six best online PhD degree programs in sports management, we started with a search on College Navigator to find out which schools offered these programs in an online format. We also consulted NASSM, the North American Society for Sport Management, which keeps a list of universities offering online PhD sport management degree programs in the U.S. We compared student to faculty ratios, average graduate tuition rates, graduation rates, and accreditations using College Navigator. While graduation rates are provided only for first time undergraduate students, we felt this was still important to consider for our list as an indicator of the level of support students receive while earning their degree. To be considered for our list, schools must hold regional accreditation, provide students with integrated online learning experiences, and have a curriculum taught by doctorate-level faculty. From our list, we created a rating system as seen below to select our top six online PhD degree programs in sport management.

Student to Faculty Ratio

  • 10:1 or less= 3 Points
  • 11:1 to 15:1=2 Points
  • Greater than 15:1= 1 Point

Average Graduate Tuition Rate

  • Less than $10,000 per year= 3 Points
  • $10,000 to $15,000 per year=2 Points
  • More than $15,000 per year= 1 Point

Overall Graduation Rate

  • Less than 50 percent = 1 Points
  • Greater than 50 percent = 2 Points

Below are six schools that offer the best online sports management PhD degree programs. Where there are ties, the school with the lower average graduate tuition rate is favored.

Ranking the Top 6 Online PhD Programs in Sports Management


#6 – United States Sports Academy – Daphne, Alabama

Doctor of Education in Sports Management


Student to Faculty Ratio: 8:1
Average Graduate Tuition: $19,440/year
Accreditation: Southern Association of Colleges and Schools, Commission on Colleges
Overall Graduation Rate: N/A
Points: 4
The top online EdD in Sport Management from the United States Sports Academy is a 66 credit hour program open to new master’s graduates, working professionals, and sport fans who want to gain knowledge and experience in the field. The USSA is a member of the National Council for Accreditation of Coaching Education. Students can choose to specialize in leadership, marketing, or human resource management. A unique attribute of the program is the mentorship experience which requires students to engage in a hands-on learning experience.

#5 – Northcentral University – San Diego, California

Sport and Athletic Management, PhD-ED

Northcentral University - Sports Management Degree Guide


Student to Faculty Ratio: 1:1
Average Graduate Tuition: $16,983/year
Accreditation: Western Association of Schools and Colleges, Senior College and University Commission
Overall Graduation Rate: N/A
Points: 4
Northcentral University offers an innovative online PhD-Ed in Sport and Athletic Management for students who want to gain expertise and leadership experience in the field. Students will enhance their knowledge of Title IX, legal aspects in sports, marketing, and research. Unlike other online PhD degree programs, Northcentral features weekly course starts, no scheduled lectures or group assignments, and one to one engagement. The program is taught by a 100 percent doctoral level faculty meaning students receive the highest level of knowledge and support in the industry.

#4 – Concordia University – River Forest, Illinois

PhD in Leadership – Health & Human Performance

Concordia University Chicago - Sports Management Degree Guide


Student to Faculty Ratio:10:1
Average Graduate Tuition: $8,910/year
Accreditation: Higher Learning Commission
Overall Graduation Rate: 47 percent
Points: 7
The online PhD in Health and Human Performance from Concordia University in Chicago has convenient eight week courses and a rolling application deadline. The 66-67 credit hour program prepares students for academic, clinical, or leadership roles in a variety of sport management related areas. Doctorate degree coursework covers areas like leadership, exercise science, research, statistics, and health. Students benefit from small class size and tuition that will not increase for the duration of the program.

#3 – California University of Pennsylvania – California, Pennsylvania

Health Science and Exercise Leadership Online Doctorate

California University of Pennsylvania


Student to Faculty Ratio: 18:1
Average Graduate Tuition: $12,919/year in-state and $17,563/year out-of-state
Accreditation: Middle States Commission on Higher Education
Overall Graduation Rate: 50 percent
Points: 5
The online PhD degree program in health science and exercise leadership is offered in a convenient format designed to promote health and wellness. Students can earn their doctorate degree in just two years or complete an optional dissertation and finish in three years. This top online PhD in Sport Management features a 48 credit hour core with coursework in leadership, exercise science, research, and adult learning. The optional dissertation experience provides students with the opportunity to engage in hands on research creation.

#2 – East Tennessee State University – Johnson City, Tennessee

Global Sport Leadership Doctorate


Student to Faculty Ratio: 16:1
Average Graduate Tuition: $10,559/year in-state and $25,679/year out-of-state
Accreditation: Southern Association of Colleges and Schools, Commission on Colleges
Overall Graduation Rate: 50 percent
Points: 5
The School of Graduate Studies at East Tennessee State University features an online PhD degree program in Global Sport Leadership that uses a cohort format and begins each fall. There is no dissertation requirement, students complete a Doctoral Capstone Project to showcase their knowledge and skills. This top online PhD in sport management degree program has an international flair, giving students the chance to study abroad for a variety of hands-on field experiences each year. This 60 credit hour program takes three years to complete.

#1 – Troy University – Troy University

Sport Management (Ph.D.) Online


Student to Faculty Ratio: 16:1
Average Graduate Tuition: $7,650/year in-state and $15,300/year out-of-state
Accreditation: Southern Association of Colleges and Schools, Commission on Colleges
Overall Graduation Rate: 47 percent
Points: 5
Our top online PhD degree program in sport management is offered by Troy University. As the first online sport management program in the country, students can feel confident that the curriculum is well developed and meets the unique needs of online learners. The program is designed to meet the needs of both sport practitioners and future educators. As the only online COSMA accredited sport management PhD program in the country, Troy University is a great choice for working professionals and those who want to advance their career through a dedicated sports management program.