While the world of sports and recreation looks to be all fun and games, organizations operating within this sector of the entertainment industry require the same business support functions as those in other industries. For example, some sports managers work for major sports organizations like the National Football League or other private companies to promote games or special events. Others work directly for sports personalities to provide public relations, accounting and legal support pertaining to contract negotiation. While the majority of sports management jobs align with common business disciplines, some positions relate to physical conditioning and wellness. Entering this profession used to be a mystery to the uninitiated until reputable colleges and universities began offering degree programs that were designed to develop leaders in this career field. Here is some information about salaries, needed career skills, major job responsibilities, educational requirements and projected job outlook for sports managers.
According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), the annual mean salary of sports managers who promoted sporting events in 2013 was $67,370. Those who worked directly as managers for athletes, entertainers and other public figures had an annual mean salary of $101,380 in the same year.
Pay in the sports management career field generally increases along with a rise in one’s reputation, experience and skill level. Subsequently, job salaries in sports management can start off relatively low. For example, sports management event coordinators and account executives earned $38,794 and $32,705 respectively for the year in May 2011. Sports managers who specialize in fitness and nutrition for athletes were paid a mean annual salary of $31,720. Sports management professionals who are just beginning their careers often earn the lowest salaries; the lowest 10 percent of earners in the wellness specialization of sports management made $17,630 in May 2012 according to the BLS. These salary figures are just estimates. Actual salaries of those in the sports management career field depend upon many factors besides experience, and some of them include job location, academic credentials and certifications.
There are at least a half a dozen sports management specialties that provide challenging careers to those with skills, knowledge and industry contacts. Each career specialty like those of facility managers, trainers, sports nutritionists, accountants, lawyers and public relations professionals has its own unique set of job responsibilities. For example, sports facility managers help ensure that safety and performance requirements are met for the areas in which sporting events and team practices are held. When a facility is shared among different sports clubs or organizations, it is the facility manager’s responsibility to maintain and publish a schedule for use. Trainers and nutritionists help sports teams or individual athletes improve their performance through physical conditioning and customized diets. Accountants and lawyers often work directly for high profile athletes as business managers who pay bills in a timely manner, suggest sound investments and conduct contract administration. Since sports organizations rely on communities for patronage, many organizations make special efforts to give back to those communities. Public relations focused sports managers help to create and advertise special events that put sports teams or athletic personalities in a positive light in the communities that they serve.
Degree and Education Requirements
A direct route to many career opportunities begin with a degree in sports management. Many universities offer this degree at the undergraduate and graduate school levels, and some programs allow students to specialize in particular areas of interest like marketing, project management or contract management. Excellent sports management degree programs incorporate experiential learning opportunities in the form of internships and field study projects. These projects provide students with the networking opportunities that are critical to gaining entrance into this competitive career field. Some sports management degree programs also provide mentors who are seasoned industry professionals for sports management students and new graduates. Alternate academic routes to careers in sports management include undergraduate and advanced degrees in business administration, marketing, communications, accounting and finance. Students who want wellness related sports management careers often pursue exercise science or sports nutrition degree programs. Additionally, professional athletes and sports organizations often rely upon law school graduates to administer lucrative contracts.
Rewards and Challenges
Many people who enter the sports management career field do so because they enjoy watching, playing and promoting sports as a form of entertainment. There are very few job opportunities that allow business professionals to interact with their favorite, famous athletes, and sports managers use their business acumen, legal skills and wellness knowledge to help those athletes and sports organizations reach their full potential. These business professionals also understand that those who are passionate about what they do are usually successful and have the best chances of making great pay. Income opportunities are some of the most appealing rewards that sports managers enjoy, and the career field’s top earners of the last few years took in six figure incomes. Aspiring sports managers face plenty of competition for jobs as many people with similar training believe that sports management is an exciting industry in which to work. These business professionals must overcome the challenge to differentiate their knowledge, skills and abilities from peers who may be similarly qualified for desirable sports management positions. Additionally, entrance into the field of sports management often depends greatly on making the right industry contacts. Most candidates must be extremely resourceful, outgoing and have good communication skills to get noticed by hiring managers.
The best way to get started in a career in sports management is to find a good degree program in the subject. A good sports degree program should include excellent academic training, unmatched industry networking opportunities and career center with a great reputation for job placement. For example, undergraduate degree programs in sports management that have relevant concentration areas from which to choose are usually better than generic sports management programs. University sports management degree programs that have a reputation for developing future industry leaders often facilitate conferences and special event that place their students in front of all types of sports industry executives and senior managers. Most universities have career assistance and placement services for their students and new graduates, and this amenity is especially beneficial for sports management graduates. Students should inquire about the percentage of graduates who find employment in their field through the school’s career center and approximately how long it took most graduates to find employment.
While income levels are wide ranging, job growth percentages across all sports management specialties
are expected to rise. For instance, positions for sports managers who act as conditioning coaches or scouts for both professional and amateur sports organizations are expected to grow by nearly 30 percent through 2020; this job growth rate is higher than the average for all jobs analyzed by the BLS. Sports agent positions are also expected to grow significantly within the coming years. One of the great things about this career field is that sports managers are not constrained by national borders since sports management positions are available internationally.
The rise of social media outlets like LinkedIn can work to the advantage of aspiring sports managers. They can locate those working in the industry and obtain their unique perspectives on reputable schools, job duties, salary expectations and the future direction of the industry. These social media contacts can also shed light on beneficial certifications to gain and professional associations to join that give sports management careers a boost.