Inside Look at the Best Online Sports Management Master’s Degree Programs

Find top-ranked sports management master’s programs offered online based on affordability and academic quality, plus explore the curriculum and get answers to your key questions.

You love sports and are tantalized by the idea of leading an athletic organization. Earning a sports management master’s degree online prepares you to lead recreational, amateur, college, and professional teams, as well as commentate sports from the press box, manage community fundraisers, and represent professional athletes as agents. The 1–2-year degree focuses on interdisciplinary subjects including program development, staff leadership, finance, marketing, human resources, and sports law.

It’s normal to be have questions about earning a sports management master’s degree online, whether you want more information about affordability, flexibility to meet your schedule, or the careers and salary you can expect upon graduation. You want to know which schools are the best so you can make an informed, confident decision when choosing a university. This guide will answer these questions and set you on the right path to finding the best sports management master’s program online for you.

College Spotlights: Best Sports Management Master’s Programs Online in 2021

We have identified the top sports management master’s programs online based on academic prowess, degree options, affordability, online flexibility, and accreditations required to launch or advance your career. The spotlights below serve as a preview of our full rankings that we’ll present later in 2021; so, check back. Let’s take a close look at three universities on our rankings list:


Louisiana State University (LSU) Online

LSU Online offers a sport management master’s degree online. This 36-credit program may be completed in as little as 12 months though it offers a flexible format to accommodate busy schedules. Tuition is $639 per credit hour, with an estimated total of $23,000 for the degree.
Coursework features studies in facilities management, sport psychology, and economic issues in sports. LSU is very well known for its collegiate sports programs and talented alumni, which could give you a valuable leg up in pursuing positions after graduating.

The program holds accreditation from the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges and the Commission on Sport Management Accreditation.

West Virginia University Online

West Virginia University Online is a well-funded university, receiving $195 million in research funding in 2020. The master’s in science (MS) in sport management degree online requires 30 credits distributed over 10 courses and is accredited by the Higher Learning Commission. The master’s is available in two concentrations: comprehensive sport industry management and interscholastic sport administration. 

The curriculum includes courses in organizational leadership and management, legal issues, marketing, finance, facility management, leadership ethics, and fundraising and development. Tuition is $614/credit, which can be supported by loans, fellowships, graduate assistantships, scholarships, and tuition waivers.

Florida State University

florida-state-university-logo

Florida State University has a healthy annual budget of over $1.7 billion. The sports management master’s degree online is offered in two formats: 34 hours with a thesis or 36 hours without a thesis.
Courses include issues in sports law; strategic management for sports organizations; and facility management in sports. The program also requires field research for hands-on learning.

Tuition is $444.26/hour with available financial aid in the form of loans, grants, research fellowships, and graduate teaching assistantships. Student services feature a career center that connects students directly with employers.

Advantages of Earning an Online Master’s in Sports Management

A comprehensive sports management master’s program leads to sports management careers without interrupting current home or work obligations. Learning online is affordable; there are no campus-related costs, such as taking time off from work, commuting, parking, or moving close to the university. The only time you’ll leave home is to complete a sports management internship or to do field research. Here are three key benefits to consider:

  1. Career Options

    Focus on the career of your dreams in the sector of your choice. The sports management master’s degree online offer concentrations in fields like facility management, organizational management, sports law, sports project management, sports media, public relations, and event management.

  2. Earning Power

    According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, the median weekly earnings for recipients of a bachelor’s degree are $1,248 or $64,986 annually. Those holding a master’s degree in the same field earn a median weekly salary of $1,497 or $77.844 annually. That’s an increase of $13,000 in median annual wages. Wages also increase by experience. The salary comparison site Average Salary Survey found that in sports management, entry-level wages increase by more than double after 12 years of service.

  3. Management Skills

    Research skills, strategic communications, human resource management, marketing, and data analysis are required for athletic managers. But they also apply directly to leadership positions across all sectors of the economy. Students can practice these skills through projects and real-world business challenges.

What You’ll Learn in a Master’s in Sports Management Online

The master’s in sports management online prepares students for leadership roles in the sports industry. Many online programs allow students to choose between a thesis or a non-thesis track. The thesis track focuses on research toward a capstone paper on your chosen niche in the profession. In non-thesis tracks, students might be required to take additional coursework or take a qualifying test.

The curriculum for a sports management master’s degree online covers aspects of sports finance, professional ethics, data analysis, sports marketing, laws and regulations, and organizational behavior. Internships or fieldwork may be required.

Common Sports Management Online Master’s Courses

  • Legal Issues in Sports Administration

    Professional athletic programs must adhere to rigorous regulations. This course examines the areas of league constitutions, by-laws, player contracts, collective bargaining agreements, and legal concerns facing sports agents and teams. The curriculum covers leadership in planning and implementing organizational policies to conform to regulations.

  • Sports Finance

    The ultimate success of any athletic institution depends on budgeting and finance. Students receive a detailed overview of budgeting, auditing, and understanding of pertinent tax laws common to intercollegiate and professional athletics. The curriculum includes the use of computers and budgeting software programs.

  • Sports Publicity and Public Relations

    High school, intercollegiate athletics, and highly visible professional teams depend on marketing and publicity to build and retain a fan base. Learn the techniques for communicating with athletic administrators, the press, and the community at large. Special focus is on the strategic use of social media.

  • Internship or Field Experience

    Sports management master’s programs online usually combine self-paced pedagogy with hands-on experience in a sports management organization. Each university establishes its internship requirements so be sure to check with the program’s administrator. Most internships may be conducted remotely during COVID-19.

Accreditation for Master’s in Sports Management Online Programs

Accreditation is a formal, independent verification process that universities and individual programs pursue. Accreditation assures that the university and sports management master’s degree online meets academic quality standards set by the Department of Education-approved evaluators. You should check with each prospective school to find university and program accreditations. This is important because students attending non-accredited universities are not eligible to receive federal financial aid. And those who consider returning to college later will not receive credit for their degree if it is not accredited.

Sports management programs should be accredited by The Commission on Sport Management Accreditation (COSMA) or The National Committee for Accreditation of Coaching Education (NCACE). Universities gain accreditation through one of six regional bureaus: Middle States Commission on Higher Education (MSCHE), New England Commission of Higher Education (NECHE), Northwest Commission on Colleges and Universities (NWCCU), Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges (SACSCOC), and the WASC Senior College and University Commission (WSCUC).

What You Can Do with an Online Master’s in Sports Management

While you can enter the sports professions with as little as a bachelor’s degree, only job applicants holding a sports management master’s degree can qualify for leadership or management roles in a college or professional athletic organization. Master’s graduates are hired by colleges, professional sports teams, amateur teams, individual athletes, sporting venues, sports media, and promotion departments. Work advancement and higher salaries come along with advanced degrees.

Here’s a sampling of sports management careers:

Agents and Business Managers of Athletes

Managers who work for an agency usually receive pay incentives based on performance in addition to their salaries. Independent agents may take clients from their agency to jumpstart their practice. They work with athletes leaving college and embarking on their professional careers, or with current athletes seeking new teams or better earnings.

10th Percentile Median Annual Pay 90th Percentile
$37,300 $73,740 $189,420

Source: Bureau of Labor Statistics, 2019

Coaches and Scouts

From amateur to professional levels, coaches instruct proper skills and athletic techniques to improve the athlete’s chance for success. The coach may also be responsible for physical conditioning programs and recruiting. Scouts observe potential recruits for their teams by attending practices and games, evaluating game tape, and reviewing statistics.

10th Percentile Median Annual Pay 90th Percentile
$19,040 $34,840 $78,890

Source: Bureau of Labor Statistics, 2019

Sports Statistical Analysts

Sports analysts evaluate individual athletes and team performance. Coaches and managers give credence to analyzed stats of both their team and that of their opponents. Analysts may hold a graduate degree in statistics or sports management. They use university and professional research methodologies to understand the data. They send provide game statistics, team trends, and player evaluations based on their analyses to scouts, coaches, and managers.

10th Percentile Median Annual Pay 90th Percentile
$52,690 $91,160 $146,770

Source: Bureau of Labor Statistics, 2021

Facilities Managers

Facilities managers oversee the functioning of sports venues including arenas, stadiums, and training facilities. These leaders establish and enforce policies and procedures. They are involved in hiring staff, establishing maintenance schedules, and overseeing facility improvement projects. Facilities managers may oversee ticketing, food, and other service operations, as well.

10th Percentile Median Annual Pay 90th Percentile
$55,210 $96,940 $166,330

Source: Bureau of Labor Statistics, 2019

Community College Professor of Sports Management

Community colleges offer associate degrees in business management. The community college professor of sports management instructs post-secondary students in business, finance, and human relations related to the field. Job opportunities for postsecondary teachers are projected to grow by 9 percent, 2018-2028. You can advance to teaching sports management at four-year colleges and universities by pursuing a doctorate.

10th Percentile Median Annual Pay 90th Percentile
$39,470 $87,200 $196,980

Source: Bureau of Labor Statistics, 2021

Costs and Financial Aid for Master’s Degrees in Sports Management Online

Paying for college requires a substantial financial commitment. Before enrolling in any program, determine if you can afford the degree and how you plan to pay for it. Explore the range of student aid options at each university on your list. Resources include federal and private student loans, research grants, scholarships, fellowships, work-study programs, and graduate assistantships. Grants and scholarships from national organizations universities do not need to be repaid.

How Affordable Your Online Master’s in Sports Management Could Be


Tuition and fees vary by institution and the total cost depends on the total number of credits required to complete the degree. Another key factor is whether the university is a public or private institution. Higher fees are usually charged for out-of-state students. University prestige is also part of the equation. In our survey, we found affordable programs and those requiring a fat wallet. Tuition ranged from $19,000 for the total program to over $40,000. Here are three programs to illustrate the array of costs:

School Name No. of Credits Cost/Credit Total Tuition Cost

University of Florida

36

$585.75

$21,087

University of Texas at Austin

30

$675

$20,250

Drexel University Online

45

$949

$42,705

FAQs About Online Master’s Degrees in Sports Management

What are the admissions requirements for an online master’s in sports management?

Requirements for admissions to sports management master’s programs online are established by the graduate school and by the department granting the degree. In some cases, applicants are required to have experience working in a related field. Some programs require prerequisite courses for admission. You can find these on the program website. Recommendation letters—a common requirement—should come from former faculty or employers who are familiar with your professional and academic abilities. Universities typically require a statement of purpose that identifies your career goals, your current abilities, and what you intend to learn in the program. Here are the most-common entrance requirements for a sports management master’s program online:

  • Bachelor’s degree from an accredited university, with a minimum undergraduate 3.0 GPA
  • Letters of recommendation
  • Resume or CV
  • Statement of purpose
  • TOEFL or IELTS scores, if applicable

How long will it take to finish my online master’s in sports management degree?

Typically, full-time students can complete their sports management master’s degree online in 1-2 years, based on 30-36 credits required for graduation. For example, Gonzaga University offers a 31-credit program for a master’s in sport and athletic administration online that can be completed in two years. At the California University of Pennsylvania, the accelerated sports management master’s degree online can be completed in 13 months. Note that full-time students in an accelerated program must be highly dedicated to completing their self-paced classes on time.

Part-time students may require as much as twice the time to graduate. Students in programs requiring a thesis may need additional time to undertake their research and writing.

Can I earn an online master’s in sports management completely online, or do I need to visit campus?

While campus visits are not necessary, some programs require on-site field experiences in the form of internships. Many programs allow only voluntary internships, which accrue college credit. One of our spotlighted programs, West Virginia University, offers only voluntary internships. Florida State University, another spotlighted program, offers internships as a for-credit elective course. Internships may be temporarily discontinued or conducted only on a remote basis during COVID-19. Check with prospective schools for details.