Inside Look at the Best Online MBA in Sports Management Programs

If a love of sports and a strong sense of business sound like a winning combination, an MBA in sports management online could be for you. Learn about programs from top B-schools, including the coursework and the career paths available once your degree is in hand.

Underneath the glory of professional sports, behind the thrill of winning and the dejection of defeat, you’ll find a business. Once you understand that business by getting your MBA in sports management online, you’ll also develop a better understanding of the world of sports.

Online MBA in sports management programs help you attain the knowledge you need to understand how businesses operate and what it takes to manage a large organization such as a professional or collegiate sports team. These programs cover broad business disciplines such as finance, accounting, operations, human resources, and marketing.

For people already working in the sports field, earning this MBA can bring you new skills and open the door to new opportunities within your industry. And if you aren’t working in sports but have expertise in a business-related field—communications, marketing, management, etc.—this degree will give you a significant edge over others hoping to break into the world of sports.

Read on to learn about some of the best online MBA sports management programs, explore the types of courses and specializations you’ll encounter, and take a look at the career opportunities await you upon earning this degree.

B-School Spotlights: Best Online MBA Sports Management Programs in 2021

While there are many fine online MBA sports management programs, those that follow are what we consider to be the best. These programs offer the depth of knowledge you’d expect from a quality MBA program along with the flexibility and affordability you need while juggling grad school, work, and family obligations. Consider this list a preview of our larger online sports management MBA program review, due to be published later this year.

University of Central Missouri

This MBA program takes an experiential approach to learning, challenging students to solve real business problems in the classroom so that they can hone the skills they’ll need to impact their organizations. Sports business is one of several concentrations the program offers, along with healthcare administration and international business.

Students are required to take 33 credit hours of coursework: three hours of foundational coursework designed to ensure all students have the same basic knowledge, as well as 12 credit hours of core coursework and 18 credit hours in their area of emphasis. The program’s core courses include Management and Strategy, Market Research and Design, and Accounting for Managers. Sports business courses include Sports Economics, Sports Marketing, and Legal Aspects of Business Decisions.

Applicants must have an undergrad GPA of no less than 2.5, along with either at least a 300 on their GRE or 450 on the GMAT. However, the program waives these requirements for applicants with a minimum GPA of 3.1 and three years of full-time work experience or for those with a business degree from a school accredited by the Association to Advance Collegiate Schools of Business.

Applicants seeking a work experience waiver must demonstrate increasing levels of responsibility along with work duties that require significant analytical skills. They’ll also need to produce three examples of this analytical work and three professional letters of recommendation.

Ashland University

The MBA in Sport Management at Ashland University is designed for students looking to work in professional, college, or high school athletics; sports marketing and administration; facility or event management; and municipal recreation.

The sports management component of the school’s MBA program includes six required courses, such as Social and Ethical Issues in Sport, Legal Issues in Sport Organizations, and Sport Marketing and Promotions, plus a sports-related elective for a total of 15 credits. That’s in addition to 15 credits in MBA core requirements, an elective, and a capstone project for a total of 36 credits.

Students gain practical knowledge of sports business through exercises in class and through real-world experiences at sports venues. Faculty members help students connect to the sports organization of their choice. This MBA in sports management online program can be completed in one to three years and is accredited through the Committee on Sport Management Accreditation.

American Public University

This online sports management MBA is part of American Public University’s larger MBA program, which includes 14 specializations, such as analytics, government contracting, informational technology management, and operational crisis management.

The two-year, 39-credit online MBA in sports management program is run by instructors who come from top organizations to provide students with real-world perspectives relative to their careers. Students specializing in sports management will take courses that include The Sports Industry and Sports Marketing, Promotion, and Public Relations, along with core courses that cover Marketing, Applied Decision Making, and Corporate Finance. Students who haven’t met the prerequisites will need to take foundational business courses before starting their MBA.

The university has partnerships with numerous businesses, allowing employees of these companies to receive partial tuition reimbursement. Check with your human resources department to learn more. Federal employees, veterans, and members of the military also may qualify for tuition assistance.

What to Expect from an Online MBA in Sports Management Program

Many sports management MBA programs are part of a larger master’s degree, which means you’ll take a mix of business courses in subjects like accounting and finance as well as classes geared toward your sports management concentration, such as Sports Marketing, The Law of Sports, and Sports Economics or Finance.

In some cases, students earn their MBA in sports management while also working toward a related master’s program, such as a master of science in sports management. Many programs also require students to complete a capstone project that showcases what they’ve learned.

Depending on the program, you might attend real-time classes, download prerecorded lectures, or complete your coursework using a mix of the two formats, allowing students to learn at their own pace. Some schools use distance learning systems like Blackboard Collaborate for lessons and exams. No matter how your classes are delivered, you’ll most likely encounter courses like these in an online MBA in sports management program.

Common MBA Sports Management Online Courses

  • Sports Marketing

    Sports is a multi-billion dollar industry, and like all massive industries, it needs experts in marketing, communications, and public relations. In courses like these, students conduct research, review case analyses, and undertake other opportunities to learn the principles and practices of effective sports communications.

  • Sports Law

    In this course students explore, research, and write about various legal issues that might arise in the world of sports management. Some topics include discrimination, competition, contracts, labor and trademark law, legislation, regulation and rights, and antitrust and constitutional law.

  • Sports Finance

    How do the principles of financial management apply to sports organizations? This course teaches students the financial skills they’ll need as sports managers. Enrollees explore economic issues that impact the industry while also learning the basics of budgeting, accounting, financial statement evaluation, and supply and demand in the sporting industry.

  • Sports Economics

    This course uses the sports world to demonstrate macroeconomic concepts and microeconomic principles to analyze decision–making in sports and calculating the value of franchises and local markets. Students explore topics such as ticket pricing, player salaries, team relocation, stadium financing, athlete representation, and naming rights for stadiums/arenas.

  • Sport Personnel Management

    With this course, students examine the principles of personnel management as they apply to sports organizations, looking at recruiting, staffing, human resource development, benefits and security appraisals, and the importance of diversity and inclusion in human resource practices.

  • Communications and Fundraising in Sports

    This course underlines the importance of communications to the management, marketing, and operational arms of sports teams. Students learn the needs of fundraisers—both volunteer and professional—and explore the tools used to fundraise in the industry, whether through events, grants, or solicitation.

What You Can Do with an MBA in Sports Management

For every record-breaking quarterback, every tennis phenom, and every gravity-defying NBA star, there are dozens of people behind the scenes making sure their teams or venues run smoothly.

Getting your MBA in sports management online won’t get you featured on ESPN, but it will put you in the running for a number of demanding (and in-demand) positions. The Bureau of Labor Statistics predicts faster-than-average growth in this area over the next decade. Here are a few jobs that you’ll qualify for with an online sports management MBA.

Sports Agent

Agents spend their days representing the interests of individual athletes. They negotiate contracts, try to secure endorsement deals, and talk to the media, all while trying to land new clients. It’s a role that can benefit from an online MBA in sports management program, which will focus heavily on marketing as well as the legal issues surrounding contracts.

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

Source: Bureau of Labor Statistics, 2021

Public Relations Manager

Teams and players are often in the news, sometimes for good reasons and sometimes not. As a public relations manager, you’ll have the crucial job of guarding your organization’s image and letting the world know when there’s good news to share. For people who already have PR experience, an MBA in sports management online will give you the industry knowledge you’ll need to speak with authority.

10th Percentile Median Annual Pay 90th Percentile
$64,790 $116,180 $208,000

Source: Bureau of Labor Statistics, 2019

Coaches/Scouts

As a coach, you’ll help give amateur and professional athletes the tools they need to win. As a scout, you’ll travel around seeking new players, judging their abilities to determine if they have what it takes to succeed at the college, amateur, or professional level of the sport that you represent. There’s some overlap here, as many coaches act as scouts for their teams.

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

Source: Bureau of Labor Statistics, 2019

Facilities/Stadium Manager

Someone has to be in charge of the day-to-day operations of the stadium or arena that a sports team calls home. That means overseeing maintenance and repairs, new construction, financial issues, and administration. As manager, you’ll also need to seek other ways to bring in revenue during the off-season, typically by hosting concerts or other events.

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

Source: Bureau of Labor Statistics, 2019

Sports Marketer

If you have experience with marketing, an MBA in sports management online will help you transfer your skills to the world of sports, helping teams promote events, new players, special features at their stadiums, and more, while also analyzing the successes and failures of past and current marketing campaigns.

10th Percentile Median Annual Pay 90th Percentile
$35,000 $45,000 $62,000

Source: PayScale.com, 2021

Costs and Financial Aid for Your Online MBA in Sports Management

As with any graduate program, the cost of getting your online MBA in sports management depends on a variety of factors. For one thing, the type of school you’re considering makes a difference, as private schools generally cost more than public institutions.

In addition, you may find that some schools offer comparable cost-per-credit rates but differ greatly on the number of credits you’ll need to earn your MBA. You should also investigate your funding options before you apply, searching for scholarships, student loans, and employee-reimbursement programs from your employer.

Be sure to review our financial aid page to learn more. And check out the examples below to get a better idea of what your MBA in sports management online might cost.

How Much Your Online MBA in Sports Management Might Cost

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

Lynn University

37

$740

$27,380

University of Massachusetts, Amherst

45

$900

$40,500

Florida Atlantic University

40-46

$800

$32,000/$36,800

FAQs About Online Sports Management MBA Programs

What are the typical admissions requirements for an online MBA in sports management?

The best online MBA in sports management programs look for students with strong business and academic backgrounds. Students who apply typically need:

  • A GPA of 3.0 or more—or 2.5 in some programs with a bachelor’s degree. Some schools require students to have a degree in business; others are more flexible.
  • Professional work experience. This isn’t an across-the-board requirement, but some schools accept students with work experience in lieu of a business degree.
  • GMAT/GRE scores
  • Letters of recommendation
  • Resume
  • Statement of purpose

Are there online sports management MBA programs that don’t require the GMAT?

While many online sports management MBA programs require students to submit GMAT scores, the GMAT isn’t a prerequisite for every program. Some non-GMAT sports management MBA programs include:

How long will it take to finish my MBA in sports management online?

The short answer is one to three years. But many of these programs are designed with professionals in mind and recognize that you might have career obligations to attend to while you complete your degree.

East Carolina University, for example, promises a program in which you create a schedule that works with your life and you set your own pace, taking one to five courses each semester. You can even take a semester or more off if needed.

Can I earn my MBA in sports management completely online?

While some hybrid programs require in-classroom work or an in-person orientation, most online MBA programs are just that—online. You’ll attend classes, download lectures, take exams, and submit research without having to visit an in-person class.

What’s the difference between an MBA in Sports Management and a master’s in sports management?

While both degree paths deal with the world of sports, an MBA takes a broader view, making sure students start with foundational business courses before moving onto a chosen specialization such as sports.

A master’s in sports management, however, will include some business-related courses but will delve more deeply into issues relating to sports, such as ethics, mass media, or sports psychology.

Does a master’s in sports management sound like the better choice for you? Check out our guide to online master’s degrees in sports management.