Want to Pick a Sport Management Program? Here's What to Look For

22 Apr, 2019

By: Matt Seyfried

As of 2019, there are 441 universities and colleges in the U.S. offering a bachelor’s degree in Sport Management. Many of these programs also offer graduate programs (Master’s and Doctorate), according to the North American Society for Sport Management (NASSM), which is one of the most prominent scholarly organizations in sport management. Additionally, there are hundreds of programs throughout the United States that now offer Associate’s Degrees in Sport Management.

Things to Consider When Selecting an Undergraduate Program
History of the Program. The longer history doesn’t necessarily make a program better than other programs with a shorter history. However, a program which has been around for a while may have had more opportunities in developing a better curriculum for students as time and progression allow for more trial-and-error in course development and implementation. In addition, the alumni network may be more extensive than a program with a shorter history. Those alumni, many of whom have had the time to work their way to management positions, often serve as a source of inspiration for current students, and a potential contact during searches for internships and jobs.

Faculty and Students. The numbers of faculty members and students in a sport management program often affect how it serves and supports students in various aspects (e.g. class sizes, advisement, course offerings, overall learning environment on campus, etc.). Bigger may not always be better, however; size of the faculty and student body should be one of the considerations when looking at a program. A larger faculty, one would suspect, will offer students a larger variety of perspectives and additional contacts in the industry. Nonetheless, a student’s personal preference should also be taken into consideration. A student may prefer a small program on a small campus, rather than a larger program on a large campus.

Curriculum. The curriculum can easily be one of the most important items when evaluating and comparing programs. The National Association for Sport and Physical Education (NASPE) and the North American Society for Sport Management (NASSM) took a very significant role in developing sport management curriculum by curricular guidelines for a sport management program. These two organizations’ collaboration helped to establish the Sport Management Program Review Council (SMPRC).

The SMPRC introduced the Sport Management Program Standards and Review Protocol in 1993, which presented twelve standards for undergraduate sport management programs. Some of the examples of courses in the 12 standards are business management, marketing, economics, accounting, finance and computer science, sport sociology, sport psychology, sport law, sport economics, sport marketing and field experiences.

Following the curricular guidelines developed by NASSM/NASPE and SMPRC, the Commission of Sport Management Accreditation (COSMA) accrediting a sport management curricular was founded in 2008. The COSMA’s new standards have a heavy focus on experiential learning and suggest undergraduate and graduate programs in sport management programs to include seven Common Professional Components (CPC) topical areas.

It is very important for a prospective student to actually investigate the curriculum of a sport management program before making a final decision. A student should be aware that there are many programs that have adopted the guidelines developed by the COSMA without getting accreditation, purely because of the expense incurred through accreditation, or other similar reasons. With that regard, it would be a mistake for a student to rule out a program just because the program has not been accredited by the COSMA, or other similar accrediting bodies.

Study Abroad. As the importance of the international market has increased in the recent years, a student’s understanding in international aspects of sport business is getting more important. The sport industry is an industry without borders. Sport Management students have a wide array of choices in places to study outside of the United States, and will have similar opportunities to intern/work abroad, if they wish.

Internship. It is important for a sport management program to include a practicum and/or an internship in order for the students to develop their ability to adjust and adapt themselves when joining the very competitive and fast-paced working environment in the sports industry. A student, when searching for a good college choice in sport management, should find out whether or not a sport management program offers practicum and/or internship. The importance of practical experience among graduating students cannot be overly stressed. Having experience, even at an internship level, will make a student more marketable when they look for employment. If an opportunity for practicum or internship does exist, a student should also find out detailed information about the timing and specific requirements. (e.g. What’s offered? Is it optional or required? When can it be taken? How many work-hours are required?)

Opportunity for minors/concentration. Some programs offer or require students have a minor or a concentration. An area of a minor or a concentration can be within sport management or outside of sport management (e.g. marketing, management, economics, advertising, communications, computer science, etc.). Sport management, as a stand-alone degree, can be very broad, allowing the student to be marketable for a wide variety of jobs within the sports industry. Having a minor, or a concentration, would make the student more specialized to one area, and might be a good option for the student who knows exactly what job they would like to have in the sports industry upon graduation.

Combined Degree (Sport Management and MBA). Some programs offer a 4+1 combined degree program allowing students to obtain a bachelor’s and a master’s degree in Sport Management in five years.

Things to check when looking for a graduate program
Of those 441 universities and colleges offering an undergraduate program in sport management, 182 institutions offer a master’s degree and 30 institutions offer both a master’s and doctorate degree along with their undergraduate program. A student considering a graduate program in sport management should look into the same considerations for an undergraduate program. Some recent noticeable trends in a graduate program are 1) programs with a narrow focus, such as sports analytics, event and facilities, international sports, leadership, etc., 2) MBA offering a concentration in sport management. Additionally, an increasing number of colleges and universities have started or considered offering an online master’s degree program. Such online degree programs can help practitioners and prospect students who cannot physically attend classes to earn a graduate degree. SDM

About the Author

Matt Seyfried


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