how to get a sports management career

Do you want to know how to start a career in sports management? If so, congratulations are in order. You aspire to join a growing industry that offers numerous dynamic career opportunities.

That said, knowing you want a career in sports management isn’t the same thing as knowing where to start. You may not thoroughly understand what steps you must take to achieve your goals.

If this is the case, don’t worry. We’ve got you covered. Just follow these simple steps to jumpstart your sports management career. 

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What You Need to Begin a Career In Sports Management

1. Get a Degree in Sports Management

Before going any further, you must understand what sports management is. In truth, the term doesn’t necessarily refer to one specific job. People who work in the sports management sector may individually work in a variety of roles. Some work for major sports leagues, while universities or local leagues employ others. Some people work as managers for athletes, while others coordinate with their organizations behind the scenes, which may involve marketing, public relations, facilities management, and a range of other duties.

None of this is meant to confuse you. On the contrary, you should feel encouraged by this information. Knowing there is a variety of sports management jobs from which to choose will allow you to enjoy a degree of career flexibility that isn’t always available in other fields.

That said, regardless of which specific sports management job you decide to pursue in the future, there are steps you can take to make yourself a more attractive candidate to potential employers. Getting a degree in sports management is one such step. While it is possible to break into the industry without a sports management degree or certificate, your odds of finding gainful employment with a reputable organization will be much higher if you do complete a relevant educational program first.

There are many reasons this is the case. Some are likely obvious. For instance, employers across virtually all fields strive to hire workers who have relevant experience and qualifications. If a hiring manager sees that you have earned a degree in sports management, they’ll certainly consider that as a “plus” when deciding whether you’re right for a particular job. Of course, having a relevant degree also illustrates to hiring managers that you are genuinely passionate about this field.

The actual process of getting your degree will be valuable, as well. Although all sports management programs are unique, most provide you with a general overview of the industry. You can also enroll in programs that allow you to focus on or specialize in a particular area of sports management, such as marketing or scouting.

A general overview will familiarize you with the various types of sports management jobs you may pursue in the future. This introduction to potential careers helps you better understand which jobs most interest you. Additionally, your education will help you better prepare for any role you fill.

Again, while you may not technically need a degree in sports management to enter this field, you’ll be far more likely to reach your goals if you do obtain one. These are all key reasons why.

2. Make a Plan

Create a list

get a sports management career by making a list

Once you’ve earned your degree and have been introduced to the numerous sports management jobs you may one day pursue, you should begin to start making a more concrete plan. Narrow down the list of careers you find interesting until you have a shortlist of those that are most appealing.

That said, immediate appeal is by no means the only factor you need to keep in mind when deciding which careers to pursue. You also need to account for practical factors. For instance, many sports management jobs require frequent travel throughout the year. If you’re the type of person who needs to spend most of your time at home with family, you may not want to include those jobs on your list. You aren’t likely to enjoy them if you were to try and take them on in the future.

You should also consider your natural skills and past professional experiences. Doing so helps you more honestly determine whether a particular career is right for you.

For example, data analytics has become very important in many sports management jobs in recent years. Teams and organizations have found that leveraging data can help them make smart decisions about which players to draft, which plays to call, which marketing channels to focus on, and much more.

The idea of helping a sports team or organization in this capacity may appeal to you. However, if you wish to work in sports data analytics, it helps to have strong math skills. If math isn’t your best subject, you might want to consider a different career path. While it is possible to develop new skills if a specific job truly calls to you, you’ll need to work harder than more qualified candidates to demonstrate you’re worth hiring.

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Once you have your list of options, research the various ways you can begin pursuing these specific jobs. Again, how you may go about this will depend on the career you wish to pursue.

For example, some people want to work directly for major sports organizations, such as the NFL or NBA. These organizations typically offer sports management internship programs. Participating in one could help you take your first major step towards a career.

On the other hand, maybe you’re more interested in working for a university’s sports program. Depending on whether you’re a student, there are several ways you may begin working towards your dream job. Enrolled students often have the opportunity to take on assistant roles or similar jobs in their colleges’ sports departments during their undergraduate and postgraduate years, which provides networking opportunities and could lead directly to a job if they make the right impression.

However, if you’re not a student, you may work your way up to a university role by taking on similar roles in other capacities first. For example, you may want to work directly with the coaching staff of a major university. You might also find it’s challenging to get hired in a high-level position if you don’t have much work experience first. In these circumstances, you have a range of options. You could decide to take on a lower-level position working with the university’s coaching staff. Over time, if you work hard and network, you could climb the ladder. That said, you could also begin by filling more critical roles at other organizations and institutions, such as high schools or local leagues.

The main point to keep in mind is that the specific steps you must take when pursuing a sports management job will not necessarily mirror the steps someone else takes. Different careers require taking different career paths. In general, however, it pays to make a list of dream jobs (while accounting for practical factors), researching how you can break into those niches once you’re satisfied with your list.

3. Stand Out from the Crowd

Many of the steps you can take to boost your odds of landing a dream sports management job are basically the same as those you would take to break into any other industry. 

get a sports management job by standing out in a crowd

  • get experience, 
  • network, 
  • research, and 
  • apply to all relevant jobs, etc.

However, you may want to take additional steps to ensure you stand out among the pool of candidates when applying to jobs in the future. Once again, getting a degree in sports management is among them.


It’s also a good idea to make strong connections in the industry. While work experience and sports management internships will help you expand your professional network, you might also want to identify someone you admire whose career you would like to model yours on. Offering them relevant services in exchange for mentorship can further help you cultivate valuable relationships. A mentor’s advice will also help you avoid mistakes people sometimes make when first applying to sports management jobs.

That said, if you choose to ask someone to mentor you, the people you ask need to be practical choices. For instance, while you may be interested in working for a pro league coaching staff one day, it’s unlikely a major coach (even if they’re retired) will have the time or motivation to mentor someone they don’t already know. These people are essentially celebrities to some degree. They likely have many fans constantly asking for career advice. Your request will simply get lost in the crowd. It’s far more likely you’ll find someone who agrees to be your mentor if you’re realistic about your options.

Most importantly, work hard to please your employers when starting your first sports management job. You’ll climb the ladder more quickly if you work hard and have the right attitude. You’ll also avoid making the kind of impression that can hurt your reputation in the future. By applying yourself and keeping these tips in mind, the beginning of your professional sports management experience will serve as the foundation for a thriving career.