Your 2024 Guide to a Career in Sports Management

Written by Coursera Staff • Updated on

Discover what you can expect when choosing a sports management career, including how to prepare for the job, necessary skills, job duties, and more.

[Featured Image] A female with blonde hair wears a yellow shirt and stands in her office, preparing an event to support the local sports team.

What is sports management?

Sports management is a broad career field that covers every aspect of managing sports teams, athletes, sporting events, and facilities. Sports management is an essential part of collegiate and professional sports, as teams tend to operate as businesses. A good sports management program can reach fans, boost ticket sales, support athletes, and ensure a smooth game day.

Sport management can be an exciting career path for people who want to combine their passion for athletics with business know-how.

Want to know what's coming in sports?

PwC's 2023 Sports Industry Outlook makes some exciting predictions for the future of sports [1]. Here are just a few:

Venues will become "smarter" with the use of AI, data, sensors, and machine learning, to create more connected experiences for fans.

Leagues, franchises, and sports teams will be adopting more environmentally sustainable practices.

Online streaming of sporting events will continue to expand, offering fans more viewing options beyond commercial television networks.


Keep reading to discover what sports managers do, the qualifications they need, and how much they earn.

What does a sports manager do?

Sports management encompasses many roles, including coaching a team; representing pro athletes as an agent; running an athletic program at a middle school, high school, recreational center, college or university; managing professional sports teams; managing a facility; or coordinating events.

Your duties will vary, depending on your role, the organization you're a part of, the level of the sport, and the geographic location. To give you an idea of what you can expect, here's a list of projects and tasks you might be responsible for:

  • Leading public relations between your team, coach, other staff, and the media

  • Managing accounting and finance for the team, including revenue, budgets, and debts

  • Arranging travel plans for the team

  • Monitoring ticket sales and coming up with ways to improve them

  • Scheduling events involving the team or athletes

  • Seeking out sponsors, partners, and brands that want to work with your team or athletes

  • Ensuring event facilities and stadiums are operating smoothly

  • Analyzing contracts and other legal documents

  • Hiring and managing coaches and other personnel

  • Promoting teams, athletes, events, and merchandise through digital and traditional marketing

  • Ensuring teams have the right equipment and uniforms

  • Enforcing rules and regulations set by the school, league, conference, or organization

Sports management jobs

Working in sports management encompasses multiple career options, with each one requiring unique degrees, experience, and skills. Let's explore a few roles:

Athletic director 

Athletic directors typically work at the collegiate level, though some may work for high schools with extensive sports programs. A bachelor's degree is generally required; for some larger programs, you may need a master's degree. As an athletic director, you might hire coaches, set budgets, coordinate with the school's academic departments, raise team funds, and ensure a team has everything it needs, including equipment, uniforms, and transportation to away games. 

You'll also ensure that your school follows all rules and ethics set by the conference in which your teams play. You’ll also ensure facilities and venues are in top shape for games and practices. People who work as athletic directors must have a mind for numbers, be organized, and be able to communicate with coaches and other staff.  

Facility manager

Rather than manage a team or organization, facility managers are in charge of the actual venues where teams play and practice. That means keeping up with day-to-day activities at that location and ensuring everything is ready for game time. You'll likely manage facility staff, make decisions about new designs, maintain facility upkeep, ensure the facility stays clean, and possibly even handle ticket sales. Facility management requires you to be a strong leader with excellent decision-making and strategic skills.

Event coordinator 

While facility managers take care of the actual physical facility, an event coordinator arranges the events that will take place there. Some of these job duties may overlap, depending on where you work. Responsibilities might include marketing, ticket sales, scheduling, contacting the media, and coordinating with the facility manager to ensure everything is ready for events. Depending on where you work, you may also be responsible for some non-sporting events. Event coordinators must be great problem solvers and multitaskers. People skills are also a must.  

Sports agent

Sports agents represent individual athletes as they navigate their careers. They might help them get drafted, help them negotiate contracts, handle sponsorships,  and handle their public relations. Essentially, you are your athletes' guide through their careers. Your ultimate goal is to help them achieve as much success as possible. Sports agents must be team players who want to win. They must be great negotiators and excellent communicators. Many have advanced degrees, or even law degrees, and may be required to become licensed to work in various sports and leagues.  

Take a peek at how to recruit clients as a sports agent in this video from Case Western Reserve University course on Becoming a Sports Agent:

How much do sports managers make?

Your earning potential as a sports manager depends on which area of sports management interests you, where you land a job (from entry-level positions to highest-level executives for professional sports), and your experience and qualifications.

According to the US Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), in 2021, coaches and scouts made a median pay of $38,970 annually, and the majority worked at state, local, and private colleges, universities, and professional schools. The BLS expects this field to grow 20 percent between 2021 and 2031, a much faster rate than average [2].

Agents for athletes made a median annual pay of $120,100 in 2022 [3]. 

Meeting, convention, and event planners made an annual median pay of $49,470 in 2021. This career path is expected to grow 18 percent between 2021 and 2031, a rate much faster than average [4]. 

The BLS reports that facilities managers made a median pay of $99,290 annually in 2021. This career path is expected to grow 7 percent between 2021 and 2031, which is an average rate for most jobs [5].

What qualifications do you need to become a sports manager?

While you don't have to be athlete yourself to work in sports management, you'll need experience, sports management expertise, and other qualifications to succeed. Qualifications will vary, depending on your role. In some cases, you'll need a degree in sports management, while in other cases, a degree in marketing, business, finance, law, communications, accounting, or public relations will be most appropriate. 

Let's explore some of the qualifications:

Bachelor's degree in sports management

This degree can make you more competitive in sports management, even if an employer you want to work for doesn't require it. Some programs even offer concentrations within that major, such as athlete development, sports law, organizational management, sports project management, sports media, sports marketing, intercollegiate athletics, or high-performance coaching. Some concentrations are sport-specific, such as racquet sports.

As a sports management major, you'll likely study a variety of topics that can help your career, including:

  • Accounting

  • Ethics

  • Psychology

  • Business

  • Marketing

  • Sports Analytics

  • Sports Tourism

Another thing to consider is whether you want to earn a Bachelor of Science (BS) or Bachelor of Arts (BA) degree.  Some schools offer their sports management programs through one or both. The main differences would be that a BA would offer more in the way of theory and multifaceted approaches to the top, while a BS may offer a more practical approach.

Read more: What Is the Difference Between a BA and a BS Degree?

Advanced degrees in sports management 

Depending on your goals, you may go on to earn an advanced degree in sport management. Doing so can enhance your resume, make you a more attractive candidate, and offer more career options in a particular niche. Here are some examples:

  • If you're interested in the accounting side of sports management, you might look for a Master of Business Administration (MBA) program with a concentration in sports management.

  • If you're interested in working at the college level, you might find a master's degree with a concentration in intercollegiate athletic administration.

  • If you're interested in becoming an agent, sports attorney, or high-level executive in professional sports, you might earn a law degree with a concentration in sports management or another sports-related topic.

  • Getting a doctorate in sports management or a related concentration may help you find employment as a postsecondary educator, researcher in this field, or high-level manager within an organization. 

Before enrolling in a degree program, research your options. Here are some universities and colleges for sports management across the US to get you started:

Read more: What Can I Do with a Business Management Degree? Skills, Jobs, And Courses

Sports management experience

While degrees can be valuable assets in this field, it's also important to gain relevant experience. Consider internships, volunteer opportunities, and entry-level jobs in sports management to give you a solid foundation to build upon. Some examples include fundraising for a local sports team, coaching a recreational league team, or assisting team coaches.

Licensing and certification 

In most cases, you don't need any type of licensing or certifications to become a sports management professional, but there are some exceptions. Certain leagues and geographic locations may require you to become licensed to be a sports agent. Athletic trainers at most levels may also be required to be licensed by their state.

Consider certificate programs in disciplines related to your sports management goals. Here are some options on Coursera:

Sports management skills

As with qualifications, the specific skills you'll need depend on your job title and employer. Here are some examples of technical skills required to work as an athletic director or head coach, as reported on ZipRecruiter's Career Keyword Mapper, compiled from real job descriptions and resumes [6, 7]:


For coaches, this skills involves guiding athletes to improve their performance and achieve their goals, by explaining techniques, tactics, and strategies specific to a sport. Athletic directors provide instruction and coordinate coaching staff and help them develop their careers.

Athletics and games

Both athletic directors and coaches must understand the field of sports at large, from how games are played to how members of a team can play together most effectively.

CPR and first aid

Knowing CPR and first aid techniques is crucial for anyone working with athletes. In the event of an injury or emergency involving an athlete, a coach or athletic director can provide immediate care and seek the appropriate medical assistance.


This is a vital skill for coaches and athletic directors, enabling them to coordinate trainings, practices, and games, so that a team operates efficiently.

Behavior analysis

This skill involves analyzing and modifying athletes' behavior, through positive reinforcement, feedback, and goal setting, for the purpose of enhance athletes' performance.

Human resources experience

With experience in HR, athletic directors can better manage members of an athletic department, foster a positive work environment, and make powerful hiring decisions.

Some workplace skills are universal across all sports management careers, including a competitive spirit, passion for sports, and organizational skills. Let's explore a few more:   


As a sports manager, you'll need a strong sense of ethics to help keep a team or athlete's reputation positive in the eyes of fans and to set the tone for team conduct.

Read more: What Is Brand Equity? (+ How to Build It) 


As a sports manager, you'll need to be a good decision maker. Some situations will require quick, confident decisions, while others will require you to analyze data and develop the best possible solution.


Almost every sports management career will require you to have excellent written and oral communication skills. Through the course of a day, you might interact with athletes, coaches, stadium staff, organization personnel, media outlets, lawyers, agents, other sports managers, and vendors.  


You may not be an actual athlete or player, but you're still an important part of the team. It takes everyone to make game day a success, especially at the college and professional levels, so you must be able to collaborate effectively.

Explore sports management with Coursera

Taking online courses can be a great way to build job-ready skills, discover career options, and build a more competitive resume for your sports management goals. Learn how to recruit and represent athletes, build an agency or work for one, and more in Case Western Reserve University's Becoming a Sports Agent course. Learn ticket pricing strategies, brand positioning, social media marketing, and more in Northwestern's Sports Marketing course.

Article sources


PwC. "Sports Industry Outlook 2023," Accessed June 7, 2023.

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This content has been made available for informational purposes only. Learners are advised to conduct additional research to ensure that courses and other credentials pursued meet their personal, professional, and financial goals.