Your Guide to a Career in Sports Management: What to Expect

Written by Coursera Staff • Updated on

Discover what you can expect when choosing an exciting 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.

Sports managers oversee athletic programmes, ranging from amateur and secondary school to amateur and professional sports. Duties may vary depending on the level and organisation, but everyone in this field has the same ultimate goal: the team's success. A sports management career is an opportunity to get involved with a sport you're passionate about without being required to be an athlete.  

While you might not be an athlete, teamwork and competitiveness are essential for a successful sports management career. In many cases, experience and knowledge are just as necessary, if not more important, than a degree.  

You could work in many roles as a sports manager, such as a fitness centre manager, leisure centre manager, outdoor activities manager, sports administrator, sports coach, sports development officer, or secondary school physical education teacher. You might also work as a sports agent. Positions like these require good people skills and the ability to take on administrative work behind the scenes. Most importantly, you'll need to work hard to enter this exciting but competitive and growing field.  

What is sports management and why it matters

It's hard to narrow down precisely what sports management is, as it's a broad career field that covers every aspect of managing sports, teams, athletes, and sporting events and facilities. Sports managers may coach a team or run an athletic programme at a university. They may be in charge of operations at a stadium or manage specific professional athletes' careers. 

However, anyone starting this career path must have a passion for sports (or the sport where they want to work) and understand how that sport functions as a business. Whether that means a win on the field or making sure you fill the stands with spectators, your ultimate goal is success.   

Why does sports management matter? Because, for the most part, sports are businesses, especially when you reach higher levels. Many sports managers have a sports and leisure management degree. Still, a degree or background in marketing, business, finance, law, communications, accounting, or public relations could help combine sports passion with business know-how. Winning a big game or getting to the championships is important, but so is reaching your fan base, getting people to show up to cheer on the team, making sure everything is running smoothly on game day, and ensuring athletes have what they need when they need it.  

The role of a sports manager

As a sports manager, your role can be incredibly varied. The sport, the organisation, the level of the sport, the job title, the geographic location—all of this will impact your job. However, many tasks might be a part of your job. Some of them include:

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

  • Accounting and finance for the team, including managing accounts, income, budgets, and debts

  • Arranging travel plans for the team for away games

  • 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

  • Making important everyday decisions for sports organisations

  • Digital and traditional marketing

  • Ensuring event facilities and stadiums are operating smoothly

  • HR responsibilities such as analysing 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 organisation

What qualifications and certifications are required to become a sports manager?

Qualifications to become a sports manager will vary by job. Many will require an undergraduate degree, but you don't necessarily need one in sports and leisure management. Some jobs will value experience and knowledge more than a degree. Others will require you to have an advanced degree. It all depends on what you want to do and how far you want to go in the field. For example, you might seek a degree in marketing or finance if you hope to work as a team’s marketing or finance manager.

Undergraduate qualification in sports management

Many sports management jobs require a bachelor's degree, even if that degree is not necessarily in sports management or a related subject. Even if the job doesn't specify a requirement, having one can make you more competitive. Undergraduate degrees in business, marketing, accounting, finance, communications, public relations, or law also look good on your CV and may help prepare you for your career.

Many schools offer sports and leisure management or sports management and sports Science degrees. Many programmes have specialisations, such as sports marketing, facility management, sports business, and sport-specific courses, such as golf or football management. While programmes will vary, many focus on helping students develop foundational skills in sports science, which you can apply to your career in broad ways after graduation. Degrees typically take three years of full-time study or four years of part-time study. Bachelor of Arts and Bachelor of Science degrees are available in this field.

Advanced degrees in sports management 

While they aren't necessary, many people choose to earn an advanced sports management degree. Again, this looks good on your CV and can make you more competitive. It can also help you within a particular niche. For example, if you're interested in the accounting side of sports management, you might look for a Master of Science (MSc) in Sports Business and Management programme. An MSc in Sports Event Management may be more suited if you are interested in event planning and management.

You may seek a doctorate in sports management or a related concentration if you have even bigger goals. At this level of education, you may also have opportunities to work as postsecondary educators or as researchers performing studies related to the sports industry. It can also help you if your goal is to become an executive or reach the highest possible management rank within an organisation. 

Another option some people choose is earning a law degree with a concentration in sports management or another sports-related topic. You might also attend law school, even if it doesn’t offer a sports management concentration. It might help you get a job as an agent, sports lawyer, or high-level executive, especially in professional sports. Negotiation skills are highly desired, especially for sports agents and other jobs that handle legal contracts for players and teams. Pursuing areas of education that refine these skills may open career opportunities. 

Experience valued higher 

While degrees can help you get an interview, your experience and knowledge may be what help you get hired. You most likely will only qualify for the job if you're interested in sports or passionate about them (or the sport in which you want to work). Internships, volunteer opportunities, and entry-level positions can help you to make your case. 

If you played that sport or have some other connection—maybe you coached your little cousin's school team, or you were a team manager for your secondary school football team—don't be afraid to promote this on your CV, cover letter, and during your job interview if it relates to the job.

Licensing and certification 

You often won't need any licensing or certifications to work in sports management; however, some exceptions exist. For example, if you want to work as a sports agent, you will need several qualification courses and recognition under governing bodies. You will need recognised coaching certifications or diplomas to be a coach at certain levels.

Athletic trainers at most levels have an undergraduate degree (many with a postgraduate degree) and are typically required to be licensed by regulatory bodies. To know which certification or licence will be most beneficial to you, consider your desired position and look at job postings to see which type of certifications are required.

What skills do I need to work in sports management?

As with all other aspects of the job, the specific skills you'll need to bring to the table depend upon the job that interests you most. However, some human skills are universal across all sports management careers.  


As a sports manager, you'll need a strong sense of ethics. Ethics in sports are essential. From cheating scandals to using performance-enhancing drugs, teams and athletes sometimes do things they shouldn't do to win. Still, a team or athlete's character can significantly impact a community of fans. As a leader in an organisation, you'll want to set an example, create a positive reputation, and make just decisions as they arise. 


Speaking of making decisions, you'll make many of them as a sports manager. Many require quick, confident answers. Others will require you to analyse data and develop the best possible solution. You must be comfortable doing both. 


Almost every sports management career will require you to have excellent written and oral communication skills. Daily, you might interact with athletes, coaches, stadium staff, organisation personnel,  the media, lawyers, agents, other sports managers, and vendors. You may be required to persuade others to make decisions, so you must also be confident in your communications. 


You may not be an athlete or player, but you're still an essential part of the team. It takes everyone to make game day a success, especially at the professional level. Your primary professional goal should be advancing that organisation. 

Positive image of sports 

It may seem like a no-brainer, but being a sports fan is highly beneficial if you want to pursue a career in sports management. Not only do you need to be passionate about the particular sport in which you work, but you need to see how sports benefit society. 

Drive to win 

Once again, you must be a competitor, even if you aren't competing on the field. You need your team, athletes, and organisation to win as much as they want. 

What other roles are there in sports management? 

In many cases, becoming a sports manager encompasses multiple career options. Each one requires unique degrees, experience, and skills. Each one also has unique requirements regarding the education and skills needed.

Leisure centre director 

Leisure centre directors manage the everyday operations of leisure centres. This involves several tasks, including recruiting and training employees, managing budgets and operations, organising facility events, interacting with members, and more. To take on this role, you will likely want to have a strong understanding of business and financial management. 

To get a feel for what it is like to be a leisure centre director, consider an apprenticeship as a leisure duty manager. This role lets you work on the leisure team and learn tricks to ensure operations run smoothly. You will also be able to build connections in the field and continue expanding your toolkit, so when you are ready to take your next step toward being a director, you feel confident in your skill set. 

Facility manager

Rather than managing a team or organisation, facility managers are in charge of the 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 managers must be good leaders with excellent decision-making and strategic skills. In this area, experience can matter as much as education. 

Sports 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 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, with excellent negotiation and communication skills. Many have advanced or even law degrees and may be required to become licensed to work in various sports and leagues.  

What do sports managers earn?

Sports managers have unlimited earning potential, from entry-level positions to highest-level executives for professional sports. It all depends on which area of sports management interests you and where you land a job.

According to Glassdoor [1], agents for athletes make an average annual pay of £29,310 in the UK. Sports events managers make an average base salary of £37,414 [2], while sports facilities managers bring in an average of £37,651 [3]. However, salaries will vary widely depending on location, level of sport, qualifications, job responsibilities, and employer.

Get started. 

Explore the exciting world of sports management by visiting Coursera and exploring some of the classes offered by the world’s top universities. Online courses like Becoming a Sports Agent at Case Western Reserve University or Sports Marketing at Northwestern can help determine if this is your field. A Course can also help you find a niche within the sports management field or help make your CV more competitive.

Article sources


Glassdoor. “Sports Agent Salary in the UK,,2_IN2_KO3,15.htm?clickSource=searchBtn.” Accessed May 31, 2024.

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