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

Written by Coursera Staff • Updated on

Explore the world of sports management careers, including what to expect, how to get ready for the job, the skills you will need, your job responsibilities, and much more..

[Featured image] A football team in blue uniforms celebrates a goal.

Sports managers oversee athletic programmes and other athletic duties, ranging from amateur and secondary school to college 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 career in sports management is an opportunity to get involved with a sport you're passionate about without being required to be an athlete.  

Whilst you might not be an athlete, a sense of teamwork and competitive nature are still essential for a successful sports management career. Experience and knowledge are just as necessary, if not more important, as a degree in many cases. 

You could work in many roles in sports management—coach, agent, athletic director, facility manager, events coordinator, and more. This means good skills and the ability to take on administrative work behind the scenes are essential. Further, most importantly, you'll need to be a hard worker 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 they might run an athletic programme at a university. They may be in charge of operations at a stadium or manage specific professional athletes' careers too. However, anyone starting this career path must have a passion for sports (or the sport they want to work for) 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 the collegiate and professional levels. Many sports managers have a degree or background in marketing, business, finance, law, communications, accounting, or public relations, which allows them to combine their passion with the business aspects. Winning a big game or getting to the championship is important, but so is reaching your fan base, getting people to show up to cheer for the team, making sure everything runs 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, including:

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

  • Completing accounting and finance tasks 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

  • Ensuring event facilities and stadiums are operating smoothly

  • 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 a bachelor's degree, but you don't always need one in sports 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. 

Bachelor's degree in sports management

Many sports management jobs in India require a bachelor's degree, even if that degree is not necessarily in sports management or a related subject. Bachelor's degrees in business, marketing, accounting, finance, communications, public relations, or law will also look good on your resume and may help prepare you for your career in sports management.

In addition, there are post-graduate diploma programmes in sports management, which require you to have an undergraduate degree in any discipline and pass an admission test. They can take one or two years to complete, depending on the school.

You can also pursue master’s degree programmes, often two years in duration, that may make you even more competitive.

Advanced degrees in sports management 

Though they typically aren't necessary, many people choose to earn an advanced degree in sports management. Again, this will look good on your resume and make you more fitting for the role. 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 Business Administration (MBA) programme with a specialisation or module in sports management. If you're interested in working at the college level, you can find a master's degree with a concentration in intercollegiate athletic administration.

If you have even bigger goals, you may seek a doctorate in sports management or a related field. Those who achieve this level of education may work as postsecondary educators or even work as researchers who perform studies related to the sports industry. This 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 specialisation in sports management or another sports-related topic. You might also attend law school, even if no sports management course is offered, and this might help you get a job in the field as an agent, sports lawyer, or high-level executive, especially in professional sports. 

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Though it is commonly believed that degrees can help you get an interview, your experience and knowledge are what might help you get hired. It'll also help if you're already passionate about sports. Internships, volunteer opportunities, and entry-level jobs can help you to make your case. If you played that sport or have some kind of other connection or experience—maybe you coached a children’s team, or you were a team manager in school—don't be afraid to promote this on your resume and during your job interview if it relates to the job.

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 have depend on 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 or scandals to using performance-enhancing drugs, teams and athletes sometimes do things they shouldn't do to win. Furthermore, 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 skills. You might interact with athletes, coaches, stadium staff, organisation personnel, media, lawyers, agents, other sports managers, vendors, and other people on an everyday basis. You may be required to persuade others to make decisions, so you must also be confident in your communication. 


You may not be an 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. Everything you do professionally should be done to advance 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 does it help to be passionate about the particular sport in which you work, but you should 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 to want your team, athletes, and organisation to win as much as they want. 

What other roles are there in sports management? 

In most cases, becoming a sports manager encompasses multiple career options. Each one requires unique degrees, experience, and skills.

Athletic director 

Athletic directors typically work at the collegiate level, though some may work for high schools with extensive sports programmes. A bachelor's degree is generally required; for some larger programmes, 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 all facilities and venues are in top shape for games and practices. People who work as athletic directors must have a mind for numbers, be organised, and be able to communicate with coaches and other staff.  

Facility manager

Rather than manage a team or organisation, facility managers are in charge of the actual venues where teams play and practice. Their main role includes keeping up with day-to-day activities at the location and ensuring everything is ready for game time. You'll likely manage facility staff, decide new designs, maintain facility upkeep, ensure cleanliness, and even handle ticket sales. 

Facility managers must be good leaders with excellent decision-making and strategic skills. This is one area where experience can matter as much as your education. 

Event coordinator 

While facility managers take care of the sports 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. Dealing with people is also a must skill for such roles.  

Sports agent

Sports agents represent individual athletes as they navigate through their careers. They might help them get drafted, 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 or even law degrees and may be required to become licensed to work in various sports and leagues.  

What do sports managers earn?

Sports in India is a rapidly growing industry. According to a report by Anand Rathi Advisors, the industry, valued at  27 billion USD in 2020, is expected to reach 100 billion USD by 2027 [1].

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

  • Sports coaches receive an average base pay of ₹2,33,749 per year as of September 2023, according to Indeed [2], and many work for schools, colleges, universities, clubs, leagues, and national and international teams. 

  • Sports centre managers get an average payment of ₹4,52,868 per year [3]. Sports management is expected to expand as India continues to expand as a hotspot for sports leagues and is increasingly a key player in global markets.

  • On average, facilities managers earn about ₹4,30,864 annually [4]. 

  • An event coordinator earns an average annual salary of ₹2,63,313 [5].

Get started 

Explore more about the exciting world of sports management by visiting Coursera and looking at the top universities' courses. Online courses like Becoming a Sports Agent, which Case Western Reserve University offers, or Sports Marketing from Northwestern University can help determine if this is your field. A course can also help you find a niche within the sports management field or even help make your resume more competitive. 

Article sources


Anand Rathi Advisors Limited. “The Business of Sports: India – A Sporting Nation in the Making,” Accessed September 20, 2023. 

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