MBA in Sports Management
Professional sports are no longer just for athletes; an MBA in sports management can lead to a long and rewarding career in this domain. The NBA, the NFL, MLB, the EPL, the NHL, and the PGA – to name just a few sports leagues that are recognizable from their acronyms alone – all represent big business and expansive opportunities, with no signs of this slowing down anytime soon.
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Many schools offer degrees that relate to the sports industry, but an MBA in sports management is a versatile option in that it can set you up for a huge variety of careers both in and outside of sport. Whether you are working for an individual team or for a company with a wider remit, top business schools all work on preparing their graduates for real-world experiences and the type of sports management jobs and roles that are out there.
MBA or master’s
An MBA in sports management is often compared to an MSc in sports or sports management. But what is the difference here? Firstly, the MBA will be less focused on theory and ideas but will instead concentrate on the actual implementation of these theories and ideas. The MBA will, of course, also emphasize the business fundamentals that underpin a career in the sports industry, through courses in areas such as finance, organization, innovation and marketing.
An MSc, meanwhile, will often tend to take a more theoretical approach. Columbia University’s MSc in sports management, for example, includes courses on the US’s relationship to global sports and sports analytics. The sports MBA program available from San Diego State University (SDSU), on the other hand, covers all the usual core courses undertaken as part of a regular MBA while tailoring its content to provide a focus on the contemporary sports business. To help students put what they learn into practice, the program also allows students to complete a consulting project with a sports organization. Elsewhere, the University of Liverpool’s Football Industries MBA channels its focus on one sport in particular and deals with the finances of running and sustaining a football (soccer) club, the laws of the game, and becoming a football executive.
In this light, the difference between an MBA and an MSc in sports management is very much the same as it is between any MBA and MS or MA. The MBA offers a wider, more overarching set of skills which aims to provide students with the skills they need to succeed in the business of a given industry.
As with any other MBA program, an MBA in sports management requires participants to be business and analytically-minded individuals, who also have a creative side and are adept at problem solving. Being able to display technical ability in hard skill areas, such as finance, as well as high potential in matters of leadership, communication and other soft skills, will also stand you in good stead when pursuing an MBA. This very much continues to apply if you have your sights set on a more specialized role, such as a financial manager at an individual club or team.
An MBA in sports management is geared towards those that enjoy the business of sports and therefore fandom is not a prerequisite, although many students are bound to have their particular passions for certain sports and teams, and indeed, that will be what motivates many to apply.
In terms of teaching, the MBA will invariably seek to engender a well-rounded set of business skills in its participants, laced with the kind of specialist knowledge that will prepare graduates for sports management jobs. Hard skills encompass the usual range of financial, marketing and operations skills –looking at industry specifics as well as general application – while on the soft skills side, expect programs to work on developing students’ interpersonal, innovation and leadership capabilities.
The field of sports management is relatively new, but one that is expanding rapidly. Of the available options already out there, you’ll find a number of different approaches being taken. Here are a few examples of schools that currently offer an MBA in sports management, or something closely related in its content:
Schools in the 2014/15 Global 200 listing for traditional full-time MBAs:
- George Washington University School of Business: MBA with sports management specialization
- San Diego State University, Graduate School of Business Administration: Sports business MBA
Further options to specialize in sports management:
- EU Business School: Sports Management MBA. Learn more about the program in this article.
- University of Liverpool: Football Industries MBA.
- University of Oregon, Lundquist College of Business: Sports Business MBA specialization. Read about the program in this article.
- University of Massachusetts Amherst, Isenberg School of Management: MBA with a sports management specialization.
- Florida Atlantic University, College of Business: Sports management MBA.
Sports management is not a narrow field by any stretch of the imagination. In fact, an MBA in sports management can open up so many doors that finding a particular area in which to specialization can be a tricky decision in itself. Sports clubs, teams, and leagues can resemble large businesses in the entertainment sector. As far as the business side of things goes, the popularity of successful teams and leagues ensures they bring in huge amounts of money – the NFL, for one, brings in over US$10 billion per year – and this may suit those of the financial persuasion.