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The Job Outlook for Sports Administration

As a child, did you dream of wearing the Yankee pinstripes, winning a 5-set tiebreaker at the U.S. Open finals or holding up the Lombardi Trophy? You may not be a world-class athlete today, but your dream can still thrive in the sports administration and management industry.

With the right education and experience, you can represent a Major League shortstop in contract negotiations, train an 11-year old tennis prodigy or develop the next generation of concussion-reducing football helmets. In a shorter time frame, you can manage your city’s recreational program, plan a professional golf tournament or work as a media liaison in the PR department of a professional sports franchise.

Exciting and lucrative career opportunities abound in sports administration. An educational foundation in the business, marketing, legal and analytics aspects of the industry can pave the way for entry. A Master of Science in Sports Administration degree program provides this foundation.

Industry Size and Scope

In 2015, the North American professional sports market was a $64 billion dollar industry, according to Statista. By 2019, Forbes projects that figure will reach a staggering $73.5 billion. Yet that figure represents just the tip of the iceberg.

The estimated size of the entire sports and recreation industry in the U.S. was $498.4 billion dollars in 2015, according to Plunkett Research. By contrast — as much as we all love our cats and dogs — the entire U.S. pet industry is just one-eighth the size. North America may well be the epicenter of global sports; no wonder MLB, NFL, NHL and NBA playoff victors are crowned “World Champions.”

A representative sampling of jobs available in the sports industry:

Professional Sports Leagues College Sports Sporting & Player Associations Sports Agency & Management
Coach Coach Management Representative Agent
General Manager Athletic Director Owner Representative Marketing Director
Manager Manager Player Representative Information Director
Trainer Trainer Negotiator Business Manager
Executive Facilities Coordinator Lawyer PR Spokesperson
Sales Representative Sales Representative Ethics Specialist Publicist
Analytics Sprecialist Analytics Specialist Compliance Specialist Analyst
PR Spokesperson PR Spokesperson Advisor/Consultant Executive
Director, Corporate Partnerships Marketing Manager PR Spokesperson Sales Representative
Sporting Equipment & Supplies Media, PR & Advertising State & Local Sports Programs Leisure Sports & Resorts
Business Proprietor Sports Reporter Event Planner Event Planner
Executive Broadcaster Athletic Director Golf/Tennis Club Manager
Sales Representative Producer Fitness Director Athletic Director
Research and Development Director Athletic Trainer Hotel Facilities Manager
Marketing Manager Publicist Recreation Center Manager Hotel Fitness Director
PR Manager PR Director Recreation Program Manager Athletic Trainer
Legal Advisort Information Director Park Manager Tournament Director
Product Designer Sponsorship Director Program Manager Director, Business Development

Education Is the Gateway

As these industry segments grow larger and more complex, their enterprises are moving toward data-driven business models. Industry professionals need an understanding of data, statistics and advanced analytics to reach positions of authority. Analytics are vital to the evaluation, design and implementation of sports programs across industry segments. Students typically don’t learn these skills at the undergraduate level and many industry workers do not learn them on the job.

Post-graduate programs like Arkansas State University’s Online Master of Science in Sport Administration provide the tools necessary to improve organizational efficiency and maximize profits. Interdisciplinary studies develop leadership capabilities, as well as training in fitness, wellness, business, marketing, sales, law, public relations, research, ethics, budgeting and analytics — all in the context of sports.

The Arkansas State M.S. in Sport Administration program combines instruction from experienced industry professionals with valuable networking and internship opportunities. It provides the framework to develop the skills you need for your desired career path, whether you aspire to work for a college athletic department, a country club, or in sports media and PR.

Income Expectations

Few industries offer such a wide range of salaries, with as many lucrative opportunities for the best and brightest in the game. Six-figure incomes are common not only at the major and minor leagues in professional sports but also in sports media, leisure sports and even at the higher levels of government-run regional recreational programs.

According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, in 2015, the median salary for postsecondary education administrators (the category that includes many sports administrators and athletic directors) was $88,580 annually. For graduates who reach the management level in their sports administration careers, the BLS reports that in 2015, the median salary for all management occupations (including sports managers) was $98,560 annually.

Here is a sampling of average salaries for specific sports administration and management positions across industry segments, based on national and regional salary data:

Salaries by Job

Job Location Salary
Sports Agent National $95,810
PR/Fundraising (Sports Development) National $86,110
Director of Sales & Marketing National $78,250
Senior Marketing Manager National $75,500
Marketing Director National $70,000
PR Manager (Includes Sports) National $60,784
Athletic Director National $59,068
Fitness Director National $42,913
National information from PayScale and the Bureau of Labor Statistics
Job Location Avg. Salary With Experience
Athletic Trainer Little Rock $62,899 $73,998
Athletic Trainer Chicago $50,962 $59,955
Golf Course Manager Little Rock $66,097 $77,761
Golf Course Manager New Jersey $76,052 $89,473
Park Manager Little Rock $41,557 $48,914
Park Manager Boulder $55,330 $65,094
Sports PR Little Rock $34,115 $40,135
Sports PR Boston $35,852 $42,179
Regional information from SalaryGenius

Job Growth and Career Outlook

From 2010 to 2014, job growth across all sports-related industries grew at 12.6 percent — doubling the growth in the national job market, according to a recent Forbes article. The piece profiled 20 industry positions with strong projected growth, including business-focused positions, promoters, agents, event planners and recreation attendants.

Looking forward, the Bureau of Labor Statistics projects employment of postsecondary education administrators (including sports administration) to grow 9 percent from 2014 to 2024, faster than the average for all occupations. The BLS projects 21 percent growth over the same time span for athletic trainers.

Not many industries can fill stadiums and arenas in every state across the country on a daily basis. This fact alone is testament to America’s passion for spectator sports. Combine that with widespread participation in health and fitness activities, and you have a diverse, burgeoning industry in need of a growing array of talents. Some of them may be yours.

Learn more about the A-State online MS in Sport Administration program.


Forbes: The Sports-Related Jobs With the Strongest Growth

Forbes: Sports Industry to Reach $73.5 Billion By 2019

Plunkett Research: Sports & Recreation Business Statistics Analysis, Business and Industry Statistics

PayScale: Master of Science (MS), Sports Administration Degree Average Salary

Statista: North America Sports Market Size from 2009 to 2020

BLS: Agents and Business Managers of Artists, Performers, and Athletes

BLS: Postsecondary Education Administrators

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