May 12, 2016

5 Things to Consider When Choosing a Sport Management Program

sport management program

Just like life on the field, the sports industry is an ecosystem of intense competition. But within it, lies the potential for tremendous opportunity. With starting positions earning about $46 an hour (according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics) and the industry itself generating up to $470 billion in revenues every year — the professional workforce needed to support it is undeniable.

That's bigger than the restaurant industry, bigger than the real estate sector, and more than twice as big as the auto industry. In an industry of such immense size, there's plenty of room for you. You'll not only need a fierce amount of persistence and dedication, but you'll have to map out a playbook from the beginning.

Start strong with a degree program that makes you stand out in the ranks — look for these five factors as you scout out the program that's going to make you an MVP.

The Playbook
The first thing to assess is the program's overall feeling. This might sound broad, but you should know what the program focuses on and how its orientation fits with you and your goals. The University of Miami's sports administration faculty nailed down some of the strengths and defining features of their program in a 2016 Twitter hangout with UOnline. They included networking with a global web of sports-oriented alum, finding your niche with a specialized master's track, and a down-to-earth focus on using your love of sports as a source of energy for your work in the biz. 

Of course, the classes themselves form the foundation of the program. The UOnline master's in sports administration program particularly hones in on growing your leadership and decision-making skills with courses like Ethical Decision Making in Sport and Essential Leadership Skills in Sport. Although almost every program will teach you the basics, the slight differences in focus really define the degree. Seek programs that aim to sharpen your real-world skills. 

The Team
Take a look at the team behind the program. Ask yourself if their areas of expertise and past experiences line up with the future you see for yourself. The sports faculty makes up a diverse team at UM. In one corner, Dr. Tywan Martin's research background really digs into the influence and impact of media and branding on sports consumer behavior — a boon for those who'd like to pursue marketing, advertising, ticket sales and franchise management. In the other corner, professor Alicia Jessop's background in legal practice equips budding industry pros for a future in sports law. Understand what part of the sports spectrum you want to fall into and seek a faculty that can accommodate your interests. 

The Virtual Venue
As a student of the virtual classroom, you're also a student of the world — you're free to choose the location that best suits your preferences, strengths, and sports allegiances, whether it's St. Louis or Belize. No matter where you live, any industry vet will tell you that the key to getting your foot in the door is networking, networking and more networking. Seek out mixers, conventions, internships and volunteer positions if you want to break in.

UOnline students also have access to exactly the same professors, the same international 174,000-strong alumni network, the same class content, and even the same graduation ceremony as their on-campus peers. A more flexible education might be your ticket if you're currently working or just want the extra elasticity to start networking ASAP.

The Accolades
No matter which sports administration degree program you choose, the proof isn't just in the pudding — it's on the field and in the franchise office. If you find a program with concrete, active results, that's all the better for your outlook. UM's sports law professor Alicia Jessop puts it plainly.

"I'm the most proud that in our first year, we've reached nearly 100 talented students who are [or] will be #sportsbiz leaders."

She's talking about alumni who went on to work at organizations like the American Airlines Arena, the Baltimore Orioles and CBS Interactive. Their positions range from director of athletic communications to media relations coordinator and professional scouts. Look for alum who run the gamut if you want a better chance of following in their footsteps. 

An Alternative Play
The New England Patriots battled their way to Super Bowl XLIX with a collection of unexpected plays, like when their wide receiver threw a touchdown pass after nabbing a cross-field lateral to clinch a win against the Green Bay Packers. As you search for just the right fit, don't be afraid to embrace the unexpected — it might just win you the game. 

Think outside the sports administration box and toss an outside contender into consideration: a master's in business administration. If you're not 100 percent sure that the sports industry is your home, but that business acumen runs in your veins, this broader degree option might put you on a more expansive track. It's just one way to hedge your bets and make sure you appeal to the widest possible range of industry sectors. 

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