PhD in Sports Management

By Derick de Souza

Updated February 10, 2023

Derick de Souza

Derick is a business and education consultant working on various projects and scopes. With about 25 years of experience in different settings, he loves to tell others about “how not to be a failure” rather than “how to be successful.” Derick writes and edits articles on online learning, business, employment, and skill development, among others. His hobbies include photography, web design and development, and traveling.


Master of Social Work, Master of Health Psychology

Areas of Expertise & Credentials

None to disclose in particular; the basics are covered in the short bio.

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The sports sector has snowballed into a profitable industry with societal implications, boosting demand for sports business experts and pioneering academic research. For prospective academics with a passion for sports, numerous opportunities are available to carve rich and rewarding careers in sport. At a compound annual growth rate (CAGR) of 41.3%, the global sports market is predicted to increase from $354.96 billion in 2021 to $501.43 billion in 2023. A Doctor of Philosophy or Ph.D. in sports management prepares students for a professor, teacher, and research job at the university level or senior roles in sports businesses. This comprehensive guide on PhD in Sports Management programs including online programs examines the various attributes of the programs, including coursework, specialization, career options and all details you will need.

Best PhD in Sports Management Programs
including Online Programs

The top sports management colleges offering doctoral programs should have a strong reputation, solid infrastructure, student support services, be approved by a reputable authority, and give students adaptable curricula and programs that meet their individual needs. It can be difficult for students to find the best sports management Ph.D. programs and universities based on these and other factors. Fortunately for prospective students, Find Best Degrees (FBD) has researched to find the best possibilities, saving students time. The following is a list of the best Ph.D. in sports management programs including online programs: *

Universities and programs are ranked by various factors, such as affordability, curriculum and coursework, reputation and availability, program length, statistics, the potential of employment, and return on investment for the students. For a more in-depth analysis, please read about our rankings methodology page

What to expect from the Ph.D. in
Sports Management Programs

Areas of Specialization for Ph.D. in Sports
Management Programs

Specializations enhance the value of a Ph.D. by giving additional knowledge and skills in a specific subject area. A specialization can increase one’s employability and work opportunities in niche areas of the sports industry. Many Ph.D. sports management programs allow students to choose unique specializations and credentials that support emerging trends and meet the market need. Students can easily customize their education to their interests and future goals. Here are a few concentration areas for Ph.D. in sports management students to consider:

Area of SpecializationDescriptionCareer Options
Sports AnalyticsThis specialization prepares students for technical and leadership roles in sports team management and analytics. In today’s data-driven and data-intensive environment, it educates students on how to work in sports administration roles. It focuses on predictive analytics and data science, analytics and modeling, statistics, applied mathematics, probability theory, and programming. The specialization shows how analytic methods can be utilized to assess individual and team performance, as well as manage sports teams.Sports Analyst, Sports Data Analyst, Sport Marketing Consultant, Sport Operations Manager, Business Development Coordinator
Athlete DevelopmentThis concentration is for students who desire to work directly with athletes to help them develop as individuals throughout their athletic careers. This new field of study holds a lot of promise for athletes and others who want to help with professionalism, financial literacy, conduct, and career development.Athlete Development Specialist, Athletic Director, Fitness Manager, Sport Agent, Contract Analyst
Director of Racquet SportsTennis pros or enthusiasts wishing to enhance their careers will benefit from this expertise. This concentration prepares students for careers in the racquet sports industry, whether they want to manage a country club or league or start their own tennis business. Students learn practical sport management tactics such as sport marketing foundations, program development, human relations, and budgeting, among other things. Students who complete this concentration will also be prepared to become certified tennis professionals by the USPTA (United States Professional Tennis Association).Sports Coach, Sport Agent, Tennis Coach, Operations Manager, Personal Trainer (Racquet Sports)
High Performance CoachingThis specialization will help students who want to learn how to increase athletic performance by improving their understanding and application of cutting-edge science from the disciplines of coaching, kinesiology, physiology, and psychology. Coaches and athletic administrators can attain optimal performance in the administrative and athletic domains of their sport organizations by combining this specialty with core training in sport administration.Sport Agent, Athletic Director, Fitness Manager, High-Performance Coach, Athlete Development Specialist
Sports Management & Digital MediaThis concentration examines how sports companies connected with their audiences in the past through traditional broadcast media vs. today’s use of social media, video streaming services, and other technological innovations. Students learn how to use digital media successfully, and this specialization equips them with the knowledge and skills they need to manage, measure, and analyze the success of social media activities in sports in the digital era.Sport Public-Relations Manager, Sports Media Specialist, Sport Agent, Sports Marketing Specialist, Guest Relations Manager, eSports Event Manager
College Sports ManagementThis specialization focuses on the management challenges unique to American collegiate athletics. The $8 billion collegiate athletics industry is vital to the sports industry in the United States, as well as higher education, media, and social justice. College sports management Ph.D. students learn how to manage an athletics department’s internal and external operations, as well as the specific compliance, legal, human resource, marketing, public relations, sponsorship, and financial challenges that college athletic departments confront.Athletic Director, Athletic Coach, Athlete Development Specialist, College Athletics Manager, Sport Agent, Facilities Manager, Stadium Business Manager, Event Coordinator

Why should I do an Online
PhD in Sports Management?

Free Ph.D. in Sports
Management Courses

Students pursuing an online Ph.D. in sports management can enroll in free courses offered by several reputable colleges across the world. While most free courses do not provide a qualification that is helpful in the job market, they are beneficial for Ph.D. students who want to extend their horizons, learn more about sports management, and seek some insights and help for their research. Here are a few websites that provide free courses and material:

CourseDescriptionProvided by
Various Topics Related to Sports ManagementThe United States Sports Academy (USSA) provides free sample courses to help people improve their sports knowledge and skills while also entertaining and enriching them. Participants in a free sample course do not have to be Academy students, as a result of which, USSA’s free courses do not provide academic or continuing education credit.The United States Sports Academy (USSA)
Various Topics Related to Sports ManagementSyracuse University has a wealth of free material Ph.D. sports management students can tap into, including journals, databases, research tools, case studies, and training programs.Syracuse University
Various Topics Related to Sports ManagementClass Central provides several sports-related courses at various learning levels. Some of the world’s best names in higher education, like the University of California, Irvine, Duke University, Northwestern University, University of Michigan, and others, are the creators of these courses. Some topics covered are Entrepreneurship and Innovation, Nutrition, Exercise and Sports, Sports and Society, Prediction Models Using Sports Data, etc.Class Central

How to get admitted into Ph.D. in
Sports Management Programs?

To get into an online Ph.D. in sports management program, applicants are required to hold a master’s degree from a school that is regionally accredited or a university located outside the United States that has essentially matching criteria for a bachelor’s and master’s degree. They must also typically have a Grade Point Average (GPA) of at least 3.0 on a scale of 4.0. Here are some of the common admission requirements for a Ph.D. in sports management program:

Online Application & Application Fee

Completing an online application and paying the prescribed application fee.

Academic Transcripts

An official copy of academic transcripts from each college/university attended.

Graduate Record Examination (GRE) or Graduate Management Admission Test (GMAT) Scores

An official copy of GRE scores no older than 5 years.

Graduate Résumé or Curriculum Vitae

The latest résumé or CV that provides personal information and work experience.

Personal Statement or Statement of purpose

A statement outlining how the program relates to the applicant’s career goals.

Letters of Recommendation

At least 2 letters of recommendation from those who can provide a thorough evaluation of the applicant’s abilities at the graduate level.

Proof of English proficiency

A document proving proficiency in English (for non-native English speakers).

Ph.D. in Sports Management
no GRE Programs

How long does it take to complete Ph.D. in Sports
Management Degrees

Accelerated Ph.D. in Sports
Management Programs

Accreditation for Doctorate/Ph.D. in Sports Management
Online Programs

How to Pay for Ph.D. in Sports
Management Programs

Ph.D. in Sports Management
Programs without Masters

Many students would prefer to jump into a Ph.D. program directly after their bachelor’s degree. Some universities allow entry into a Ph.D. in sports management without the applicant finishing a master’s degree. However, conditions and eligibility criteria will vary by college. Here are two options students have to complete their studies sooner:

Option 1

Students might choose to enroll in a combined Ph.D. program. An integrated Ph.D. program (sometimes known as an integrated master’s degree) is a four-year program. It is divided into two parts: a one-year master’s degree and a three-year Ph.D. program. If one wants to get a Ph.D. without a master’s degree but is having difficulties achieving the requirements, this could be a good option.

Option 2

Students can upgrade their current master’s degree. Upgrading a master’s dissertation to a Ph.D. dissertation is a very regular practice, especially in science-related academic fields. This may be a possible option for those who identified a potential research area during their master’s degree and believe it warrants a PhD-level commitment.

FAQs about Ph.D. in Sports
Management Programs

Is a sports management Ph.D. online?

What background do I need to do a Ph.D. in sports management?

How long is a Ph.D. in sports management?

What is the difference between a Ph.D. in sports management and Ed.D. in sports management?

What can you do with a Ph.D. in Sports Management?

How much is a sports management Ph.D.?

Can I do a sports management Ph.D. without a master’s degree?

Is a sports management degree worth it?

Career Opportunities and Salaries after
Ph.D. in Sports Management Degree

The sports and leisure business as a whole is covered under the umbrella term “sports management.” Professionals in the field might pursue careers in sales, marketing, finance, facilities management, legal compliance, promotion, and business development. They may also work for equipment makers, sports marketing firms, professional sports clubs, sports leagues, or universities (in education or research). In terms of interests, hobbies, and aspirations, the field of sport management encompasses a broad spectrum. As a sports management Ph.D. holder, professionals are eligible for one of the following jobs in a senior position:

  • Corporate Partnerships Manager
  • Sports Researcher
  • Sports Policy Maker/Analyst
  • Sports Information Director
  • Sport Lawyer
  • Sports Marketing Director
  • Director of Fundraising and Development
  • Stadium Business Manager
  • Game Day Operations Director
  • Sports Management Professor
  • Athletic or Sports Director
  • Sports Agent
  • Director of Ticket Operations
  • Director of Operations
  • Professional Sports Event Manager
  • Contract Analyst

The sports industry is fast growing and appears to have a great deal of promise; there are a variety of job opportunities available both in the United States and elsewhere in the world. With a compound annual growth rate (CAGR) of 4.3 % since 2014, the global sports market reached almost $488.5 billion in 2018 and is expected to reach roughly $614.1 billion by 2023, with a CAGR of 5.9%.

Here is a breakdown of some promising sport management occupations with some statistics from the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) and Payscale (salaries for Ph.D. holders will generally be higher than the quoted figures):

OccupationJob DescriptionSkills RequiredMedian Annual SalaryJob Growth (up to 2030)
Director of SportsA director of sports leads a company’s or organization’s sports programs, ensuring revenue, profit, and an enhanced brand image. They create teams to handle various tasks and oversee all activities related to sport while focusing on management and business aspects as well.Organizational skills, decision-making skills, leadership skills, interpersonal skills, analytical skills$93,433NA
Management Analysts (Sport)Sport management analysts give recommendations for improving the efficiency of a sports company. They give leaders advice on how to make the company more profitable by cutting costs and increasing sales. They gather and compile data about issues that need to be resolved or procedures that need to be improved. Financial and other information, such as revenue, spending, and employment reports, are also examined by management analysts, who make recommendations for new systems, processes, or enhancements to the firm.Problem-solving skills, analytical skills, interpersonal skills, communication skills, time-management skills$93,00014% (faster than average)
Marketing Managers (Sport Marketer)Sport marketing professionals are in charge of generating interest in the franchise or organization for which they work, as well as managing sponsorships that may have an impact on the team’s image. Overall, their purpose is to promote the club, its players, and whatever other stories or assets capture the public’s interest in order to raise sales and grow the organization’s voice.Organizational skills, creativity, analytical skills, decision-making skills, interpersonal skills, communication skills$133,38010% (as fast as average)
Postsecondary TeachersPostsecondary teachers, often referred to as professors, instruct students in a wide range of academic areas at the high school and above level. They can also do academic research and write and publish academic publications. Postsecondary teachers can focus on a wide range of topics and disciplines. They are generally grouped into academic departments, such as science, history, business, and even sport, according to their areas of specialization, for which they develop lesson plans and devise assignments for their students.Resourcefulness, writing skills, speaking skills, interpersonal skills, critical-thinking skills$79,64012% (faster than average)
Facilities Managers (Sport)Sport facilities managers are in charge of program development, human resources, and marketing. They create cost-effective programming that engages the target audience based on the facility’s clients. They also hire and educate employees to help the facility meet its objectives. Facilities managers must increase income in their businesses. This necessitates strong marketing that reaches out to the community and promotes the business while obtaining sponsors.Leadership skills, analytical skills, communication skills, detail-oriented$99,2909% (as fast as average)

Certifications and Licensing for Ph.D. in
Sports Management Students

Additional Resources for Ph.D. in
in Sports Management Students

Author Bio:

Derick de Souza

Derick is a business and education consultant working on various projects and scopes. With about 25 years of experience in different settings, he loves to tell others about “how not to be a failure” rather than “how to be successful.” Derick writes and edits articles on online learning, business, employment, and skill development, among others. His hobbies include photography, web design and development, and traveling.


Master of Social Work, Master of Health Psychology

Areas of Expertise & Credentials

None to disclose in particular; the basics are covered in the short bio.


The average tuition (based on degree type for in-state students), average graduation rates, and rankings are based on data from various sources, including the Integrated Postsecondary Education Data System (IPEDS), and are variable over time. All rankings and statistics are subject to change. The rankings are solely the opinion of Find Best Degrees (FBD) and are based on our proprietary methodology. They do not represent the views of the institutions or organizations mentioned, nor do they represent any official government census or survey. Furthermore, any views or opinions expressed on this page are of FBD’s researchers and teams. Unless otherwise specified, they do not represent the thoughts and opinions of the individuals, institutions, or organizations mentioned. This page’s content is provided solely for informational purposes, with data drawn from various sources, including IPEDS. FBD and its employees make no guarantees regarding the accuracy or completeness of any information found on this page or by following any link. FBD will not be held liable for any errors or omissions in this material nor any losses, injuries, or damages resulting from the exposure or use of this information. Although the information on this page is/was correct at the time of publication, readers should exercise caution because some or all of the provided information may have changed over time, potentially resulting in inaccuracies. For more information, please read our Terms of Service. Trademarks and logos are the property of their registered owners. | Page last updated: Dec 2023.