A Doctorate, or PhD in Sports Management (or related field), can elevate your credentials and expertise in a specific area by showing completion of education at the highest level. While a PhD is a more rare degree program than an undergraduate or graduate one, there are still 50+ universities across the United States and beyond to choose from that offer a Doctorate in Sports Management, either as a stand-alone degree or as a specialization.
There are 26 different states in the U.S. that offer a PhD in a Sports Management related field. In this guide, you will find specific information on some of the top Doctor programs in Sports, both on campus and online.
Consider an online program currently accepting applicants.
Sport Management as a Concentration at the Doctorate Degree Level
While a PhD in Sports Management alone is an option, like at Louisiana State University, another common setup you will see as you research programs is for Sports Management to be listed as a concentration underneath a broader PhD program umbrella.
At Ohio State University, the Doctorate degree offered is in Philosophy with a specialization in Sport Management. At Indiana University, the Doctorate degree listed is in Human Performance.
5 of the Top Online Doctorates in Sport Management
#1 Troy University
Troy's Ph.D. program in sport management was the first to be offered online in the country. This program focusing on enhancing your critical thinking and research-based skills required in the contemporary sport industry. Troy boasts a highly regarded faculty that includes the man referred to as the “Father of Modern Sport Management,” professor Packianathan Chelladurai.
#2 Concordia University
Concordia is an interdisciplinary degree program designed for students who aim to pursue academic, clinical, leadership, or research roles in the fields of health promotion, exercise science, kinesiology, and human performance. An online degree with classes beginning every eight weeks, a tuition guarantee, and small class sizes provides maximum flexibility, even for the working professional.
#3 University of Houston
UH focuses on four areas of kinesiology: motor behavior, exercise physiology, sport and fitness administration, and obesity studies. A unique guiding philosophy of this program is that students and advisors work closely together to develop a course of study that meets the student's professional goals. As part of the application process, prospective students are required to identify their field of study as well as potential professors with whom they share common scientific interests who will support their admission.
#4 East Tennessee State University
ETSU's 60 credit Doctorate of Education in Global Sport Leadership is unique for two reasons. Though attained 100% online, this program has a requirement to attend an international sport event. This program does not have a traditional dissertation. Instead is a Doctoral Capstone Project, which provides the opportunity to display learning gained throughout the entire program into one, seamless project experience.
#5 Northcentral University
Northcentral's Phd. Ed. in Sport and Athletic Management includes 20 courses with lectures that do not follow a strict class schedule and no group assignments giving a much more independent learning environment. The faculty is 100% educated at the doctoral level so you can be assured you are receiving instruction and advice from faculty who have been where you are.
12 Common Courses For Sports Management Doctorate Programs
It's helpful to have a clear understanding of what you want to do with your degree after successful completion in order to select a curriculum that best suits your career goals and aspirations. With this in mind, pay close attention to some of the example course offerings within each program overview. Does one sample of courses stick out to you as more closely aligned with your vision than another?
Introduction to Sport Management
Provides an overview of the basic organizational and business structure of the sport, fitness, and leisure industries. Areas of coverage include professional, Olympic, and intercollegiate, as well as the exercise/fitness promotion business sector. This course is intended to provide a foundation for upper level courses.
Organizational Behavior in Sport
Through critical readings, analysis, and class discussions this course examines organizational behavior dynamics and practices and their application to both business and the sport environments. It covers macro issues such as structure, centralization or decentralization, technology and how these issues impact an individual's function within an organization. Micro behavioral science concepts are also touched on including motivation, conflict, leadership, decision-making, group dynamics, power, control and different methods of communication.
An introduction to the principles of finance and how they can be apply to the sports industry. Covers such issues as financial statements, time value of money, investment valuations, risk, and budget management. This is particularly crucial to facility and team management careers.
Applying fundamental concepts in marketing management to managerial decision making in the sport industry including customer acquisition and orientation, consumer (or fan) behavior analysis, market segmentation strategies, market research methods, brand management, and the marketing mix. Final projects in this class typically involve the development of a comprehensive strategic marketing plan as part of a team to simulate the corporate environment.
Sports & Media
Studies the relationships that exist between the media and sports in America, including the role newspapers, magazines, radio, and television play as commercial enterprises in the coverage and production of sporting events. Economic and legal issues as they pertain to the administration of sports programs are also of particular interest.
Society & Sport
Complex social issues are analyzed through the lens of sport, giving way to a thought-provoking understanding of the importance and value of different cultures within their greater communities. Cultural components are explored including gender, race, ethnicity, religion, and socioeconomic class. Sport is examined through the paradigm of different cultures within the U.S. and throughout the world.
Studies the behavioral, affective, and cognitive reactions to sport settings by athletes and fans. Also examines techniques and methods for reaching peak performance in athletes by using the context of applied, clinical, educational and experimental sport psychology.
Analyzes the process of designing, managing, and selecting sites for various sport facilities. Focuses on event planning and management for sport and special events and explores the beneficial economic impacts of sport facilities and events on cities and regions.
Sports Sponsorship & Promotions
Provides both a theoretical and applied understanding of the values and limits to sponsorship-linked marketing. Various areas of sponsorships exist including contract negotiations, branding, product placement, and advertising. This course takes an integrated marketing communications perspective and treats sponsorship as just one contributing factor to an overall communications strategy by a team or organization.
Sport Organization Strategy
Studying the links between the organization, its strategy and the overall environment. This class synthesizes core sports management theories and principles from core courses in the functional areas of marketing, management, sponsorship, and finance to provide a total enterprise perspective on strategy. Courses in strategy typically rely heavily on client-specific issues and case studies to achieve learning objectives.
Legal Issues in Sport
Course overview of legal aspects affecting sport, recreation, and fitness industries. Can include employment contracts, leases, waivers, tort liability for coaches, administrators, employees, and independent contractors; 14th Amendment Due Process and Equal Protection; product liability; and statutory regulation including Title IX, ADA, Anti-Trust, and IRS code.
Sports Economics & Public Policy
Course provides an introduction to the economics of sports and its incorporation of public policy. Much of modern sport is organized along commercial business lines and is subject both to the laws of economics but also the regulatory framework imposed upon it by local, state, and federal governments.
5 of the Top On-Campus Programs
#1 Indiana University – Doctor of Human Performance – Sport Management
- Location – Bloomington, Indiana
- Annual Tuition Cost – In-State: $10,500 / Out-of-State: $30,600
- Program Overview – recommended for students looking to work in the academic field of sports management. 90 credits, 20-30 credits of dissertation work
- Courses Offered – Epidemiology, Foundations of Public Health, Statistics in Public Health, electives in a variety of areas such as Business and Communication
#2 Louisiana State University – Doctor of Sport Management
- Location – Baton Rouge, Louisiana
- Annual Tuition Cost – In-State: $12,500 / Out-of-State: $29,400
- Program Overview – with a strong focus on sport management courses, LSU’s program relies heavily on independent studies and mentorship. 77 credits, 9 credits of dissertation work
- Courses Offered – Administrative Problems in Kinesiology, Social Issues in Sport, Organizational Behavior in Sport, Facilities Management
#3 University of Connecticut – Doctor of Philosophy – Sports Management
- Location – Storrs Mansfield, Connecticut
- Per Credit Tuition Cost – In-State: $525 / Out-of-State: $1,300
- Program Overview – as part of UConn’s Department of Educational Leadership, this degree focuses more on the social justice and organizational changes within the arena of sports management through research and theory. 45 credits, 15 credits of dissertation work
- Courses Offered – Educational Policies and Procedures, Qualitative Methods, Current Research in Sport Management, Organizational Learning
#4 Florida State University – Doctor of Philosophy – Sport Management
- Location – Tallahassee, Florida
- Per Credit Tuition Cost – In-State: $480 / Out-of-State: $1,100
- Program Overview – very sports-focused with deep dives in the areas of business, management, marketing and sports research. 56 credits, 24 credits of dissertation work
- Courses Offered – Globalization, Sport Marketing, Sport Media Culture Studies, Sport Marketing, Management in Sport
#5 Ohio State University – Doctor of Kinesiology – Sport Management
- Location – Columbus, Ohio
- Annual Tuition Cost – In-State: $12,800 / Out-of-State: $37,300
- Program Overview – this degree program is comprehensive of the physical nature of sport and the body mixed with a comprehensive overview of the wider world of sport and its effect on human nature. 57 credits, 6 credits of dissertation work
- Courses Offered – Women in Sport History, Sport and Sexuality, Behavioral Methods, Advanced Physiology
Careers and Work Beyond your Doctorate
Now is a very exciting time to be educated and consequently working in sports. Sports is a global language understood and shared by so many people! Equally as wide and diverse are the many career path options available to you with completion of a post-graduate degree in the area of Sports Management. These are just a few areas to consider after successfully defending your dissertation, but the sky is the limit!
Sport organizations such as the United States Golf Association or the United States Tennis Association that oversee the growth and administration of their respective sports across the country at the elite amateur level require marketing professionals, tournament directors, sponsorship liaisons, rules officials, and sports information directors.
Team management requires a lot of diverse backgrounds from facilities management to equipment experts to marketing and promotional specialists.
A degree in sport management can afford you opportunities either on or off university campuses. The National Collegiate Athletics Association has a centralized headquarters employing compliance directors, marketing managers, regional directors, and sport-specific and championship oversights. At the conference level, each individual conference (such as the American Athletic Conference, the Big 10, or the Southeastern Conference) has many of the same job titles as the NCAA headquarters but they operate to serve a smaller number of institutions and can therefore cater their attention to the specific needs of their member affiliates.
On-campus jobs can vary from the top down. There is typically one Vice President for Athletics with many Associate or Senior Athletics Directors under him or her who oversee different departments such as Athletic Training, Marketing and Communications, Compliance, etc. At the middle-management level sport management degrees can help you land jobs as a development officer, sports information director, compliance officer, or director of operations for one or more teams.
Coaching or Recruitment
Perhaps one of the most practical applications of an advanced degree in sport management is as a coach or recruitment specialist. There are several agencies here in the United States and also abroad that exist to help educate, promote, and secure scholarships for their perspective student-athlete clients. Coaching, of course, is the purest form of sport management! Engaging with student-athletes, developing their skills, and helping them to achieve success on and off the field of play while managing all of the behind-the-scenes administrative work like uniforms, equipment, travel, and budget are all skills that can be enhanced by a sports management degree.