Sports are a thrilling source of entertainment, but they’re more than just fun: so much goes on behind the scenes to keep this $500 billion dollar industry operating smoothly. Sports management is all about the science of running a sports team, and a PhD in sports management can help future managers, entrepreneurs, and executives gain the expertise they need to become leaders in this booming field.
Earning a PhD, or Doctor of Philosophy, in sports management could prepare you for several exciting careers in the world of sports, including:
- Team manager
- Individual athletic manager
- Sports management professor
- Sports agent
- Sports management executive
- Sports marketing director
What is a PhD in sports administration?
A PhD in sports administration is a doctoral degree, which is the highest degree you can earn in your field. Sports management focuses on the business aspects of athletics and recreation, including all the elements of running a successful sports team, organization, or operation, including:
- Consumer behavior
Many students who choose to pursue a PhD in sports management have already earned a master’s degree specifically in sports management. While you need a master’s degree to earn a PhD, a master’s in sports management isn’t always a prerequisite to a PhD.
Curriculum will vary by institution, and some programs will focus on certain specialties or concentrations within the field. For example, degree programs may choose to emphasize areas of study such as:
- Diversity in sports
- Gender equity
- Fan behavior
- Government regulation on recreation
If you’re interested in exploring some degree options and their different areas of focus, take a look at the 15 best PhD in sports management programs in our list below!
Is a PhD in Sports Management worth it?
Earning your doctorate degree in any subject can be a rigorous yet rewarding process. Ultimately, you need to decide if it’s worth the additional time and money after earning your bachelor’s and master’s degrees. However, you should consider that a PhD in sports management may open opportunities you wouldn’t otherwise have with just a bachelor’s or master’s degree in the field. Some careers you could consider after earning your PhD include:
- Sports Agent: $73,740 (2019 median pay)
- Postsecondary Teacher: $79,540 (2019 median pay)
- Marketing Director: $135,900 (2019 median pay)
How long does it take to get a PhD in sports management?
It typically takes three to four years to earn a PhD in sports management, but degree requirements will be different for each program and school. Some programs offer more flexible options for completion, with accelerated, online, and hybrid formats available to accommodate different schedules. Many schools recognize that working professionals need to balance their careers with their educations, and may require fewer on-campus requirements, such as weekend residencies.
Now that you know more about a PhD in sports management, you’re probably interested in exploring your options. We’ve ranked the best PhD in sports management programs based on two factors: tuition cost per credit (lowest is best) and graduate enrollment (highest is best). Take a look at our list of PhD in sports management programs below!
1. Texas A&M University – PhD in Kinesiology with an Emphasis in Sport Management (28 points)
Texas A&M University offers a PhD in Kinesiology with an Emphasis in Sport Management. Developed over 30 years ago, this program has evolved to cover key areas of sport management on both the local and global levels and focuses on four main areas: scholarship of sport management, scholarship of theoretical specializations, methods of inquiry, and teaching and career preparation. Renowned faculty members are experts in the field and specialize in the areas of diversity, finance, marketing, social justice, gender equity, and more within the sports industry.
- Tuition: $313 per credit
- Enrollment: 14,936
2. University of Michigan – PhD in Sport Management (23 points)
The University of Michigan offers a PhD in Sport Management through its School of Kinesiology. This degree program is geared towards students who want to advance in their careers as educators, researchers, and professionals in the world of sports business. With a heavy emphasis on developing graduates who become independent researchers and scholars, students participate as either Graduate Student Research Assistants or Graduate Student Instructors to hone their teaching skills.
- Tuition: $551 per credit
- Enrollment: 16,398
2. University of South Carolina – Sport and Entertainment Management, Ph.D. (23 points)
University of South Carolina offers a PhD in Sport and Entertainment Management through its College of Hospitality, Retail and Sport Management. This program requires 3 years of residential study in addition to completion of a master’s degree in sport and entertainment management or a related field. This program gives students access to one of the world’s largest academic faculties teaching sport and entertainment management. The school also hosts the Sport, Entertainment and Venues Tomorrow (SEVT) Conference and is home to the College Sport Research Institute, giving students unique access to research and networking opportunities. Faculty work closely with students on consulting projects, grants, and research to provide as much support throughout the doctoral process as possible.
- Tuition: $286 per credit
- Enrollment: 8,062
4. University of Kansas – PhD in Sport Management (21 points)
University of Kansas offers a PhD in Sport Management program where students can participate in active, real-world research in the school’s Amateur Sport Research Center. While full-time students can usually complete the program in 3 years, working professionals are encouraged to enroll part-time and complete their degree at their own pace. In addition to fieldwork and research, students are encouraged to customize their curriculum and coursework with their doctoral advisor so they can graduate with a plan that fits their career aspirations.
- Tuition: $419 per credit
- Enrollment: 8,094
5. Florida State University – PhD in Sports Management (20 points)
Florida State University offers a PhD in Sports Management program that focuses on four main areas: Legal and Policy Issues in Sport, Management in Sport, Sport Marketing, and Sport Media and Culture Studies. Students take in-depth seminars related to these four areas to develop the knowledge and critical thinking skills they need as experts in the field of sports management. The program also emphasizes active research and instructional experience so students can develop their skills as educators, teachers, and scholars in the field.
- Tuition: $479 per credit
- Enrollment: 8,533
6. University of Houston – PhD in Kinesiology with an emphasis in Sports and Fitness Administration (20 points)
University of Houston offers a PhD in Kinesiology with an emphasis in Sports and Fitness Administration program designed to create faculty researchers, leaders, and educators at all levels who can better serve the growing and increasingly diverse sports industry. The program emphasizes theoretical and applied studies in research, as well as areas of opportunity for leadership in professional sports, collegiate athletic administration, event management, and fitness and recreational management.
- Tuition: $410 per credit
- Enrollment: 7,976
7. Ohio State University – PhD in Kinesiology, Sport Management (19 points)
Ohio State University offers a PhD in Kinesiology, Sports Management through its College of Education and Human Ecology. This program allows students to gain the skills and knowledge they need to become leaders in sport management with the added benefit of immersing themselves in the well-known sports city of Columbus, Ohio. Students are able to customize their curriculum while focusing on in-depth research, presenting at conferences, and being published in peer-reviewed academic journals. Graduates of the program often pursue careers as instructors at colleges and universities, or more advanced positions in the professional world of sports.
- Tuition: $723 per credit
- Enrollment: 14,350
8. University of Georgia – PhD in Kinesiology (Sports Management and Policy) (17 points)
The University of Georgia offers a PhD in Kinesiology (Sport Management and Policy) through its Mary Frances Early College of Education. This program is geared towards students who want to be leading researchers in the areas of sport marketing and consumer behavior; sports cultural and social diversity; and risk management and law. Students can focus their research on one of these three areas, working with expert faculty who provide individualized attention and guidance along the way. Graduates typically pursue careers as researchers or teachers at the college or university level or as administrators in government or the sports industry.
- Tuition: $967 per credit
- Enrollment: 9,041
9. University of Arkansas – PhD in Health, Sport and Exercise Science with a Concentration in Recreation and Sport Management (14 points)
University of Arkansas offers a PhD in Health, Sport and Exercise Science with a concentration in Recreation and Sport Management through its College of Education and Health Professions. This program helps graduates become scholars, instructors, and leaders at the postsecondary level in the areas of sport management, leisure, and recreation. Students master their research skills through several experiences, including independent research projects, internships, presentations, publications in professional journals, and their thesis and dissertation.
- Tuition: $432 per credit
- Enrollment: 4,392
10. Troy University – PhD in Sport Management (14 points)
Troy University offers a PhD in Sport Management Program, which was the first program of its kind to be offered online in the United States. While the online format offers maximum flexibility, students can also choose to take a combination of on-campus and online classes, as well. This degree program helps students develop the skills they need to thrive and remain competitive in the sports industry, including critical thinking and analytical, statistical and research-based skills. Graduates from the program pursue a wide variety of sports management-related careers, including positions in amateur and professional athletics, research, and higher education.
- Tuition: $425 per credit
- Enrollment 3,529
11. University of Connecticut – Ph.D. in Sport Management (11 points)
University of Connecticut offers a PhD in Sport Management through their Department of Educational Leadership that gives students a combination of hands-on field, classroom, and research experience. More than just producing graduates who are scholars, researchers and instructors in the field of sport management, the program aims to create leaders who can make a positive social impact through sports. Examples of core courses include Educational Policy and Politics, Organizational Learning, Influences on Adult Learning, and Social Justice Leadership, Equity and Change.
- Tuition: $705 per credit
- Enrollment: 8,279
12. Louisiana State University – PhD in Sports Management (9 points)
Louisiana State University offers an PhD in Kinesiology – Sport Management through its College of Human Sciences & Education that’s accredited by the Commission on Sport Management Accreditation (COSMA). This program is one of only two in the United States that have achieved this accreditation. The program is designed to help students develop the knowledge and skills they need to become scholars and researchers in the field, with coursework in areas like Organizational Behavior and Theory, Facility Management, Law and Legal Applications, Finance and Accounting, Economics, History, and more. Students have the opportunity to develop their teaching skills with student teaching and lecture opportunities supervised by expert faculty.
- Tuition: $1,045 per credit
- Enrollment: 4,525
12. University of Northern Colorado – PhD in Sport Administration (9 points)
University of Northern Colorado offers a PhD in Sport Administration that’s known as one of the oldest and most renowned sports administration PhD programs in the world. This research degree is specifically geared toward students who want to pursue careers as college or university professors in the subject of sport administration. Graduates are equipped with the skills they need to become effective instructors in the field, including research, curriculum development, classroom instruction, and academic publishing.
- Tuition: $665 per credit
- Enrollment: 3,205
14. University of Massachusetts Amherst – PhD in Sport Management (8 points)
University of Massachusetts Amherst offers a PhD in Sport Management through its Isenberg School of Management that is geared towards students with a passion for sports and a mind for business. With a curriculum that covers a wide range of subjects, including sport monopolies, brand management, and fan behavior, students are able to find the research niche that best suits their interests. A low student-to-faculty ratio assures that students receive personalized attention from instructors and advisors.
- Tuition: $2,081 per credit
- Enrollment: 7,078
15. Indiana State University – PhD with Sport Management Concentration (4 points)
Indiana State University offers a PhD With Sport Management Concentration through its College of Health and Human Services. This degree program is designed for students who want to teach sport management at the college or university level, and includes a PhD in Curriculum and Instruction with a concentration in sport management. Students gain experiential learning through teaching internships and by creating distance education courses for the school’s undergraduate and graduate programs.
- Tuition: $1,236 per credit
- Enrollment: 2,094
Interested in reviewing more PhD in Sports Management programs? Take a look at our Degree Finder tool and we’ll help you find the school that’s right for you.
Our Ranking Methodology
To generate our rankings, we used a formula based on per-credit tuition rates (in-state where applicable) and graduate enrollment rates for each school. After sorting first by the per-credit tuition rates and then by graduate enrollment rates, we assigned points to each school and added these points to get a final ranking score.
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