2021 Best Online PhD in Sports Management [Doctorate Guide]

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If you have experience in management or in sports and athletics organizations, getting an online PhD in Sports Management can enable you to hone your knowledge and skills in this dynamic management niche.

Best Online PhD in Sports Management

At the PhD level, you can acquire skills for tracking research and innovation in your area of specialization.

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You can also engage other professionals as you explore leadership methods related to managing complex sports organizations in a competitive and global business environment.

Online PhD in Sports Management Programs

Online PhD in Sports Management Programs

Today there are many online programs at accredited schools that offer the chance to earn a PhD, EdD, or DBA in the field of sports management. This kind of management degree could have unique advantages for some professionals.

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For starters, you could learn many valuable management and leadership skills and concepts. Doctoral training in sports management is also specifically designed for leadership roles in the sports sector. A terminal degree could help give you a competitive edge as well as increased earning potential.

A sports management PhD program can be quite versatile, offering opportunities to specialize in various subfields, such as:

  • Human resources management
  • Global organizational leadership
  • Marketing and public relations
  • Finance
  • Sports physiology

Many programs emphasize courses to help you advance your management skills, but there are also programs with concentrations related to coaching, sports physiology, and sports medicine.

Online Sports Management PhD Degree Specializations and Concentrations

Sports Management PhD Degree

Here’s a look at just some of the PhD-level sports management areas of specialization that guide research topics, course designs, and career pathways:

  • Global Sports Leadership. This concentration is designed to help you develop executive leadership skills and learn about operational challenges and principles for global sports management. This concentration can help you understand international sports governing bodies, international regulatory frameworks, and concepts in global financial management.
  • Human Resource Management. Sports organizations are human capital intensive and often engage a range of wage and salaried workers for diverse functions. This means there’s a need for skilled human resource managers to manage HR policy, labor relations and contract negotiations, and personnel training and supervision.
  • Sports Marketing. Marketing for a sports organization, team, or franchise requires specialized marketing, advertising, and public relations knowledge and skills. A marketing concentration can help you learn about marketing metrics and campaign testing, branding concepts, audience profiling, and content and social media marketing strategies.
  • Sports Performance. This concentration focuses on topics in both science and management. It prepares doctoral candidates for advanced research or senior management roles in the sports performance and athletic training sectors.
  • Sport Physiology. Whether you want to manage coaching and training operations or research, teach, or consult in the sports physiology field, this concentration involves advanced topics in biometry and biomechanics, kinesiology, exercise science, and related sports medicine topics.

The field of sports management may seem specialized already, but even a sports management PhD track has room for more specialization based on your experience, aptitudes, and career goals.

Types of Sports Management Doctoral Programs

Sports Management Doctoral Programs

While a PhD degree program will typically be designed to emphasize advanced academic research, other doctoral degrees may have more components focused on practical leadership and business applications.

One thing these various doctoral degrees have in common is that they are all terminal degrees, so they all confer a similar level of academic status to graduates.

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)

Online PhD in Sports Management

A PhD program generally emphasizes the highest levels of research and academic investigation and knowledge. It also typically requires a dissertation. Many professionals seeking opportunities in academia, research, or academic publishing opt for a PhD track.

Doctor of Education (EdD)

An EdD track is more likely to offer components related to organizational psychology, sports psychology, and sports performance. It will generally emphasize more practical leadership and organizational development skills.

Doctor of Business Administration (DBA)

If you’re seeking the most business-oriented curriculum designs, you may want to check out sports management DBA programs.

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A DBA track tends to emphasize managerial skills, business analytics, and finance and marketing specializations. It is also more likely to offer a practical capstone project in lieu of a dissertation requirement.

Sports and Athletic Management Careers & Salaries

Sports and Athletic Management Careers & Salaries

Most sports management doctoral programs online offer training that can be applied to jobs and careers in multiple industry sectors.

These industries include sports business management, athletic administration, coaching education, sports medicine consulting, sports marketing, sports physiology, and even sports psychology research or services. 

­­According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, many careers where you might apply advanced training in sports management, operations, and medicine are projected for above-average job growth over the next ten years.

Careers Annual Median Salaries
Chief Executives $185,950
Advertising, Promotions, and Marketing Managers $141,490
Financial Managers $134,180
Human Resources Managers $121,220
Public Relations and Fundraising Managers $118,430
General and Operations Managers $103,650
Administrative Services and Facilities Managers $98,890
Postsecondary Teachers $80,560
Agents and Business Managers of Artists, Performers, and Athletes $75,420
Survey Researchers $59,870

Sports management careers can span business, academia, and health science opportunities. Some PhD in Sport Management programs emphasize management, business, and organizational leadership skills. Others may provide more courses in health-related aspects of sports management, such as sports physiology, biomechanics, and sports medicine.

Picking a sports management doctoral program with a concentration and coursework that align with your ideal career direction is a strategic first step.

Sports Management PhD Curriculum & Courses

Sports Management PhD Curriculum

Courses and curriculum pathways will vary by program, but here’s a sample of the kinds of courses you might see as you compare online sports management PhD programs:

  • Organizational Leadership: You’ll learn about competencies and leadership methods for complex business structures and organizational systems.
  • Sports Financial Management: You’ll learn about critical accounting topics and regulations related to sports finance, budgeting, financial analysis and forecasting, capital investments, and profit sharing.
  • Facilities and Logistics Analysis: This course covers methods and best practices for the management of administrative challenges related to large facility use, lease, and ownership.
  • Organizational Psychology for Sports Management: You’ll learn about best practices for managing and leading large organizations, with a focus on organizational growth, development, team building, and organizational restructuring and reform challenges.
  • Sports Medicine and Physiology: You’ll learn about advanced concepts in the fields of sports medicine, sports physiology, and exercise science as they relate to coaching, improving athletic performance, and managing a successful sports organization.
  • Global Sports Marketing: You’ll learn strategies for leading large marketing operations and media campaigns, and you’ll learn concepts related to audience research and profiling as well as global marketing and advertising.
  • Global Sports Management: This course is a study of advanced topics in the effective management of finances, media, communications, and human resources in the context of global operations and international regulatory frameworks.
  • Human Resources Leadership: You’ll study topics in contractual law, labor relations, the development of HR policy, and effective HR training and development methods and structures.
  • Sports Psychology: You’ll learn about methods, objectives, and practices in the sports psychology field. You’ll also explore how sports organizations and athletic training specialists apply sports psychology concepts to support athletes and teams.
  • Research Design and Methods: This course covers fundamental research design concepts and principles that can help you complete valid research and effectively gather and evaluate research sources in your areas of professional or academic specialization.

Doctoral programs in sports management offer unique course designs that you won’t find in a traditional science or business degree program.

How to Choose an Online Sports Management Doctoral Degree Program

Sports Management Doctoral Degree

When comparing online sports management doctoral programs, here are some factors to look for that can help you find the best program for your goals and interests:

  • Areas of specialization. The emphases of sports management degree programs will vary from school to school. Comparing program designs and available specializations can help you find a program that’s best aligned with your own professional interests and career objectives.
  • Learning options. In addition to traditional classes, some programs offer other learning formats, such as research seminars, research methodology courses, and symposiums. Even some online programs may offer or require labs or supervised field study. Some doctoral programs have dissertation requirements, while others offer the option of a capstone project instead.
  • Career support and guidance. As you compare programs, you may want to see what rate of success graduates have when it comes to getting jobs in the sports sector. You can also look for PhD programs that offer more robust internship channels or other job recruitment support.

Other program considerations include tuition rates and admissions requirements. Knowing which factors are most important to you can help you discern the online sports management PhD programs that are best aligned with your learning preferences and professional goals.

Admissions Requirements

PhD in Sports Management admissions

Admissions requirements for applying to a doctoral program in sports management will vary depending on the school, program, and specialization you’re pursuing.  Here are some common admissions requirements, though, for a PhD program:

  • GRE or GMAT scores (only some schools require them)
  • Masters degree
  • Satisfactory college GPA
  • Relevant professional experience
  • Letters of recommendation

Some online programs offer less stringent admissions requirements. You may even find some programs that allow you to apply without a masters or with a lower GPA. So, it can help to see what’s out there and to learn more about different schools’ specific requirements.

Online Doctoral Programs in Sports Management Accreditation

PhD in Sports Management accreditation

While it’s helpful to compare schools and programs when choosing which schools to apply to, it’s beneficial to stick with regionally accredited schools. Regional accreditation typically offers the best assurances for getting rigorous academic preparation in your doctoral degree program.

Accreditation can also impact your ability to transfer course credits to another program. Earning your degree at an accredited institution can also be a precondition for some forms of financial aid and for satisfying professional licensing requirements.

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Organizations such as the Council for Higher Education Accreditation (CHEA) have more information about accreditation and finding accredited schools. 

Financial Aid and Scholarships

PhD in Sports Management financial aid

Covering the upfront costs for an advanced degree can be challenging, so many professionals apply for financial aid and scholarship opportunities to help them cover any financial gaps.

Common forms of financial aid include federal and state grants, employer-based tuition assistance programs, scholarships, and student loans. Offers and terms for financial aid packages can vary, so it’s beneficial to review all offers carefully.

Thinking you’re going to apply for financial aid? Submitting the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) could be a beneficial first step.

Is There a PhD in Sports Management?

PhD in Sports Management

Yes, you can earn a Doctor of Philosophy (PhD) in Sports Management. A masters in sports management, sports physiology, business administration, or a related field could be a solid foundation for doctoral studies in sports management.

Getting a PhD is a way to research advanced topics, learn and apply research methods in your area of specialization, or deepen your leadership and management competencies and skills. Some professionals pursue doctoral study in order to open more doors to consulting jobs, senior executive roles, or academic teaching and research positions.

What Can You Do with a Doctorate Degree in Sports Management?

Doctorate Degree in Sports Management

A doctoral program in sports management can help you develop advanced and specialized knowledge in your area of concentration and research.

Most professionals seeking a doctorate in sports management already have experience in the field and want to qualify for more challenging leadership or consulting roles. What you can do with a doctorate in sports management depends on many factors, including your specialty area and work experience.

Sports management experts can pursue opportunities in a range of leadership and executive roles, including human resources management, athletic training and athletic administration, and sports marketing. The field of sports management can also include positions like administrative services and facilities manager, public relations or marketing manager, management analyst, and human resources manager.

A PhD can also help you qualify for positions in research and academia. For instance, most postsecondary teachers hold a PhD in their respective fields.

How Long Does It Take to Get a PhD in Sports Management Online?

PhD in Sports Management degree Online

Getting a PhD generally takes 3 to 5 years to complete with full-time enrollment. With dissertation requirements and other individual study interests in play, though, time to completion can vary by school, program, and individual.

If you choose a program that offers a more accelerated sports management degree doctoral track with no dissertation requirement, you might be able to finish in 3 years if you attend full-time.

What’s the Difference Between a PhD in Sports Administration vs. Sports Management?

Sports administration careers typically focus more on analyzing and directing operational systems and managing employees and facilities.

Careers with a sports management degree might involve skills related to organizational development or expansion, entrepreneurial leadership, and senior consulting, marketing, and labor relations roles.

PhD in Sports Administration PhD in Sports Management
  • Emphasis on running an athletic team or program
  • Focus on efficient operations, logistics, and facilities management
  • Covers practical methods that help professionals administer and improve operational systems and tasks
  • Emphasis on leadership related to business management, organizational development, or sports physiology
  • Focus on applying research to inform adaptive leadership
  • Covers areas like organizational improvement, financial analysis, and market expansion

Programs in administration and management can have many overlapping curriculum components. It’s helpful to evaluate course offerings in order to choose a program that’s aligned with your professional goals.

Is a Doctorate in Sports Management Worth It?

Doctorate in Sports Management

Yes, a doctorate in sports management is worth it for many students. Knowledge is power, as they say, and a doctoral education can indeed be a powerful driver of change and success in competitive business environments.

The business environment of sports management involves organizational, financial, marketing, and regulatory challenges. The advanced training of a sports management doctoral program can give you necessary insights and leadership skill sets for this competitive field.

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Professionals with a PhD might move into consulting roles, senior roles in management, or roles in research or academia. Sports management programs also teach skills related to marketing, financial management, and HR management—fields that are forecast for exceptional job growth, according to the Bureau for Labor Statistics.

Universities Offering Online Doctorate in Sports Management Degree Programs

Methodology: The following school list is in alphabetical order. To be included, a college or university must be regionally accredited and offer degree programs online or in a hybrid format.

A.T. Still University

AT Still University campus

A.T. Still University is accredited by the Higher Learning Commission.

California University of Pennsylvania

California University of Pennsylvania campus

The California University of Pennsylvania is accredited by the Middle States Commission on Higher Education.

Concordia University – Chicago

Concordia University Chicago campus

Concordia University Chicago is accredited by the Higher Learning Commission.

Drexel University

Drexel University campus

Drexel University is accredited by the Middle States Commission on Higher Education.

East Tennessee State University

East Tennessee State University campus

East Tennessee State University is accredited by the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges.

Grand Canyon University

Grand Canyon University campus

Grand Canyon University is accredited by the Higher Learning Commission.

Indiana State University

Indiana State University campus

Indiana State University is accredited by the Higher Learning Commission.

Liberty University

Liberty University campus

Liberty University is accredited by the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges.

Moravian University

Moravian University campus

Moravian University is accredited by the Middle States Commission on Higher Education.

Northcentral University

Northcentral University campus

Northcentral University is accredited by the WASC Senior College and University Commission.

Rocky Mountain University of Health Professions

Rocky Mountain University of Health Professions campus

Rocky Mountain University of Health Professions is accredited by the Northwest Commission on Colleges and Universities.

Saint Thomas University

Saint Thomas University campus

St. Thomas University is accredited by the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges.

Temple University

Temple University campus

Temple University is accredited by the Middle States Commission on Higher Education.

Texas A and M University

Texas A & M University - Commerce campus

Texas A&M University is accredited by the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges.

Texas Woman’s University

Texas Womans University campus

Texas Woman’s University is accredited by the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges.

The United States Sports Academy

The United States Sports Academy is accredited by the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges.

Troy University

Troy University campus

Troy University is accredited by the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges.

University of Idaho

University of Idaho campus

The University of Idaho is accredited by the Northwest Commission on Colleges and Universities.

University of North Carolina – Greensboro

University of North Carolina at Greensboro campus

The University of North Carolina at Greensboro is accredited by the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges.

University of St. Augustine

University of St Augustine campus

The University of St. Augustine is accredited by the Western Association of Schools and Colleges Senior College and University Commission.

Getting Your PhD in Sports Management Online

PhD in Sports Management Online

Getting a PhD can help boost your professional growth in the sports management arena. A terminal degree in this growing field can offer advanced knowledge and training related to best practices and cutting-edge insights.

There are a number of sports management PhD programs available at fully accredited schools, including programs with flexible and convenient online learning options.

If this kind of career move sounds intriguing, why not get started today?

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Keith Nickolaus
Keith Nickolaus
Keith has a Ph.D. and a M.A. in Comparative Literature from the University of California - Berkeley and a B.A. in Literature from the University of California - Santa Cruz. A retired educator, Keith lives in Berkeley and researches and writes about trends in education leadership, innovation, and policy.