North Central College sport mangement students introduce the North Central mascot to some young fans.

Sports Management Salary: A Guide

Jacob Imm

Jun 15, 2022

Sports Management Salary: A Guide

Just like in any line of work, a fortune isn’t guaranteed just because you pull down a sports management job. You also can’t expect to make a lot of money right away. As Joy Cromwelle points out in MyDegreeGuide, “Nobody goes straight from the classroom to behind the desk of a team manager. This is an industry where you have to pay your dues a bit before you can get the good seats!”

The good news, however, is there are lots of avenues to lucrative earnings that start with a sports management degree. If you are willing to put in years of hard work and are interested in how high you can climb, this guide will give you an idea of what goals you can shoot for in terms of salary.

You can find out more about the best ways to start out in the sports marketing industry with our guides on how to become a sports manager, “What is sports management?”, and “What is a sports management degree?"

For now, let’s explore how a sports management career can earn you the salary you’re aspiring to.

What is the highest paying sports job?

We’ll begin with the assumption that a job in sports, or at least spectator sports like football, basketball, baseball, hockey, and soccer, must bring obscene riches with it. As in all things, it depends, and there can be a wide berth between those at the very top of the scale—professional athletes—and those even on the next rung down.

According to Alison Doyle of The Balance Careers, out of the top 12 positions in sports according to salary, as you might imagine, the majority are jobs directly related to the competition and presentation of the game. There are, however, a few of them directly related to a sports management career path. Here’s the complete list:

  1. Professional basketball player (National Basketball Association) 
  2. Professional baseball player (Major League Baseball) 
  3. Professional hockey player (National Hockey League) 
  4. Professional football player (National Football League) 
  5. Sports broadcaster
  6. Coach 
  7. Sports executive/general manager 
  8. Professional soccer player (Major League Soccer) 
  9. Sports physician Umpire/referee 
  10. Sports marketer 
  11. Sports agent

On the surface, it doesn’t appear fair. Only the most exceptional of athletes ever get to play pro sports, let alone be among the best. The good news is that it takes an incredible effort to stage all these competitions, operate these teams, and get them in front of both live and broadcast audiences. With all of that workforce comes an opportunity for those not blessed with impossible physical talent to excel in other areas, like business administration, public relations, marketing, sports facility management, showing off their communication skills, and more. That’s how sports management jobs can get your foot in the door and on the way to the top of this lucrative industry.

How much money do you get in sports management?

Athletic administration is similar in many ways to running any kind of business. Sports management professionals work in a wide variety of areas that are connected by the fact that they happen to center on sports teams, leagues, or competitions. So just like when those jobs are not associated with sports, there are a lot of different ways to make a living.

Your salary considerations start with your rank within your organization and the level at which your team or organization competes. Let’s focus on the positions that appeared in our high-earning list above to get some more details:

  • Sports executive/general manager/athletic director: These are the CEOs of sports operations. Doyle said, “General managers and team presidents hire coaches and administrative staff for their organizations. They assess the strengths and weaknesses of their teams, oversee the drafting of players, and orchestrate trades with other teams.” As the positions at the top of the organization, they will make significantly more than those on their staff, but their particular salary depends on whether their team is a major or minor league team, along with their experience and record of success with other teams. 
  • Sports marketer: According to Doyle, “Sports marketers promote teams, leagues, players, stadiums, media outlets, and other products and services related to sports. They analyze markets and develop strategies to expand attendance, endorsements, consumer sales, readership, and viewership.” Their salary can often depend on how well they have performed at other positions and whether they have a proven record of increasing revenue and getting more eyes on their organizations.
  • Sports agent: Unlike the previous positions, agents work with teams but not for them. “Sports agents represent the interests of athletes, coaches, managers, and other talent in the sports industry,” said Doyle. Agents negotiate their fees directly with their clients, usually taking a percentage of their earnings. That means that word of mouth and networking is vital to your earnings in this position. The more abundant, happier, and better-paid your clients are, the more money you will make as an agent. 

In less high-profile jobs than these, your salary can be controlled by more typical factors like experience and level of education, especially if you are hoping to work in college sports or for a professional sports team. Suppose you are an athletic trainer, public relations manager, or event coordinator, for example. In that case, a combination of several years working at or above an entry-level and a master’s degree in sports management might help net you a higher-paying position.

Find out more about North Central College

Can you make a lot of money in sports management?

The key to success in sports administration and management, financial or otherwise, is being proactive and creating your own opportunities. Jason Rice, associate professor of sport management and director of the sport management program at North Central College, said that success in sports management takes “people who are ‘doers’.” Working in sports is not a passive activity. The most successful students are those that are involved in their major, in campus activities, in building their network, in taking advantage of the opportunities presented to them … and those interested in progressing their sports career. It sounds simple, and in some ways it is, but you must get out and do things.”

Once you have laid your foundation with a highly involved college career, entry-level positions, networking, and gaining experience from a few different organizations, what sort of upper-level jobs and salaries can you target?

Let’s look at the top six highest paying jobs in sports management and what they pay, according to research done by the staff writers at Jobs in Sports:

1. Marketing manager

Median annual income: $135,900 

2. Sales manager—this typically deals with ticket sales, and the important work of securing season and multiple-game ticket packages as well as other up-selling opportunities like box seats, luxury seating and VIP experiences

Median annual income: $126,640 

3. Sports Agent

Median annual income: $110,000 

4. Facilities manager—according to Jobs in Sports, “Key tasks for a facilities manager are: managing the turf (or other playing surface), overseeing mechanical problems, directing grounds workers and maintenance personnel, handling safety, managing sports venue upgrades, and managing expenses and budget (for the facility overall)

Median income: $98,430

5. Administrative services manager—as someone who works under a general manager or team executive, this role delegates and manages responsibilities for any number of staff within an organization’s operation, and Jobs in Sports recommends a minor in business and/or an MBA if you’re looking for this job

Median income: $96,940 

6. Sports accountant—working with a team to manage their finances, including everything from payroll to property taxes to processing sales

Median income: $71,550 

Want to learn more? You will need the right school to help you make the most out of your opportunities in the sports industry. For a great place to start, check out the sports management degree program at North Central College. North Central is focused on giving you the broad base of industry knowledge and practical experience needed to excel in sports management. The sports management major’s courses are taught by instructors with relevant experience and great connections, and the campus is a short drive from Chicago and one of the most vibrant and healthy sports markets in the country.

Find out more about sports management, and get your bachelor’s degree at North Central College today.

Jacob Imm is the assistant director of communications in the North Central College Office of Marketing and Communications. He has 12 years of collegiate communications experience and has worked with hundreds of college students. He has a bachelor’s degree from the University of Notre Dame and a master’s degree from Northern Illinois University. 

 

Sources:

Joy Cromwelle, https://www.mydegreeguide.com/what-can-you-do-with-a-sports-management-degree/ 

Alison Doyle, https://www.thebalancecareers.com/best-paid-sports-careers-4135956 

Jobs in Sports, https://www.jobsinsports.com/blog/2020/07/15/6-top-paying-sports-management-jobs/ 

https://www.northcentralcollege.edu/program/sport-management