Is a law degree helpful for a career in sports management?

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What is Sports Management?

Before we address the captioned query, we need to explore the profession of sports management and the typical academic qualifications. As a career, this may appeal to high school, college, and former professional athletes, it is not a prerequisite. Just as there numerous successful college and professional coaches who never played the game – there are those with little or no athletic prowess who have excelled at sports management. Statistics show that only 0.000525% of the U.S. population or approximately 16,500 become professional athletes.

According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), there are 10,840 (May 2018) agents and managers for athletes, entertainers, artists, and other public figures. A relatively small occupation category.

Working as a sports agent is not the same as working in sports management. However, there is some overlap. As a sports agent, you represent a professional athlete in a legal capacity to procure the most lucrative contract, secure endorsements, and counsel on a host of legal issues and personable problems as they arise. In this endeavor, some agents have a law degree. A percentage of these may not pass the bar after earning their Juris Doctorate (J.D.). Upon passing the bar, a disgruntled client has the option of filing a complaint with the state bar association. Moreover, there are athletes whose parent has acted as their agent.


Sports management is a diverse field covering professional athletes, pro teams, college sports, sports associations, parks and recreation departments, arenas, as well as the world of sports marketing. The North America sports market may reach $75.71 billion in 2020, according to Statista.

There are sports management firms that offer multiple services for clients. Examples are:

  • Career Management
  • Draft Preparation
  • Marketing and Endorsements
  • Post-career Planning
  • Public and Media Relations
  • Contract Negotiation
  • Supervise Legal Services
  • Personalized Training
  • Tax Preparation
  • Real Estate Advising
  • Relocation Aid

As the above list attests, there are sports management firms whose services cover all aspects of the professional athlete’s life. One-stop shopping. The athletes’ personal life and commercial enterprises are taken care of – leaving them the freedom to concentrate on excelling at their chosen sport. Ultimately, the more successful the athlete, the more money he/she generates.

The array of services provided by some management companies, PSI Sports Management, for example, requires employees with different degrees. There would be a need for accountants, financial advisors, relocation specialists, lawyers, athletic trainers, marketing managers, and media relations specialists. Each of these has a specific college major from accounting to communications.

Where do you start?

Before deciding on a law degree, a bachelor of science in sports management or sports administration is a viable consideration. Many of these programs include courses that provide an overall education in the various components of sports management. St. John Fisher College in Rochester, New York, has a B.S. with coursework in Sport Law, Sport Marketing and Promotions, Sales and Client Services, Business and Finance, Economics of Sport, Event Planning, and more. A well-rounded curriculum may suit those who plan to pursue a career in sports management but are not sure which area to specialize in.

A master’s degree would likely create more employment opportunities in this competitive field. There are residency and online programs from which to choose. An online Master of Business Administration with Sport Management option is a possibility. An example of this degree is the Harrison College of Business at Southeastern Missouri State University, whose 33-credit hours curriculum includes Qualitative and Quantitative Research Methods, Legal Aspects, Principles of Sport Management, Operation of Sport Facilities, and Finance. A range of subjects produces graduates with a diversity of skills and knowledge. The school claims that this 100% online MBA is one of the Top 5% business programs worldwide.

For students interested in the legal issues surrounding professional athletes, sports teams, and organizations, a law degree would bode well. Those with the academic credentials could enroll in the joint J.D./M.B.A. in Sports Business at Marquette University’s Law School and the Graduate School of Business. By combining the degrees, you may complete the program in four to five years, instead of six years.  This timeframe at Marquette is in addition to the four-year baccalaureate necessary for admission into the Law School.

Another example is the Doctor of Jurisprudence (J.D.) and Master of Science in Sport Management at Texas Tech University’s School of Law. The curriculum consists of 78 hours of law courses and 24 hours of sport management. Students may finish the dual degree in three to four years by transferring twelve hours of law courses as electives toward the M.S. degree.


Yes, a law degree is helpful if you aspire to become involved in contracts, legal matters, legal counsel, and other matters associated with the law. Otherwise, a bachelor’s or master’s in sports management or administration will suffice.

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