By Kate Roskvist, Athlete Assessments

Recently Liz and I attended the 2014 NASSM Conference in Pittsburgh. The North American Society for Sport Management Conference often features the innovators of the Sport Management industry, and many lecturers we meet there are committed to delivering the most valuable and practical experience for their students.

At that conference, I saw Nels Popp, Ph.D. and Erianne Weight, Ph.D. from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill present on “Student Satisfaction in Graduate Sport Management Programs”. I found their research to be extremely valuable in assessing trends in Sport Management University Programs, so with their permission I have reproduced some of the key findings from the presentation here.

The research focused on four main Research Questions:

  1. How satisfied are current students and alumni with their sport management masters education?
  2. With what elements of sport management graduate education are students most/least satisfied?
  3. What differences exist between how current sport management students and graduates view the benefits of graduate school?
  4. Do elements such as gender, type of undergraduate degree, or effort exerted impact satisfaction levels?

Demographics of Alumni and Current Students

The alumni of seven sport management programs were contacted via alumni databases, direct email, & social media invitations.

  • 302 Participants (54.31% response rate)
  • 72% Graduates
  • 27% Current Students
  • Sport Management Program enrollments ranged from 18 to 70

Employment of Graduates

Graduates Employment Sector

  • 48.1% of graduates were employed in College Athletics
  • 23.8% of graduates were employed in a Non-Sport Sector
  • 5.9% of graduates were employed in Interscholastic Sports
  • 5.9% of graduates were employed in Youth/Community Sports
  • 4.8% of graduates were employed in Professional Athletics

Working in Preferred Industry Segment

  • 68.6% of Graduates said they were working in their preferred industry segment
  • 31.4% of Graduates said they were not working in their preferred industry segment

Salary of Graduates

  • 10.3% of Graduates received a salary of 0-$15,000
  • 25.9% of Graduates received a salary of $15,000 – $35,000
  • 34.6% of Graduates received a salary of $35,000 – $55,000
  • 15.7% of Graduates received a salary of $55,000 – $75,000
  • 13.5% of Graduates received a salary of $75,000 and above

Time to Secure Full Time Position

  • 35.1% of Graduates secured a Full Time Position prior to graduation
  • 15.1% of Graduates secured a Paid Internship prior to graduation
  • 24.3% of Graduates secured a Full Time Position 1 – 3 months after graduation
  • 10.3% of Graduates secured a Full Time Position 3 – 6 months after graduation
  • 5.9% of Graduates secured a Full Time Position 6 – 12 months after graduation
  • 9.2% of Graduates secured a Full Time Position Years or more after graduation

Looking at these figures it can be seen that 75% of graduates secured employment within three months, and 85% of graduates within six months.

Elements and Courses of Sport Management Degrees

Satisfaction with Programmatic Elements of Master’s Degree in Sport Management Education

Participants rated the following programmatic elements of Master’s Degree from (1) very unsatisfied to (6) very satisfied. The mean score is shown below.

  • 5.46        Accessibility of faculty
  • 5.38        Knowledge shared regarding current trends and issues
  • 5.21        Knowledge of faculty
  • 5.19        Decision to pursue a master’s degree
  • 5.19        Amount of interaction outside of classroom with faculty
  • 5.10        Opportunities for hands-on projects
  • 4.93        Opportunities to network
  • 4.91        Beneficial faculty advisement/mentoring
  • 4.85        Quality of instruction
  • 4.80        Knowledge shared regarding various career options
  • 4.69        Type of course offerings
  • 4.65        Your school’s sport management program overall
  • 4.64        Willingness of faculty to assist in job search process

How Beneficial Were Courses in Students Curriculum

Participants rated the following courses from (1) very unsatisfied to (6) very satisfied. The mean score is shown below.

  • 5.24        Contemporary issues
  • 5.19        Sport and society/social issues
  • 5.14        Sport marketing
  • 5.11        Sport ethics
  • 5.02        Intro to sport management
  • 5.00        Leadership/management
  • 4.93        Seminar/special topics
  • 4.93        Sport law
  • 4.90        Applied event management
  • 4.83        Event management
  • 4.83        NCAA governance
  • 4.80        Sport finance/economics
  • 4.78        Issues in higher education
  • 4.77        Media/public relations
  • 4.72        Ticket/sponsorship sales
  • 4.69        Coaching/administration
  • 4.54        Sport psychology
  • 4.48        Facility management
  • 4.44        Women in sport
  • 4.35        Research methods
  • 4.24        International sport
  • 4.18        Statistics

How well were skills taught? 

Participants rated how well the following skills were taught from (1) very unsatisfied to (6) very satisfied. The mean score is shown below.

  • 4.96        Strategic thinking/planning
  • 4.88        Communication
  • 4.87        Event management
  • 4.87        Leadership
  • 4.85        Marketing
  • 4.73        Use of data/research/analytics
  • 4.7          Personnel and administrative management
  • 4.54        Facility management
  • 4.54        Risk management/Legal issues
  • 4.33        Sponsorship measurement
  • 4.27        Civic engagement
  • 4.22        Financial management
  • 4.22        Personal selling

Sport Management Degree Findings

Most Beneficial Degree Elements

Participants found the following to be the most beneficial degree elements.

  • 49.4%    Internship/GA Experience
  • 18.0%    Relationships built with network/faculty
  • 15.7%    Classroom experiences (projects, discussions)
  • 5.8%      Leadership/administration/org behavior class
  • 4.7%      Business/finance/marketing/fundraising class
  • 4.1%      Facility & event management class
  • 2.3%      NCAA/Legal issues class

Least Beneficial Degree Elements

Participants found the following to be the least beneficial degree elements.

  • 35.5%    Statistics/research methods course
  • 31.9%    Course offerings and course material
  • 20.3%    Weak leadership of the program
  • 6.5%      Lack of job seeking preparation
  • 3.6%      Lack of networking opportunities
  • 2.2%      Graduate assistantship/internship experience

Most Important for Job Attainment

Narratives describing the element most important in obtaining a job.

  • 58.1%    Internship/ Graduate Assistantship
  • 19.4%    Networking Opportunities
  • 12.9%    Obtaining the Degree itself
  • 5.6%      Coursework
  • 4%          Faculty assistance and mentorship

An Extract from the Abstract

“Overall, respondents seemed satisfied with their experience, rating satisfaction to pursue a master’s degree in sport management a 5.12 and their satisfaction level with their specific sport management program a 4.65 on a 6-point Likert-type scale. The courses respondents found most beneficial were current topics, sport and society, sport marketing, and sport ethics. Courses deemed least beneficial included statistics, international sport, and research methods. Alumni rated the importance of obtaining a master’s degree in order to land a sport industry job significantly lower than current students. On the other hand, alumni rated the quality of instruction they received and quality of faculty advising significantly higher than current students.

Group mean differences among the independent variables of gender, graduate assistantship opportunities, effort exerted (while enrolled in the graduate program), and undergraduate major were examined for several dependent variables. Few significant differences among factors were uncovered, with one notable exception. Students who earned their undergraduate degree in business were consistently less satisfied with how well their graduate program taught them various sport management skills (such as event management, facility management, financial management, leadership, sponsorship measurement, and strategic planning) compared to students with undergraduate degrees in sport management, sport-related studies, or other majors. Related to this point, when respondents were asked what elements should be emphasized more heavily in graduate sport management programs, qualitative responses overwhelmingly suggested fundamental business courses.

Results of the study suggest that while most students are satisfied with their decision to pursue an advanced college degree in sport management, current graduate sport management programs have room to improve in areas such as faculty advising and strength of business-related or research-related content delivered in classes.”

You may find value in reading the full abstract here.

We hope this article gave you a quick insight into current students and graduates satisfaction with within Sport Management Masters Programs. You may also be interested in reading more important Research and Studies or about how we work with Educators and Academics to deliver the most valuable and practical experience for their students.


At Athlete Assessments, we’re here to provide you with excellence in service and to help you be your best. If there is anything we can assist you with, please Contact Us.

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