A former colleague of mine has one piece of advice whenever she is asked to speak to a group of sport management students: don’t major in sport management. I don’t take such a hard line on the subject, but I do think there are some important things to consider when choosing your major as an undergraduate.
The main point that my colleague makes is that by majoring in something as specific as sport management, you are pigeon-holing your future career opportunities. First of all, at 18 or 19 years of age, a lot of us think we know what we want to do with our lives but few of us actually do. Working in sports may sound cool, but trust me, not everyone loves it. Long hours and little pay, especially early on in your career, might eventually convince you to look at another industry. Plus, you may end up discovering a passion or a talent for something else entirely. The same can be said for any major that you choose, but think of the perception that hiring managers outside of the sports industry might have of a sport management degree. They might not understand what applicable skills you learned, or worse, they might dismiss the value of this line of study.
But that’s okay, because you are 100 percent sure you want to work in sports. No way are you changing your mind about this. Good for you! Let’s talk numbers. According to the North American Society for Sport Management, there are 294 U.S. colleges and universities currently offering undergraduate sport management programs. Now I don’t know how many students are graduating with a bachelor’s degree in sport management each year, but for the sake of estimating, let’s say each program averages 30 graduating seniors per year (and that’s probably a conservative number). That’s 8,820 new sport management graduates every 12 months. That’s a lot of people to compete against for jobs in a very small industry–and that doesn’t count all of the non-sport management majors also applying for those positions.
I’m not trying to scare you away from your chosen career or major choice here–well, not completely anyway. The truth is, though, not all sport management majors are going to end up working in sports. There just are not enough jobs. In other posts, I’ll talk more about ways you can improve your chances at getting one of those positions, but for now, considering that fact is important in your decision about whether or not to major in sport management. If you don’t get a job in sports, will your sport management degree help you find gainful employment? Maybe.
If you already know what area of sports business you want to focus on, you can choose to major in a subject that closely aligns with that career path, for example, marketing, sales or communications. As a hiring manager, I have probably seen more qualified candidates for internships and entry-level positions with majors other than sport management. You can always minor in sport management to keep a focus on the sports industry.
Or, you can follow your dream and major in sport management. If you choose this path, I recommend two things. One, choose your school carefully. Look at the types of courses offered in the sport management program and consider how much practical training you will get to prepare you for a job in the sports world. Two, find a minor (or more) that supplements your sport management degree with some real-world skills. In the end, everything comes down to making yourself marketable for jobs after graduation. Taking classes and gaining experience in a field like business, marketing, sales, public relations or journalism will only benefit you.
In the end, choosing a college major is a personal decision. Ten (or maybe even five) years after graduation, your undergraduate major may have little impact on your career. But it can play an important role in your internships and first jobs out of school. College is definitely a time to explore subjects that interest you, but take the time to think about what role your degree will play in the next few years of your life before making a selection.