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MSSM vs. MBA: MBA Alternative for Jobs in Sports

Two men shaking hands on a soccer field

In the competitive arena of professional sports, the right educational pathway not only equips you with insight and expertise but can also define your career trajectory. If you find yourself at a crossroads, contemplating whether an MBA or an MBA alternative will better serve your dream of a job in sports, you are not alone. This crucial decision warrants a thoughtful exploration of what each option offers, ensuring that the degree you choose aligns seamlessly with your professional objectives and personal passions.

Navigating through the intricacies of these programs requires a clear understanding of what sets them apart—the depth, duration, specialization opportunities, networking potential, and the real-world applicability of the skills they impart. Let’s compare the nuances of the MBA and the #1 MBA alternative for a job in sports to empower you to make a choice that resonates with your ideal career. 

What is a Master’s of Sport Management? 

For individuals passionate about building a career in sports management, the master’s in sport management (MSSM) presents a distinct and specialized educational path. This degree is meticulously designed to intertwine foundational business managerial knowledge with the intricacies of the sports industry. By bringing these elements together, the MSSM equips students to directly tackle the unique challenges and emerging trends within the sports sector.

Your Path to a Job in Sport Management–Pursue a Master’s in Sport Management

Degree Timeline

Weighing the timelines of your degree options helps to prepare for the next step. Keep in mind that program lengths may vary, and the pace of the programs you pursue may not be equal. Each educational journey is unique, accommodating different commitments, pacing preferences, and personal circumstances.

How long does an MBA take? 

An MBA—a cornerstone of business education—usually spans two years in its full-time format. According to AACSB data, MBA programs generally contain approximately 60 credit hours of coursework, with students often taking between 12 and 15 credit hours per semester.

However, this timeline is not a strict rule, but a commonly followed standard that allows time for a well-rounded exploration of business fundamentals. 

Accelerated MBA programs can deliver the same knowledge in as little as 12-18 months, while part-time programs allow you to spread your learning over a longer timeframe—up to five years—to accommodate ongoing work commitments.

How long does an MSSM take? 

The master's in sport management presents a considerably shorter timeline of one year. This more concentrated timeline is created to get you into the specifics of sports management quickly so you can be ready to pursue your next step after graduation. 

At SMU, for example, the MSSM is geared towards delivering rigorous, practical, industry-relevant knowledge quickly, enabling you to step back into the professional field with new skills and connections. This could be an ideal fit if you're interested in an intensive academic immersion that directly complements your career ambitions in sports management.

MBA and MSSM Specialization Opportunities

The appeal of an MBA lies in its broad-spectrum business knowledge applicability across diverse industries. With an MBA, you typically learn a little bit within each facet of business, allowing yourself to pivot your career in whichever direction you choose. However, in doing so, you may lack the ability to pursue niche or specialized roles or industries. 

In stark contrast, the MSSM degree is a concentrated program, immersing you in the heart of sports management right from the start. Every aspect of the sport curriculum, from event management to sponsorship to public relations, is designed specifically for careers in sports. Every aspect of the Cox business curriculum, from data analytics to accounting to finance, is designed specifically for sports industry executives. This gives you a competitive advantage in the sports industry as you’re able to speak the same language as someone with an MBA but through the lens of sports. 

What do you learn in an MBA vs. an MSSM?


You can expect a broad spectrum of business-focused topics in a standard MBA program. This diversity allows you to adapt to various commercial contexts, ideal for individuals who aren’t sure what direction they want to pursue. 

  • Strategic Management
  • Finance
  • Marketing
  • Operations Management
  • Human Resource Management
  • Business Analytics

MS in Sport Management

With an MSSM, you're gearing up for concentrated learning in the world of sports management. This program combines the fundamentals of an MBA with the intricacies of sport business. This is the ideal degree for someone who wants to work in sports. 

  • Sport Marketing and Promotion
  • Sport Finance
  • Sport Law and Risk Management
  • Sport Event Management
  • Sport Leadership and Ethics
  • Sport Media and Communication
  • Managerial Accounting
  • Managerial Finance
  • Managing and Leading People

Industry Connections for Jobs in Sports

The saying, "It's not what you know, but who you know," holds particular weight within the tightly-knit world of sports. This multi-billion dollar industry thrives on a web of rich, interconnected relationships that can often define the trajectory of your career. Connections can make all the difference to a job in the sports industry. 

Generally, MBA programs cast a wide networking net but are typically more generalized. Your professors and classmates come from a wide range of industries and backgrounds. This unlocks a wide array of industries, from finance and technology to healthcare and government, granting you the flexibility to pivot your career in numerous directions. However, this expansive network may not offer the depth required for specialized connections, such as the ones needed in the sports industry.

In contrast, an MSSM's concentrated expertise introduces you to professionals currently spinning the gears in sports management alongside peers and alumni who share your passion. Industry leaders, skilled executives, and a close-knit community of sports enthusiasts become your immediate network. If you’ve already been working in this industry, or trying to, you might be well aware that connections can make or break your success. 

As you compare the two degrees, consider the benefits of creating a network of colleagues directly within the industry you’re most passionate about. 

SMU's MSSM Program: The Best of Both Worlds

The benefits of an MSSM degree for professionals set on sports industry roles are compelling. Your direct immersion into the country’s #1 city for sports business and intensive preparation for a competitive industry make an MSSM from SMU the premiere degree for sport management hopefuls. But there’s a special aspect of the MSSM from SMU that makes it even more advantageous for those looking for an MBA alternative. 

A significant portion of courses are taught within the Cox School of Business at SMU, a nationally ranked business program. This means your curriculum is taught by the same faculty as an MBA. This unique blend equips you with industry-tailored skills and a depth of general business knowledge at the same time. 

Choosing between an MSSM and an MBA is a significant decision that will impact your professional journey to a job in sports. Remember, there's no universally perfect choice—the right program will vary based on your unique career dreams, lifestyle, and academic preference. Reflect on the degree timelines, curriculum focus, networking opportunities, and the benefit of specialized programs like SMU's MSSM. 

To explore an MSSM more, download our guide: 
Your Path to a Job in Sport Management–Pursue a Master’s in Sport Management

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