Sports Management: A Guide for Career-Changers

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Sports management is a specialized career path, but that doesn’t mean you have to be an expert in sports to get into this growing sector.  Discover the skills, qualifications and career entry-points that can help you transition into a successful sports management career. 

As a leading provider of postgraduate Event, Sport and Entertainment (ESE) management programs, Glion Institute of Higher Education (GIHE) is privileged to have a resident expert on sports management careers: Mike Abson, Subject Leader of the ESE Program, shares his insight. 

What is the sports industry?
In terms of career opportunities, it’s important to understand just how the vast the Sports and Leisure industry really is. Statistically, the sports industry includes professional sports (leagues), sports events & marketing, sports activities, wellness, hobbies, as well as casino and online gambling and sports betting. Parks and the outdoors and the arts & culture market are closely related areas which are often counted as part of the leisure industry.  

Here are a few encouraging statistics about this growing sector:
•    Sport generated $71.6 billion in 2013, expected to grow to $90.9 billion by 2019. 
•    3.4 million spectators attended the 2014 World Cup in Brazil  
•    The top ten sportswear/sporting goods companies generated nearly $73 billion in 2013/2014, with Nike alone generating $27.8 billion.  

Indeed, a lot of money is being generated in and around the sports industry and the growth of spectator sports seems to know no limits. However, only a small part of this industry’s activities actually take place on the field or in a stadium. Much of the business takes places behind the scenes in departments that don’t necessarily require sports knowledge.  

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Soft Skills for Sports Management Jobs
You can leave your stopwatch and trainers at home for the majority of jobs in the sports industry. As Mike says, “I have spent 40 years in the world of Event, Sport and Entertainment, first as a Professional skier, a National team coach, an International Technical Delegate responsible for the World Cup Freestyle tour and then as a Sponsor of the World Cup Freestyle skiing tour. Each one of these positions required a different skill set but the most important skills I used in these roles were always soft skills: people skills, communication, handling stress and the ability to make decisions. These tools are what helped me make a successful transition from one job to the next.” 

Soft-skills aren’t taught in the classroom, they come from experience. Project management, professionalism, ethics, team work skills, and communication skills are classic examples of the soft skills that one develops in the workplace and through real-life experiences. Career-changers may enter a new role with experience in another field and they often bring valuable soft-skills, even if they are short on the hard skills. So while brushing up your resume for a new job in sports management, don’t forget to highlight your soft-skills.

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Entry Points for Career Changers
For the less sports-savvy professionals, three areas of the sports and leisure industry offer easy career entry points. Sales, marketing and communications are three departments where job applicants with eclectic backgrounds often find a niche. 

“Sales positions are a good place to start because they offer entry level jobs which require less experience and more personal skills. If you prove to be an effective salesman, you can move up the ladder to positions with more responsibility,” says Mike, “Sales positions can also allow you to develop core finance and marketing skills, with the possibility of commission and bonuses to augment your potential earnings.”

Marketing and communications departments exist in every major company, plus specialized firms also recruit entry level employees for marketing internships and coordinator positions. “Marketing, PR and communications jobs often offer training and opportunities for project work where you can develop new skills and prove that you have the creativity and motivation to grow your career,” adds Mike, “Marketing and digital marketing skills are highly transferrable, which is why we’ve offered the marketing specialization on our Postgraduate Higher Diploma in Event, Sport and Entertainment (ESE) Management. This track develops a wide range of core marketing skills based on ESE industry examples for better application on the job.”

A Fast-track to Global Careers
Many sport management degree programs are on the market, but not all programs are adapted for career-changers. A traditional master’s program is likely to be highly theoretical, with little hands-on experience integrated to the program. GIHE’s postgraduate program is designed for career-changers, the mature students (average age 21 and up) who come from unrelated degree majors and backgrounds. 

“The courses on Glion’s ESE Management program develop both hard skills for the industry, soft skills and management competences. Through the Project Factory class, our students design, promote, communicate and produce a number of actual events on- and off-campus. Our belief is that students should have as many arrows in their “quiver” as possible to stand out when looking for jobs in the ESE industry,” says Mike , “ESE students are also given the opportunity to work on prestigious sporting events held in Switzerland, such as International Snowboarding events, Ski Touring events, Ultra running events and the like. They spend 4 days working and observing how these events are run by professionals.”

These applied learning components of the program allow students to bridge the gap between theory and practice and develop soft skills and connections in the industry. At graduation, 88% of Glion’s ESE students have a job or multiple offers, proof that this educational approach is highly effective (Graduation Data June 2014). 


Glion Institute of Higher Education offers business degrees that are purpose-built for the merging worlds of sports, events and entertainment. Since 2001, our faculty of industry-experienced leaders have delivered sports management programs combining hands-on learning, industry exposure, and strategic business that have earned the support of global sports and event companies. Currently, Glion has partnerships with:

•    UEFA (Union European Football Association)
•    IOC (International Olympic Committee)
•    FEI (International Equestrian Federation) 
•    ATP (Association of Tennis Professionals)
•    Association Verbier Freeride Exhibitions & Archives

For more information, read this Blog Article by a Postgraduate ESE student or visit the ESE Program page of the Glion Institute of Higher Education website:



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