American sports are a $470 billion industry annually, according to Plunkett Research. The global sport business industry is even larger – about $1 trillion annually.

With all this money changing hands, it's not just pro athletes and coaches with big paychecks that benefit.

Sports organizations need professionals to help manage personnel, facilities, events, business strategy, budgets, sales, marketing, communication, sponsorships, community outreach, and more.

Sport Business, Sports Marketing and Sports Management – What's the Difference?

Sport business professionals work for more than just professional and college leagues and teams.

According to Dr. Eric Schwarz, chair and professor of sport business at Saint Leo University, sport business professionals may work at fitness centers, recreation departments, sport associations, national sports governing bodies, Olympic sports agencies, sporting goods corporations, and sports agencies.

Many people may confuse the sport business career field with other sport-related professions such as sports marketing or sports management.

Schwarz says sport business professionals need to have an understanding of the entire business, including marketing, economics, accounting, finance, and law.

In contrast, careers in sports marketing focus on performing market research, analysis of consumer behavior, the logistics of selling and delivering a product, and promotions. Careers in sports management cover many areas, but focus primarily on completing specific goals based on an organization's strategic plan.

Preparing for a Sport Business Career

Because sport business is a highly competitive career field, internships are an important way to gain experience. Networking with others in the field can help connect you to new job opportunities.

The biggest growth in the sport business industry throughout the next several years is expected to be in global markets. "Probably the biggest growing market in the next 10 years is the Latin American market, especially with the World Cup coming to Brazil in 2014 and the Olympics in 2016," Schwarz says.

A bachelor's degree is typically the minimum degree required to obtain entry-level positions. To advance beyond entry-level positions, employers may require a master's degree—such as Saint Leo's MBA with a sport business concentration.

"A master's degree is almost necessary, especially if you want to move up in industry," Schwarz says. "I've known people who were stuck at a lower level job for decades because they weren't willing to get the extra credential of a master's degree."

The Saint Leo online MBA in sport business may be a good option if you're considering a career change.

"A lot of our students are career changers who want to get into the sport business industry, but need to learn more before they get in to make sure it's the right move for them," Schwarz says.

When looking for a sport business program, it's important to make sure the program is accredited and fits your career goals.

"At Saint Leo, our MBA in sport business program has seven traditional MBA courses and five sport business courses. It's a nice mix of core business courses and specialized sport business courses, plus there's an optional internship course students can take as well," Schwarz says.

Salary Expectations

The average median salary for sport business managers or agents is about $63,370, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, but entry-level salaries aren't quite that impressive. Salaries depend largely on education, experience, industry, and location. You may need to remain open to the possibility of moving to a new city—or even to a different country—to obtain an entry-level job or to advance your career.

For example, entry-level positions in college sports marketing typically involve one-year paid internships for college graduates and can pay less than $30,000 a year. Median starting salaries for sport business positions with pro sports teams are less than $35,000 per year, according to a 2012 Industry Salary Survey by Turnkey Search and the SportsBusiness Journal/Daily.

Professionals at the manager level earn a median annual salary of about $65,000 for work with pro sports teams. Salaries go up from there as you advance. Marketing and communications jobs are usually at the lower end of the pay scale, while salaries for jobs in finance, administration, and ticket sales are typically higher.

Learn More About Sport Business

For more information on sport business careers, Schwarz recommends checking the job boards at TeamWork Online and the NCAA marketplace.

You may also be interested in listening to the Saint Leo University podcast, "Getting Started in Sport Business."

What aspect of sport business interests you?

Other posts you may be interested in reading:

Saint Leo's Online Sport Business Program One Of World's Best

Your Green Flag To A Sport Management Career

4 Steps To Finding A Sport Management Internship

Image Credit: Håkan Dahlström