The differences in the programs and the degrees can also lead to confusion. "You really have to be careful when you're a student choosing [a program] or when you're an organization hiring from one. Like [with] a lot of different programs, a lot of them are out there to be cash cows and to generate tuition revenues," says Florida Atlantic's Riordan. While the cash cows aren't necessarily academically rigorous, the serious programs have Association to Advance Collegiate Schools of Business (AACSB) accreditation, he says. And, Riordan adds, many sports management programs—such as his employer's—only consider applications from already admitted M.B.A. students.
[Read about business school cases from sports to Lady Gaga.]
Despite which program students choose, they should also avoid the popular misconception that the sports industry doles out high salaries, according to professors and sports industry professionals. "[T]he sports field in general does not pay as well, even with M.B.A.'s," says John Dato, general manager of the World Team Tennis team, New York Sportimes. "But it gets you in the door."
Some students find a way to get their feet in the door by applying for M.B.A.'s after completing an M.A. or M.S. in sports. Steve Postma decided to come to Florida Atlantic, where he is an M.B.A. student, after earning an M.A. in sports management from The University of Western Ontario in Canada. The M.A. program had a "heavy focus" on theory and on making more effective sports managers, Postma says, but he craved a program that would better prepare him for a career in sports marketing and event management.
As a student at Florida Atlantic, Postma has received what he views as a lot of industry experience. He interned for the NFL's Miami Dolphins and the Palm Beach County Sport Commission, and he will start a second internship with the Dolphins in January 2012.
Gordon Kaye, executive director and general manager of the Illinois-based Rockford Area Venues & Entertainment Authority—which runs an American Hockey League arena—also chose to get an M.B.A. after earning a graduate sports degree.
Kaye received an M.S. in sports administration from Indiana University—Bloomington's Kelley School of Business, and then an M.B.A. from Columbia Business School. "The M.S. program was a good stepping stone for me," he says. "The M.B.A. was more along the lines of: 'It's time to grow up.'"
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