Sports Management Degrees
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Name: Dr. Heidi M. Parker
Current Job Title: Assistant Professor
School Name: University of Southern Maine

Dr. Parker is a faculty member in the sport management program, housed within the University of Southern Maine School of Business. Her research centers on sport consumer behavior specifically focusing on factors that influence fan attitudes and perceptions. She has published in a variety of journals and presented her research at a number of academic conferences. Dr. Parker is a member of the North American Society for Sport Management (NASSM) and is a former Vice President of Inclusion and Social Justice for the National Association for Girls and Women in Sport (NAGWS). She has taught a number of courses within her discipline including Sport Law, Sport Finance, Sport Consumer Behavior, Sport Research Methods, Sport Event Management, Sport Marketing, and Management of Sport. Prior to joining the faculty at USM, Dr. Parker was a faculty member at Syracuse University. She also spent several years working various jobs within the sport industry including stints as a coach, personal trainer, and director of girl's and women's sports at a community recreation center.

Did you ever work in the sports industry? If so, how did you land your first job or internship?

I have held a variety of jobs in the sport industry. I have worked as a coach, a personal trainer, on the staff at a fitness facility, and as the Director of girl's and women's sports at a recreation center.

What advice would you give to students looking to make sports their career?

Working in the sport industry can lead to a fun and fulfilling career. However, it is not for everyone. Often the hours are long and irregular and the pay is not as lucrative as one might anticipate. Yet, those who work in the sport industry can think of nothing better—for them, it is truly a labor of love. A passion. I would advise those considering a career in sports to do their homework. Talk to several professionals in various segments of the industry and ask them: what their day/week/year is typically like, what they 'really' do, what they like most/least, what their career path looked like, what skills they employ on a daily basis, what challenges they have faced, what is their next 'dream' job, etc. Start to get a sense of what working in the sport industry is really like—try it on, see if it fits--try to realistically imagine what it would be like to do their jobs or work in a segment of the industry. And, after completing your homework, if you still feel passionately about working in the sport industry, you will know you made the right choice.

Why is it important to get a Bachelors degree in sports management for people who are looking to work in sports?

I feel it is always best when your education matches, or is a good fit for, your career aspirations. For instance, it is much more difficult to become an engineer without obtaining an engineering degree. While you might learn related or similar skills in another discipline, they are not specific to the industry in which you seek to work. Minimally, the context is different. Choosing to work in sport is no different. Sport is a dynamic and unique industry with intricate nuances and a degree in sport management will ensure you have the educational background and experience which prepares you to work in the sport industry.

When trying to select a post graduate program, what advice would you give a prospective student?

First, students should understand their purpose for seeking graduate education. Are you looking to gain a richer understanding of the discipline? Are you hoping to gain additional skills or training while completing your degree? Are you interested in research and/or teaching? Do you have a particular segment of the industry you would like to focus your studies (i.e., entertainment, media, college athletics, etc.)? There are a number of quality graduate programs which have varying strengths. Knowing what your goals are for pursing a graduate degree will help you narrow your list of schools to those which are best suited to help you reach those goals. Second, talk to sport management faculty member. It is likely a sport management faculty member will be able to help you determine which graduate programs and/or degree programs will best meet your needs. Finally, research and take advantage of available graduate assistantships and/or internship opportunities. In many cases, students can gain two years of valuable experience while simultaneously completing their graduate degree.

How important is it for students to do an internship before they graduate? What advice would you give a student looking to select a sports internship?

I feel an internship is incredibly important for students completing a sport management degree. The internship should serve as a culminating experience in which the student is able to apply their learned skills in real world settings. It should be a challenging, learning experience, but also leave the student feeling capable and confident. And, after successfully completing an internship, students should have expanded their professional networks and, in conjunction with their academic work, be ready for entry level employment.

My advice for a sport management student looking to complete an internship is to plan ahead, be prepared, and be persistent. Planning for an internship should start early in a student's academic career. Students should map out their degree/course plan and include a semester for which they would ideally complete their internship.

Then, start preparing—

  • Save money—Most internships are unpaid. Additionally, you might choose to complete an internship away from home/campus where you will also have to factor in living arrangement costs.
  • Create a resume and take advantage of every opportunity to gain experience to bolster your resume—There are usually ample opportunities to get involved either on campus (recreational/collegiate sports) or in your community throughout your academic career. The harder you work to gain experience now, the easier it will be to land a great internship later.
  • Put together a portfolio showcasing your pertinent experience.
  • Start researching the various internship opportunities, keep a list of those that interest you, and pay attention to the listed preferred skills/experience—Many internships are offered repeatedly so chances are they will be available when your time arrives.
  • Actively work to build your professional network.
  • Seek out your career services office for help with resume formatting, cover letters, and mock interviewing.

    Finally, start applying to internships for which you are prepared. Often the applications are due well in advance of the internship start date and it is not uncommon to apply in the fall for a summer internship. Be persistent in your quest to find an internship. You probably won't get the first internship to which you apply—apply to several and don't get discouraged.

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