Online Degrees in Sports Analytics
Sports Analytics has played a massive role in an industry that has found a benefit to storing historical data and algorithmically forecasting player and team performance, often before anyone even takes the field.
Data is then used to graph team performance, make predictions, and strategically place teams in the best possible position to succeed.
As a result of analytics’ rise in popularity, and a growing need to stay competitive in an ever-changing industry, sports teams have turned to data science graduates to develop forecast models and populate their staffs. Online sports analytics degrees have become a viable option for any mathematically-inclined individual looking to capitalize on this market gap.
As a direct result of providing sports teams with any statistical advantage, a sports analyst will ideally be equipped with a Bachelor’s degree in sports analytics, a Master’s in sports administration, or a Master’s in sports management with a minor or concentration in sports analytics. As these courses may not be as readily available as traditional data analytics, a Master’s in data science or analytics would also suffice.
Sports analytics programs will cover mathematics, statistics, business analytics, data modeling, and computer programming. The coursework accomplished will leave graduates with the capability to conduct a regression analysis, comply with basic statistical principles, and run digital simulations.
Regardless of a physical or online degree, a sports analyst will be skilled in predictive modeling and capable of extracting unique information and generating objective analysis.
Here are three online degrees for sports analytics that we’d like to highlight:
The University of Mississippi: Master of Science in Sports Analytics
The M.S. Sports Analytics Degree from Ole Miss is a one-year fully-online program aimed at building analytical skills for measurement and data acquisition, database management, statistical modeling, and big data analytics.
The program consists of 8-week accelerated courses designed to provide students with practical, hands-on experience with professional software.
Indiana University- Purdue University Indianapolis: Master of Science in Applied Data Science With A Specialization in Sports Analytics
This 10-course, 30-credit program highlights a degree in Applied Data Science, building skills transferable to other industries and professions. The specialization in Sports Analytics creates a skill set tailored to sports for students to earn additional competencies in sports sales and the management of massive, high-throughput data involving teams and players.
American University: Online Master’s in Sports Analytics and Management
This degree prepares you not only for the analytics side of sports but for the managerial aspects of it as well. This 20-month, 30-credit program from American University is designed to develop workforce-ready students capable of comprehending, creating, and executing strategies that develop sports organizations.
As one scrolls through the programs outlined above, make sure to differentiate those that offer Master’s degrees, Bachelor’s degrees, Associate’s degrees, and online certificates as these hold different weights in a resume when sent to an employer.
What is Sports Analytics
To put it simply, sports analytics is the analysis of sports data, comprising on-field and off-field components that guide organizational leaders to make effective, data-driven, day-to-day decisions. To achieve this, a sports analyst will employ mathematical and statistical principles to predict future outcomes based on historical data. Its functions are highly similar to business analytics though it is curated to be specific to the sports industry.
For example, field goal percentages, player efficiency ratings, and percentage-based short charts are key parameters for measurement which serve as the basis for analytics within sports.
The benefit of this area of study becomes even more apparent off the field of play, especially in recruiting. To an extent, sports analytics has always been integral to finding young recruits that immediately add value to a sports team. To grasp a prospect’s potential, a scout may assess a player’s in-game statistics, physical measurements, and personal intuition. As crude as it may have been during earlier times, sports teams have always attempted to use numbers to produce the best result.
The introduction of sports analytics, regression analysis, and spreadsheets has revolutionized the industry by providing a more precise, detailed, and objective picture of player performance.
Predictive models tell management how they can best utilize their talent and translate their gathered intel to wins.
What Do Sports Analysts Do?
The sports data analysts who make everything happen are the heart of this movement. Often the numbers guy behind the screen, a sports analyst will use specific parameters and metrics to evaluate players and suggest strategies that will bring out the best in what talent the team has.
A sports analyst will employ game theory, probability and statistics, programming, database management, and even economic strategy to pool together a team that will win championships. They train specific data sets to create models that forecast how certain events will change outcomes. This process can create a chain of never-ending experimentation that general managers and sports fanatics love to use to determine the next tournament champion.
Apart from its apparent implications off the field, sports analytics can be used to analyze information about fan engagement, ticket sales, and concessions to monitor ticket sales, improve marketing campaigns, and create renovations that will further enhance the team’s profitability.
Sports analysts even find success outside the stadium as betting, media, and technology companies have taken an interest in sports analysts to improve their bottom line.
Sports betting analytics groups may rely on graduates to determine profitable odds. Media companies may use their findings to analyze players, enhance sports reporting, and put outcomes into perspective. Finally, technology companies might look towards sports analysts to develop and advance their wearable technology, providing valuable insights into what features an athlete may find relevant in their training.
What Does A Sports Analyst Need To Excel?
There is a phenomenon in the sports world among scouts known as “The Eye Test.” The underlying theory of this test is that certain intangibles come into play whenever we are in the face of a great player One can’t quantify the competitive fire of Michael Jordan, the calm under the pressure of Tom Brady, or the heart and hunger of Luis Suarez.
A sports analyst should not only be objective and statistical but have a genuine understanding and passion for the sport they’re studying. Beyond salaries and economic principles, numbers don’t tell us everything, especially when dealing with unpredictable variables like human emotions and relationships. If a particular player doesn’t like a team’s culture and fanbase, he will not be able to perform well, no matter how good of a player he is.
Some of the ways sports insiders use the data generated by analysts for player recruitment, coaching strategies, improving commentators’ in-game insights to add color to matches, and using pooled data for fans to engage better with the players and teams through fantasy leagues.
To excel as a sports analyst, you’ll have to understand that the numbers are not the end-all-be-all of decision-making.
What Are The Benefits To A Degree in Sports Analytics?
Perhaps the biggest benefit of a degree in sports analytics is the highly technical and globally pursued skill of data science and analytics. Data Science has become an attractive career given the business world’s growing need to harness data and build models to guide business decision-making.
Aside from this obvious benefit, here are some other advantages that sports analytics degree holders will hold over others who may have graduated in a different major.
Future Career Opportunities
Preparation for a myriad of companies that extend far beyond the sport industry. Media companies, betting organizations, and wearable technology companies have all turned to sports analysts to improve their products and increase their bottom line.
If interested, a sports analyst may also look towards higher positions in team organizations, particularly as a sports manager. Many team managers started from an analytics position. After all, a key facet of being a successful manager is understanding and using player statistics and business metrics to support decision-making. Aside from strong interpersonal skills, a sports manager must be able to solve problems using ingenious solutions supported by objective data.
When taking on a degree in sports analytics, you develop key skills that create practical advantages for projects within the sports world. This includes sports management, sports economics, and an understanding of game theory and probabilities that all affect the overall profitability of the sport.
Of course, niche-specific expertise also translates to a higher salary. According to ZipRecruiter, the 90th percentile of top earners in this industry make around $104,000 annually across the United States. Most of these top earners live in San Francisco, Santa Clara, and Atkinson.
What Will I Learn In A Sports Analytics Program?
Length of Programs
|Degree||Credit Requirements||Typical Program Length|
|Online Courses (no degree)||15 credits||26 weeks|
|Associate Degree||60-70 credits||2 years|
|Bachelor’s Degree||120 credits||4 years|
|Master’s Degree||36 credits||1 year|
To create accurate and relevant datasets, a sports analyst must have a deep understanding of the following:
Data Visualization is gathering valuable and relevant information and arranging it so the layperson can easily understand it. With the belief of the adage, “A picture is worth a thousand words.”, data visualization provides your key stakeholders a means to see and understand trends, data patterns, and even outliers. More importantly, the process achieves this in a clear, aesthetically-pleasing visual.
Statistical Analysis and Computing
Statistical analysis is the core of any statistical analyst. It is the process of collecting data for analysis and discerning patterns and trends for research, developing statistical models, and further planning and studies. This practice revolves around descriptive, inferential, and predictive analysis to draw meaningful conclusions about players and the organization.
In sports analytics, statistical analysis is done to find the best strategies, the most efficient players, and the highest-paying customers to increase the bottom line.
Economic Principles Of The Sport
A successful sports analyst must understand what it takes to build a winning team and the dynamics amongst the franchises.
One key economic principle specific to sports is competitive balance. The attractiveness of a match-up is increased if the outcome is uncertain due to teams being evenly matched. A sports analyst working for the organizing bodies must understand what it takes to promote team equality.
On the other hand, a team-specific analyst must know that one fundamental limitation many teams face is the salary cap. Budget constraints increase the difficulty of assembling a championship-caliber team.
These are just some economic principles that any sports analyst must understand. These do vary between sports, so that is another factor to account for.
Game Theory is a branch of mathematics that is concerned specifically with the development and creation of strategies for dealing with competitive situations similar to that in sporting tournaments, though it is also highly applicable to contexts in war, business, and biology.
Game theory determines what rational actors would do in a certain scenario to create a specific outcome. In a competitive match setting, this would display in player-specific adjustments such as reducing the number of fastballs thrown by a pitcher or footballs punted by a kicker to increase the overall chances of winning.
An adept team-specific sports analyst then would be able to quantify the specific payoffs made by certain decisions of individual players and present solutions or suggestions to increase the winning percentage of the team.
It is also up to the sports analyst to identify when irrationality affects the player in question. Game theory operates under the notion of rationality where the actors will always choose the best means to achieve preferred outcomes. As humans, this is often not the case.
It is then up to the sports analyst to identify instances where Game Theory is applicable and examples of when they are not. The development of this skill falls under the next key aspect of the curriculum.
Focusing directly on sports and recreation, the coursework in sports management aims to provide students with the capability to interact with coaches, athletes, and other key stakeholders within the organization.
Coaches, trainers, facility managers, business professionals, and player agents hold academic backgrounds in this field, as it encompasses everything you need to know to build a successful sporting organization.
Less mathematically-inclined individuals may want to focus on sports management to build a well-rounded foundation and understanding of the sporting industry.
With competitive sports being a multi-billion dollar industry, an in-depth understanding of administration, finance, law, and ethics regarding team organization becomes all the more relevant. From these options, an individual may opt to specialize and focus on revolutionizing a specific aspect of the industry.
In an online setting, sports management may be more difficult to tackle given that a student may not experience the same hands-on, practical setting that many others will. Yet, the inherently theoretical course will undoubtedly imbue students with skills that are in high demand by employers in today’s sports business environment.
Standard Entrance Requirements to Enroll In a Sports Analytics Program
Entrance requirements may vary depending on the specific program you’re looking to join. Though, as expected, certain application requirements remain universal amongst programs.
Enrolling in any college program is not easy, regardless of whether a program is held physically or online.
Prior to application, make sure to review your enrollment options and application deadlines for the university a student may be interested in. More often than not, prospective students have enrollment options to choose from: single enrollment, dual enrollment, and combined enrollment. The difference between these options revolves around the number of colleges or departments that the prospect is applying for. Early decisions, Regular decision, and Transferee deadlines should also be considered.
For the application proper, a high school diploma or equivalent is the main requirement for a sports analytics degree. However, many schools will have a minimum GPA, and SAT/ACT score requirement depending on the competitiveness of the applicant’s chosen program. Glowing academic recommendations and an official secondary school transcript may also be a requirement.
To improve chances of acceptance, one might want to list down their lifetime achievements and have it memorized to the T. This will enhance the impression an applicant will leave during the interview process.
Master’s programs for Sports Analytics are far more difficult to get into given the need for a baccalaureate degree from an accredited college or university. Grade point requirements of a 3.0 or equivalent average on a 4.0 scale also apply. Make sure to have an official transcript for all undergraduate/graduate programs in which you have received a degree. For those who have not yet completed their baccalaureate degree, an in-progress transcript may suffice pending the submission of the fully completed, final transcript upon graduation.
Apart from this, a resume or curriculum vitae outlining your experience in the field post-graduation. It would be best if you include your experiences relating to the sports industry, including related internship and volunteer experiences as early as high school. If you helped administer youth sports camps and clinics, conducted research with faculty members, or participated in sports organizations and clubs as a student-athlete, be sure to include that in your cover letter
For the cover letter, one might opt to include a concise, well-written statement about their academic preparation, practical experience, and any research background they might have relating to the field of Sports Analytics. As with many other resumes, this document should outline your career goals and how this graduate program will help you meet your career and educational objectives.
An admissions essay is also a key point of the application. It is usually a personal statement that outlines your background and life experiences that have motivated your decision to pursue a graduate degree.
To improve chances of acceptance, an applicant might also want to prepare letters of recommendation that show glowing recommendations supporting the student’s application for the program. Ordinarily, these should be written by professors from the student’s last degree-granting institution, but recommendations from requests generally accepted.
For International students, compliance with an English Language Proficiency test of the institution’s choosing may apply.
What is the Career Outlook for Sports Analytics Graduates?
The multi-billion-dollar sports industry has given rise to a smaller subset of sports analytics. In 2021, the Global Sports Analytics market was valued at USD 889.4 million. From 2022 to 2030, it is expected to grow at a compound annual growth rate of 27.1%. This positive growth could be attributed to the increasing need for team performance analytics, injury tracking, and fitness tracking.
|Occupation Name||Projected Jobs||Expected Growth|
|Broadcast or Media Analysis||50,400||-10%|
|Professional Team Analyst||46,700||33%|
|Sports Marketing Manager||55,000||13%|
Depending on your chosen career path, your salary range may vary. Other factors that affect your salary range include the level of competition, high school vs. collegiate vs. professional, for example, and the responsibilities associated with the position.
|Occupation Name||Salary Range [Median]|
|Broadcast or Media Analysis||$78,048|
|Professional Team Analyst||$60,000|
|Sports Marketing Manager||$141,490|
If none of these options appear interesting, there exists a wide variety of professions available for the sports analytics graduate. Because they generally fall under the umbrella of a statistician and other analytical fields, sports analytics graduates have the option to expand their career options even outside the realm of professional sports.
Be it in training technology, media companies, or human performance labs, sports analysts have applied skills transferable to other industries.
What’s more, the growth of Esports may induce a rapid rise in analytics demand. Esports presents an interesting opportunity where statisticians may better track player movements and efficiency ratings given that all interactions have already been documented within a server. As established institutions continue to invest in this growing industry, so will the job prospects of a sports analyst.