Sports management includes many areas related to sports, such as sports operations, law and event management. The choices for top-five programs were guided by a comparison of the 2012 to 2014 rankings for business administration programs that include a sports management program from Forbes, Bloomberg Businessweek and U.S. News and World Report. Top-ranked schools offer academics, research and networking opportunities necessary for cutting-edge careers.

Northwestern University

Northwestern University in Evanston, Illinois, ranks among the top six schools for business administration, offering a master of arts in sports administration program. The program draws on top-notch faculty and networking access to executives, consultants, agents and others within the sports industry. Students can pursue their degree as they work, selecting from the standard program that prepares for all areas of administration, or they can select the sports analytics track and focus on management from a data-driven perspective. Program faculty include a who's-who of sports management experts, from those with active careers in sports law, marketing, collegiate sports and research. Students often have behind-the-scenes networking opportunities with major sports figures.

Columbia University

Columbia University in New York City offers a master of science in sports management, preparing students to work in all areas of the sports industry. Columbia generally ranked in the top 10 for business administration, offering students instruction and networking at a major sports industry hub. Students have the option of pursuing their degree full- or part-time, with coursework in finance and sports marketing. The program faculty brings top-tier expertise and includes heads of professional sports associations, journalism, business, marketing, professional sports, law and many other sports-related fields. All students must complete an internship or integrative project by the end of their program. For students not working in the industry, the internship provides hands-on experience, while the supervised project allows student in the field to enhance their skills.

University of Michigan

The University of Michigan at Ann Arbor ranked in the top 10 business administration schools, offering undergraduate and graduate degrees in sports management. The master's degree with a sport management track is led by world-class faculty. The program brings together instruction in a wide-array of fields, such as entrepreneurship, urban planning, finance, economics, social justice, law, marketing and organizational behavior. The university also offers opportunities through the Michigan Center for Sport Management, which researches sport industry organizations, such as teams, advertisers, media services and equipment manufacturers.

University of California at Los Angeles

The University of California at Los Angeles ranks in the top 20 for business administration, offering a two-year masters in business administration through the Center for Management of Enterprise in Media, Entertainment and Sports. The curriculum focuses on academic rigor, blending theory and practical application. Courses are taught by professors and leading entertainment and sports industry practitioners, where students can work with real-world projects with leading media, entertainment and sports companies.

University of North Carolina

The University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill offers a two-year masters program in sports administration, including a dual degree in law and sports administration, ranking in the top 20 business administration programs. The program is highly selective, enrolling 10 students per year, or about 10 percent of the applicants. The school offers a combination of rigorous coursework, internships and industry networking, with a focus on collegiate sports. Students also have opportunities to work with university's Odum Institute in social science research training, statistical assistance, consulting and other support services to their degree program.