Gear College: University Degree Puts Focus on Products

Graduates of a new program at the University of Oregon now work to bring products to life at The North Face, Outdoor Research, SOREL, Nike, Under Armour, and more. This first-of-its-kind master’s degree can help you join their ranks.

University of Oregon Masters in Sports Product Management

For years, retail shops were entry points to the outdoors industry. Others gained entry through guide and resort jobs. But today, you can go to school to become an innovator in the outdoor gear industry.

The University of Oregon’s Master’s in Sports Product Management program launched in 2015. It offers education to “strategize, ideate, design, prototype, manufacture, and go to market” with a product. And this year it awarded degrees to its first participants.

In short, UO’s program will teach you to concept, create, market, and sell gear.

Outdoors gear college degree

University of Oregon Master’s in Sports Product Management

Since the program’s launch, graduates have earned careers at major outdoor companies like The North Face. One group of students created their own brand, Odd Lot Labs.

The 18-month program offers the bedrock education for anyone looking to start a gear brand or join a team and augment an established company.

University of Oregon Masters in Sports Management
Image from the University of Oregon

Outdoors Industry Degree: A Shift in Higher Education

In April 2017, the OIA announced Americans annually spend $877 billion on outdoor recreation. It’s clear the outdoors industry is on the rise, with people, brands, and universities taking notice.

In addition to the University of Oregon’s graduate degree in Sports Product Management, Utah State offers a bachelor’s degree in Outdoor Product Design & Development, Colorado State University offers an Adventure Tourism certificate, and Western State University offers an MBA aimed towards the outdoors Industry.

While other degrees exist for specifics, UO’s degree positions students for a wealth of jobs. Design, innovation, product development, product and brand management, and sourcing and merchandising are all within reach for graduates.

University of Oregon: What to Expect

The University of Oregon’s program differs from the other degrees because it focuses entirely on the process of sports and outdoor product creation. It is not exclusively a design program.


Students learn the start-to-finish process with products during their education. Classes range from sports product design, human physiology, product development and management, and green materials.

Between the first and second year, students participate in a paid internship with brands like Nike, Adidas, Under Armour, Columbia Sportswear, and Patagonia. This guarantees placement within the outdoors industry for at least the term of the internship. And students experience first-hand the business of the outdoors while showing off their skills to brands.

They also travel twice a year for in-person experiences. Students visit Bend, Ore., to learn from small brands as well as the ISPO trade show in Munich. Asia, Baltimore, New York, and Seattle are also on the destination docket.

University of Oregon Masters in Sports Management gear design
Image from the Master’s in Sports Product Management classroom

Altogether, the degree aims to prepare students to enter the industry, and it appears to be working.

Odd Lot Labs: Case Study in Business Creation

Odd Lot Labs represents the success story of three UO Sports Product Management graduates. It launched a successful crowdfunding campaign and is now available for preorder.

Odd Dot Labs gear design degree
The Bandit, Thruster, and Sidestep, from left to right, comprise the Quiver

The startup brand’s product, the Quiver, is a unique take on day- and commuter-packs with a universal frame design. Wearers slide the Thruster, a hip, back, and shoulder-strapped frame, between packs.

The team’s aim is to create products that inspire new adventures. Thus, Odd Lot Labs crafted its own mission, team, and product.

Students in the program have dreamed up other unique products under development. A biodegradable mid-layer and adjustable jacket that grows with kids as they get bigger, for example, show the boundless creativity and ingenuity among pupils.

The 18-month journey begins in September in Portland, Ore. Click here for more information on the University of Oregon’s Master’s in Sports and Product Management.


This article is sponsored by the University of Oregon. Check our their Sports and Product Management master’s program here

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