WORCESTER – Hoping to capitalize on the projected growth of the emergent esports industry, Becker College has announced the creation of a degree program meant to prepare students for the business side of professional gaming.

The new bachelor of science degree in esports management, which the school says is the first of its kind in the country, is intended to train the league managers, coaches, marketing and IT specialists and business analysts who are expected to become in demand as competitive video game tournaments enter the echelon of more established professional sports leagues, said Alan Ritacco, dean of Becker’s School of Design and Technology.

"I’ll make a bold prediction," he said. "Not today, not tomorrow, but maybe 10 years from now, esports will be bigger than the NFL."

"There’s a vacuum" within that growth, he added, which the college plans to fill with its new degree program. "We’re creating the industry as we go along."

Becker is not new to esports, having started a varsity esports program set to launch this fall and become the first college in Massachusetts to offer scholarships to competitive gamers. The college also earlier this year opened the new Colleen C. Barrett Center, which became home to its esports programming.

"We have all the pieces in place" for the esports management degree, Mr. Ritacco said, adding that the college had several prominent gaming industry professionals consulting on the development of the new program.

According to Becker, the evolution of esports into a legitimate professional sport is supported by projections – the audience for competitive gaming is expected to grow to more than half a billion people by 2021, the college said – and recent corporate investments. Major companies have gotten into league and player sponsorship, for example, and esports is even on the table as a new Olympic event.

But Mr. Ritacco acknowledged graduates of the new esports management program may need an entrepreneurial mindset to navigate the burgeoning industry. The degree path will lean on Becker’s "agile mindset" philosophy that guides other academic programs at the college, for example, teaching "soft" skills like social and emotional intelligence and divergent thinking.

"It’s part of our class structure," Mr. Ritacco said. "Students go through several courses just in that area."

The curriculum also delves into what makes certain games, like "Overwatch" and "League of Legends," so popular and successful in the esports arena – an important component especially for students looking to go into marketing, he said.

Other degree holders could find work in business development, event promotion and management, and finance, according to the college.

The program is slated to roll out in fall 2019, according to Mr. Ritacco, who said he expects the inaugural class to have 10 to 20 students.