Sports Psychology Bachelor’s Degree Guide
Individuals who complete a bachelor’s degree in sports psychology are prepared to help athletes of all experience levels, ages, and specialty areas remove obstacles and work through issues that keep them from performing at their best. While those who want to work as sports psychologists must pursue additional education, a degree at this level provides a foundation of knowledge upon which they can build, and can ready graduates for entry-level support positions.
Before committing to four years of full-time study, most learners have lots of questions about the process. This guide provides details about common coursework, how to make the most of the degree, and ways to prepare for next steps. We also provide a program database to help you narrow your options.
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Typical Admission Requirements:
Completed application, official transcripts, SAT/ACT scores, letters of recommendation, personal statement, and answers to essay questions.
Time to Completion:
Four years of full-time study, or six years of part-time study.
Why Get a Bachelor’s Degree in Sports Psychology?
Pursuing a bachelor’s degree in sports psychology allows graduates to compete for many meaningful professional and personal opportunities. Some benefits to this degree include:
A degree in sports psychology can prepare students for careers in other fields, such as physical therapy. They are also prepared for roles in coaching or those focused on athletic conditioning.
A study by the Bureau of Labor Statistics found that those who possess a bachelor’s degree earn significantly more than those with a high school diploma or an associate degree.
Getting to work with professional and amateur athletes provides a high level of job satisfaction for those who are passionate about helping others achieve their best and overcome obstacles.
Access to Advanced Degrees
If a learner wants to complete a master’s or doctorate degree in sports psychology in the future, they must first meet all requirements of a bachelor’s program.
In addition to taking sports psychology classes, learners gain valuable general skills in critical thinking, research, data analytics, focus, and self-discipline.
A bachelor’s degree in sports psychology gives graduates a strong foundation in the discipline, which they can put to use in professional experiences and/or education. These programs blend general education topics with introductory courses about common sports psychology areas, such as psychological interventions, handling stress and emotion, and maintaining effective communication. Though specific coursework varies by school and program, students can expect to take courses similar to those discussed below. For more information about particular topics or programs, learners should review the websites of individual schools or speak with a program administrator.
Psychology of Coaching
Typically taken in a student’s first year, this introductory course reviews different methods of coaching sports. Examples include team-building, group coaching, and effective communication, with an emphasis on identifying problems that can keep teams from functioning at the highest levels and solving these problems.
Leadership and Team Building
Students consider some of the methods and frameworks around team building in sports psychology. The course specifically explores how team leaders and captains can harness or hinder a team’s spirit of determination. Learners also consider how they can work with athletic leaders to bring the best out of their team while staying true to themselves.
This course introduces learners to the main themes in the discipline, including coach-athlete relationships, intervention strategies, psychological influences affecting performance, motivation and drive, and anxiety reduction. Students also review major pieces of literature and research studies about sports psychology.
Human Motor Development
Designed to help individuals familiarize themselves with motor development across the lifespan, this course covers topics around motor learning and performance, changes throughout the life cycle, the ability to build and retain motor skills, and major theories around how sports psychologists can harness this information when supporting their clients.
What Can You Do With a Bachelor’s Degree in Sports Psychology?
Graduates of sports psychology degrees pursue a variety of careers; some may feel drawn to working with student athletes, while others may aspire to work with professional players at the peak of their careers. Regardless of your area of interest, there are career opportunities available; however, you’ll need a doctoral degree to call yourself a sports psychologist.
Where Do Sports Psychologists Work?
Sports psychologists work in elementary and high schools, at colleges and universities, as part of healthcare teams, and as independent consultants.
After completing a bachelor’s degree in sports psychology, some degree-seekers want to pursue additional education. Sports psychology programs are available at the master’s and doctoral level. Below we take a look at some requirements for career advancement in this section.
Completing a master’s degree in sports psychology prepares graduates to take on mid-level administrative leadership and policy-focused roles that help advance the field. However, individuals who want to call themselves a sports psychologist must complete a doctoral degree to qualify. This level of qualification is also required for most professorships and research positions. Master’s programs typically take two years of full-time study to complete, while doctoral programs tend to require four years of full-time learning. These degrees can be completed online or in-person, though online degrees usually offer greater flexibility for working students or those with personal responsibilities.
In addition to completing a doctoral degree in sports psychology, candidates must also meet certain licensure requirements. Individual states set licensing mandates, so you should check with your local board to learn specifics. Typically applicants must complete one or two years of full-time work experience under the supervision of a licensed sports psychologist, and pass a number of written and/or oral examinations. Those looking to take it a step further can seek board certification through the American Board of Sport Psychology.
- International Society of Sport Psychology ISSP offers members access to an annual think tank, regional conferences and global events, several in-house publications, the ISSP fellowship and awards, and an ambassador program for individuals currently in school.
- American Psychological Association Division 47: Society for Sport, Exercise & Performance Psychology This division of the APA offers access to best practices, industry leading resources, the SportPsych Works publication, opportunities for fellowships, training webinars, and access to membership committees.
- Association for Applied Sport Psychology This member-based organization offers the certified mental health performance certification, a helpful career center, on-demand webinars, regional and national conferences, and a resource center.
Take the Next Steps
Distance learners enrolled in online courses can also participate in internships, however these opportunities may be difficult to find. This guide outlines the benefits of participating in an internship, as well as how to find one.
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