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Sports Psychology Master's Program Guide

Learners who pursue sports psychology master's programs typically hold a bachelor's in sports psychology or a related area. Having worked in the field a number of years, these professionals feel ready to raise their qualifications and compete for more advanced roles. Sports psychology is a wide field, offering several positions besides licensed sports psychologist, which requires a doctoral degree. This guide covers how a master's degree in sports psychology can help you meet professional goals and where you can find some of today's top programs.

Degree Snapshot

Typical Admission Requirements:
Completed application, official transcripts from all schools attended, letters of recommendation, a statement of purpose, and GRE scores

Time to Completion:
Two years of full-time study or 3-4 years of part-time study

Why Get a Master's Degree in Sports Psychology?

There are many professional and personal benefits for those who complete sports psychology master's programs, some of which are explored below.

  • Salary Increase

    A master's degree in sports psychology can lead to an increase in salary as graduates move from entry-level support roles to research and leadership positions.

  • Access to Doctoral Studies

    After finishing your master's in sports psychology program, you can apply to a doctoral program and eventually become a sports psychologist.

  • Ability to Specialize

    Most bachelor's programs do not offer concentrations, but students pursuing graduate studies can focus on specific topics in the discipline, such as sports medicine or team dynamics.

  • Entrepreneurial Possibilities

    Some sports psychologists start their own practices, making it possible to set their own hours and fees.

  • Networking

    Even while still in school, you can build valuable professional relationships with professors, peers, and visiting sports psychologists who speak to your classes.

Example Courses

Coursework offered in master's in sports psychology graduate programs varies between individual schools and departments. Classes discussed in this section can give you a sense of what topics and concepts you may encounter. Reach out to program administrators at prospective schools to learn more about specific courses and areas of concentration.

Performance Enhancement in Sports

This course explores scientific and psychological theories behind the use of performance-enhancing drugs in sports, with emphasis on how sports psychologists can help athletes reduce and avoid dependence on these substances while remaining at the top of their games.

Current Issues in Sport Psychology

Building on the historical foundations of sports psychology, this class looks at emerging research and practices. Students learn to use these new findings to address questions about athletic performance and mental acuity.

Tests and Measurement

Students in this class explore the tools and applications of psychological testing for athletes. They also learn how to measure personality, attitudes, interests, and achievement, which can help sports psychologists better serve their athlete clients.

Psychology of Injury

This course focuses on helping students understand the psychological impacts of injury and rehabilitation for athletes. Learners consider questions surrounding emotional and mental issues, motivation (or lack thereof), career transitions, and short- or long-term disabilities.

What Can You Do With a Master's Degree in Sports Psychology?

Working in the field of sports psychology can be an exciting and gratifying experience for professionals who enjoy helping their clients perform at their best. While you do need a doctorate to call yourself a sports psychologist, there are many related roles you can pursue with only a master's sports psychology degree.


Where Do Sports Psychologists Work?

Sports psychologists work in elementary and high schools, at colleges and universities, as part of healthcare teams, with professional sports teams, and as independent consultants.

Career Advancement

After completing a master's in sports psychology program, some learners move directly into careers while others pursue doctorates. The following sections can help guide your journey towards continued education, licensure, or professional opportunities.

Doctoral Programs

Doctoral sports psychology programs prepare candidates to work in clinical and academic positions. Aside from completing advanced coursework, doctoral candidates must write dissertations that address unique topics in the discipline and showcase their understandings of data collection, analysis, and theory. Some programs also allow learners to be teaching assistants, helping them build classroom skills.

Licensure

Licensure requirements vary by state, but almost all states require a license for sports psychologists if they want to work in clinical roles. Students should check with their state's board of psychology to learn more about requirements specific to their areas.

Steps to receiving licensure typically include completing a doctorate, 1-2 years of supervised work experience, and passing written or oral examinations. Individuals must also complete continuing education requirements to renew their licenses every couple years. Though not typically required, some professional seek board certification through the American Board of Sport Psychology to distinguish themselves.

Professional Organizations

  • Association for Applied Sport Psychology AASP provides members access to certification programs, in-house publications, an annual conference, grants and awards, webinars, career support, and a helpful student center filled with resources.
  • National Collegiate Athletic Association NCAA supports former, current, and future student athletes in Division I-III sports and the professionals who work alongside them. It provides guidance, news, resources, and best practices.
  • American College of Sports Medicine ACSM offers certifications, events and conferences, continuing education, webinars, journals and bulletins, a resource library, and policy positions on industry topics.

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