What Does a Sports Psychologist Do?
Athletes must be in peak mental and physical condition to perform at their best. Sports psychologists help make this happen.
Explore what they do, how you can become a sports psychologist, and the different sports psychology degrees available."
Frequently Asked Questions About Sports Psychology
How do you become a sports psychologist?
Individuals must earn a doctoral degree to become a sports psychologist. Although most schools do not offer bachelor's or master's degrees specifically in sports psychology, students can often pursue clinical psychology degrees with a sports psychology concentration.
Why is sports psychology important?
Sports psychologists help athletes deal with the pressure that comes from competition. They work with athletes to overcome problems with motivation and focus, improve their performance, and recover from injuries.
Is sports psychology a growing field?A diverse field, sports psychology continues to grow over time, using exercise and physical activity to improve the lives of both athletes and non-athletes.
Can sports psychology improve performance?
Sports psychologists explore different methods to help their clients based on their specific limitations, needs, and goals. They motivate athletes and encourage them to focus on their goals.
How much do sports psychologists make?
These professionals' pay varies according to experience level. On average, sports psychologists enjoy annual salaries of $75,043. Entry-level psychologists earn about $72,000 each year, while mid-career sports psychologists enjoy average annual salaries of $78,000. Highly experienced professionals can make around $96,000 each year.
How long does it take to get a master's degree in sports psychology?
Most full-time candidates can graduate in around two years. Students who study part time may take closer to three years to satisfy all graduation requirements.
Featured Bachelor's Online Programs
Figuring out where to apply? These top, accredited schools offer a variety of online degrees. Consider one of these accredited programs, and discover their value today.
Can You Get a Degree in Sports Psychology Online?
Several schools offer online degrees in sports psychology. While undergraduate programs in the field are rare, students can pursue an online bachelor's in psychology as a foundation for specialization at the graduate level.
At both the undergraduate and graduate levels, online programs closely resemble their school's on-campus offerings. Online and in-person programs usually have the same curricula, degree requirements, and employment opportunities. They are sometimes even taught by the same faculty members. These programs do not typically lead to licensure, so online students do not usually have to complete in-person components such as internships or clinical hours.
Distance learners can complete their coursework at whatever time is most convenient for them, making it easier to earn a degree while managing personal and professional obligations.
Online programs offer greater flexibility for students with tight schedules and other responsibilities. Distance learners can complete their coursework at whatever time is most convenient for them, making it easier to earn a degree while managing personal and professional obligations. Online programs are also ideal for students with accessibility issues or those who have difficulty commuting to campus. Because online students do not need to pay for room, board, or fees associated with on-campus resources and activities, distance learning programs can be less expensive than in-person programs.
While online programs boast many benefits, they are not for everyone. Distance learners must be highly self-disciplined. They must use their time effectively, stay organized, and motivate themselves without an instructor's direct support. Students considering an online program should carefully consider whether this style of learning suits them.
Are Practicums and Internships Required in an Online Sports Psychology Program?
As a general rule, neither online bachelor's or master's programs in sports psychology lead to licensure. Therefore, they usually do not require students to complete any kind of clinical experience. However, bachelor's and master's candidates can still benefit from completing an internship. Working in the field allows students to apply their learning to practical problems. Internships can also help learners develop professional networks that they can leverage when searching for jobs.
Students seeking formal licensure as psychologists must complete either a Ph.D. in psychology or a doctorate of psychology (Psy.D.). Curricula for both programs usually include a one-year supervised internship in a clinical setting. While it may be slightly more difficult for online students to find an internship site, schools usually provide assistance and support. Students should first contact their professors, as faculty will typically have connections to organizations that can host interns. Many schools have career services departments that provide resources and facilitate connections. Finally, the American Psychological Association (APA) includes information about accredited internship opportunities on its website.
How to Become a School Sports Psychologist
Sports psychologist education requirements vary based on occupation and employer. However, sports psychologists typically hold a master's degree. These programs usually require students to earn about 36 credits over the course of two years. While the cost of programs can vary greatly, the APA estimates that students pursuing a master's degree in psychology incur an average of $60,000 in debt. Accelerated online programs may allow students to earn their degree more quickly and at a lower cost.
To become a licensed sports psychologist, students need to earn a doctoral degree. These programs feature a supervised internship, during which candidates develop experience in a clinical setting. All psychologists must also pass the Examination for Professional Practice of Psychology, a national licensing test administered by the Association of State and Provincial Psychology Boards. Some states may have additional licensure requirements. Prospective students should contact their state's licensing board to learn more.
Online Bachelor’s Degree in Sports Psychology
Online bachelor's degrees in sports psychology are rare. Instead, many students pursue a bachelor's in psychology to develop an understanding of the field's fundamental principles. General psychology programs prepare students for success in master's programs, which may offer a specialization in sports psychology.
Undergraduate programs usually require students to earn about 120 credits and last around four years. However, some schools offer accelerated programs that can be completed more quickly. Other institutions offer dual degree options, allowing learners to earn credit towards a master's degree while they are still undergraduates.
Courses in these programs provide an introduction to the concepts of human behavior, human development, motivation, personality, cognition, learning, emotion, and perception. Students can also take electives in areas related to sports psychology.
This foundational course provides an overview of the brain, emotion, motivation, perception, intelligence, sensory functions, gender and sexuality, social psychology, learning psychopathology, human development, and therapy. Coursework also offers an introduction to the history of psychology.
Adult Development and Aging
Because many sports psychologists work with older athletes, it is important for professionals to understand the developmental process throughout adulthood. This course explores the physical, emotional, cognitive, and psychosocial aspects of human development later in life. Students also develop skills in evaluating psychological research.
Introduction to Sport and Exercise Pathology
In this class, students can determine whether sports psychology is the right field for them. Candidates explore the factors affecting individual and group performance, review the latest theories and research related to human behavior in sports settings, and apply techniques they have learned to enhance performance.
Psychology of Coaching
Understanding the coach-athlete relationship is critical to sports psychologists' work. Students examine the coaching profession and the coach's role in improving both individual and team performance. Candidates also survey effective coaching strategies.
Leadership and Team Building
Leadership and team building hold special significance in sports psychology. This course introduces students to various leadership styles, including situational and charismatic. Students also examine team-building strategies and the differences in leadership across cultural contexts.
Online Master’s Degree in Sports Psychology
Most jobs in the sports psychology field require a master's degree. While a master's alone is not enough to qualify students for formal licensure, many online master's programs allow students to earn credits that can also be applied toward their doctoral studies.
Master's programs in sports psychology build on a student's undergraduate education. Through advanced coursework and capstone projects, students apply their knowledge of human behavior and cognitive processes to sports and athletic performance. Online sports psychology degrees cover theories, best practices, and current issues in the field. They also feature coursework in research methods. These classes prepare learners for research-intensive doctoral programs, enabling them to effectively use research in practice.
Biological Basis of Behavior
This course introduces physiological psychology and functional neuroanatomy. Students explore relationships between the brain, neurotransmitters, and the body. They also learn about the connection between brain function and behavioral disorders.
Principles of Sport Psychology
In this class, learners use psychological theories to explain and improve performance. Students explore how to meet the unique needs of diverse athletes with customized coaching strategies. They also review the latest research in the field and learn about concepts such as self-confidence, cognitive-behavioral intervention, and arousal adjustment.
Performance Enhancement in Sports
Sports psychologists help athletes move beyond what they perceive to be the physical and mental limits of their own performance. By studying techniques like progressive relaxation, meditation, hypnosis, autogenic training, biofeedback, and visualization, students learn several strategies for helping athletes improve their performance.
Applied Sport Psychology
This course focuses on the professional realities of working as a sports psychologist. Students grapple with ethical issues they might face in the field, examine and critique their personal approaches to sports psychology, learn to use research effectively, and consider the importance of continuing education.
Current Issues in Sport Psychology
After analyzing topical and relevant issues in sports psychology, students apply their acquired knowledge to challenges in real-world settings. Candidates consider how they can ethically and professionally educate and improve athletes' performance.
Required Licenses and Internships to Become a Sports Psychologist
Most online master's programs in sports psychology do not lead to licensure. Consequently, they usually do not include clinical experiences like practicums or internships. Many jobs in sports psychology only require a master's degree.
Sports psychologists interested in formal licensure must earn a Ph.D. or Psy.D. to practice. Most states require clinical psychologists to complete a doctoral program that includes a one-year supervised internship in a clinical setting. After graduation, prospective psychologists can sit for the Examination for Professional Practice of Psychology. Some states may impose additional licensing requirements. Applicants should check with their state's licensing board for more information.
Careers for Sports Psychology Degree-Holders
Sports psychologists may choose to work exclusively with young athletes at high schools, colleges, or youth sporting associations. Alternatively, they may specialize in rehabilitation and work in hospitals, medical centers, or treatment facilities. Other sports psychologists focus on team dynamics, offering their expertise to professional sports organizations or businesses that are struggling to create a sense of unity and cooperation among their employees. Below, we've highlighted a few careers you can pursue in the field.
Sports psychology is a broad field, and professionals use a variety of approaches to help improve the performance of individual athletes and teams. Sports psychologists might help athletes better cope with the stress of their sport, or work with coaches and trainers to better communicate goals and expectations. Most jobs require at least a master's degree.
Wellness consultants often work in spas, gyms, or other health organizations. They assess an individual's health needs and then connect them with the appropriate services and products. Because these positions do not require advanced expertise in psychology, candidates only need a bachelor's degree in a related field.
Performance improvement specialists develop plans to improve patient care in a variety of healthcare settings, including rehabilitation facilities. They evaluate the ways in which care is provided, create strategies for improving efficiency and efficacy, and oversee the implementation of their plans. These jobs usually require at least a bachelor's degree in a field related to healthcare.
Learning specialists educate an organization's employees and customers. For example, in a sporting organization, a learning specialist might discuss the various medical options that athletes can pursue after being injured. Educational requirements vary, but some positions require a master's degree in a related field.
What Does a Sports Psychologist Make in a Year?
While sports psychologists enjoy median annual salaries of $75,043, wages often differ according to location, professional experience, and level of education attained.
Early-career sports psychologists with only 1-4 years of experience earn a median annual salary of about $72,003. Those with 5-9 years of experience enjoy a median annual salary of $77,670, and late-career sports psychologists with 10-19 years of experience can earn, on average, $96,000 a year.
Location can also impact earning power, with the cost of living factored into compensation. In addition, some professionals' salaries are determined by local and state budgets. Compared to similar occupations such as wellness consultants, performance improvement specialists, and learning specialists, sports psychologists enjoy the highest salary opportunities.
|Position||Average Annual Salary|
|Performance Improvement Specialist||$69,082|