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Graduate Degrees in Sports and Performance Psychology

Both master's and doctoral degree programs in sports and performance psychology are available. Common topics include factors that affect performance and health.

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Essential Information

Master's degree programs in sport performance psychology do not qualify graduates for psychologist careers, but instead prepare them to enter a graduate program, or for careers in coaching or consulting. The degree programs require a thesis and/or practicum. Some programs prepare students for Association for the Advancement of Applied Sport Psychology certification. The coursework includes study of social, developmental, and cognitive areas of psychology. The courses provide training in leadership, performance principles, and quality practice.

Master's program applicants need to have at least a bachelor's degree. Prerequisite coursework in exercise psychology and professional activity are required by some master's programs. An undergraduate degree program in physical education is preferred by some programs, although students who pursued a major or minor in psychology are also considered for acceptance.

At the doctoral level, sports psychology is found as a specialization option within a Ph.D. in counseling psychology program or Doctor of Psychology program. Students complete courses in gender studies and counseling education. Students gain training experience through courses in general psychology and exercise sciences. These programs take 4-6 years to complete and include a sport psychology practicum and internship. Applicants are required to have an accredited master's degree in a related field.


Master's Degree Program in Sport and Performance Psychology

Through training experience and research, students in a Master of Arts in Sport Performance Psychology program learn to predict and describe a number of factors that affect sport performance and participation. Students also learn about individual and team performance, leadership strategies, and how to implement training and educational programs. Popular course topics include:

  • Ethics in sport psychology
  • Designing research in human performance
  • Cardiovascular physiology
  • Team development and group interventions
  • Stress management and motivation
  • Sports in America

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Ph.D. Program in Sport and Performance Psychology

A student enrolled in a Ph.D. program in sport and performance psychology gains an understanding of behavior, health outcomes, and intervention methods associated with sport and physical activities. Options for a Ph.D. program include psychology of sport and physical activity, counseling psychology with a specialization in sport and exercise psychology or kinesiology, and sport studies with a specialization in sport psychology and motor behavior. A clinical psychology doctoral program with a sport and performance psychology option prepares a student to pursue licensure as a clinical psychologists. Other course topics for the Ph.D. program in sport and performance psychology include:

  • Epidemiology of physical activity
  • Community health
  • Applied sport psychology
  • Exercise and sport psychology
  • Sociology of sport

Popular Career Options

Upon completion of this program a student can be prepared for a career working with athletic teams, health-oriented businesses and community organizations. Career options in the field of sport and performance psychology might include:

  • Sport consultant
  • Youth sport program staff
  • Coach

Employment Outlook and Salary Info

According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, the employment rate for psychologists was expected to increase by 19% from 2014-2024, where clinical, counseling and school psychologists were expected to see a 20% growth in that decade (www.bls.gov). The median annual salary in 2015 for clinical, counseling and school psychologists was $70,580.

Licensure and Certification Information

Students interested in pursuing a career as a sport consultant might pursue certification offered by the Association for Applied Sport Psychology (AASP). AASP certification requirements for those individuals with a master's degree might include specific coursework and a minimum number of experience hours.

Ph.D. program graduates who are interested in becoming clinical psychologists must meet state requirements, which vary by location. Beyond a doctoral degree, licensure requirements can include a minimum amount of work experience or an internship. Individuals who are interested in becoming certified sport consultants with the AASP may need to complete additional coursework and supervised experience hours beyond the Ph.D. level.

Master's programs in sports and performance psychology prepare students for coaching and consulting, while doctoral program graduates are prepared for counseling and consultant positions. Curriculum includes traditional coursework and practical experience opportunities.

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