Sports Psychology Career Information and Education Requirements

Sep 15, 2019

Learn about the education and preparation needed to become a sports psychologist. Get a quick view of the requirements as well as details about degree programs, job duties and licensure to find out if this is the career for you.

Sports psychology encompasses both sports science and psychology. It is an interdisciplinary field that involves counseling, teaching, coaching and conducting research related to psychology and sports. A doctorate degree is required for most positions and licensure and certification is also usually a prerequisite to being hired.

Essential Information

Sports psychology is a combination of several disciplines within psychology and sports science. Aspiring graduates can take various pathways in their education as well as in their career. Employment opportunities in sports psychology may involve counseling/therapy, teaching, coaching, research, and others. While a bachelor's degree in sports psychology (or a double major in psychology and a sports-related subject) may open some employment opportunities, most entry-level and higher jobs in this field require a graduate degree.

Career Titles Clinical or Applied Sports Psychologist
Education Requirements Doctoral degree required for most positions
Licensure & Certification Either required, depending on the state
Projected Job Growth (2018-2028) 12%* for psychologists, all other
Median Salary (2018) $100,770 for psychologists, all other

Source: *U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics

Career Options

Clinical Sports Psychologist

Clinical Sports Psychologists typically counsel athletes facing personal and career crises such as anxiety, performance issues, behavior modification and mental responses to physical injuries.

Applied Sports Psychologist

Applied Sports Psychologists instruct individual athletes and sports teams on the various methods of mental conditioning, including visualization, concentration and relaxation techniques. Many sports psychologists work onsite with sports teams alongside coaches, trainers and managers. Others practice independently and perform consulting services on an as-needed basis.

Career Information

According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), in May 2018, the BLS reported that psychologists, all other in the 90th percentile or higher earned $127,510 or more per year, whereas the bottom 10th percentile earned $41,220 or less per year.. The employment rate for all psychologists is expected to increase much faster than the national average through 2028 (

Salaries vary based on the psychologist's area of specialization and experience, the employing organization and the amount of advanced training received. Experienced psychologists working for professional sports teams or professional athletes may earn six-figure salaries, while those working in educational or research settings receive more modest salaries.

The BLS reports that the job outlook is best for sports psychologists with a doctoral degree in their specialty. Positions for potential psychologists with master's degrees are limited and candidates may face intense competition for the available jobs. Sports psychologists with master's degrees may expect to work as assistant counselors or in research positions, directly supervised by licensed psychologists. Time spent volunteering with sports teams or interning under the supervision of sport and exercise psychology professionals may also be helpful in obtaining full-time positions.

Education Requirements

Entry-level positions for licensed sports psychologists typically require a master's or doctorate degree in clinical psychology, sports psychology or counseling. Very few schools currently offer full sports and exercise psychology programs at the undergraduate or graduate level. Undergraduate students may consider pursuing double majors in psychology and exercise science, or a major in one discipline with a minor in the second.

Graduate and post-graduate students typically complete advanced coursework in exercise science, kinesiology and clinical psychology. A one-year internship through a program approved by the American Psychological Association (APA) may be an additional requirement for graduation. Continuing education and training is available through several professional organizations, including the APA and the Association for Applied Sport Psychology, once state licensing or certification as a psychologist is obtained.

To summarize, sports psychologists combine a passion for psychology and sports to conduct research and apply findings to the mental and emotional betterment of athletes. These professionals require extensive knowledge and training that usually results in the acquisition of a doctoral degree.

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