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Jobs Involving Sports Psychology

Careers in fields like coaching, athletic training and fitness instruction involve sports psychology to help motivate athletes. Find out about some of these jobs, their median salaries and education requirements.

Career Options Involving Sports Psychology

Sports psychology uses psychological principles to help ensure the mental health of athletes and help improve their performance. Although there are not many jobs that deal solely in sports psychology, there are several careers that allow individuals to interact with athletes and use some aspects of sports psychology to address athletes' needs. Learn about a few of these careers involving sports psychology below.

Job Title Median Salary (2016) Job Growth (2016-2026)**
Sports Psychologists $70,496* 9% (Psychologists, all other)
Dietitians and Nutritionists $58,920** 14%
Coaches and Scouts $31,460** 13%
Athletic Trainers $45,630** 22%
Fitness Trainers (Including Aerobics Instructors) $38,160** 10%

Source: *Payscale.com, **U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS)

Career Information for Jobs Involving Sports Psychology

Sports Psychologists

The most obvious choice of careers that involves sports psychology is that of a sports psychologist. These psychologists specialize in working with athletes to address sport-related issues through counseling, as well as studying social or developmental issues associated with playing sports and the biobehavioral relationship between sports and exercise. They may help their athlete patients set goals, talk through various emotional or physical issues they are having, such as injury or burnout, and offer other behavioral skills training in areas like leadership and sportsmanship. Most psychologists, including sports psychologists, usually need a doctoral degree and a license for clinical positions, but positions are available with only a master's degree.

Dietitians and Nutritionists

Dietitians and nutritionists who specialize in working with athletes may use aspects of sports psychology to counsel athletes on common nutritional issues, like weight management and eating disorders. These professionals must help athletes, and other clients, develop individualized meal plans that meet their health needs and help them reach their health goals. They carefully track their clients' progress, make adjustments as needed and provide any other necessary educational material about food choices and nutrition. Dietitians and nutritionists must hold at least a bachelor's degree and complete an internship to gain the experience needed for a state license.

Coaches and Scouts

Coaches and scouts may use concepts from sports psychology to evaluate and motivate their players and work toward optimal performance for each athlete. Coaches are responsible for running practices, making decisions about strategy during games and helping athletes perfect their technique in the sport. Scouts must carefully evaluate athletes to see if they have the skill and determination to compete at the next level and then try and recruit the athlete to their particular team, organization or school. Coaches and scouts must have a great understanding of the sport they work with and a bachelor's degree, and while personal experience in the sport is helpful, it is not usually required.

Athletic Trainers

As the first people to provide care to injured athletes, athletic trainers may use aspects of sports psychology to evaluate the mental and emotional state of an athlete pertaining to injuries or other accidents that occur on or off the field. These professionals are trained in first aid and evaluate, diagnose and treat a wide range of sports-related injuries and illnesses. They also work to prevent injury in athletes with tape or braces. Most athletic trainers also have administrative duties and must carefully document any injuries and treatment plans they encounter. Athletic trainers usually need a state license or certification and must hold at least a bachelor's degree in the field.

Fitness Trainers

Some fitness trainers specialize in working with athletes and use sports psychology to help motivate them and address their overall health. These trainers not only use stretching, various exercises and strength training to improve athletes' abilities but also provide information concerning a wide range of health topics, including nutrition and lifestyle choices. Fitness trainers also keep athletes and other clients safe by explaining and demonstrating proper technique for exercises, enforcing safety rules and providing first aid as needed. Education requirements vary greatly by employer and position, but most fitness trainers need at least a high school diploma and certification.


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