Sports psychologists study the mental effects of physical competition and counsel athletes with performance-related disorders. Those interested in formal education in this field can pursue a relevant master's or doctoral degree. Master's students get an understanding of mental processes and learn how to identify and treat psychological roadblocks to optimal physical performance. Direct training is gained with clinical fieldwork. Applicants must have an undergraduate degree in psychology and acceptable Graduate Records Examination (GRE) scores. As the admissions process is competitive, those with professional references and significant experience will have an edge. Institutions that don't offer a sports psychology master's often include associated curricula in their applied psychology or kinesiology paths.
Sports psychology is generally available as a concentration in applied or clinical psychology Ph.D. programs, where pupils will learn about common mental disorders in athletes and the psychological dynamics of team relationships. They will also develop investigative study skills as they complete original academic research, a thesis dissertation and clinical hours. Entrance stipulations vary by school; some mandate a psychology bachelor's, while others require one in kinesiology or exercise science. In any case, standardized exam scores must be submitted. To graduate, students must complete a requisite amount of clinical work or write a dissertation.
Master's in Sports Psychology
In addition to therapeutic counseling techniques and multiculturalism, core subjects in a master's sports psychology program include:
- Sports psychology research methods
- Applied motor learning
- Biomechanical exercise physiology
- Role of sports in society
- Motivational coaching
Ph.D. in Sports Psychology
Doctoral curriculum is investigation-intensive, as students learn research methods and how to use statistical analysis tools pertinent to psychological research. Along with performance-enhancing substance abuse interventions and psychological components of sports injury rehabilitation, lecture topics typically discussed are:
- Exercise psychology theory and applied research
- Intervention for athletes with mental disorders
- Psychological performance assessment
- Athletic motivation
- Psychological bases of motor performance
Popular Career Options
A Ph.D. is generally required to practice sports psychology as a licensed professional. Popular job titles held by master's-level graduates include:
- Sports psychologist
- Clinical sports psychology assistant
Employment Outlook and Salary Information
According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, employment for clinical, counseling and school psychologists is predicted to grow at a rate of 20% over 2014-2024, with a mean salary of $76,040 as of May 2015. Industrial and organizational psychologists earned a mean annual wage of $92,320 also as of May 2015.
Continuing Education Information
The American Board of Sports Psychology (americanboardofsportspsychology.org) provides certifications to individuals with doctoral degrees in psychology. Additionally, the APA's division of exercise and sport psychology offers continuing education courses to all degree holders.
A master's or doctoral degree is helpful when becoming a sports psychologist, and will prepare graduates for working in the field in a professional context. Over the course of these programs, students learn about the mental pressures and problems that exist in sports and how to provide proper support for athletes.