How to Become a Sports Psychologist
Learn how you can become a sports psychologist.
Sports psychologists generally study the psychological and mental effects of participating in sports, as well as the way an individual participant’s own mental state impacts their performance.
At the same time, sports psychologists apply the knowledge gained from their studies to helping athletes and clients during everyday life events.
In the course of their work day, sports psychologists may perform the following duties:
- Work with athletes (both amateur and elite) to prepare them psychologically for competition
- Work with athletes (both amateur and elite) to help them deal with the psychological effects of competition
- Educate coaches on the best ways to enhance the team’s psychological state and become a successful, cohesive unit
- Research the effects of sport participation on athletes
- Teach university students who are studying for their psychology degrees
- Evaluate developmental disabilities
Sports psychologists are part of the larger field of psychologists. According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics 2021 Occupational Employment Statistics, the median annual salary for psychologists is $81,040. Actual salaries may vary greatly based on specialization within the field, location, years of experience and a variety of other factors. National long-term projections of employment growth may not reflect local and/or short-term economic or job conditions, and do not guarantee actual job growth. Because many sports psychologists are self-employed—or act in a consulting capacity—professionals in the field may enjoy a flexible schedule depending upon their obligations.
Because sports psychology is such a unique specialization, sports psychologists often work as consultants for many different teams, athletes or athletic departments. Generally this consulting work is combined with a position teaching college courses or researching. Some sports psychologists work full time with professional sports teams, but this is a difficult position to obtain.
Training and Education
For those who would like to become a sports psychologist, it’s often best to begin with a bachelor’s in psychology degree. If the undergraduate college offers courses in sports psychology, students should take as many as possible to learn about the field.
While some people are able to work as a sports psychologist with only a bachelor’s degree, most decide to go on to get a master’s or doctorate in either psychology or sports psychology. There are very few programs that offer advanced degrees in sports psychology, so obtaining a graduate-level psychology degree and combining this with sports psychology internships is a typical path toward full time sports psychology careers.