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Sports Psychologist Education Requirements, Salary and Job Outlook - Forbes Advisors

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Sports psychologists play an important role in the mental health and well-being of athletes. Sports psychologists provide the support athletes need to maintain peak performance and cope with mental health challenges.

If you enjoy playing sports and love helping people, a career as a sports psychologist might be right for you. Education, licensing, and certification requirements vary by state. Be sure to research your state’s requirements when learning how to become a sports psychologist.

Job prospects for sports psychologists

According to the American Psychological Association, sports psychologists are in high demand as the industry recognizes the importance of mental health. Sport psychologists are expanding their activities outside the sports field, which also contributes to the increased demand.

The US Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) does not specifically track sports psychology. However, BLS provides aggregate data for all types of psychologists. According to this data, the demand for psychologists overall is expected to grow by 8% from 2020 to 2030.

What Do Sports Psychologists Do?

Sports psychologists work with professional or amateur athletes to help manage mental health challenges that affect athletic performance. Anxiety, depression, eating disorders, staying focused, managing anger Athletes who struggle with , motivation, and communication with coaches and teammates may not perform at their best. Sports psychologists help athletes address these issues and improve their performance.

In addition to working directly with athletes, sports psychologists may also work with coaches and youth sports organizations to teach skills that help athletes stay motivated and maintain healthy self-esteem.

Here are some things sports psychologists do to support their athletes.

  • Help athletes cope with the stress and pressures of competition
  • Teach clients visualization and relaxation techniques to help them stay focused and perform at their best
  • Motivate athletes to stay on track with their exercise programs and maintain their fitness goals.
  • Teach athletes strategies for recovering from pain and stress caused by injuries and injuries

It is not uncommon for sports psychologists to work in fields other than athletics. Sports psychologists may also work with others who have stressful jobs, such as firefighters, paramedics, police officers, surgeons, performance artists, and military personnel.

Workers in these high-stress areas may need counseling to help them cope with challenges and act quickly in difficult situations. The US Army is now the largest employer of sports psychologists in the country.

sports psychologist salary

According to Payscale, the average sports psychologist’s salary is around $75,000 a year. Salaries for sports psychologists vary, with salaries as low as about $49,000 and as high as about $103,000.

Steps to becoming a sports psychologist

If you want to become a sports psychologist, you have to take some concrete steps. Educational requirements for sports psychologists typically include bachelor’s, master’s, and doctorate degrees. Each state sets its own licensing requirements, so you should check your state-specific requirements. In most cases, a PhD is required to practice as a sports psychologist.

Some universities offer dual-degree programs for postgraduate studies where you can earn a master’s degree and a Ph.D. at the same time. This option allows you to complete the educational requirements in less time than traditional programs.

Read below for more information on the educational requirements to become a sports psychologist.

get a bachelor’s degree

A graduate degree is required to become a sports psychologist, and in order to go to graduate school, you must first complete a bachelor’s degree. Ideally, you should plan to major in psychology, sports psychology, or a related field.

Not all colleges offer sports psychology majors for undergraduates, but many offer sports psychology courses or other related courses that can be taken as general psychology majors. Such courses may include psychological testing, research methods, organizational psychology, behavioral psychology, team psychology, and psychotherapeutic options.

get a master’s degree

Obtaining a master’s degree is the next step after obtaining a bachelor’s degree. The MSc in Sport Psychology teaches sport psychology theory, research methods, data analysis, ethics, and strategies for improving athletic performance. It can also prepare you for postgraduate work in the field of sports psychology.

get a PhD

If you want to become a sports psychologist, you can choose between two PhD degrees. or Psy.D. Both degrees cover the subject matter required for a career in sports psychology and both degrees require an internship. Specific internship requirements vary by program.


PhD in Philosophy. This degree covers a variety of subjects with an emphasis on research and scholarship. If you choose to pursue a Ph.D. Career paths in sports psychology include teaching, scientific research, patient care, and clinical practice.

As a graduate student trying to get a Ph.D. Sports psychology practices advanced research methods that help you expand your knowledge of the principles of sports psychology and become a professional scholar.


Psy.D. PhD in Psychology. This degree focuses on working directly with people in clinical settings. Takes less time to complete than a PhD. Because there are less requirements for coursework in research and statistics.

As a graduate student working towards Psy.D. In Sports Psychology, you will study the principles of scientific psychology, data analysis and interpretation, performance improvement strategies and theories, counseling and screening skills, and decision-making principles.

When deciding which degree to pursue, you should consider your career goals and which of these degrees will help you reach that goal.

get a state license

Each state has its own licensing requirements, so when planning your education, check with your state to make sure you are ready to obtain a license. Most states require a PhD and two years of her supervised practice. Also, you must pass an exam.

Find more information through the Association of State and State Psychology Boards, which maintains a directory of state and state licensing boards in the United States and Canada.

Get board certified

Certification is available through the American Board of Sport Psychology (ABSP). To receive board certification, you must meet the following requirements:

  • A PhD in psychology from an accredited university, or a master’s degree in a related field, qualifies you to pursue a professional qualification.
  • Complete ABSP training. Complete a final project and meet all organizational requirements, including a minimum score of 80% on the pre-practical knowledge test.
  • Perform 75 full or partial athlete assessments, depending on the test and intervention. This includes about 750 hours of work.

Sports Psychologist Frequently Asked Questions

What do sports psychologists do every day?

Sports psychologists typically work with athletes to teach strategies to improve mental health and maintain peak athletic performance. These strategies include confidence building, concentration techniques, anger management, mental recovery from physical injury, or developing a pre-match routine.

What is the difference between a psychologist and a sports psychologist?

Both psychologists and sports psychologists work with people to provide coping strategies and help improve their mental health. , sports psychologists typically focus on athletes and others who have high-stress jobs such as firefighters or military personnel.

Do sports psychologists travel?

Yes, it is common for sports psychologists to travel. This often happens when working with sports teams or sports industry professionals who need assistance while on the move.