Sports Psychology Degrees & Careers
Competitive sports demand a high level physical ability, and at the same time, they require a sharp mental focus. Sports psychologists work directly with athletes to help boost motivation and increase performance. This field of psychology deals with both the physiological and mental factors that affect sports performance. As a sports psychologist, you'll study athletes' behavior and performance in the competitive arena to help them gain an edge and do their best.
The first step to starting a career in sports psychology is earning a degree in a related field. Because there are several career options with a sports psychology degree, your must first consider your primary career goal. For example, if you plan to work directly with athletes, a master degree in sports psychology is ideal. However, a PhD or doctor degree is the way to go if you are interested in academics, research, or if you plan to take on a consulting role.
There are several academic paths you can take to become an expert in sports psychology. Consider the following:
- Specialized training in sports psychology (a master or doctor degree)
- A PhD in counseling or clinical psychology with training in sports psychology
- A degree in counseling or therapy, with training in sports psychology
- Advanced training in fitness in addition to training in psychology
Qualifying as a sports psychologist takes a combination of training and experience. According to the American Psychological Association (APA), sports psychologists should be licensed psychologists with "experience in applying psychological principles in sports settings." This implies an understanding of the physiological aspects of a particular sport and how an athlete's mental attitude can affect performance level. Therefore, an academic background and training in a particular sport are recommended for aspiring sports psychologists.
Role of a Sports Psychologist
Sports psychologists perform a range of tasks that relate to sports performance and education. They could serve several roles such as:
- Assisting coaches and working with athletes to improve motivation levels.
- Teaching at universities and working with athletic administrators. Here you could provide sports education and help implement ideas to maximize the overall well-being of athletes and other participants in sport settings.
Salary and Earnings
The best sports psychologists earn excellent pay packages as consultants for professional athletes, but most earn a more modest yearly income. The annual earnings of sports psychologists vary considerably depending on training, education and the area of specialization.
Outlook for Employment
A growing awareness of the importance of mental health in sports has led to new opportunities for sports psychologists. With a master (MS) or PhD degree in sports psychology, you have the following employment options:
- Sports psychologist
- Prevention specialist
- Enhanced performance trainer
- Faculty member at a university
Sports psychologists find employment in sports departments at schools and colleges, where they are involved in physical education or sports science. They also find work in professional athletic associations or may practice privately as independent consultants.
Sports psychology careers are divided into the following three categories:
- Applied sports psychologists, who work with teams or individuals
- Clinical sports psychologists, who deal with sports-related psychological difficulties
- Academic sports psychologists, who conduct research and teach sports psychology
As the interest in sports psychology advances, the career opportunities for those who are passionate about this field continue to grow. Having a sports background and a zest for athletic performance will definitely increase your chances for success in this exciting field.
Take the First Step
Earning a sports psychology degree is a positive step in toward a career in this exciting field. Explore schools that offer sports psychology degree programs, and get more information about how you can get started.