What degrees can I earn?
Students interested in sports psychology can enroll in BA and BS programs, as well as MA and MS graduate programs. Top sports psychology degrees include on-campus and online PhD degree programs. PsyD students are usually enrolled in general clinical programs that allow students to specialize in sports psychology. Although some sports psychologists pursue doctoral degrees, most complete an MA or MS program, as a masters degree can secure competitive and well-paying jobs.
Sports psychologists and other professionals can choose from a range of psychology certificate programs online and on campus. The American Board of Sports Psychology offers a certificate program geared toward licensed psychologists, sports instructors, physicians and athletes who want to further their learning in cutting-edge research.
Some colleges, such as California State University, Dominguez Hills, also offer sports psychology certificates. Most programs take between 6 months to 1 year to complete and require applicants to have some experience working in sports or fitness.
Traditional and online colleges both offer BA and BS degrees in sports psychology. Students pursuing an online bachelors degree in psychology often have hybrid options that allow them to specialize in sports psychology with some on-site clinical training. Most bachelors programs do not have specific prerequisites, as students can declare the major during their first year of college. Students can complete a BA or BS in sports psychology in 4 years, finishing between 36 and 39 credit hours.
Most sports psychologists complete a masters degree, which can be pursued through an on-campus or online masters in psychology program. The strongest masters programs, such as Oregon State’s MA program, are extremely competitive and have strict admission requirements including a minimum undergraduate GPA of 3.0, the completion of the GRE and 3 letters of recommendation. A masters program usually takes 2 years to complete and includes 35 credit hours.
For advanced work beyond the masters level, students can enroll in a sports psychology PhD program or PsyD program. Like the best MA and MS programs, admissions into top PhD in psychology programs are extremely competitive. Successful applicants have usually completed a masters degree in a related field with a 3.5. GPA, have strong GRE scores and exceptional recommendation letters. Doctoral programs usually take 4 to 7 years to complete and include 102 credit hours.
Are there any online programs?
Students interested in sports psychology can pursue a range of bachelors, masters and doctoral programs through online sports psychology schools. Accredited online sports psychology programs include those that can be completed entirely online, although the best online programs will offer hybrid options. As both traditional and online colleges offer online degrees in the subject, most online bachelors programs will be hybrid while the majority of masters and doctoral programs can be completed entirely online.
Students pursuing an online sports psychology bachelors degree should keep in mind that they will most likely need to do part of the program on campus. For example, students who pursue a BA in sports psychology at National University must complete a minimum of 45 credit hours on campus.
However, since state licensure is not mandatory for sports psychologists in most states, many schools have waived on-site training requirements usually needed for graduate psychology programs. Therefore, students will be able to find a wide range of online masters degree and doctoral degree programs that they can complete entirely online.
What kinds of classes will I take in my program?
For sports psychology undergraduates, including those enrolled in online courses, typical core classes include introduction to psychology and human anatomy classes that review body movement and physiology.
As sports psychology majors establish more knowledge in developmental and cognitive psychology and biomechanics, they take upper-level courses that delve into sociocultural perspectives on sports, the psychology of sports behaviors and athletic performances and applied theories of sport and exercise psychology.
The strongest on-campus and online psychology courses specializing in sports psychology will address the intersections of biomechanics, sociocultural attitudes about sports and theories of applied psychology.
Top masters and doctoral programs usually include a core set of classes in the principles of health behavior, athletic motivation and the psychological basis of motor performance. Upper-level graduate courses concentrate on recreational sports administration, performance enhancing substance abuse intervention and sports injury rehabilitation. Graduate students can also choose to concentrate in specialized fields such as pediatric exercise and biostatistics.
What careers can I choose from?
Most students who receive degrees in sports psychology pursue jobs in applied sports and clinical settings, as well as academic careers in psychology. The highest salary comes from working with high-profile athletes, where qualified sports psychologists can often make six figures.
Applied sports psychologist
Applied sports psychologists work directly with athletes’ performance capabilities. Their goals include facilitating the most optimal performance and enjoyment out of athletes through a combination of individual and group counseling.
Most applied sports psychologists who counsel athletes have a masters degree in sports psychology, although those with the best careers,who tend to work with the top athletes in the world, usually have doctoral degrees. The average salary for sports psychologists ranges from $60,000 to $80,000.
Clinical sports psychologist
Clinical sports psychologists combine mental training strategies and psychotherapy to help clients work through mental health problems, including eating disorders and depression. Since the work of clinical sports psychologists is more characteristic of typical clinical and counseling psychology, most are licensed and have doctoral degrees. They receive a median annual salary of about $63,000.
Sports psychologists also become professors who pursue research and teach at a college or university. Those who opt to take the academic route almost always have doctoral degrees in sports psychology or a closely related field like sports medicine or kinesiology. The average salary for sports psychology professors ranges between $55,000 and $80,000, depending on how long they have taught, their credentials and the college or university they teach at.
Is there anything else I should know about getting a degree?
Although sports psychologists do not have to be state licensed in order to practice, the most competitive jobs require not only an advanced graduate degree that specializes in sports psychology training but also certification through the American Board of Sport Psychology (ABSP). The ABSP administers the occupational status of sports psychologist to professionals who have been officially licensed by passing a standardized examination.
Continuing education is also not required for sports psychologists but highly recommended so that they may keep up with new training strategies and research on athletic performance and mental health. ABSP offers a range of psychology certifications to professionals with doctoral degrees in sports psychology, as well as additional workshops and classes to sports psychologists of all levels.