Sports psychologists are professionals that specialize in counseling athletes. Sports players are under tremendous pressure to perform at their best and consistently win. One misstep can cost athletes their confidence and the respect of their teammates, fans and coaches. Sports psychologists assist athletes to not only handle challenges but also to enhance athletic performance with mental strategies.
|Salary Expectations||$45,000 to $80,000, median $55,000||Psychologists who work for professional athletes may make significantly more|
|Degree Programs||Degree Type||Cost||Number of Credits||Timeframe|
|Capella University||Master’s (MS)||$29,950 tuition*||35 credits||1-2 years|
|University of the Rockies||Master’s (MA)Doctorate (PsyD)||$28,314 tuition*$63,504 tuition*||39 credits68 credits||1-2 years2-3 years|
|California Southern University||Sports Psychology CertificateMaster’s (MS)||$5,490 tuition*$13, 860 tuition*||18 credits42 credits||1 year1-2 years|
* Does not include books, fees and other expenses
The responsibilities of sports psychologists include working with individual players and teams to ultimately improve performance. A sports psychologist may help an individual athlete to cope with injuries, overcome fears that inhibit performance, manage stress and get their confidence back following a significant mistake. They may also be brought in to help a sports team recover from losing an important game or to work better together as teammates.
Sports psychologists typically work for themselves and have teams or individual players as their clients. They sometimes travel with teams along with other health professionals, such as doctors and nutritionists. A sports psychologist traveling with a team is most frequently done when there is a major sporting event, such as the Olympic Games.
Sports psychology is a growing field with more schools offering master’s and doctorate degree programs. A few schools also offer certifications for people with other psychology degrees. People can obtain the education they need to become a sports psychologist through an online degree program or through a combination of traditional schooling and online coursework. Generally, students need to have a 3.0 or higher grade point average and a bachelor’s degree to enter a master’s program in psychology.
Most students who enter into a sports psychology program do not have a background in psychology. Online programs cover coaching strategies, motivation, ethics, sports history, psychotherapy theories and applied sports psychology. A master’s degree does make it possible for someone to work in sports psychology, but technically people need a doctorate degree to call themselves a sports psychologist. People with a master’s degree can use the title sport psychology consultant, sports psychology practitioner, mental coach and performance enhancement specialist.
Doctorate degrees in sports psychology are primarily offered through traditional education, but a PhD or PsyD is obtainable online.
Sports psychologists must complete the same requirements as other psychologists before receiving their PhD or PsyD. This includes an internship or residency program, which is also necessary to become licensed. Special additional licensure for sports is not necessary for becoming a licensed clinical psychologist.
The median pay for sports psychologists is $55,000 per year, but they can make anywhere from $45,000 to $80,000. People new to the field may start with $45,000 and progressively attract higher pay with experience. Where a person works can also influence salary. Independent psychologists who work for professional athletes may be compensated with six figure salaries.
Sports psychologists work at their own practice or at businesses, such as hospitals, athletic centers, sports camps, universities and research facilities. A doctorate degree is typically required to work independently.
Many schools offer psychology degrees online, but only a few universities offer online sports psychology programs. Capella University, the University of the Rockies and California Southern University all have online degree programs that prepare people for a career in sports psychology. Most of these programs are not designed for obtaining licensure as a clinical psychologist.
Capella University offers a Masters of Science (MS) in Psychology with a Sport Psychology Specialization. The program gives students a strong foundation in psychology as well as training on applying those principles to helping professional and recreational athletes. The specialization covers topics such as stress management, injury recovery, athletic performance enhancement and ways to motivate both individual athletes and teams. Graduates of this program seek careers in fitness clubs, sports camps, coaching postitions, physical education instruction and with parks and recreation departments.
The MS program comprises 65 credits at a price of $430 per credit for the 2012 school year. Capella University requires the submission of a graduate application, goal statement, letters of recommendation and resume including work history and achievements. Applicants to the MS School of Psychology specialization must also have a minimum 3.0 GPA from a completed bachelor’s degree program.
This program does not include doctorate level training for license as a sports psychologist, but it does prepare students who wish to pursue that path.
University of the Rockies
The University of the Rockies offers both a Master of Arts (MA) in Psychology with a Sport and Performance Psychology Specialization and a Doctor of Psychology with a Sport and Performance Psychology Specialization online.
The master’s program is designed to teach students the basics of human behavior and offers several specializations for more in-depth information in those areas, like sports. The Sport and Performance Psychology Specialization focuses on imparting strategies for enhanced sports performance. Courses cover mind-body practices, motivational strategies, human development and coaching techniques. The program is geared toward coaches, physical therapists, athletic trainers, sports managers and athletes.
The master’s program comprises 39 credits. Students must maintain a minimum cumulative GPA of 3.0 and pass a comprehensive exam to receive their degree. Online classes are taught in an accelerated six-week format. The cost of the master’s program in 2012 is $28,314 in tuition, plus $600 for fees and $2,600 for books; the total price is $31,514.
The doctorate program in psychology is a 68-credit program for people who wish to obtain advanced training in enhanced human performance. Graduates of this program are able to work with individuals and teams. Courses include topics such as coaching, mind-body practices, human development, cultural diversity, awareness, self-mastery, actualization and performance psychology strategies.
The doctorate program requires that students maintain a minimum GPA of 3.0 or higher and complete a dissertation. Students also must attend in-residence weekends on campus in Colorado Springs. These weekends run from midday Friday to midday Sunday. Students additionally must complete 180 hours of practicum work at a sports setting. The cost of this program in 2012 is $63,504 for tuition, $800 for frees and $3,800 for books, with a total cost of $68,104.
California Southern University
California Southern University provides online options for people interested in pursuing sports psychology. CSU offers an 18-credit sports psychology certificate that covers ways to enhance sports performance, including process-based focusing drills, motivation tactics and visualization cues. The program also explores how sports and performance strategies can benefit a variety of mental health problems, such as anxiety and compulsive disorders.
CSU also has a Master of Science with a Concentration in Sports Counseling program. Students complete 15 credits in sports psychology courses along with the required core courses for the MS program in psychology.
Students can obtain the sports psychology certificate independent of the master’s program and without a background in psychology. Athletes, mental health professionals and sports enthusiasts may choose this option. Students do need a bachelor’s degree in some field though for acceptance into the program. Students may also start with the certificate program and then transfer the credits they earn to the master’s program.
CSU has an online Doctor of Psychology (PsyD) program for students interested in becoming licensed. The program meets the requirements for licensure in California and may meet requirements in other areas. A PsyD program is a clinically focused whereas a PhD program focuses mainly on scholarly publication and research.
The field of psychology is growing. The United State Bureau of Labor Statistics estimates a growth of 12 percent in psychology careers between 2008 and 2018.
Even though the field is growing, career prospects are likely going to become more competitive, with advanced degrees necessary to give someone an edge in the job market.
An important factor in securing a job in the field of sports psychology field is joining a professional organization. Professional organizations offer opportunities for networking and internships.
One of the top organizations in the field is the American Board of Sport Psychology (ABSP). ABSP not only gives members the chance to connect with other sports psychologists, it also offers certification and training in Applied Sport Psychology. People who already have a psychology degree may get at-a-distance eduction in sports psychology from ABSP.
The organization trains psychiatrists, clinicians, psychologists, trainers, coaches and master level educators. It offers clinical supervision, externships and internships in Applied Sport Psychology and Clinical Sport Psychology at-a-distance for anyone who cannot learn in person at their New York facility. The board trains sports psychology practitioners from professional sports organizations, such as major league baseball teams, the NFL and a national tennis federation in Europe.