This article features answers to some of the most frequently asked questions about earning a graduate degree and pursuing a career in the field of sports psychology.
The definition of sports psychology is, “An interdisciplinary science that draws on knowledge from the fields of kinesiology and psychology.” Sports psychology involves the application and study of the reciprocal relationship between psychological factors and sport performance. Sports psychologists may work with a variety of populations such as professional athletes, coaches, and parents; as well as across various contexts including injury, rehabilitation, communication, and team building, amongst others.
The foundations of sport and exercise psychology lie in kinesiology and psychology. Although the two are grouped together by the American Psychological Association, exercise psychology is often considered a sub-discipline of sports psychology. Exercise psychology is concerned to a greater degree with the study of psychological factors as they relate to exercise patterns across various populations as opposed to sport performance. Altogether, both sports and exercise psychology science are distinguished by their foundation in body motor movements and psychological factors impacting associated enjoyment, habits, and performance.
In order to become recognized as a sports psychologist through certification by the Association for Applied Sports Psychology[i] or the American Board of Sports Psychology[ii], a graduate sports psychology degree is required. This may be obtained through a number of sports psychology training programs offering masters and PhD degrees in sports psychology. A master’s degree in sports psychology may take approximately two or more years beyond an undergraduate degree, while a PhD may take an additional four or more years. There may also be prerequisite undergraduate courses required prior to admission to a graduate program which may vary by program. There are currently both on-campus and online university options for those interested in pursuing a sports psychology degree.
Those interested in learning more about current research and developments in the field of sports psychology might want to explore the Journal of Applied Sports Psychology[iii]. This is the official journal of the Association for Applied Sports Psychology and publishes four issues per year. Recent articles have covered such topics as coach communication of sport body image, self-talk, and regulatory focus theory. The four primary areas of research presented in the Journal of Applied Sports Psychology are: personality, youth sports, coaching, and team dynamics.
Online programs in sports psychology are available. It may be wise to ensure that the online sports psychology program is accredited and recognized by licensing boards prior to enrolling in a program. Online master’s degree programs in sports psychology are more widely available than online Ph.D. programs in sports psychology.
Individuals interested in pursuing a graduate degree in sports psychology are not necessarily required to have earned a bachelor’s degree in the subject, however; interested students may benefit from taking courses in psychology and kinesiology as an undergraduate in preparation for pursuing a master’s degree or Ph.D in sports psychology. Some sports psychology graduate programs may require interested students to have completed some pre-requisite work prior to enrolling in the program.
According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics the 2012 median salary for psychologists other than organization and clinical psychologists was $90,020[iv]. However, sports psychology salaries vary greatly depending on an individual’s level of education, experience, location, and level of expertise.
Sources: [i] appliedsportpsych.org/ | [ii] americanboardofsportpsychology.org/ | [iii] appliedsportpsych.org/publications/journal-of-applied-sport-psychology/ | [iv] bls.gov/ooh/life-physical-and-social-science/psychologists.htm