How to Become a Sport and Exercise Psychologist

Graduates of an accredited psychology degree program can become a sport and exercise psychologist. Sports psychology is a growing profession and there are many athletes who are seeking the services of psychologists who can help them with the mental aspects of sports and exercise training. Those who specialize in sport and exercise psychology help their clients to maintain optimism, mental focus, concentration, and goal setting.

What degree is required to become a sport and exercise psychologist?

Sport and exercise psychology is a multidisciplinary field of study. This means that sport and exercise psychologists must possess a large base of knowledge in both psychology and exercise science/kinesiology. An individual must obtain at least a master’s degree; however, a Ph.D. in counseling or clinical psychology with additional training in sports psychology is often the most common course of study for professionals in this field. A doctorate degree in psychology will also allow an individual to work in academics, continue research, or pursue higher level consulting roles.

According to the American Kinesiology Association, undergraduate students who wish to pursue a career in sport and exercise psychology can broaden their understanding of this field by taking courses in psychology and exercise science, assisting with research, volunteering, coaching, and communicating with current sport and exercise psychology professionals.

How long does it take to become a sport and exercise psychologist?

In order for an individual to become a sport and exercise psychologist, they will need to obtain a minimum of a bachelor’s degree in psychology. Once the bachelor’s in psychology has been completed, a five- to seven-year doctoral program with an emphasis in applied psychology and/or sports psychology will then be required. A candidate will typically need a Ph.D. or a Psy.D. from an accredited psychology degree program to be licensed to practice.

An individual who is pursuing a sport and exercise psychologist career may also wish to stay up-to-date on industry issues and events by joining organizations such as the American Psychological Association‘s Sport and Exercise Psychology Division. This organization provides newsletters and other information regarding this aspect of psychology. In addition, many professionals in this field are required to maintain their certifications by taking continuing education courses on a regular basis. The American Board of Sport Psychology (ABSP) offers a professional sport psychology credential to applicants who fulfill the educational, training, and licensing requirements. The Association for Applied Sport Psychology (AASP) offers a Certified Consultant credential to members who complete a doctoral psychology degree with AASP required courses, demonstrate supervised clinical hours or work experience, and agree to abide by the AASP code of ethics.

What is a sport and exercise psychologist’s salary?

For the psychology profession overall, the median annual wage in May 2010 was $68,640, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics. However, this is just an average as many sport and exercise psychologists could earn more or less, depending upon their specific job as well as their demographic location. Those who work specifically in sport and exercise psychology earn an average salary of $102,000 per year.