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How To Become A Sports Psychologist: Career and Salary Information

Imagine it now, sitting around the television with your family watching your favorite sports teams battling it out until one winner remains. You all know that there is one of two outcomes – win or lose.

If your team loses, you will be devastated, even angry that they didn't do better. If your team wins, you may physically jump with joy. But as a spectator, for a brief moment, our sporting heroes are not human, they are just that – heroes. Whether they are winners or losers, to a certain extent they are just pawns in the greater scheme of the game. They are dehumanized by the people who support them.

This is not unknown to them. They have expectations to uphold, the world watching them, some rooting for them, and others hoping for their failure. They know this and yet they still need to show up to be the best versions of themselves. It goes without saying that the mental and emotional load faced by sports stars is extremely great. That is why sports psychologists exist.

To become a sports psychologist, you would need to obtain a bachelor's, master's, and doctoral degree in applied sports psychology, clinical sports psychology, or academic sports psychology, you would need to work towards gaining experience, and lastly obtain a board certification.

Let us delve deeper into this extremely fascinating career path and see what steps you would need to take to pursue this career.

What Is A Sports Psychologist?

A sport psychologist is a psychologist that works almost entirely with individuals in the sporting industry. This ranges from professionals to amateurs, and even school-level sports.

The mental toll that sports take on the human body is tremendous, and this is often overlooked in sports because the main focus tends to be the physical strain the sports people face.

On one end of the spectrum, sports psychologists study and assess the mental effects of sports. But as this role is further looked at, they play an important role in helping the individual and the team if they face behavioral issues, if they face stress, they help them develop healthy coping mechanisms for physical and mental strain, they assist them in facing wins and losses, and they help them maintain a healthy relationship with themselves and with their team.

With the competitive element in athleticism, many people find it hard to draw the line between rest and work. Some sportspersons may push themselves to unhealthy breaking points. Many athletes also develop unhealthy relationships with their bodies and may form eating disorders.

Coaches and team managers face stress in every game they play, so sports psychologists play an ever-present role in ensuring that they can overcome the stress they may face. Additionally, athletes face a lot of pressure from their team, spectators, coaches, and even their families. Sports psychologists help them overcome and deal with this pressure.

While sports psychologists assess how participating in sports can affect your mental well-being and mental health, they also work with teams and people who are individuals and don't participate in team sports such as golf or tennis. For example, they may work with an athlete who is planning to summit Mount Everest and work with them towards building the mental strength to achieve that goal.

What Does A Sports Psychologist Do?

While athletes are in tip-top shape physically, sports psychologists work with them to ensure that they are mentally strong and that sportspeople remain in tip-top shape mentally.

Sports psychologists assess an athlete's mental health. They will look at things such as their ability to effectively communicate, what their thought processes are like before and during a game, what coping mechanisms they have, and their relational dynamics within a team.

They work with athletes in developing effective relaxation techniques and anxiety-reducing exercises to ensure that they can handle whatever the next game may throw at them.

Types of Sports Psychologists

The first type of sports psychologist is applied sports psychology. Here the psychologist will work with the athlete in establishing goals and visualizing the steps they would need to take to pursue and achieve that goal.

The next type is clinical sports psychology. In this field, they use psychotherapy and mental training strategies to overcome any mental illnesses or disorders that an athlete may face. This could be anything from anxiety and stress to depression and eating disorders.

Lastly, there is academic sports psychology where the focus is on college-level sports. In these cases, sports psychologists work at the university and work directly with university and college teams only.

Steps To Become A Sports Psychologist

Step One: Obtain A Bachelor's Degree

As a starting point for almost all careers in psychology, you would first need to obtain a bachelor's degree. You can pursue a degree in sports sciences or psychology, so long as it sets a sturdy and solid foundation in completing your graduate studies in sports psychology.

Step Two: Obtain Your Graduate Degree

While most practicing psychology roles require a doctorate in psychology, some states accept a master's degree in psychology. Once you know what the state requirements are, you can then work toward the relevant and appropriate degree.

Step Three: Hone In Your Skills

You would then need to obtain some form of hands-on experience. This could be in the form of an internship whereby you are coached by a senior and more experienced sports psychologist.

Step Four: Obtain Certification

Before assuming your much-anticipated role, you would need to complete and obtain the relevant and appropriate licensure and certification to successfully practice as a sports psychologist.

What Degree Do You Need To Be A Sports Psychologist?

At the very least, some states require a master's degree, but other states require that you have a doctoral degree,

What Is The Average Salary For A Sports Psychologist?

According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, within the overarching field of psychology, you could earn a median annual salary of $81,040.

What Makes A Good Sports Psychologist?

Firstly, to pursue this extremely niche field of study and career path, a basic or rudimentary understanding of sports is required. The way the game works will allow you some form of insight into the mind of each player and how they will approach each game.

You would also need to be relatable. People in sports like to know what your background is and how you understand what they are going through, It is often found that sports are a favorite.

You would also need to be understanding and show empathy and kindness toward the patient.


What Do Sports Psychologists Focus On?

They focus on using psychological elements to enhance an athlete's performance and to achieve their sporting goals that they are working towards.

What Techniques Do Sports Psychologists Use?

They use a combination of goal setting, self-talk, and imagery for patients to better visualize and achieve the goals that they set out to achieve.


Pursuing a career as a sports psychologist doesn't require you to be a fan of sports. You just need to be a fan of helping others and assisting them in their journey toward their own successful career.

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