Sports Psychologist Jobs & Career Guide 2023

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By Staff Writer
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What is a sports psychologist?

A sports psychologist works to help support and develop the psychology of high-level competitive athletes and sportspeople.

Many people may find this surprising. After all, often athletes are very well paid, very well motivated, and incredibly successful! Why would someone living this sort of lifestyle need a psychologist?

The truth is that mental health issues can affect ANYONE, regardless of age, wealth, or any other external or internal factor.

High-level sport is incredibly unforgiving, particularly in a world where criticism and scrutiny are often public and very loud, in online spaces and elsewhere.

Sports psychologists help athletes deal with the stress and mental rigors that high-level sport puts on the psyche.

What does a sports psychologist do?

“Sports psychology is the application of psychological principles to help athletes and coaches perform at their best. A typical day for a sports psychologist may involve meeting with individual athletes or teams to discuss performance goals and strategies, conducting mental skills training, and providing support for athletes dealing with stress, anxiety, or other mental health concerns. They may also work with coaches to develop team strategies and communication skills. Additionally, sports psychologists may conduct research or teach at universities to advance the field of sports psychology.”

Dr. Jamie Shapiro, Director of the Global Master's in Sports Administration Program at Ohio University

Your day as a sports psychologist will vary depending on your area of specialization and the setting in which you work however here are some common tasks/responsibilities:

  • Conducting assessments and evaluations
  • Providing performance enhancement training: working with athletes to develop mental skills such as visualization, goal-setting, and relaxation techniques to enhance their performance on the field.
  • Developing and implementing treatment plans
  • Collaborating with coaches and other healthcare providers
  • Conducting research and staying up-to-date on the latest developments in sports psychology

Where does a sports psychologist work?

  1. Professional and collegiate sports teams
  2. Health clinics and private practices
  3. Academic institutions
  4. Government agencies and military organizations

How to become a sports psychologist

The process of becoming a sports psychologist typically takes 7-12 years. The specific time will be driven by whether you opt to complete a doctoral degree.  Whilst a doctorate is required to become a licensed sports psychologist, many opt to enter into other sports psychology positions under the supervision of a licensed psychologist with only a master’s degree.

Education Requirements

The first step in becoming a sports psychologist is to earn a bachelor’s degree in psychology or a related field. It is best to major in psychology, education, or a related field, as this will help you gain the knowledge and skills necessary for pursuing a graduate degree in sports psychology.

In addition to your undergraduate studies, pursuing internships or volunteer experiences in sports psychology is a good idea. These experiences will give you a greater understanding of how to work with athletes and how to support them behaviorally and emotionally. You can find internships with sports teams at the collegiate or professional level.

To become a licensed sports psychologist, you will then need to earn a graduate degree in psychology or a related field. A Master’s degree in sports psychology can be helpful, but a Doctoral degree (Ph.D. or Psy.D.) is typically required. The program should be accredited by the American Psychological Association (APA) or the Association for Applied Sport Psychology (AASP).

Supervised experience

After completing a graduate degree, prospective sports psychologists must complete supervised clinical experience in their field. This may involve completing internships or residencies under the supervision of licensed sports psychologists. The number of required hours varies by state with the minimum being 1,500 hours. There are 25 states including Virginia, Wisconsin and Indiana.

Certification and Licensing

Once you have completed your education and required number of supervised hours, the next step is to become certified and licensed. To become a sports psychologist, you must first pass the Examination for Professional Practice in Psychology (EPPP).

The EPPP is a nationally administered exam that tests how well you can apply and interpret psychological knowledge. Once you have passed the EPPP, you must obtain a license from your state’s psychology board. Each state may have different licensure requirements, and it is crucial to ensure you meet them.

An optional final step is board certification.

Board certification for sports psychologists is offered by the Association for Applied Sport Psychology (AASP). The certification is known as the Certified Mental Performance Consultant (CMPC) credential.

Once the education, experience, exam and ethics requirements have been met, candidates can apply to take the CMPC exam. The exam consists of 150 multiple-choice questions and covers a wide range of topics related to sport psychology, including psychological skills training, exercise psychology, and ethics.

After passing the exam, candidates receive their CMPC credential and are eligible to practice as a board-certified sport psychologist. To maintain their certification, CMPCs must complete continuing education requirements and adhere to the AASP Code of Ethics and Professional Conduct.

Continuing Education

To maintain licensure, you must complete continuing education requirements. These requirements vary from state to state but typically include courses, workshops, conferences, and seminars related to sports psychology.

It would be best to stay current on the latest research and technology in the field. Becoming an active member of professional organizations, such as AASP, will help you stay informed and connected with sports psychologists around the country.

Continuing your education after your licensure is essential to provide the best service to athletes and their teams.

By following these steps, you can become a sports psychologist and provide invaluable support to athletes throughout their journey. With the proper education, dedication, and hard work, you can become a successful sports psychologist who makes a difference in children’s lives.

How much do sports psychologists make?

One of the most important aspects of any career is remuneration, and it’s a big motivator for people even if you’re passionate about the particular subject matter.

There are a lot of variables as with any pay scale and can be affected by the experience, location, and the level at which you are practicing.

However for sports psychologists in a university athletics department can expect to earn around $60,000 to $80,000, with some even surpassing $100,000. In private practice, it’s much harder to give precise salary figures but it can be incredibly lucrative, as can consulting and freelance work.

See our sports psychologist salary guide for more insights including how much NFL and NBA sports psychologists make.

Is sports psychology a good career?

The career outlook for sports psychologists is an interesting one, with a lot of room to specialize, learn and grow, developing as a clinician while also developing contacts and the business side of the profession.

It’s also quite varied, as you can work with athletes in various different sports, at varying levels, assisting with everything from depression, trauma, stress, or PTSD to assisting in building confidence and improving on-field performance.

It’s important to note that while there are similarities, sports psychologist sessions won’t look much like a clinical psychology session, as you will be working with coaches and athletes to deal primarily with stressors and difficulties as they relate to performance, which is an interesting and very specific focus, setting this profession apart from the other niches of psychology.

In terms of supply and demand, it’s important to understand this, as picking a career is really important and needs to be considered and a well-researched decision.

A low supply and high demand is the best for job seekers, and will often mean it’s easier to find work and get paid well for your efforts.

In terms of sports psychology, it’s actually a relatively good market for job seekers, as more sports take mental health seriously, and many athletes seek to improve and learn more about the importance of the mental side of the game.

Sport is also continuing to grow, and the Bureau of Labor Statistics predicts that jobs in psychology, including sports psychology, will grow 14% from 2018 to 2028 so there are definitely opportunities available!

Latest Sports Psychologist Jobs & Career Guide 2023 Listings

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Assistant Professor of Counseling Psychology Boston University Boston, Massachusetts 09/26/2023
The Boston University Wheelock College of Education and Human Developments Department of Counseling Psychology and Applied Human Development invites applications for a full-time, tenure-track position as Assistant Professor in Counseling Psychology. Successful candidates will have a strong program of research and the ability to contribute to the teaching of core courses in our APA-Approved Counseling Psychology Ph.D. program and our Ed.M. Counseling program that includes three areas ... More
Assistant Professor Exercise Science Athletic Training (Sport and Exercise Psychology/Mental Performance) Ithaca College Ithaca, New York 09/25/2023
Ithaca Colleges Department of Exercise Science and Athletic Training invites applications for a full-time tenure eligible assistant professor position from candidates with a specialty in Sport and Exercise Psychology/Mental Performance beginning August 16, 2024. The successful candidate would join a growing department, that is committed to delivering holistic, integrative, and collaborative educational experiences that prepare students as scientist-practitioners across the fields ... More
Assistant Professor of Counseling Psychology, Wheelock College of Education and Human Development Boston University Boston, Massachusetts 09/24/2023
Job DescriptionThe Boston University Wheelock College of Education and Human Development's Department of Counseling Psychology and Applied Human Development invites applications for a full-time, tenure-track position as Assistant Professor in Counseling Psychology. Successful candidates will have a strong program of research and the ability to contribute to the teaching of core courses in our APA-Approved Counseling Psychology Ph.D. program and our Ed.M. Counseling ... More
Athletic Counselor Virginia Commonwealth University Richmond, Virginia 09/21/2023
Virginia Commonwealth University (VCU) University Counseling Services (UCS) invites applications for an Athletic Counselor. This position will be embedded within the VCU Athletic department on our Monroe Park Campus and primarily provides services to our VCU student-athletes. We are a dynamic center committed to promoting diversity and inclusion and invite applicants who share similar values. The position will require working some evening and weekend hours.Required Qualifications:Master's ... More
Assistant Director, Mental Performance Coordinator of Psychological Health and Performance University of Colorado - Boulder Boulder, Colorado 09/18/2023
The University of Colorado Athletics department encourages applications for an Assistant Director for Mental Performance Coordination within the office of Psychological Health and Performance. This position will assist the delivery of general psychological services (evaluation, treatment and education) to student-athletes competing within a highly competitive, Division I athletics program. Additionally, this position will provide consultation and relevant training to coaches, athletic ... More
Staff Psychologist/Counselor in Intercollegiate Athletics (33351) Northern Illinois University Illinois 09/14/2023
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Associate Director of Training (Counseling and Psychological Services) Northwestern University Evanston, Illinois 09/13/2023
Department: Counseling & Psych ServSalary/Grade: EXS/11Job Summary:Full-time Associate Director of Counseling and Psychological Services (Ph.D. or Psy.D.) position.Under the direction of the Executive Director of CAPS, the Associate Director of CAPS ensures efficient and high-quality delivery, data collection and evaluation of a specific functional area of the department. The Associate Director of CAPS provides direct ... More
Staff Clinician/Coordinator of Clinical Services to Student Athletes Miami University Oxford, Ohio 09/10/2023
Miami University, located in the quaint college town of Oxford in the rolling hills of southwestern Ohio 45 minutes north of Cincinnati, was founded over 200 years ago and was once referred to by Robert Frost as "the most beautiful college there is." A highly selective public university with a strong liberal arts emphasis and selected as one of the Public Ivys, Miami enrolls about 17,000 undergraduate and 2,000 graduate students. Among its strengths, Miami prides itself in strong student ... More
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