Bachelor’s degree in sports psychology

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Introduction to sports psychology

Sports psychology is a multidisciplinary subject that focuses is on the body and the mind working together. It involves psychology but also sports sciences such as physiology, biomechanics and kinesiology. Together, these aspects provide an overview of how the physical and the psychological impact each other.

Sports psychology focuses on athletes’ the well-being, development and performance. There is a considerable focus on mentality and the approach to performance. In practice, this manifests as working to overcome fears or optimizing mental skills to improve athletes’ chances of success.

Those who study sports psychology build a theoretical foundation along with practical examples of how mental state impacts physical performance. Motivation plays a vital role in the subject. Sports psychologists work with athletes and coaches to design training exercises and help them recover from injuries. They also work with organizations running exercise programs for the wider population.

A bachelor’s degree in sports psychology is usually offered as a bachelor of science (B.S.), as it involves the scientific disciplines of psychology and sports science. However, it is possible to find bachelor of arts (B.A.) programs, which focus more on theory and coaching.

Bachelor’s degree programs in sports psychology are relatively unusual as the field is a specialization typically studied at the graduate level. Most sports psychology careers require a master’s or doctoral degree. A bachelor’s degree in this field provides a strong foundation from which to continue your studies. Read on to discover more about the programs available and what you could learn.

Requirements

Bachelor’s degree programs require applicants to submit their high school transcripts, standardized test scores, a letter of recommendation and a personal essay.

A GPA of 2.9 or higher increases your likelihood of acceptance. However, if you have an SAT score over 910 or an ACT score of more than 18, then you may still be considered with a lower GPA. If you do not meet these requirements, you may need to supply additional documents to support your application.

Most programs accept transfer students, who can apply existing credits from another program or associate degree towards their bachelor’s degree in sports psychology. The requirements are generally similar to those for new students, but standardized test scores may not be necessary.

Study options

On campus

You can earn your bachelor’s degree in sports psychology through several learning formats. There are traditional residential programs that are taught on campus. These are quite common for this degree, as the curriculum usually has hands-on elements using sports equipment in fitness labs.

Hybrid

If you’re looking for a more flexible program, you might consider a hybrid format, where you can complete most classes online and attend occasional on-campus classes. There are also entirely online sports psychology programs for students who are not able to attend in-person courses.

Online

There are two types of online courses: synchronous and asynchronous. Synchronous programs have live classes at a set time, while asynchronous ones allow students to access course materials and lectures at any time and learn at their own pace. This format usually appeals more to those who have other commitments, such as full-time work or caring for family members.

Cost of degree

There are many factors that influence the cost of a bachelor’s degree in sports psychology, including the institution, teaching method and whether you are a state resident where the institution is located. Tuition is the main cost, although residential programs will also have accommodation costs. Average overall costs for students are $43,000 for private and $20,000 for public institutions.

The average cost of tuition is $9,580 for in-state students at public schools and $27,437 for those from out of state. The average tuition costs at private institutions is $37,200.

Scholarships

There are several potential sources of financial support and 86% of first-time students are the recipients of some form of financial aid taking the form of a loan, grant or a scholarship. There are specific grants, awards and scholarships aimed at sports psychology undergraduates.

Coursework

The courses included in a bachelor’s degree in sports psychology fall into 4 categories: general education, science, English and math. In addition, students complete core courses and electives. Some courses you may need to take include:

Introduction to sport and exercise psychology

This course introduces the main theories and research behind sports psychology. It covers the skills and techniques you need to perform assessments, aid development and enhance performance.

Psychology of coaching

This class focuses on the relationship between an athlete or team and the coach. Students examine interpersonal skills and explore motivation, decision making, leadership and developing talent.

Human anatomy

This course examines the different bodily systems and how they function.

Social psychology

This module explores how the presence of others affects a person’s attitude and behavior. It also looks at group mentality, interactions and opinion formation.

Kinesiology

This course focuses on biomechanics. Students learn how the human body moves, including a range of physiological functions that involve the muscles and brain activity in exercise and rehabilitation.

The majority of sports psychology programs give credits to students for completing an internship. These are usually carried out under the supervision of industry professionals in a professional or amateur sports environment. Bachelor’s degrees in sports psychology also include a capstone project, which involves research and presenting your findings.

Specializations

As part of your bachelor’s degree in sports psychology, you can generally choose 6 to 18 hours of electives. These help you to specialize in an area that interests you or might suit your chosen career path. Specializations include:

Personal training

This concentration helps students learn more about how to work with individuals using tailored exercise programs. It looks at the theories behind training approaches and explores techniques and practical examples of motivating clients and setting goals.

Drugs and human behavior

This option combines psychology, sociology and health. Students learn about substance abuse in sports and society, the impact on behavior and the role of peer pressure.

Nutrition

This specialization explores attitudes toward food, how to eat for optimal performance and shows students how to tailor plans to help athletes reach their goals.

Accreditation

Accreditation is a safeguard that means the teaching, student support, materials and financial stability of a school have been evaluated. Accreditation shows you, other institutions and potential employers that a university meets certain standards.

The American Psychological Association Commission on Accreditation (APA-CoA) is the main accrediting body for schools offering psychology programs.  However, their focus is mainly on doctoral programs. Most schools with bachelor’s programs can seek accreditation from a local or regional body.

Career paths

For many interested in pursuing a career in sports psychology, a bachelor’s degree is only the beginning of their education. Most roles require a master’s degree and a doctoral degree, especially if you want to work as a licensed sports psychologist. However, there are some options to work in the field with a bachelor’s degree where you can put your knowledge of performance, fitness and motivation to use.

You can help athletes and other people improve their performance and reach their goals without being a sports psychologist. A bachelor’s degree is sufficient to work as a personal trainer and can help you get a position in an existing company or successfully attract clients to your own business. The employment of personal trainers or fitness instructors is expected to grow by 15% between 2019 and 2029.

The average hourly rate for a personal trainer is $19.41.

Some of the modules covered in the associate’s degree include:

A bachelor’s degree in sports psychology can enhance your efficacy and potential in a military role. Many of the psychological techniques that you learn in your program can help to reduce stress and anxiety in high-pressure combat situations and assist with your training.

If you continue your education, you could progress to a role in the military where you use your skills and knowledge to train recruits or act as a sports psychology consultant. This role is as common in the military as it is with athletes and sports teams. The average annual salary of U.S. army employees is $62,000.

If you have expertise in a certain sport, you may consider combining that knowledge with the skills and understanding you gain from your bachelor’s degree in psychology. Sports coaches work in several settings, for example high school or college coaching.

Coaches need to know how to motivate people, plan and teach tactics, and instill a winning mentality. Jobs as a coach or scout are projected to grow by 12% between 2019 and 2029. The average annual salary for an athletics or sports coach is $44,191.

Continuing education

Earning a master’s and doctoral degree gives you a deeper, more comprehensive understanding of psychology and its use in a sports environment. As a holder of a doctoral degree, you can apply for licensure as a psychologist through a state licensing board. The Association of State and Provincial Psychology Boards (ASPPB) has more information about licensing.

You can also become certified as a sports psychologist through the American Board of Sports Psychology (ABSP) or the Association for Applied Sport Psychology (AASP). Both types of recognition require practice hours, which you can get through supervised internships while studying. Pursuing a doctor of philosophy (Ph.D.) or a doctor of psychology (Psy.D.) will also give you the opportunity to research subjects in this field. 

Should I get this degree?

A bachelor’s degree in sports psychology is a good starting point for students who want to become a sports psychologist. As this career requires a master’s degree and a Ph.D., choosing a bachelor’s program provides a strong foundation to build your knowledge and your career.

Association for Applied Sport Psychology (AASP)

The AASP promotes best practices in the field and provides certification opportunities for members.

American Board of Sports Psychology (ABSP)

The ABSP aims to advance training, education and best practice for sports psychologists. It also delivers competency and certification opportunities.

American Psychological Association (APA)

A professional membership organization that has information about certification. It is aimed at all psychologists and has a dedicated section for sports psychologists.