Master’s degree programs in sports psychology program guide

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Exploring sports psychology

Psychology has been an object of formal study for well over a century. That said, compared to other scientific fields, psychology has existed for a relatively brief time. As a result, the field of psychology is still rapidly expanding. New offshoots are constantly in development. One of these offshoots is the specialty of sports psychology.

Sports psychology is not currently a branch of that is very well known. Lately though, it’s been gaining wider recognition. The goal of sports psychology is to improve the performance and motivation of athletes. The field also attempts to understand how athletics can help people improve their physical and mental health.

One of the elements that sets sports psychology apart from other types is that it requires an understanding of a variety of subjects like kinesiology, biomechanics, and physiology. A strong familiarity with the basics of psychology is also vital.

Future sports psychologists can use this knowledge to pursue one of several paths. The most obvious of these potential paths is the academic route. Upon obtaining the necessary degree and license, a sports psychologist can choose to pursue a college teaching position.

A sports psychologist also might decide to work directly with athletes. In such a case, the sports psychologist could work with their clients to support them in a wide range of areas. Examples might include:

  • Supporting the client through injury recovery
  • Teaching healthy methods of handling the stress of competition
  • Assisting the client to achieve their full athletic potential

A sports psychologist might also end up working with a client who is not a professional athlete. A recent trend toward recreational athletes seeking out the services of sports psychologists has emerged. This is because athletes who play for fun have realized that they can use sports psychology techniques to make a difference in their own lives. A sports psychologist might also work with athletes on the collegiate level.

This can be a uniquely rewarding career for someone who loves sports, enjoys working closely with others, and prefers a job that focuses on helping people.

It takes more than just an interest in football or hockey to make a good sports psychologist. It takes years of hard work and study. Like most positions in the broader field of psychology, becoming a sports psychologist requires advanced academic credentials. Generally speaking, an aspiring sports psychologist must earn a doctoral degree. This degree can be in clinical psychology, sports psychology, or counseling psychology.

Potential career options

Getting a master’s degree will still qualify you to work within the field of sports psychology – just not as a sports psychologist. A prospective sports psychologist will need to continue on to earn their doctorate.

A master’s degree in sports psychology will qualify you for other vital positions in the field, such as:

This position would have you perform tasks like managing day-to-day operations and scheduling lessons, events, and programs. The average total compensation for an early career aquatics director (4 or fewer years of experience) is $37,388.

Another example of a possible career you could have with a master’s degree is an athletic trainer. An athletic trainer specializes in sports medicine. They treat minor sports injuries and advise on fitness routines, among other things. An athletic trainer can expect to make an average total compensation of $39,345 with less than a year of experience.

You could also become a Certified Mental Performance Consultant (CMP). The responsibilities of a CMP are like those of a sports psychologist. You don’t need a doctorate to become a CMP, though. A master’s degree and certification from the Association for Applied Sports Psychology will be enough.

To get a certification from the Association for Applied Sports Psychology, you would need to go through their certification program and pass the certification exam. As a certified CMP, you’d be obligated to adhere to the highest standards of professional conduct.

Getting a CMP certification may even be a good idea for those who decide to pursue a doctorate. How wise a course it is would depend on the direction they want to take their careers.

All this only addresses the psychology element of the field. A prospective sports psychologist must also take a variety of classes. These include kinesiology, sports medicine, business, physiology, and marketing, among other things. It’ll also be necessary for candidates to learn how to apply psychological theory to athletics.

Education options

Luckily, more schools are beginning to offer sports psychology concentrations. This is due to the growing interest in sports psychology. However, this interest is recent enough that such schools generally limit themselves to a sports psychology degree, and do not offer concentrations within that degree.

Many of these schools provide in-person master’s degrees. This also includes schools that offer hybrid or even entirely online programs.

Although these last 2 are newer options, we encourage you to consider them seriously. The great advantage of an online program is the flexibility it provides. Rather than working your schedule around set classroom times, an online class allows you to arrange your school work for your personal convenience. This can be enormously advantageous, especially for those with busy lives outside of school.

Hybrid courses do not offer as much flexibility as online programs. Since hybrid classes are partly online, it still lessens the amount of time spent on campus. Make sure to check our best schools for master’s in sports psychology.

Depending on the school, you may have to decide whether to pursue a Master of Arts (M.A.) degree or a Master of Science (M.S.) degree. The key to this decision is knowing what element of the field most interests you. A M.A. degree is more likely to focus on the counselling side of sports psychology. Consequently, M.A. students may closely examine more emotionally based topics such as motivation or teambuilding.

In contrast, a M.S. degree may place greater importance on the physical element in sports psychology. Hence, a M.S. degree student may spend more time studying subjects like injury rehabilitation and training techniques.

Ultimately, every student’s educational needs are going to be different. It is your responsibility to decide what method of education will work best for you.

Educational requirements and benefits

To enter into a master’s degree program in sports psychology, you will need a bachelor’s degree with at least 120 credits or the equivalent. Ideally, this degree will be in psychology or a closely related field, but that’s not strictly necessary. Most schools will need you to have a minimum GPA of 3.0 to enter their master’s program. Some schools may also require you to take the GRE.

A master’s degree usually takes around 2 years to achieve. That said, this assumes that you attend full time throughout. A master’s degree in sports psychology will contain classes like Advanced Exercise Physiology, Theoretical Aspects of Sport and Performance Psychology, and Motor Learning and Control. Students will study topics such as the psychology of athletic injuries, explore the role of sports in American culture, and examine the ethics of sports. Students may also learn about motivational processes and investigate the stress of sports.

Such classes may provide a deeper understanding of athletes’ physical capabilities. They also may offer useful mental techniques. For example, they might suggest methods of improving focus and handling pressure. Some colleges may also provide ways to acquire practical experiences. Examples of these include practicums and community service.

Tuition and scholarships

Tuition costs will vary between colleges and programs. In 2017, the median tuition for a graduate degree at an in-state public college was $8,844. The median tuition for a graduate degree at an out-of-state private college was $28,725.

That said, a wide range of psychology scholarships are available that may help to finance your schooling, if you qualify. For instance, a financial aid scholarship is awarded to students who need financial support and maintain good academic standing.

There are also several scholarships available to LBGTQIA+, BIPOC, Rotary members, and other select groups. The American Psychological Association offers a search engine to find grants, funding, awards, and honors you might be eligible for.


Academic accreditation is a method of signaling that a school meets a certain standard of quality. This status is awarded to a school by an accreditation board. Sometimes a specific program alone will earn accreditation, rather than an entire college.

Most accredited colleges will want to advertise their qualifications. That means that they’ll usually display it proudly on their website. Since no 2 colleges have the same website layout, the precise location will vary from school to school.

Some institutions will make it especially easy to find. They’ll have a section labeled “Accreditation” in the drop-down menu. Others may make you dig around for it. They will tuck the information somewhere more discreet. The tab labeled “About [College Name]” might be an excellent place to check, or simply contact the admissions office and ask directly.

The most relevant accreditation boards for a psychology student are naturally the psychology variety. Of these, one of the most well-known is the American Board of Professional Psychology (ABPP).

Established in 1947, the ABPP is the primary accreditation organization for the field. However, sports psychology does not seem to be on their website as one of their overseen specializations.

The American Psychology Association (APA) runs the APA Commission on Accreditation (APA-COA). APA-COA is the national authority for accreditation and psychology education. Any college accredited by APA-COA is thus likely to be a high-quality school.

The American Psychological Association is the leading authority on psychology in the United States. The APA is a reliable resource to turn to for any questions.

The Association for Applied Sports Psychology is the premier organization for sports and performance professionals. AASP is also the group responsible for CMP certification.

The International Society of Sports Psychology (ISSP) is an international society dedicated to promoting the practice of and research into sports psychology. It is their mission to encourage the sharing of psychological knowledge and understanding across national borders.

The Association for Psychological Science (APS) is, like ISSP, a group that works internationally. APS primarily focuses upon the integration of scientific perspectives into psychological practice, as well as the general advancement of the discipline.