The best master’s degrees in sports psychology

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Why get a master’s degree in sports psychology?

A master’s degree in sports psychology allows you a detailed exploration of these 2 disciplines. You’ll look at psychological theories and approaches to  gain an extensive understanding about how fitness, nutrition, and motivation can affect performance. The two subjects combine to examine issues including overcoming anxiety in sport, recovering from injury, and improving one’s mindset to influence training and competition.

The graduate programs teach you a number of transferable skills that can be applied in several environments. You’ll understand the behaviors, processes, and attitudes that lead to success, as well as those that help with stress and high-pressure situations. While a passion for sports and exercise is essential, a desire to support, communicate, and challenge those you are coaching is also critical.

A master’s degree in sports psychology can set you on the path to earn a doctorate and become a certified sports psychologist. Alternatively, you might choose to become a senior coach or consultant. Your first step is to identify your area of interest and select a university and program that suits your needs. Read on to discover our selection of the top schools offering a master’s degree in sports psychology.

Top programs for a master’s in sports psychology

  • Michigan State University

    Michigan State University East Lansing, Michigan
    Michigan State University

    At MSU’s College of Education, you can earn a master’s degree through the kinesiology department. The master of science (M.S.) in kinesiology has 7 options, and the psychosocial aspects of sport and physical activity concentration would suit those pursuing a career in sports psychology.

    Alternative programs that MSU offers with psychological aspects include:

    • M.S. in sport coaching and leadership with a coaching concentration
    • M.S. in sport coaching and leadership with a leadership concentration

    The program includes coursework on socio-cultural practices in sport and techniques for athlete development. Students can transfer up to 9 graduate-level credits. The sport coaching and leadership program is taught online, whereas the M.S. in kinesiology with the psychology specialization is taught in-person at the campus in East Lansing.

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  • Boston University

    Boston University Boston, Massachusetts
    Boston University

    The Wheelock College of Education and Human Development at BU offers a masters of education degree (EdM) with a concentration in sports psychology. The program has a strong foundation in mental health concepts, which makes it ideal for those wanting to become a licensed counselor or sports psychologist.

    Coursework includes performance enhancement, a sports psychology practicum, and 700 training experience hours. Transfer students need to meet the same admission requirements as other students. Any credits that have been earned at another institution but haven’t been used towards a degree will be evaluated for transfer. The program is taught in-person at Wheelock College in Boston.

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  • California State University

    California State University Long Beach, California
    California State University

    The College of Health and Human Services at CSU offers an M.S. in kinesiology with a concentration in sport and exercise psychology. Coursework includes applied sport psychology, sport in U.S. culture, and psychological aspects of sport injury. Graduate teaching and research assistantships are available.

    The M.S. in kinesiology comes with the following concentration options:

    • Coaching and student athlete development
    • Sport management
    • Individualized studies
    • Exercise physiology and nutrition
    • Exercise science
      Sport and exercise psychology

      For students who have completed coursework at another institution but haven’t earned their degree, CSU accepts and recognizes transfer credits. The program is taught in person at the Long Beach campus.
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  • University of North Texas

    University of North Texas Denton, Texas
    University of North Texas

    Check out UNT’s sports psychology program from the department of kinesiology, health promotion, and recreation. It delivers an M.S. in kinesiology with an emphasis in psychosocial aspects of sport and exercise.

    The coursework includes motor behavior, sport and exercise psychology, and social psychology of sport. There’s an option to complete a thesis; non-thesis students can sit an exam, choose additional electives, and conclude with a capstone project. UNT accepts transfer admissions and all master’s degree students need to meet the Toulouse Graduate School requirements. The program is taught in person at the campus in Denton.

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  • Texas A & M University

    Texas A & M University Kingsville, Texas
    Texas A & M University

    The Kingsville campus of Texas A and M University is home to the College of Graduate Studies, which offers an M.S. in kinesiology with several choices for specialization:

    • Health/exercise science
    • Performance psychology
    • Sport management
    • Generalist

    The performance psychology concentration includes coursework such as youth fitness and performance, counseling techniques, and performance in environmental extremes. There are options to complete research and an internship or a thesis. The College of Graduate Studies accepts transfer students, although an A or B grade needs to be achieved for the credit to be accepted. The program is taught in a traditional in-person format at the Kingsville campus.

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  • Ball State University

    Ball State University Muncie, Indiana
    Ball State University

    The School of Kinesiology at Ball State University delivers several programs:

    • M.A. in sport and exercise psychology
    • M.S. in sport and exercise psychology
    • M.S. in clinical exercise physiology
    • M.A. in sports performance

    Depending on your chosen career path, you might want to focus on the performance aspect for coaching or psychology if you aim to become a consultant or sports psychologist.

    The coursework for the psychology concentration includes sport sociology, psychology of injury rehabilitation, and a sports psychology practicum. Students completing a thesis will earn an M.S., whereas those who choose a project or research paper will earn an M.A. Ball State University will consider accepting transfer credits where a C grade or higher was obtained. The program is taught in person at the campus in Muncie.

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  • University of Denver

    University of Denver Denver, Colorado
    University of Denver

    The Graduate School of Professional Psychology at the University of Denver offers an M.A. in sport and performance psychology. The school also offers an M.A. in sport coaching online. These 2 programs are popular as they focus on sports psychology instead of having it as a concentration of a broader degree program.

    Coursework for the sport and performance psychology program includes theories of performance excellence, team and organizational dynamics, and sport and performance psychology interventions. A research project and a practicum are required. An application advisor at the Graduate School of Professional Psychology can discuss with you the possibility of accepting transfer credits. The program is taught in-person at the campus in Denver.

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  • Florida State University

    Florida State University Tallahassee, Florida
    Florida State University

    The College of Education at FSU delivers a sports psychology graduate program through the department of educational psychology and learning systems. Coursework for the M.S. in sport psychology includes stress and performance, group dynamics in sport, and cognitive sport psychology.

    The program includes supervised practical work with athletes, which is essential for those wishing to pursue certification. There’s a coursework-only option with an exam or a thesis track. FSU accepts transfer students and credits from accredited institutions after evaluation. The program is taught in person at the Tallahassee campus.

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Financial support

When it comes to financial support for your degree, you’ll have a few choices. They include grants, scholarships, financial aid, or a federal loan. You can complete the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) form to determine your eligibility for federal aid.

Alternatively, you might consider an award, scholarship, or grant for graduate students studying sports psychology. For example, the American Psychological Foundation (APF) provides graduate scholarships for those conducting research and intending to continue their education to earn a doctor of philosophy (Ph.D.).

Careers

Many people who study sports psychology wish to pursue a career as a sports psychologist. The average annual salary for that position is $72,257. This role requires a doctoral degree, which means you’ll need to continue your education.

However, there are other options for master’s degree holders. With certification from the Association for Applied Sport Psychology (AASP), you could become a certified mental performance consultant, with an average annual salary of $53,513.Other options include a sports coach, with an average annual salary of $44,191, or a post-secondary teacher, with an average annual salary of $80,790.

Association for Applied Sport Psychology (AASP)

A professional organization that oversees certification opportunities for members and promotes best practice in the field.

American Board of Sports Psychology (ABSP)

An organization that aims to advance education and best practice for sports psychologists. It also offers competency and certification opportunities.

American Psychological Association (APA)

A professional membership organization aimed at psychologists and has a dedicated section for sports psychologists.