What Do Sports Psychologists Do?
Sports psychologists typically perform a range of tasks related to sports performance and education. Some opt to teach at the university level, while others work directly with athletes to increase motivation and enhance performance. Other options include client counseling, scientific research and athletic consulting.
In addition to working with professional athletes, sports psychologists also utilize their expertise to increase the mental well-being of non-athletes. They may work with a range of clients including children and teens involved in athletics, professional athletes and teams interested in improving their performance and injured athletes working toward returning to competition.
Is a Career in Sports Psychology Right for Me?:
Only you can decide if a sports psychology career is suited to your needs, interests, talents and goals. If you dislike sports or exercise, this career is probably not for you. But if you enjoy helping people achieve their full potential, solving complex problems and working as part of a team, this field might be an ideal match for you.
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What Are the Pros and Cons of a Career in Sports Psychology?
Like all careers, sports psychology has its advantages and disadvantages. Before you decide if this career is right for you, spend some time learning more about sports psychology. Explore your options by taking an introductory course on the subject and weigh your choices carefully before you decide.
Benefits of a Career in Sports Psychology
- Sports psychologists often work as part of a collaborative team.
- There are diverse career paths and specialization opportunities (i.e. teaching, youth sports, professional athletics training).
- It can be a fun, challenging and exciting job.
How Much Do Sports Psychologists Typically Earn?
Pay ranges vary considerably within sports psychology based on training, education, and area of specialization. According to the Occupational Outlook Handbook published by the U.S. Department of Labor, average salaries for clinical and counseling psychologists range between $51,850 and $81,880. The median salary for university faculty positions was $55,000 in a 2001 salary survey by the American Psychological Association (APA) (Singleton et al., 2003). Some top sports psychologists earn six-figure salaries working as consultants for professional athletes, but most earn a more modest yearly income.
What Type of Degree Do Sports Psychologists Need?
Entry-level positions with a bachelor’s degree are rare, usually taking the form of internships. Most positions require a master’s or doctorate degree in clinical, counseling or sports psychology as well as direct training and experience in apply psychology to sports and exercise.
The American Board of Sport Psychology offers a few different professional certifications. The highest level credential is the Board Certified Sports Psychologist-Diplomat, which “…signifies that the holder has advanced training and experience in Sport Psychology and is especially aware of ethical, methodological, and research issues associated with the application of methods to enhance the psychological performance of athletes.” Many who hold this certification are also certified or licensed clinical, counseling or health psychologists.
Because there are few graduate programs offering specialized degrees in sports psychology, it can be difficult to determine what exact combination of training and experience qualifies a professional to be called a ‘sports psychologist.’ Division 47 of the APA suggests that sports psychologists should be licensed psychologists with “experience in applying psychological principles in sports settings.” Additionally, an extensive educational background and training in sports, motivation management, performance and athletics is also recommended.
Only you can decide if a sports psychology career is suited to your needs, interests, talents and goals. If you dislike sports or exercise, this career is probably not for you. But if you enjoy helping people achieve their full potential, solving complex problems and working as part of a team, this field might be an ideal match for you. The field of sports psychiatry is relatively new compared to sports psychology, but it’s a growing field so if you’re interested, you might want to consider speaking with someone from a psychiatry recruitment firm about your career options.
American Board of Sports Psychology. (n.d.) Credential and certificates: Description and Q and A. http://www.americanboardofsportpsychology.org/Certificates/tabid/581/Default.aspx
Cherry, K. (2012). Career profile – sports psychology. Retrieved from http://psychology.about.com/od/psychologycareerprofiles/p/sportspsyc.htm
Sugarman, K. (2009). Careers in sports psychology. Psych Web. http://psychology.about.com/od/psychologycareerprofiles/p/sportspsyc.htm