How to Become a Sports Psychologist


Playing sports is a popular lifestyle choice in the United States. Every day, people throughout the nation are hitting the gym, running through their neighborhoods, climbing rock walls and keeping in shape in order to tackle their sport. People will go to great lengths in order to be the best athlete possible.

Increasingly, sports psychology is a vital part of keeping the athletic lifestyle intact. Sports psychologists counsel clients in order to enhance physical performance, focusing on the mental factors that contribute to better athleticism including subjects like team communication, toughness, coaching methods. With background in kinesiology as well as psychology, sports psychologists are experts in mental strategies and methods that improve athletes.


It is important to genuinely enjoy athletics before pursuing sports psychology. The profession is perfect for those who played sports throughout their formative years – cheerleaders, little leaguers, pop warner football players and high school athletes. Those with a love of sports as well as the human mind can thrive in this field.


How can one begin down the path towards the sports psychology profession? Like any psychologist, a PhD is necessary. Because of this, becoming a sports psychologist takes years of challenging course work as well as hands-on learning experience. But with the correct attitude, the right academic learning and doctoral training, the goal is within reach.

The first step towards any type professional psychology is to obtain a bachelor’s degree. A degree in psychology is ideal, although any degree is acceptable as long as a student can gain entry to a graduate school with the chosen major. A degree in Kinesiology would be an amazing asset if the student’s goal is to be a sports psychologist.

Related: How to Get a Graduate Degree in Sports Psychology

Picking a grad school is an important step for those who wish to be sports psychologists. Universities and colleges often specialize in certain programs – some specialize in school psychology, criminal psychology, child psychology, etc. It is important to do research when choosing where to pursue an advanced degree.

Talk to professors or professionals: Asking favorite professors where they gained an advanced degree is an easy way to get started. Professors can offer advice based on personal experience and insider knowledge, especially if familiar with sports psychology. Professionals who are already in the field can offer information concerning their own schooling and career.

Search the internet: Find out which schools offer specialized doctorate programs for sports psychology. Online degrees will be common in search results, but try to focus on traditional graduate schools as they offer more individual attention and a better learning environment.

Talk to admissions counselors: Once good schools with sports psychology programs have been identified, make contact with admissions counselors or professors at the school. They can offer information about letters of reference, GRE scores and other information that could give certain students an edge.


Programs that help place students in internships may benefit the student greatly – many students that are pursuing clinical psychology, such as sports psychology doctorates, find it challenging to procure an internship. Internships seem to be few and far between – you must use to find an internship– the recovering economy still allows little room for the hiring of interns and there are usually more candidates than there are internships. Internships can be found at non-profit agencies, research agencies, schools, community organizations and hospitals.

Entry Level Jobs

Getting a foot in the door is important, many times recently graduated PhD students or PhD candidates begin careers working for the county or state.  Some lucky sports psychologists will be retained from their internships. A freshly graduated sports psychologist can gain employment with family doctors or chiropractors that service local athletes. Some luxury gyms will have sports psychologist on hand to counsel members.

Eventually, sports psychologists aim to work for a professional team or start a private practice – but that takes a few years of grunt work first.

Related: What are the Career Options With a Degree in Sports Psychology?

Licensure Hours

To become a fully licensed, a sports psychologist must eventually complete 3,000 supervised hours of practice. Graduated doctoral students gain these hours through a combination of internships and entry level positions.


According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the average sports psychologist brings in about $89,900. On the low end of the scale, they can make as low as$41,200 per year and as high as $119,940. As Americans are becoming more and more health conscious the outlook for sports psychology professions is only getting better.

Training and Self-Development

Even after completing all the elements – degrees, internships, entry level jobs – sports psychologists should continue the trend of self-improvement.

According to the Seven Habits of Highly Successful People, continued self-improvement or “sharpening the saw,” is an important practice. Attending professional trainings, symposiums and conventions are great ways to continue learning. Likewise, continuing physical activity or playing sports on community teams are both great ways to stay connected to the lifestyle of potential clients.

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