How Do You Become a Sports Psychologist?

There are different pathways to consider if you want to become a sports psychologist. This field, which represents the intersection of sports science and psychology, has seen a renewed interest from career-minded sports enthusiasts who understand the massive influence on the public of athletes and the sports they play. In the U.S. alone, the sports sector will be worth an estimated $73.5 billion by 2019, suggesting that athletes will be under pressure to perform to drive ticket sales and prestige for the team and its crew, according to Forbes. The role of the sports psychologist may include counseling, mentoring, coaching individuals or the entire team and undertaking research relevant to the field. This is a position that requires high-level skills and in-depth knowledge of psychology and sports medicine.

Choosing the Right Undergraduate Program

To start off, choose a bachelor’s degree program in psychology, sports management, counseling or a similar field. Undergraduate course studies are important in providing foundational knowledge while serving as a field test for you to determine if you should commit to this career path. It is helpful to answer this question at this stage because successful sports psychologists typically earn their doctorate credentials before they can be considered for plum jobs in this sector.

While completing your bachelor’s, explore the various specializations related to sports management and sports psychology by taking the relevant electives. Opt for a practicum or internship in this field to gain in-depth knowledge of sports psychology. A third option to become more familiar with other aspects is to audit courses and seminars relevant to sports psychology.

Building Up Your Credentials With a Master’s Degree

Once you decide that becoming a sports psychologist is your ultimate career goal, find a master’s program that is specific to this line of work. These programs may include a master’s in applied or clinical psychology, sports psychology, exercise psychology or sports management. Attending graduate school full time will help you complete the program sooner, but you may be missing out on valuable experience that can be gained while simultaneously working in the field of sports or psychology.

Apply for membership or associate membership in industry groups such as the Association for Applied Sports Psychology. Attend the annual conferences and any local affiliated events to network with industry leaders and potential mentors. Use these opportunities to gain insight on the inner workings of sports psychology as a consultant, educator or policy advocate. These experiences will help you decide the direction of your career as a sports psychologist.

Clinch the Title With a Doctorate

A pre-doctorate internship and at least one year of residency is a requirement for program completion for clinical and counseling psychologists. Other doctorate programs may want to see proof of practical experience through supervised employment in this field. The prerequisites for using the sports psychologist designation on your business paperwork are well defined in most states. Sports psychologists who provide counseling and therapy services are required to be licensed, which is in line with guidelines in all states that practicing psychologists, regardless of specialization, should comply with licensure requirements.

Related Resource: Become a School Counselor

With so much interest in sports and big investments pouring into the sports sector, this is an ideal time to become a sports psychologist. It requires years of academic preparation and progressive skill-building through practical experience, but when you finally meet all the requirements, you will be well-prepared for a lucrative career in a field that stokes your personal interests.