How to Become a Sports Psychologist in the US

The Sport in Mind

Sports psychologists study the psychological factors that affect the performance of several types of athletes, from golfers to swimmers. They use their knowledge to motivate and enhance the performance of individual athletes, as well as sports teams. If you want a career that enables you to work with people who are determined to excel, this could be it!

What Do Sports Psychologists Do?

The duties of sports psychologists include:

  • Assessing the mental behavior and sporting performance of athletes
  • Devising effective strategies to help athletes overcome certain problems, such as lack of sporting confidence
  • Counseling athletes on how to handle the anxiety that comes with sporting competitions
  • Collaborating with nutritionists, trainers and other professionals to help athletes overcome various performance issues
  • Conducting research to gather more information on sports psychology topics

Work Environment

The working conditions for sports psychologists vary with the nature of the sport. For example, sports psychologists who work with football teams are expected to be at work during the evening and weekends when matches are typically played. On the other hand, those who work at sports clinics and other healthcare settings have regular 9am to 5pm, Monday through Friday schedules.

Some sports psychologists, especially those with clients who participate in international competitions, travel extensively.


What is the national annual average salary for sports psychologists? Find out below:


Annual Average Salary

Sports Psychologists


Source: Psychology Career Center

Entry Requirements

To qualify for employment as a sports psychologist, you must complete the following steps:

  • It is essential to note your undergraduate options are not limited to these courses. Since it takes a graduate degree to qualify for this job, you can obtain a bachelor’s degree in any field that is related to psychology or sports medicine
  • Earn a master’s degree in sports psychology – The University of Denver in Colorado is among the few universities that offer this credential in the US

At this level, you can submit your resume to potential employers!

Important Qualities

What other competencies do you need to be a competent sports psychologist?

  • Excellent analytical skills
  • Strong research skills
  • An interest in sporting activities
  • Good problem-solving skills
  • The ability to inspire or motivate others
  • Good communication and interpersonal skills
  • Good decision making skills
  • Patience and the emotional resilience to work with injured athletes.

Career Development

To advance your career and improve your chances of working with high-profile athletes or sports teams, pursue the following paths:

  • Obtain a professional certification from the Association for Applied Sport Psychology
  • Pursue a doctorate in sports psychology
  • Join professional associations, such as the International Society of Sport Psychology and the American Psychological Association’s Exercise and Sports Psychology Division

Job Opportunities

The employers of sports psychologists include:

  • School systems
  • Sports clinics
  • Hospitals
  • Performance consulting companies
  • Sports clubs
  • Gyms
  • Physical rehabilitation centers

With vast experience, you can establish and run your own sports clinic or performance consulting company.

Now that you know what it takes to become a sports psychologist, how good are your job prospects? Well, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the employment of all psychologists will grow by 12 percent from 2012 through 2022, faster than 11 percent average for all occupations.

So if you are passionate about a certain sport and wish to become a psychologist, then perhaps this is the right career for you.

American Psychological Association