According to the American Psychological Association (APA), sport psychology addresses how sports performance and psychology interact. This definition encompasses optimal performance, health and well-being for athletes, linked with the physical and mental elements of sports.
In recent years, sport psychology has entered the mainstream discussion, as great athletes like Tom Brady and Michael Jordan have revealed how much they focus on the mental side of the game. Books like The Inner Game of Tennis show how to apply sport psychology beyond the court, field or gym.
Earning a master’s in sport psychology can position you to thrive in this emerging field. Let’s explore the details.
What is a Master’s in Sport Psychology?
If you’re wondering how to become a sport psychologist, this degree is a great place to start. A master’s in sport psychology is an advanced degree that blends theoretical classroom-based coursework with fieldwork experiences. A typical sport psychology curriculum covers micro-level interactions among athletes, coaches and clients, along with macro topics that can affect change within larger organizations like teams and leagues.
In these programs, students learn techniques for helping athletes perform better, overcome obstacles and recover from injuries. They also learn the theory behind how to improve team dynamics and coaching best practices.
Many programs require approximately 36 to 54 credits and take between one and three years to complete. Online sport psychology master’s programs may deliver coursework synchronously, which entails scheduled courses, or asynchronously, which does not involve set class times. Many programs also offer both full-time and part-time enrollment.
Master’s in Sport Psychology Admission Requirements
Many schools do not offer undergraduate sport psychology programs, so you usually do not need a bachelor’s in sport psychology to apply to a master’s program in the field. However, most master’s in sport psychology programs expect applicants to hold a degree in a relevant field like psychology, exercise science, kinesiology or physical education.
Most programs require students to have some experience with psychological fundamentals, such as research methods, research design or the collection of quantitative and qualitative data. Basic knowledge of sports and the fundamentals of athletic performance can also help students succeed in sport psychology master’s programs.
Many programs also prefer to admit applicants with a minimum 3.0 cumulative undergraduate GPA. This cutoff can vary. Some programs also allow prospective students who do not meet minimum GPA standards to earn conditional admission by submitting strong GRE scores.
Additional admission requirements may include a statement of purpose, letters of recommendation, a resume and an interview with the admissions department.
Sport Psychology as a Specialization
Some schools do not have master’s in sport psychology programs, instead offering sport psychology as a specialization within a broader graduate psychology program. Students in these programs do not earn an entire degree in sport psychology, but they gain the knowledge they need to succeed in the field.
In broader psychology programs, students may need to complete additional lab or practicum requirements.
Master’s in Sports Psychology Courses
Every sport psychology master’s program offers a unique curriculum, but certain classes are common among sport psychology degrees. See below for a sampling of the courses you might take as a sport psychology master’s student.
Sport Theory and Social Systems
This course explores the relationship between sports and social and cultural factors and dynamics. Coursework typically delves into athletes’ behavioral responses to various sociocultural stimuli and motivations. Students may also discuss the importance of sports in both present and past civilizations.
Counseling Skills and Techniques in Sports
In this course, students learn best practices and their theoretical backing for providing counseling services to athletes and coaches. Students often discuss various psychological skills training programs for sports teams. They may also learn specific counseling interventions and techniques.
Most master’s in sport psychology programs require all students to complete a certain number of internship or practicum hours in the field. For example, Boston University mandates that its sport psychology students complete at least 400 hours in a relevant internship over the course of their time in the program.
Careers for Master’s in Sport Psychology Graduates
Average Annual Salary: Around $75,000
Job Description: Sports psychologists work with athletes, coaches and parents. They provide counseling services to help clients maximize their performance and deal with changes in their careers. These professionals might also work with entire teams to help them optimize the mental side of their sport in big games.
Average Annual Salary: $249,760
Job Description: Sports psychiatrists assess, diagnose, and treat athletes, looking for psychiatric challenges and disorders. They may also help athletes optimize performance and improve habits, much like sports psychologists.
Median Annual Salary: $38,970
Projected Job Growth (2021-2031): 20%
Job Description: Coaches create team strategy, work one-on-one with athletes, and provide athletes with the tools they need to succeed in their sport. Coaches can work at the K-12, college, minor league, and professional levels. Hours can be irregular, and many coaches work much more than 40 hours per week when their sport or team is in season.
Frequently Asked Questions About Sports Psychology
How many years is a master’s in sport psychology?
Completion times for a master’s in sport psychology vary depending on the individual program and school. In most cases, however, students can earn a master’s in sport psychology within one to three years. Your enrollment status (full time vs. part time) affects how long it takes to earn your degree.
Are sport psychologists in high demand?
According to the APA, as of 2018, the demand for sports psychologists was on the rise among young, amateur and professional athletes alike. More and more athletes are recognizing the importance of the mental side of the game in optimizing their performance, as well as the importance of mental health in general in living a healthy life.
Do sport psychologists make a lot of money?
No degree can guarantee you a particular salary, but most sport psychologists earn above-average wages. According to PayScale, sport psychologists earn an average salary of approximately $75,000 per year.
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