The article below describes why you may want to earn your degree in sports psychology. We will describe the different sports psychology degrees you can earn, any specialties in the field, good reasons to earn the degree, and information about accreditation.
What Is a Sports Psychology Degree?
A sports psychology degree teaches you advanced psychological techniques and principles that you can use to help athletes that have psychological and mental issues that affect their athletic performance. Most of these issues are not serious mental health problems; rather, they are mental issues that degrade their performance. For example, some athletes may experience anxiety or lack of focus before or during a competition, and this affects results.
They also may have difficulty communicating with other teammates, or may have trouble with controlling their temper. Some athletes also have difficulty at times motivating themselves to train. Others may struggle with injuries and need to overcome performance related mental issues that affect their ability to recover.
In sports psychology, you will learn how to help athletes to deal with these issues to enhance performance. You also will learn psychological principles that will help athletes to:
- Deal with the high pressures of the competitive environment
- Improve performance after being injured
- Maintain fitness in the off season by staying motivated to train
Many sports psychologists eventually work in their own private practice, which means you need to earn your doctoral degree.
After you earn your psychology degree, you must apply for licensure in the state in which you intend to practice. You also will need to practice the Examination for Professional Practice in Psychology. This test is administered by the Association of State and Provincial Psychology Boards.
The American Board of Professional Psychology also offers certification in 15 different subspecialties of psychology.
Why Earn a Sports Psychology Degree?
A degree in sports psychology provides you with the skills and techniques that are needed for you to help amateur and professional athletes of all kinds. This can be a very valuable degree for professionals who have a strong interest in psychology and/or working in the sports world in many different capacities.
Some school districts may also hire sports psychologists to work with student athletes, and some sports psychologists are finding higher demand at hospitals, gyms and physical rehabilitation facilities. The APA states that at least 20 NCAA Division 1 universities have sports psychologists on staff, and at least another 75 schools contract with sports psychologists.
One of the biggest reasons that many professionals earn their sports psychology degree is that the demand for all types of psychologists are on the upswing. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, demand for all types of psychologists will rise by 19% by 2024.
In particular, there will be increased demand for clinical and counseling psychologists. Some psychologists in these areas may also work on a part time basis as a sports psychologist as well. Some psychologists choose to earn their master’s or doctoral degree in a clinical or counseling psychology program, and then later take classes in:
- Sports medicine
- Business and marketing
So, the field of sports psychology is often a subset of clinical or counseling psychology that you may choose to specialize in after you have gained significant experience as a licensed therapist.
Choosing Your Degree Path
Sports psychology is a niche program, and there are several paths available to you to get into sports psychology in your education:
- Bachelor of Arts in Sport Psychology
- Master’s Degree in Sport Psychology
- Master of Arts in Sport-Exercise Psychology
- Master of Science in Sport and Exercise Psychology
- D. in Sport and Exercise Psychology
- Master of Arts in Performance Psychology
- Master of Science in Psychology with Concentration in Sports Counseling
To practice as a psychologist, you must eventually earn at least your master’s degree and attain your license. To practice on your own, you will need to get your Ph.D. A bachelor’s degree in psychology will provide you with a great background in psychology and sports psychology, but you cannot practice as a counselor with only your undergraduate degree.
In any master’s or Ph.D. program that leads to licensure, you will need to take basic and advanced psychology courses, including:
- Research methods
- Foundations of counseling theories
- Clinical issues in interviewing and diagnosis
- Theories of sports excellence
- Sports and performance psychology
Online Sports Psychology Degree Options
For professionals who want to further their education in sports psychology, you can earn your degree online at the California University of Pennsylvania. This is a one year master’s program that provides you with a Master of Science in Exercise Science and Health Promotion: Sports Psychology Curriculum.
This track of the master’s in psychology degree program is designed for the health and fitness professional, educator and others to gain the knowledge that they need in sports psychology that can be useful to enhance your practice. Courses in this program will provide you with the information to identify injuries, effects of injuries, rehabilitation and recovery, and how to enhance performance with proven psychological tools.
Coursework in this sports psychology master’s program includes:
- Orientation to Exercise Science and Wellness
- Essentials of Human Movement Science
- Nutrition for Peak Performance
- Exercise Physiology
- Special Topics in Sport Psychology
- Psychological Aspects of Sports Injury and Rehabilitation
- Psychological Perspectives in Sport Performance Enhancement and Intervention
- Research in Sport Psychology
When you are looking for a sports psychology degree program, you should ensure that the university is accredited by one of the six, regional accreditation agencies recognized by the US Department of Education:
- Accrediting Commission for Community and Junior Colleges (ACCJC) Western Association of Schools and Colleges
- Higher Learning Commission (HLC)
- New England Association of Schools and Colleges (NEASC-CIHE) Commission on Institutions of Higher Education
- Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges (SACSCOC)
- WASC Senior College and University Commission (WSCUC)
- Middle States Commission on Higher Education (MSCHE)
With the general increase in demand for psychologists, earning a degree in sports psychology can be a very good move if your career goals are especially focused on enhancing performance in sports by working closely with athletes of all kinds from high school to amateur to professional.