A sports psychologist applies the theories and principles of psychology to sport and exercise. The field of sports psychology is relatively young, but it is a broad discipline that can help professional and amateur athletes alike.
Sports psychology is technically a division of kinesiology and physical education. However, a strong background in psychology is helpful in pursuing this competitive career. Sports psychology incorporates two key areas of study: Understanding how psychology can improve motivation and performance; and understanding how an active lifestyle can improve mental wellness.
What do they do?
Applied sports psychology
Sports psychologists working in applied sports psychology teach their clients skills and techniques to improve motivation, performance and endurance. They may use visualization tactics, meditation, intrinsic and extrinsic motivation and other mental training to help athletes. Professional and amateur athletes may seek an applied sports psychologist when they need assistance coping with the pressure of competition, recovering from an injury or even combating burnout.
Clinical sports psychology
Clinical sports psychology combines applied techniques with clinical mental health care. Athletes who suffer from depression, eating disorders or substance abuse may choose to hire a clinical sports psychologist, especially when their problems are affecting athletic performance. A clinical sports psychologist helps the athlete not only train their mind for success, but also address mental health issues that may be affecting areas of their lives outside of sports.
Academic sports psychology
Sports psychologists working in academia are usually research faculty at colleges and universities. They teach courses in the field and conduct research on behalf of the school. Sports psychologists in this setting may conduct experiments, develop surveys and polls or analyze observational data. These psychologists may also work with university or college athletes.
How much do they make?
Salaries for sports psychologists depend on the amount of education and training the professional has, as well as the clientele that psychologist attracts. The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) reported in May 2010 that the median salary was $89,900 for psychologists working in fields other than clinical, counseling, I-O and schools. The top 10 percent of earners made more than $111,810.
Of course, sports psychologists who work with professional athletes will be among the highest paid. These figures can be compared to the national median for all professions, which was $33,840 as of May 2010.
Is this career right for me?
Those who wish to enter the field of psychology in any specialization will need to make a considerable time investment. Those who wish to practice under the title “psychologist” will need at least a master’s degree; many states require psychologists to hold a Ph.D. or Psy.D. Entry-level positions with a bachelor’s degree in psychology are rare and usually take the form of internships.
Beyond educational requirements, sports psychologists should possess excellent people skills, communication skills, analytical and observational skills, patience and sports knowledge. If you enjoy fitness and helping others live more active and healthy lifestyles, then this may be the career for you. Keep in mind that not everyone who pursues a degree in sports psychology will go on to work with famous professional athletes.
How can I become one?
While entry-level jobs with a bachelor’s degree in psychology are rare, that degree can provide an excellent foundation for a career as a sports psychologist. Graduate programs in sports psychology are typically offered through the kinesiology and physical education departments.
Psychologists, including sports psychologist, must obtain and maintain a state license or certification to practice. Typically, certification requires an advanced degree in the field, one to two years of professional experience and a passing score on the Examination for Professional Practice in Psychology.
Unfortunately, graduate education opportunities for sports psychologists are limited. The American Board of Sport Psychology does offer different professional certifications. Many sports psychologists who hold one of these designations are also licensed clinical psychologists.
For more information on this career path or to get started with your online bachelors degree in sports psychology, contact a Brescia University enrollment counselor. Our online psychology degree completion program can help you pick up where you left off and continue the journey to a rewarding career.
Established in 1950, Brescia University is a Catholic, liberal arts institution founded in the Ursuline tradition of personal and social transformation through education. With the advent of BUonline, Brescia brings accredited undergraduate and graduate programs to students across the nation. Brescia’s commitment to a student-centered environment rewards students who seek success through meaningful careers and service to others.
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