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The education required to be a sports psychologist

Amber McKinney provides advice on the ideal educational requirements to be a sports psychologist?

Sport psychology includes both psychology and sports science. It is an interdisciplinary field that provides teaching, conducting research, counselling, and coaching associated with sports and psychology. A doctorate is essential for most positions. Moreover, certification and licensure are crucial for being hired.

Sports psychology encompasses various disciplines within sports science and psychology. Aspiring graduates can choose multiple pathways in their education and career. There are numerous employment opportunities in sports psychology, including teaching, therapy, counselling, research, coaching, and others. 

Sports psychology is recognized as proficiency by American Psychological Association (APA). A bachelor’s degree in sports psychology might open specific employment opportunities; however, most high-level jobs require a graduate degree. There are two primary degree paths in the field of sports psychology: a master's degree and a Ph.D. A master's degree leads to non-clinical jobs. A Ph.D. with a specialization in the field of sports psychology helps in getting a license as a sports psychologist. 

To become a licensed sports and performance psychologist, it is necessary to take a doctoral degree in psychology with a specialization in academic sports psychology or performance and sports psychology. In the field of sport psychology, a master’s degree is often combined with certification in Certified Mental Performance Consultant (CMPC) rendered by the Association for Applied Sport Psychology (AASP). Suitable jobs for candidates having a master’s degree with certification include trainers, coaches, business professionals, and athletic directors. 

Degree and Course

Programs related to graduation in sports psychology and psychology require a bachelor’s degree in psychology. Or, at least, it requires a specific number of psychology coursework, kinesiology, or other courses related to sports. On the Graduate Record Examination, it is essential to have at least a 3.0 GPA and higher than average scores. It also requires experience and reference in psychology research, psychology, coaching, or any other associated environments. During graduation, students are taught the basics of clinical work and professional psychology. In addition to this, they are also taught topics that are related to working with athletes. The coursework associated with sports psychology might include:

  • Applied Sport Psychology
  • Advanced Kinesiology
  • Ethics in Sports and Exercises
  • Stress in Sports and Exercise
  • Sports in American Culture
  • Sports and Exercise Psychology
  • Motivational Processes

Profiles Related to Sports Psychology Programs

Several schools offer a master’s degree in exercise, sports, or performance psychology. It would help if you kept in mind that clinical sports psychologists are required to have a doctoral degree. A master’s degree can help in preparing for further graduate programs that can be helpful for current and prospective physical education coaches, teachers, and other professionals. 

Programs for Masters

National University

The Master of Arts in Performance Psychology program of National University concentrates on performance psychology techniques, sport science, counselling athletes, enhancing performance, and counselling the performers. Fourteen courses, including sixty-three quarters and hands-on experience, are included in this program. Some of the courses in this program include Ethics in Performance Psychology, Organizational Behavior, and Consulting Skills. These programs help the students to get prepared to work with professional athletes and children in colleges and schools as coaches.

University of Denver

The Graduate School of Professional Psychology at the University of Denver offers a MA degree in the discipline of sport and performance psychology. The program is specifically designed for people working in the field of mental health, athletics, health, and fitness, or performing arts. This program also prepares professionals to pursue doctoral degrees in the field of sports psychology. To apply for the program, applicants are required to have a 3.5 or higher GPA, letters of recommendation, GRE scores, and a personal essay.

A well-written personal essay with appropriate grammar and structure plays a vital role in getting admission to the University. There are varied online websites offering help for essay writing like These sites have highly qualified, skilled, and professional academic writers like Lauren Bradshaw to provide your adequate assistance for writing the essay.

Programs for Doctorate

University of North Texas

This university offers a Ph.D. in the field of counseling psychology with a focus on sport and exercise in sport and exercise psychology. The program renders education to the students in practical counseling psychology. It also helps them in developing skills and experience that are required to work with athletes. Other specialized courses for this program include Applied Psychology, Social Psychology of Sport, and Exercise and Sport Psychology. Students are also required to complete a practicum, in which they are asked to attain real-world experience working with sports teams and athletes under the supervision of senior faculty members.

Oregon State University

College of Public Health and Human Science of Oregon State University offers options to those who are interested in getting a graduate degree in sports psychology. Students get the opportunity to attain a Ph.D. degree in exercise and sport science with a specific focus on sports psychology. In order to complete the degree that requires 12 credit hours in the methods of research. It also requires researching actual projects. To get admission, students are required to have a minimum of a 3.00 GPA. GRE scores and three recommendation letters.  

Purdue University

The Sport and Exercise Psychology program of the university focuses on research. Four years are required to complete a Ph.D. In this program, students are required to focus on developing a research program, which is complemented by their coursework and dissertation. Applicants need to submit GRE scores, transcripts, and recommendation letters.

Online Programs

California University of Pennsylvania

The university offers an online degree of Master of Science (MS) in Exercise Science and Health Promotion with a focus on Sport Psychology. Students are provided with facilities like one-on-one mentoring and flexible scheduling options. It is a 36-hour program that can be easily completed in 12 months, having full-time study. If you opt for part-time, then you can complete the course in 17 months. The core areas of focus include performance enhancement, injury, and rehabilitation, and practice referrals. 

Job Description of Sports Psychologist

A degree in the field of sport and performance psychology can help you in getting a job in a wide range of fields. A doctoral degree is essential for becoming a licensed psychologist. Moreover, a master’s degree can help in enhancing the knowledge and skills of physical education teachers, athletic coaches, physical trainers and therapists, and other working athletes. Below mentioned are some jobs related to the field of sports psychology.

  • Athletic Coach
  • Performance Coach
  • Academic Researcher
  • Sports Rehabilitation Specialist
  • Professor or Lecturer
  • Health Program Coordinator

Page Reference

If you quote information from this page in your work, then the reference for this page is:

  • McKINNEY, A. (2020) The education required to be a sports psychologist [WWW] Available from: [Accessed

About the Author

Amber Mckinney has many years' experience as a professional freelance writer.