Getting a Sports Psychology Degree: What You Need to Know

Are you interested in a career in sports psychology? If so, a sports psychology degree is an important step. We provide an overview of what you can expect.

Sports psychology is an incredibly interesting field, with a diverse range of career opportunities.

Not only do you have the chance to work with high-performance athletes, but you are also able to get involved with other professionals in high-stress physical environments! This includes the military, police, and fire services, among others.

In order to work in sports psychology, you’ll need a relevant degree. But how do you get there?  And what do you do, anyway? We take a closer look below.

What Is A ​​Sports Psychology Degree?

A degree in sports psychology (also known as sport psychology) is acquired after at least two years of study dedicated to the field at a tertiary education provider (a college or university).

Although a sports psychology degree doesn’t necessarily mean you can immediately go out and practice sports psychology, it’s a necessary step along the way to ensure you understand the field well.

Sports psychology can be studied at both undergraduate and postgraduate levels, depending on which university you attend.

In your study of sports psychology, you’ll learn key ideas and methods used in the field and in many cases also get practical experience in the field.

How Is A Sports Psychology Degree Different To A Regular Psychology Degree?

Psychology and sports psychology broadly overlap – both are geared towards the treatment of the mind, and studying either gives you a solid foundation for treating mental health.

This overlap is reflected in the fact that many post-graduate degree options for sports psychology only require a general psychology undergraduate background.

Sports psychology further specializes in the field to learn about enhancing performance through various mental and therapeutic techniques.

Which Universities Offer Sports Psychology Degrees?

Universities in many countries and areas offer sports psychology degrees.

The easiest way to see whether your university offers a sports psychology qualification is to get in contact with them directly.

It is usually more common to find a university offering a Master’s degree or PhD in sports psychology than a Bachelor’s degree in the field.

Do I Need To Do Any Study Before I Begin The Degree?

Depending on what kind of sports psychology degree you are doing, you may need to do some prior study.

If you are applying to a post-graduate (Master’s or PhD) sports psychology program, you need to have completed a relevant undergraduate degree (typically a Bachelor’s).

New: Ask the Angel!

For most sports psychology degrees, an undergraduate degree in general psychology is sufficient to enter the program, although a specific sports psychology undergraduate degree is obviously an advantage.

If you are applying to an undergraduate sports psychology program, you may need to do some particular courses at high school.

This will depend on which institution you’re studying at, and you should check their requirements for the course.

How Long Will My Degree Take To Complete?

An undergraduate degree typically takes at least 3-4 years to complete.

A master’s degree will take at least two years, on top of a pre-existing bachelor’s degree.

A PhD can take several years, but typically requires at least 2-3 years on top of your existing study (typically including a Master’s degree).

How Do I Decide Which Course Is Right For Me?

Of course, just like any other degree, there are many factors influencing whether or not a particular course of study will suit you.

If we ignore the regular decision points around degree providers such as cost, distance, reputation, and so on, there are a few considerations when beginning a sports psychology degree.

Practical Experience

If you want to move into the mental performance field (see Career Paths), practical experience is almost always necessary.

So, it’s worth considering whether the course you’re looking at offers a practical component.

Even if you’re not necessarily looking at moving into the mental performance field, practical experience might be something you’d like to get before you move into the workforce anyway.

Alignment With Further Qualification

If you are looking to pursue further qualifications in the sports psychology field (i.e. certification or accreditation by a professional body), you’ll want to check whether your course is aligned with that particular qualification.

If it isn’t, that might mean you need to do extra work after completing it, or it might not get you towards the qualification you want at all.

For this reason, this is one of the more important things to consider when choosing a degree option.

Three Career Paths In Sports Psychology

1. Personal Trainer

Sports psychologists have excellent backgrounds to become personal trainers.

After completing your degree, you’ll understand how to work with athletes and those looking to become more involved in sport and help them achieve their goals, or even advising them on which equipment to use.

This is almost exactly the job description of a personal trainer!  You’ll be well-qualified to help others achieve their fitness goals.

2. Certified Mental Performance Consultant

To become a certified mental performance consultant, or CMPC, you’ll need to complete further training after your degree is completed.

Depending on which country you live in, this training will be slightly different – however, typically you’ll need a qualification from your national psychology or sports psychology organization.

CMPCs work with athletes and the military, police, and firefighting services.

3. Corporate/Artistic Coach

Sports psychologists don’t just have to work with physical fields!

The skills you learn as a sports psychologist translate well to other goal-oriented positions, such as working as a coach for musicians or actors.

They also work well in managerial roles, helping get the best possible performance out of those you work with.

Do I Need To Be An Athlete To Do A Sports Psychology Degree?

While being an athlete is certainly helpful in understanding how to relate the theory you learn in a degree to actual practice, it’s not necessary to study the degree.

As we’ve seen above, sports psychologists work in a wide variety of fields that are not necessarily connected to athletics.

So direct knowledge of athletics is definitely not necessary! However, it’s a useful body of knowledge to have, especially if you intend to work with athletes.

What If I’m Not Sure About Sports Psychology?

There are many places online where you can get some additional experience with the content of sports psychology.

YouTube has several videos about the subject, and you can also find brief introductions to the field on various online course providers.

If you’re set on the field of psychology but unsure whether you want to specialize in sports psychology immediately, you could start with an undergraduate psychology degree.

Then, once you’ve completed this, you might have a better idea about whether you want to move into sports psychology in particular or if you wish to pursue something slightly different.

Finally, it never hurts to try and get in contact with someone who has experience!  If you know of a sports psychology practitioner in your area, get in contact with them and see if they’d be happy to answer some questions.

A Sports Psychology Degree Opens Up New Opportunities

Sports psychology is a fascinating field with several career options at the end of your studies.

Whether you’re interested in working with professional athletes, amateur athletes, or other performers, a sports psychology degree can provide the knowledge and skills you need to succeed.

While the process of earning a degree can be challenging, it is also rewarding and can lead to a fulfilling and meaningful career.

We hope that this blog post has provided valuable information and resources to help you navigate the process of getting a sports psychology degree and pursuing a career in this exciting and growing field

Choosing the right degree is an important part of beginning a sports psychology career, so you should make sure to consider all the relevant factors to choose one that is right for you.

You don’t necessarily have to work with athletes as a sports psychologist, so don’t let a lack of direct sporting experience put you off the field.

Thanks for reading!

And please check out some other recent articles about psychology and therapy below: