12 Sports Psychology Degree Jobs (Plus Duties and Salaries)
Updated August 29, 2022
A sports psychology degree is a credential that validates a professional's knowledge of how athletics and mental processing connect. This degree is useful for those who want to work with athletes or become coaches. If you want to pursue a sports psychology degree, learning more about potential careers and how much you may earn can be beneficial. In this article, we explain what sports psychology is, describe what you may learn in a sports psychology program, review 12 careers in sports psychology you can pursue and provide helpful tips for getting a job in the athletics and sports industry.
What is sports psychology?
Sports psychology is a field of psychology in which professionals study how athletes and professional sports players think. They can study athletes during practice and competition to better understand how the brain functions during these events. They may also assess individuals to determine the best methods for developing their psychological preparedness for various events. For example, a psychologist may provide coaching and counseling for managing the stress of competition.
What do you learn in a sports psychology program?
Sports psychology programs prepare students to work with athletes and coaches in the sports industry. These programs are often graduate-level, and students may pursue them after completing an undergraduate degree in psychology. Depending on what the student wants to do in their career, they may also need to complete medical school and pursue their medical license. These are some subjects you may study in a sports psychology curriculum:
Counseling techniques: Students in psychology programs can learn about the various counseling techniques for approaching different clients. These include psychodynamic, interpersonal, humanistic, existential, cognitive, rational and reality counseling techniques.
Fundamentals of psychology: Sports psychology programs include information about the fundamentals of psychology, like important experiments and influential historical figures. Graduate programs may briefly refresh the student about these topics before approaching more specific information.
Research abilities and methods: These programs evaluate various research methods and describe how psychological researchers conduct their experiments and research projects. Students learn about different research techniques and which historical cases used them.
Anatomy and physiology: Sports psychology focuses on how the physical and mental capacities function together, and anatomy and physiology are important components of that relationship. Students learn about bodily systems, how they work and how the body can move and communicate with the mind.
Anxiety management: Many athletes and sports performers approach sports psychologists for assistance with managing anxiety, so some programs focus on this topic. Students can learn sports-specific methods for stress and anxiety management.
Performance optimization: Many athletes perform best when in an optimized mental state, and some programs may offer courses that focus on how to help athletes reach and maintain this state.
Coaching and leadership: Many sports involve teams and coaches, and students in psychology programs can learn about these dynamics and how to optimize teammate and coach relationships for the best performance. Students who want to become coaches can learn more about the best methods for communicating with their players.
12 sports psychology degree jobs
If you're passionate about athletics, teams and mental health, working in sports psychology may be right for you. These are 12 sports and psychology jobs you can pursue if you have a sports psychology degree:
1. Sports coach
National average salary: $34,032 per year
Primary duties: Coaches can lead teams and individuals, providing guidance and supporting them as they compete professionally. A coach can earn more or less depending on where they work and how successful their team is. Coaches work in high schools, colleges and at a professional level. They promote physical health in their players, develop strategies for winning in competitions and study player mechanics. A sports coach can work in a team of coaches or as an assistant coach, depending on where they're employed.
National average salary: $34,054 per year
Primary duties: A sports center is a recreational facility in which a community can gather and take part in athletics and sports. The manager of that facility can develop methods for promoting team sports and recreational events. They monitor equipment, plan events, create gym schedules and oversee facility maintenance. A sports center manager ensure the safety of the patrons by scheduling proper maintenance of areas like swimming pools or ice skating rinks.
National average salary: $35,748 per year
Primary duties: Athletic trainers are sports professionals who provide support to athletes through coaching and training. They educate athletes on how to prevent bone and muscular injuries. Trainers can also help athletes optimize their training routines to improve as much as possible while reducing effort and time. Athletic trainers assess their client's current situation, help them develop athletic goals, design training and nutrition plans and implement those plans. When working with injured athletes, the trainer provides exercises and training methods that focus on preventing re-injury.
Read more: Learn About Being an Athletic Trainer
4. Head coach
National average salary: $42,677 per year
Primary duties: A head coach manages a team and provides guidance and direction to other coaches. They often oversee many facets of the sport, depending on the structure and how teams work. For example, the head coach of a football team works with both offensive and defensive coordinators to ensure both parts of the team function correctly. Head coaches can manage practice schedules and talent recruitment, and they may also motivate their team or athletes before important competitions.
National average salary: $48,464 per year
Primary duties: Sports research specialists are professionals who gather and analyze data regarding athletes, players, teams and sports performance. They determine which metrics to measure and how to define each component of athleticism or sports. For example, a sports research specialist may measure the speed of various cyclists, monitoring their brain activity as they cycle to make correlations between certain thoughts or stimuli and an increase in speed. These insights can help teams and athletes improve their performance.
National average salary: $52,515 per year
Primary duties: Guidance counselors usually work in schools with high schoolers or elementary-age children. They can meet with kids to help them meet their personal and educational goals. A guidance counselor can use a sports psychology degree to better understand how children think and work together in teams. A counselor helps students develop time management skills and effective studying practices. They also assess student strengths, help them create resumes and college applications, guide group counseling sessions and assist teachers in managing social issues.
Read more: Learn About Being a Guidance Counselor
National average salary: $52,952 per year
Primary duties: R School psychologists work in educational settings and meet with both students and teachers. They assess educational efforts and identify methods for improving retention and instruction. The psychologist may evaluate the learning, behavior and mental health within a facility and suggest methods for improving them to enhance learning opportunities in the school. They can consult directly with students to help them develop plans for academic achievement. The psychologist can also work with teachers and help them develop methods for managing stress.
National average salary: $54,497 per year
Primary duties: Sports psychology professors use their extensive knowledge and teaching abilities to educate students about the principles of sports psychology. They often work in colleges and universities, where they teach classes, meet with students and prepare curriculum. During the summers and breaks, sports psychology professors can conduct their own research or create professional materials like scientific journals or books.
National average salary: $81,377 per year
Primary duties: Physical therapists are medical professionals who assist injured people and athletes in improving their mobility and healing from strained muscles and broken bones. Physical therapists who work with athletes focus on educating them about their injuries and helping them recover in time to rejoin their sport or start at the beginning of a season. They develop treatment plans, collaborate with other health care professionals, treat chronic illnesses and prevent future disabilities. A physical therapist who works in sports may have a sports psychology degree and a doctorate in physical therapy.
Read more: Learn About Being a Physical Therapist
National average salary: $86,308 per year
Primary duties: Sports rehabilitation directors can work in rehabilitation centers and with teams of physical therapists. The director manages athletic training rooms, physical therapy sessions and therapist training. They determine which equipment can best serve clients and develop strategies for improving the rehabilitation center. The director can implement continuous learning programs for trainers and therapists and educate clients on sports psychology and recovery methods.
National average salary: $97,690 per year
Primary duties: Clinical sports psychologists work directly with athletes and sports professionals to treat mental, emotional and behavioral disorders. They conduct research on how sports and prolonged participation in them can affect a person's behavior and mental patterns. Clinical sports psychologists interview, observe and assess athletes and sports professionals to diagnose conditions or learn more about them. The psychologist can conduct tests, develop treatment plans, counsel athletes and coaches and communicate with clients. Depending on where the psychologist practices, they may prescribe medication to the players and professionals they work with.
Read more: Learn About Being a Clinical Psychologist
National average salary: $248,895 per year
Primary duties: Sports psychiatrists are medical doctors who focus on assessing, diagnosing and treating mental disorders. They assess their client's symptoms and determine their sources. Psychiatrists consider causes like mental and physical illnesses and educate their patients on how the two and interact. They conduct tests and examinations, prescribe treatments like medication and psychotherapy and refer patients to sports counselors and psychologists for specialized therapy. Sports psychiatrists have a medical degree and complete residencies to complete their training before working independently.
Read more: Learn About Being a Psychiatrist
Tips for getting a job in the sports industry
Depending on your education, interests and athletic experience, finding a job in the sports industry can be challenging. Using contacts to learn about opportunities and understanding the specifics of sports can increase your career advancement. These are some helpful tips you can use to help you get a job in the sports industry:
Be active and professional on social media: Hiring managers may examine your social media profiles to learn more about who you are and what your sports opinions are. You can use your online presence to create a confident and informed persona.
Develop a professional network in the industry: During high school, college, internships and entry-level positions, focus on developing your professional network. Consider attending networking events and requesting and offering contact information frequently.
Practice behavioral interview questions: Many hiring specialists for sports teams ask behavioral interview questions to better understand what kind of candidate you are. Practice answering these questions with your friends and family.
Emphasize your sports psychology degree: In your application materials and during interviews, express to the hiring team how your degree in sports psychology improves your qualifications and makes you the best candidate for the job.
Complete sports psychology internships: During or after college, consider completing internships to gain experience and create professional connections in the industry. The relationships you build can help you to find other professional opportunities during your career.
Experience athletics and take part in sports: Whether professionally or recreationally, taking part in sports and athletics can help you better understand the topics you study and the clients you assist. If you're pursuing a job that focuses on a certain sport, consider finding a recreational league and gaining basic experience.
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