If you are interested in helping athletes of all ages better their performance, mental health, and physical condition, then a career as a sports psychologist is all you want. For you to be a top-of-the-line sport psychologist, you will want to combine both medical principles and clinical psychology Above all, holding a master’s degree will, at best, prepare you for diverse roles in this field.
Sports psychology is a rapidly growing field. In fact, it was named a “Hot Career” choice by The American Psychological Association. For those with a passion for sports, seeking to get into sports management, personal training, or coaching, a degree in sports psychology can help open doors.
Top 5 Sports Psychology Masters Programs
|1||Michigan State University||East Lansing, Michigan|
|2||Boston University||Boston, Massachusetts|
|3||Florida State University||Tallahassee, Florida|
|4||University of Denver||Denver, Colorado|
|5||Oregon State University||Corvallis, Oregon|
Sports psychology is also a niche, and finding sports psychology masters programs that are right for you can prove challenging. There are plenty of online, affordable options. However, some of the country’s most prestigious universities also offer sports psychology programs that combine aspects of psychology, kinesiology, and counseling to provide truly unique academic experiences. Ask yourself, what do you want to do? Pursue an academic career? Coach? Choosing the right program will largely depend on your own career goals.
Below we list some of the best sports psychology programs in the country. We tried to provide a wide swath of options from prestigious schools such as Stanford to online-only options that provide an affordable alternative.
Best 17 Sports Psychology Masters Programs
Michigan State University
Michigan State University’s has a well-regard psychology department that garners a #33 rank from The Times of Higher Education. When it comes to sports psychology, Michigan State offers a master’s degree concentration that focuses on the psychosocial aspects of sport and concentration in physical activity. The concentration has a focus on the theoretical understanding of psychological and sociological variables as it relates to sports.
The concentration integrates the study of sport psychology – examining the psychological impact on motor performance – and sociology – examining the social structures of sport and physical activity.
For those who want a degree that is focused on Sports Psychology, Boston University offers a specialization within its Master of Education in Counseling program. Boston University’s program focuses on helping its students develop counseling skills and knowledge to excel. The Specializations offered are school counseling, child and adolescent mental health, and sports psychology.
The Sports Psychology concentration includes fieldwork, and elective coursework focused in this area. Students will gain the knowledge and experience to prepare them for their chosen career.
Florida State University
Florida State University’s Sport Psychology programs integrate theory, research, and real-world learning experiences. The program delves into the psychology of athletic performance and welfare.
Students also develop their research skills through Florida State University’s Sport Psychology Laboratory. The laboratory provides students the chance to take theory and work with athletes and teams to see results. The program also provides supervision to students seeking the Certified Mental Performance Consultant status.
Graduates of the program have secured jobs in various areas, including teaching, university athletic departments, pro sports organizations, the military, interscholastic and youth sports, and much more.
University of Denver
The University of Denver’s MA in sport and performance psychology is geared toward those with an interest in sport, performing arts, health and fitness, or various mental health fields. The program is a quality, affordable option for those with a passion for sports. The program leverages Denver’s thriving sports and performing arts scene, giving students a great location to pursue their education.
This two-year program also provides students with plenty of opportunities to work in the field through the Center for Performance Excellence, the university’s nonprofit consulting organization. The University of Denver also boasts the most comprehensive curriculum available that is specifically geared for performance psychology.
Oregon State University
Oregon State University has an undergraduate, graduate program and doctoral program in kinesiology, making it a great option for those interested in sports psychology. The programs focus on the theoretical and practical study of physical activity. Oregon State takes a holistic approach, studying anatomy, physiology, sociology, and psychology of physical activity and sport and its impact on the individual, culture, and society. Graduates of this program have many career options in fields such as teaching, the fitness industry, coaching, to name a few.
University of North Texas
The University of North Texas takes an interdisciplinary approach to sports psychology. The direction you take in North Texas has much to do with what you want to do with the degree. Students have some flexibility to gear the program to fit their goals, whether it’s coaching, counseling, or performance enhancement.
North Texas offers undergraduate, graduate, and a Ph.D. program. The Ph.D. is in Psychosocial Aspects of Sports and Exercise. From top to bottom, North Texas offers quality programs that fit a variety of needs if you have an interest in sports psychology.
Ball State University
Ball State offers students a comprehensive education in sport and exercise psychology. This public research university located in Muncie, Indiana, offers an MA/MS in Sport and Exercise Psychology. The program partners with the Counseling Psychology and Psychological Services departments, providing students with the opportunity to minor in clinical mental health, rehabilitation counseling, or pursue a dual degree.
Ball State has a strong commitment to research and encourages students to pursue research projects and build experience through presentations, grant writing, community service work, etc. The program also offers students the opportunity to complete applied work toward mental performance consultant certification, supervised by two certified consultants, in a variety of settings, involving youth, collegiate, professional, and disability sport as well as exercise adherence and performing artists.
Minnesota State University – Mankato
The Minnesota State University program seeks to build a theoretical base in sport psychology. Successful graduates leave the program better prepared to coach, consult, or apply performance improvement knowledge in their chosen career. As part of the program, students work with local sports programs at the high school, college, and recreational levels.
Springfield College offers a Master’s degree in Sport and Exercise Psychology geared for those pursuing scholarship in the field. The university provides theoretical, psychological, physiological, and sociocultural aspects of sports.
The program is interdisciplinary and allows students to take the theoretical while applying it to the real world. Students get to choose between taking the traditional thesis track for the MS degree and the non-thesis track.
The thesis track allows students to pursue research of their choice under the supervision of a faculty member. Students drive the conceptualization of the project, handle data collection, and analysis. The non-thesis track enables students to integrate with athletes at the college and the high school level by providing services.
San Diego University for Integrative Studies
This program provides students with the practical training needed to help athletes improve athletic performance while providing psychological insight into what it takes to excel physically. Successful students leave the program positioned to work with athletes, teams, and other athletic organizations.
John F. Kennedy University
If you are looking for a sports psychology degree, JFK University online master’s is an option to consider. The degree combines evidence-based performance improvement techniques, counseling, and kinesiology to deliver a well-rounded experience. The MA in Sport Psychology has led experts in the field both in terms of practice and research. The program can be taken on campus in Pleasant Hill, California, or online.
Argosy University has 27 campus locations as well as online course availability. The sport psychology program is 30-credit hours and incorporates several areas: sport sciences, research, evaluation, group skills, personal training. The program is asynchronous, meaning students complete the work at their own pace. Beyond the master’s program, Argosy also offers a doctoral in clinical psychology.
University of West Alabama
University of West Alabama offers a master’s in experimental psychology that has a specialization in sports psychology. This 36 credit hour online degree provides the focus sports psychology you are looking for while learning the critical thinking skills, qualitative and quantitative analysis to excel in the field. The University of West Alabama is an affordable option for those seeking a future career in sports psychology.
California Southern University
California Southern’s Master of Science in Psychology degree provides students with a strong foundation in psychology while emphasizing areas they have a strong interest in. The program emphasizes scientific research and real-world experience obtained in a non-clinical setting. The program includes concentrations include pastoral counseling, addiction counseling, and sports psychology.
The sports psychology concentration is a 5-cred hour option that prepares students in sports counseling, performance improvement, coaching, and more.
Barry University’s Sport, Exercise, and Performance Psychology program is specifically geared to meet a growing need in the field of sports psychology. The American Psychological Association named the field a “Hot Career” choice, and the Miami-based Barry University seeks to prepare students for this field.
Successful students graduate from Barry ready for teaching, coaching, fitness leadership, and many other areas. The program emphasizes psychological principles as they relate to the area of sports and physical fitness. This online program provides students opportunities to contribute to their community through research, a practicum, and attendance at professional symposiums.
Medaille College has campuses in Buffalo and Rochester, as well as online course availability. It offers a master’s in psychology program that has several concentrations, including a concentration in sports psychology. Students gain foundational knowledge in psychology before exploring sub-fields such as sports psychology. The program takes about a year and prepares students for a variety of potential careers, including sports management and coaching. The school also offers a doctoral-level program allowing for further study.
Advance Your Career with A Master’s in Sports Psychology
According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics’ latest report, career opportunities requiring graduates with a master’s degree in sports psychology will increase by 14% between 2019 and 2029. This information gives a clear sense of why anyone who is passionate about sports psychology should strongly consider pursuing a degree in this field.
While it is true that an undergraduate degree offers a perfect entry path into a career in sports psychology, most careers require more levels of education for one to be an official specialist. For this reason, if you want to have a clear career path as an official and licensed sports psychologist, you will want to attend a graduate school.
A doctorate degree is often pursued by those looking to get into counseling psychology or some other are of the sport science field; however, a master’s degree from a sports psychology program can also improve your chances of getting that dream job. As aforementioned, it is evident that the most rewarding level of education regarding sports psychology is a doctorate. Therefore, going for a master’s degree, which in essence will open your doors for entry into a doctorate program, will help move your career in sports for more rewards.
Contrary to the popular opinion that sports psychology has limited employment opportunities, this is never the case universally. In fact, with a master’s degree, such a specialist can work in a broad spectrum of areas. These may include helping people at elite and amateur levels areas like sports medicine and exercise science in sports clubs, military, health facilities, schools, and even within the community.
Why Study Sport Psychology in a Master’s Program
Pursuing a career in sports and performance psychology requires a combination of skill sets and knowledge you gain by studying a master’s program in sport psychology. Most professionals would only require an undergraduate degree in the field, but it would take a doctoral degree to be a licensed psychologist. As a sports psychologist, you work directly with different coaches and athletes across different sports. A psychologist ensures that athletes maintain a steady path towards peak performance and better physical and mental condition.
How Can A Master’s Degree Help Move Your Career in Sports Psychology Along?
A successful career in sports psychology requires both medical and psychological principles, which is why holding a master’s degree is key in preparing one to be the best at their roles. Master’s programs in sports psychology are widely divided into two main degree paths: – a doctoral degree (Ph.D.) with specialization and a master’s degree in sports psychology with optional certification.
A master’s program degree is vital in the process of preparing the student with the needed skills, principles, and theories concerning how athletes and coaches deal with the physical and psychological effects of being involved or playing a sport. A master’s program is key to teaching students and learners the right methods and principles that can be applied while helping athletes and teams boost their performance, improve their dynamics as well as overcome some of the emotional obstacles experienced in a sport that may interfere with their physical activity.
While considering the need to take a master’s program in sport psychology, there are a few keynotes that one needs to understand. First, a master’s program is designed to help enhance the knowledge and skills of physical education trainers/teachers, athletic coaches, physical therapists as well as individuals in the performing arts.
Having a master’s level psychology degree or sports psychology degree is a good way of pushing one’s career since such programs open up doors to numerous coaching jobs. It also provides one with the opportunities of working in supportive roles in any sport or field of choice. By 2028, exercise psychology as an industry is expected to grow by 13.1 percent. These projections are a clear indication that the demand for psychologists will increase. This forms part of the reasons why one should consider pursuing a career in sports psychology.
How Do Psychologists Motivate Athletes?
Psychologists understand that one of the best approaches to motivating anyone is making them feel valued and skilled. This idea largely applies to young athletes looking forward to learning strategies and skills necessary for a sport. Motivation is important in teaching athletes the needed skills and in encouraging them to improve on their performance. As a psychologist, many strategies can be involved when it comes to motivating athletes and some of the key ones are:
- Encouraging teamwork and rewarding athletes even on the slightest improvement or new achievements.
- Monitoring the kind of feedback and response one gives the athletes.
- Minimizing criticism but never ignore the mistakes made by the athletes. Using encouragement and instruction to help athletes work on themselves and improve their weaknesses is much more effective than using criticism.
- Responding to athlete mistakes based on their skills and abilities is key to ensuring that an athlete maintains a positive attitude towards a sport.
What Do Sports Psychologists Do?
Having a degree in sport psychology provides one with a solid skillset and the needed experience to work with all kinds of athletes, physical education teachers, and coaches. Sports psychologists can work as licensed mental health professionals, therapists, trainers, and consultants for all sport disciplines.
Developmental sport psychology and child psychology are disciplines that focus on the wellness of young athletes. Child psychology is key in facilitating young athletes and children to develop discipline, self-confidence, moral thinking, and teamwork skills. Young athletes may easily develop aggressive behaviors, which calls for the need to understand child psychology as a key discipline in sport psychology.
Psychologists can as well expend their roles to helping athletes in injury rehabilitation processes. A rehab process is often involved when recovering from an injury. Dealing with these anxieties is essential as they can easily affect the performance of an athlete. Other roles and responsibilities that are carried out by sports psychologist are:
- Developing mental strategies aimed at helping athletes overcome or cope with injuries and setbacks.
- Provide athletes and trainers with psychological counseling.
- Identifying the weaknesses and strengths of athletes and evaluating how they affect the performance athletes.
- Rehabilitating and treating athletes that may be facing mental health conditions.
Potential Jobs for Graduates of a Sport Psychology Master’s Program
Various jobs require a bachelor’s degree as part of the qualifications. However, if you advance your studies to a master’s degree, you get above most of the competition in the job market. Sports psychology is one of the careers that prioritizes master’s degree holders. With a master’s in sport psychology, you stand a chance of working in different sport-related fields. Before choosing to pursue a master’s degree in sport psychology, you need to understand what it is and what it entails.
Sports Psychology And What It Entails
Sports psychology is a discipline that focuses on how psychology impacts the performance of athletes. By mastering sports psychology, you become an expert in improving athletes’ performance based on their psychological characteristics. By enrolling in a sport psychology class, there are certain skills you learn. These skills are essential in your work life as a sport psychologist. Here are some of the skills you might learn:
Attentional Focus: Attentional focus is the ability to tune out distractions when performing a certain duty. This skill is necessary for professional athletes. Attentional focus helps an athlete concentrate on achieving their goal despite distractions such as screaming fans. Without attentional focus, an athlete can be easily booed out of the game or get carried away by praises from fans.
Imagery: Imagery is the visualization of an act before its execution. While performing, athletes need high levels of imagery ability. This allows them to make decisions on moves and passes make. For instance, an athlete needs to predict an opponent’s direction if they execute a certain move. For instance, football players with high imagery abilities display excellent maneuvers with the ball.
Motivation: This is lifting the spirit of people for a performance. As a sport psychologist, you have to master motivational skills for the exemplary performance of athletes you work with. Motivation is necessary before a performance could be a race or a match. It is also essential after the performance. Athletes need to be motivated after losing so that they improve their next performance. They also need the motivation to keep winning after one victory.
Jobs for Sports Psychology Graduates
There are many jobs for graduates of a sports psychology program. If you have a master’s degree in sport psychology, you stand a chance of getting high-paying jobs in sporting companies. These jobs include:
Coaching: Being part of a professional coaching team is one of the greatest achievements in sports. Studying sports psychology to master’s degree level places you in a position to understand athletes’ psychology,the psychosocial aspects affecting them, and exercise science. With this knowledge, you can easily coach them and deliver exemplary performance. Understanding an athlete’s mental state allows you to develop plans that, when followed, improves their overall performance.
Executive Jobs In A Sports Team: Most successful sports teams have skilled executives who make critical decisions. The decisions made by the executive may affect players directly and indirectly. As a master in sport psychology, your input is critical in determining the athletes’ impact on certain decisions. Decisions that affect athletes include change of the coaching staff or transfer of certain athletes from one team to another.
Sporting Events’ Promoter: Sporting events generate a lot of money. However, to achieve all the benefits, promoters need to understand the impact of athletes’ events. To analyze the potential damage or benefit to an athlete, sports psychologists play an important role. For instance, sporting event organizers need to predict the impact a loss before many fans might create on an athlete. Some athletes might be demoralized by losses to the extent of ruining their careers.
Government Sports Official: Many sporting events are organized and approved by the government. With a master’s degree in sport psychology, you can secure a job with the government. Such jobs involve making decisions and policies that govern sporting activities.
Additionally, national teams’ operation requires sports psychologists or certified mental performance consultant that ensure decisions made don’t hurt the athletes’ mental state.
Jobs In Sports Gear Manufacturing Companies: Many considerations go into the design of sports attire such as shoes and jerseys. With the help of sport psychologists, designers analyze the impact gear might have on athletes’ mental performance and take their products to the next level. In most cases, the athletes in question are used as brand ambassadors for the manufacturing companies.
There are many other jobs you can get with a master’s degree in sport psychology in the field of sports medicine and beyond. However, how fast you get a job depends on your networking efforts and performance at school.
Best Schools That Offer a Sport Psychology Master’s Program
Sports psychology is one of the best courses you can take if you have a passion for sporting activities. The course is mostly preferred by athletes who seek to remain in the field after retirement from active sports. However, if you are an enthusiast in a certain sport, you can study sports psychology and be part of your dream sport as an executive or coach. To stand above the rest in the job market, you might have to advance your sports psychology studies to a master’s degree level. Many benefits come with a master’s degree in sports psychology, including higher salaries. Before enrolling in a class for your master’s degree, one of the main factors to consider is the institution you should join.
What to Look for In A School for A Master’s In Sport Psychology
Before you enroll in an institution for your master’s degree in Sports Psychology, here are some considerations you need to make.
Reason for Taking the Course: There are many reasons you might choose to study Sports psychology to a master’s degree level. Before you start your classes, you should evaluate your short-term and long-term goals. If your aim is to get promoted or get a higher paying job, you should find an institution that is recommended by most potential employers. If you decide to study for passion, you need to find an institution with the best facilities and tutors. This allows you to develop your potential to the fullest.
Availability of The Program: Before you settle on an institution for your master’s degree program, you should consider the availability of the program in the institution. Although some institutions might advertise the program, some of them are not accredited to offer the course. Additionally, you should ensure the institution has adequate tutors and teaching facilities to carry out the required training. Amenities such as libraries are necessary as you might be required to do a lot of research as part of your course.
Proximity to The Institution: The distance you live from your institution often determines how much you spend on your studies. If you live far from your institution of choice, you might incur additional expenses for accommodation, food, or commuting. If you live far from the institution, you can enroll in online master’s classes. They are cost-effective as you don’t have to spend money commuting to and from school.
Cost of The Course: Financial preparedness is essential before you start classes for your master’s degree in Sports psychology. You should find an institution whose tuition fees and other payments are affordable according to your financial state. Some institutions charge cheaper when you enroll in online programs. If you cannot finance your studies, you can apply for scholarships and grants from various organizations.
There are many institutions in which you can study for a master’s degree in Sports psychology. The average cost of study in these institutions depends on the internal policies of the institution. Having a master’s degree is not a guarantee that you will be employed. Your chances of being employed depend on your networking skills and discipline, especially during attachments. Most potential employers will look at your academic performance as well as your discipline when at work.
Application Requirements for A Sport Psychology Master’s Program
A sports psychology master’s program is available in individual institutions across the country. After completing it, you get a chance to help athletes and performers achieve their set goals in life working in student recreation centers.
Are you considering a master’s degree in sport psychology by any chance? Well, this excellent program will open you up to a whole new world as you frequent student recreation centers. Once you complete the outlined classes, you can now be the go-to person for many athletes who need your help.
What Does It Take To Qualify For Such A Program?
You must consider all the requirements that you need to meet before you can embark on this new chapter of your life. The requirements come in different forms, and you must meet all of them to qualify for the master’s course.
The good news about the sport psychology master’s is it helps you learn sports psychology importance. You’ll mostly be catering to the needs of sportsmen and women who require special attention to cope with the numerous issues they face daily.
The first step on this journey is learning the educational stipulations set up by the institution. Such graduate courses in psychology require you to have a bachelor’s degree at hand before submitting your application.
Ensure that the degree is in a relevant field like psychology. Also, you can have a different degree but have minors in exercise psychology, for example. Showing you have some educational background that contains some credits in sports psychology is a huge plus.
Additionally, it would be best to meet the set GPA, an area the admissions committee will focus on while checking the application. Most require you to have a 3.0 and above to qualify for the sport psychology master’s program. Top that application off with practical experience in the real world, and you’re almost there.
Knowing you’ve worked in the industry as an intern in student recreation centers is a huge plus. Or maybe you had a job in sports that shows your zeal in pursuing the masters. Also, attach some references and certifications, which are the icing on the cake. The graduate program is mostly about the ins and outs of psychology as related to sports.
You’ll also cover plenty of clinical tasks and cover course work about the sports industry and its players. Your job is to learn how you’ll best tackle every person that comes to you with a need.
Have you worked with a coach in student recreation centers or with professional psychologists/psychiatrists before? Proving you have real-world experience benefits your application. Inquire from the coach if he/she can write a letter of recommendation for you.
Many graduates who pursue the exercise psychology program know how vital experience is before applying for the master’s program. Its focus is more on practical application and having such experience will help you learn better.
Therefore, ensure you include a recommendation letter on your application together with references.
Application Process for the Graduate Program
Be ready to attend school on a full-time basis to complete a graduate degree in sports psychology. Even when attending school full time, you require 4 to 7 years to complete it. Once you’ve sorted the time, you can proceed to apply.
Find Out When to Apply
Most master’s courses have deadlines, after which you can’t apply until the next academic year. Therefore, start by finding out the best time to apply for the sport psychology graduate program from the school you choose. Also, decide whether you’re attending physical or online classes.
Next, apply on time. It’s not wise to wait until the last minute to submit your application. You might miss some requirements and need to submit them before closing day. Applying in advance gives you time to streamline everything with the school and be ready to start.
Submit the Application
After completing the forms, you can submit them online. Many institutions prefer an online application for the course. Just ensure you don’t miss any critical parts and give out all requirements. After that, you can now wait to hear from the school.
Also, it won’t hurt to prepare a portfolio and a personal statement if necessary. At times, the course can attract plenty of applicants. It leads to the committee meeting students in-person to access those who fit the requirements and understand sport psychology’s importance.
Regardless of where you choose to work, a sport psychologist’s overall job includes offering psychological counseling and assessing an athlete’s relationship between their mental state and physical performance—plus diagnosing cognitive strengths and weaknesses that may affect someone’s performance.
When choosing sports psychology master’s programs, everything will narrow down to your ideal needs. First and foremost is the need to select a plan based on your interests, which may span from where you would wish to work, the psychology school that offers the best programs, the future earning potential, and the need to advance your future career.
Also important to note is that whether you go for an online or on-campus program, the end is always the same. But ensure you go for an alternative that will not limit you in any way, like in costs, flexibility, and development of practical skills. There are also some other things you will want to have in mind when applying for a master’s degree program in sports psychology.
Ensure you research the market of schools offering these programs first. With this, you will have assessed the level of academic standards they provide and their programs’ costs. Moreover, ensure you have all the requirements needed to enroll in any given university based on academic performance.