What Are the Requirements for a Sports Psychologist?

A sports psychologist studies the psychological effects of sports and athletics on the athletes. He or she provides counseling and support to the athletes to help them cope with the pressures of competition, to improve their performance, and to maintain their mental health and well-being.

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The Basics

A sports psychologist is a professional who helps athletes improve their performance and cope with the pressures of competition. Sports psychologists work with all types of athletes, from amateur to professional, and they can help athletes in any sport. In order to become a sports psychologist, you will need to have a minimum of a master’s degree in psychology.

A bachelor’s degree in psychology

A bachelor’s degree in psychology is the minimum requirement for a career in sports psychology, but many sports psychologists holds master’s degrees or doctorates. A master’s degree in counseling or clinical psychology with a specialization in sports psychology usually takes two to three years to complete and you must complete a doctoral program if you want to pursue a career as a sports psychologist.

A master’s degree in psychology

In order to be a practicing sports psychologist, one must earn a master’s or doctoral degree in psychology with an emphasis in sports psychology. Alternatively, some states allow educational credentialing in lieu of a master’s degree. Regardless of how one earns the title of sports psychologist, he or she must be licensed as a psychologist in the state in which he or she works. A few states require that sports psychologists also be certified as strength and conditioning specialists through the National Strength and Conditioning Association.

A doctorate in psychology

In order to become a sports psychologist, you will need to have a doctorate in psychology. This can be a Ph.D. in psychology or a Psy.D. in psychology. You will also need to have an internship and/or postdoctoral experience working with athletes.

The Specializations

A sports psychologist studies how the mind affects physical performance in athletes. They work with professional and amateur athletes to help them overcome any mental roadblocks that might be hindering their performance. To be a sports psychologist, you will need to have a minimum of a master’s degree in psychology. Some states also require you to have a license to practice.

Clinical psychology

A Clinical psychologist focuses on the assessment, diagnosis, and treatment of mental, emotional, and behavioral disorders. A Sports psychologist specializes in working with athletes to improve their performance and address any psychological issues that may be impacting their game. A Clinical psychologist may work with athletes, but their focus is on general mental health rather than performance enhancement.

Counseling psychology

A PhD in Counseling Psychology is generally considered the highest credential for a sports psychologist. To become licensed as a psychologist, one must earn a doctorate from an accredited program and complete an internship, as well as pass a state-administered exam. In some states, licensure also requires completing a postdoctoral fellowship. Counseling psychologists work with individuals, groups, and teams to promote psychological well-being and optimize performance in various settings, including schools, businesses, families, and the military. Sports psychologists with a PhD in Counseling Psychology often conduct research on topics such as motivation, teamwork, and mental toughness.

Sport psychology

A specialist in sport psychology is someone who has completed extensive academic training in psychology with a specific focus on understanding and improving athlete performance. In order to become a sport psychologist, an individual must first complete a doctoral degree in psychology with an emphasis on sport and exercise science. Once received, the individual must then complete a postdoctoral fellowship or master’s level internship approved by the American Psychological Association (APA) in order to earn the title of “sport psychologist”.

The requirements for becoming a sport psychologist are quite rigorous, but the rewards can be great. Sport psychologists work with athletes at all levels of competition to help them improve their performance and reach their goals. In addition to working with athletes, sport psychologists may also work with coaches, athletic trainers, and other sports professionals to help them better understand and communicate with their athletes.

The Other Requirements

Although a doctorate is the minimum educational requirement, other important requirements for a sports psychologist include supervised clinical experience, an internship, and passing a state-recognized exam. Before becoming certified, a sports psychologist must also complete continuing education credits and professional development hours.


All 50 states and the District of Columbia have licensing boards that oversee the licensure for psychologists. A typical path to licensure as a psychologist includes completing an accredited doctoral degree in psychology, an internship, and passing a state-mandated exam. Psychologists who provide clinical services must also complete a certain number of hours of continuing education credits each year to maintain their license.


The American Psychological Association (APA) notes that certification requirements for sports psychologists vary by state. However, most states require licensure as a psychologist and certification as a specialist in sports psychology. According to the APA, to become licensed, you must complete an APA-accredited doctoral program in psychology, fulfill state licensure requirements and pass the Examination for Professional Practice in Psychology. To become certified as a specialist in sports psychology by the APA, you should have completed research training in areas such as cognitive and sport psychology, performance enhancement, functional anatomy and biomechanics, exercise physiology and sport sociology. You also must pass a written examination.

Continuing education

Sports psychologists are required to have a strong understanding of psychology as it applies to athletics. They must have a firm grasp on concepts such as motivation, goal setting, stress management, mental toughness and more. In addition to these important psychological concepts, sports psychologists must also be well-versed in the latest techniques and research in the field.

To maintain their licenses, sports psychologists must participate in continuing education courses on a regular basis. These courses help them to stay up-to-date on the latest developments in the field and ensure that they are providing the best possible care to their clients.

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