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What is a sports psychologist?

A sports psychologist works to help support and develop the psychology of high-level competitive athletes and sportspeople.

Many people may find this surprising. After all, often athletes are very well paid, very well motivated, and incredibly successful! Why would someone living this sort of lifestyle need a psychologist?

The truth is that mental health issues can affect ANYONE, regardless of age, wealth, or any other external or internal factor.

High-level sport is incredibly unforgiving, particularly in a world where criticism and scrutiny are often public and very loud, in online spaces and elsewhere.

Sports psychologists help athletes deal with the stress and mental rigors that high-level sport puts on the psyche.

Career Outlook/Demand

The career outlook for sports psychologists is an interesting one, with a lot of room to specialize, learn and grow, developing as a clinician while also developing contacts and the business side of the profession.

It’s also quite varied, as you can work with athletes in various different sports, at varying levels, assisting with everything from depression, trauma, stress, or PTSD to assisting in building confidence and improving on-field performance.

It’s important to note that while there are similarities, sports psychologist sessions won’t look much like a clinical psychology session, as you will be working with coaches and athletes to deal primarily with stressors and difficulties as they relate to performance, which is an interesting and very specific focus, setting this profession apart from the other niches of psychology.

In terms of supply and demand, it’s important to understand this, as picking a career is really important and needs to be considered and a well-researched decision.

A low supply and high demand is the best for job seekers, and will often mean it’s easier to find work and get paid well for your efforts.

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In terms of sports psychology, it’s actually a relatively good market for job seekers, as more sports take mental health seriously, and many athletes seek to improve and learn more about the importance of the mental side of the game.

Sport is essential, and the amount of money being made in professional sport is very high, and there are also a lot of different sports and leagues to choose from, meaning you will have a lot of opportunities to work and the ability to work in various areas of the country or world, with opportunities for travel too.

Sport is also continuing to grow, and the Bureau of Labor Statistics predicts that jobs in psychology, including sports psychology, will grow 14% from 2018 to 2028 so there are definitely opportunities available!

What qualifications do you need to be a sports psychologist?

A psychology degree is just the first step in this process, and while it is a big part of it, there are other important qualifications you need to become a licensed sports psychologist in most states. While the rules in each state naturally vary somewhat it’s typical for candidates desiring to become licensed to have a doctoral degree and to have passed the Examination of Professional Practice in Psychology exam which is run by the Association of State and Provincial Psychology Boards. Candidates must have also logged some 1500 to 6000 clinical hours.

If you’re confused or have more specific questions about becoming a sports psychologist it’s best to contact your state board for guidance and assistance on what you need to do and other important information about qualification and licensing.

How much Do sports psychologists make?

One of the most important aspects of any career is remuneration, and it’s a big motivator for people even if you’re passionate about the particular subject matter.

There are a lot of variables as with any pay scale and can be affected by the experience, location, and the level at which you are practicing.

However for sports psychologists in a university athletics department can expect to earn around $60,000 to $80,000, with some even surpassing $100,000. In private practice, it’s much harder to give precise salary figures but it can be incredibly lucrative, as can consulting and freelance work.

How much do NFL sports psychologists make?

It’s difficult to give precise figures, as naturally, salaries are personal information which isn’t often shared very freely.

Generally, at the highest level, sports psychologists can expect to make over $100,000 a year when dealing with NFL franchises that have a large roster of athletes, state-of-the-art facilities, and incredibly lucrative and high stakes competition.

How much do NBA sports psychologists make?

The same can be said for NBA psychologists, who will likely often make in the vicinity of $100,000 a year or more when dealing with the highest level of athletes. It’s possible the amount may be less for someone less experienced, but these roles are some of the biggest and most rewarding for sports psychologists so they are competitive, highly sought after, and well paid too.

A day in the life of a sports psychologist/what do they do for athletes?

Sports psychologists can work for athletes, coaches, and referees, from the amateur level all the way up to the professional level. Their work is focused on supporting these athletes and sportspeople in their roles and dealing with the psychological stresses of the profession, as well as researching how sport affects psychology, and how psychology influences sports performance.

They attempt to prepare athletes as well as possible using all these factors and may use aspects of medicine and psychology in the performance of their duties.

Latest Sports Psychologist Jobs Listings

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Position Company Location Posted
Lecturer, Sport & Performance Psychology Boston University Wheelock College of Education & Human Development Boston, Massachusetts US 02/28/2022
The Boston University Wheelock College of Education and Human Development invites applications for a full-timeLecturer in Sport and Performance Psychology, which is a concentration within the Ed Mand PhD in Counseling Programs. We seek candidates with a background in educating sport psychology graduate students, who have a thorough understanding of the Certified Mental Performance Consultant Certification, and who have experience in applied sport practice.The Department of Counseling ... More
Assistant Director of Mental Wellness & Sport Psychology Kansas State University Manhattan, Kansas US 02/28/2022
K-State Athletics is seeking qualified applicants for anASSISTANT DIRECTOR OF MENTAL WELLNESS & SPORT PSYCHOLOGY, which is a full-time, salaried, benefits-eligible position. An example of job duties includes but are not limited to: Provide direct psychological services to student-athletes consisting of evidence-based psychotherapies, consultation, and assessment with appropriate documentation in compliance with all applicable laws and regulations. ... More
Sport Psychologist University of Kansas Medical Center Lawrence, Kansas US 02/28/2022
The University of Kansas Psychiatry and Behavioral Sciences Department is seeking a Sports Psychologist to join a rapidly expanding, 18-member Psychology Division. The chosen individual will work with our sports medicine specialists as an integrated member of our Sports Medicine and Performance Center team. More
Tenure-Track Faculty Position (Open Rank) Decision-Making in Sport/Physical Activity University of Michigan Kinesiology Michigan US 10/05/2021
Job Summary The School of Kinesiology at the University of Michigan is pleased to announce a strategic hiring initiative targeting several emerging and multidisciplinary themes. As part of this initiative, we are searching for a scholar who explores the psychological, cultural, and/or social factors associated with human decision-making around sport or physical activity programs and policies. We invite applications ... More
Sport Psychologist Inspire Wellness New Jersey US 02/22/2022
Inspire Wellness is looking to add a full-time Sport Psychologist to our rapidly growing team. Responsibilities include providing mental health and sport psychology services to clients of various areas of performance. Interested candidates must be capable of adapting to work with professional athletes / performers, while also having the heart for serving athletes / performers in the local community as well. This role will work closely with the rest of the performance team to further ... More
Post-Doctoral Fellow/Counselor (Sport Psychology Coordinator) Jacksonville University Jacksonville, Florida US 02/14/2022
This position has a focus on student athlete mental health and provision of sport psychology services in coordination with sport medicine staff in a Division I athletic environment. The position provides clinical and supervisory experiences towards licensure as a psychologist or mental health counselor in the State of Florida. The Jacksonville University Student Counseling Center is committed to designing an experience to meet individual professional goals with access to coursework, ... More
Sport Psychologist University of North Carolina - Charlotte Charlotte, North Carolina US 02/14/2022
Primary Purpose of Department The Price Center for Counseling & Psychological Services at the University of North Carolina at Charlotte (CAPS) supports the academic, personal, and interpersonal development ofUNCCharlotte students by providing short-term individual and group counseling, psychological assessment, consultation for faculty, staff, parents, and students, and educational programs ... More
Assistant Professor University of North Texas Denton, Texas US 02/10/2022
Position DetailsPosition InformationUNT System Overview Welcome to the University of North Texas System , or UNT World as we like to call ourselves. UNT World includes the University of North Texas in Denton , the University of North Texas at Dallas and the University of North Texas Health Science Center in Fort Worth. We are the only university system based exclusively in the robust Dallas-Fort Worth region and we are committed to transforming lives and ... More
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