If you enjoy the idea of working with athletes and studying their behavior, the field of sports psychology combines these two concepts into one career. With this degree in hand, you can have the satisfaction of helping athletes at all levels deal with anxiety, increase their motivation and use competition effectively. Entering the field requires advanced education, so you need to find a college with a sports psychology program for your career goals.
A bachelor's degree in sports psychology gives students the base for further study or for athletic coaching positions. Beyond the basic general education courses in social sciences, math, composition, humanities and science, these four-year programs include coursework focusing on general psychology and its connection to sports. Classes cover the history of sports psychology, biomechanics and social psychology in sports along with those emphasizing their intended careers. Students at National University, for instance, may learn counseling techniques if they intend to pursue a doctorate or take player development and personality theory if they intend to pursue coaching. You can minor in sports psychology, too, at schools like West Virginia University in Morgantown, while focusing your major on general psychology or sociology.
A master's degree in sports psychology builds upon the bachelor's degree and teaches coaches and other sports professionals to help players cope with problems such as stress, the psychological effects of injury, depression, motivation, eating disorders and uncontrolled anger. Schools with such programs include California Southern University and Capella University. A master's level graduate may find work as a sports psychology assistant or program manager. Coaches may become more effective in their positions as they learn more motivational techniques and the reasons for athletes' behavior. The University of Denver in Colorado combines the sports psychology master's degree with performance careers such as theater, creating more employment options for graduates.
The doctoral degree allows graduates to work as sports psychologists. Courses include advanced study in subjects like stress and its relation to athletic performance, cognitive processes in sports and psychopathology. Education at this level prepares students for careers specifically as therapists for athletes and sports programs. Schools such as Florida State University also require doctoral students in this program to take courses on psychological research, get practical clinical experience counseling athletes and write and defend a dissertation. Similarly, the program through the University of South Texas in Denton focuses on counseling skills with an emphasis on athletes as clients.
You may find an online program for a sports psychology degree. For instance, National University's bachelor's program and Capella University's master's program both may be taken online. Other educational possibilities include just taking courses that focus on sports psychology or gaining a certificate, available at California State University - Dominguez Hills. Once you have achieved a bachelor's degree, you may take as many courses as you like, covering topics about coaching effectiveness, current concerns in sports psychology and team-building without having to finish an entire master's program.
- American Psychological Association: Careers in Psychology: Some of the Subfields in Psychology
- National University: Bachelor of Arts in Sports Psychology
- California Southern University: MS with a Concentration in Sports Counseling
- Capella University: Sport Psychology Specialization
- Florida State University: Core Courses
- California State University Dominguez Hills: Sport & Fitness Psychology Certificate Program
- West Virginia University: Frequently Asked Questions
- University of Denver: Program Overview
- University of North Texas: PhD in Counseling Psychology
Kristie Sweet has been writing professionally since 1982, most recently publishing for various websites on topics like health and wellness, and education. She holds a Master of Arts in English from the University of Northern Colorado.