How to Become a Sports Psychologist

Four Parts:Getting an EducationPassing the Boards ExamGaining Experience in Performance PsychologyFinding Work as a Sports Psychologist

Everyone knows that concentration is a key mental ingredient for athletes at all levels. However, personal issues often stand in the way of concentration, which can directly affect an athlete's performance. A sports psychologist works with athletes to help each player manage personal issues, cope with the stress of professional competition, and find ways to improve that athlete's outlook and performance.[1] Sports psychologists (sometimes called performance psychologists) also work with non-athletes, especially military personnel, corporate/business leaders, performing artists, and even politicians.[2]

Part 1
Getting an Education

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    Take relevant high school classes. If you're thinking about pursuing a career in sports psychology, you may want to begin taking relevant classes as early as possible. Taking coursework related to this field can give you a better idea of what your career would hold, and can help prepare you for the collegiate and graduate-level work ahead.
    • Take any psychology classes your school offers.
    • You may also benefit from taking statistics classes, as these will be required in college and/or graduate school. Statistics will also help prepare you for a career of research and data analysis.[3]
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    Apply to an accredited college program. You'll need an advanced degree to pursue a career in any field of psychology, but first you'll need to earn a bachelors degree. It's best to apply to schools that have been accredited, either at the state or regional level, to ensure that your education meets the recognized standard levels of quality.[4]
    • Some colleges offer a bachelors degree in sports psychology, but many do not.[5]
    • Many sports psychologists major in psychology, and take coursework to specialize in sports psychology.[6]
    • You can find psychology and sports psychology programs by searching online, or by using a specialized search engine like Psychology Career Center.[7]
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    Graduate with a bachelor's degree. After four years of hard work, you'll walk away with a bachelors degree in either psychology or sports psychology. It's important to do well and study your hardest in your undergraduate studies, as you'll need good grades to get into graduate school. If you're serious about pursuing a career in any field of psychology, you'll need a firm commitment to your studies, beginning in your undergraduate program.
    • Try getting involved in relevant extracurricular groups while you're working towards your bachelors degree. This can help boost your grad school application, teach you new skills, and build a network of professional connections.
    • Take any relevant internships you can while you're in school. Having experience will go a long way when you graduate and are seeking a job.[8]
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    Get into a graduate program. Any field of psychology will require a minimum of a master's degree. As you search for and apply to grad programs, it's once again important to narrow your search to accredited programs to ensure a higher standard of educational quality.
    • Some graduate programs specialize in sports psychology. If you cannot find such a program, you'll need to choose a grad program in psychology and take relevant clinical/sports psychology coursework.[9]
    • You can find programs by searching online for grad schools in your area, or by using a specialized database that indexes psychology programs.
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    Earn your master's degree. Once you've earned your master's degree in psychology (or in sports psychology), you'll have to make a decision. You can try to enter the workforce with the degree you've earned, or go on to pursue a doctorate degree.
    • If you have a master's degree, you may be able to find relevant work. However, most positions working as a clinical, counseling, or research psychologist will require you to earn a doctoral degree.[10]
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    Consider getting a doctorate degree. If you're interested in doing clinical work as a sports psychologist, you'll probably need a doctorate degree (though you may be able to find a position with a master's degree). You can search the American Psychological Association (APA) website for a list of APA-accredited doctoral programs.[11]
    • There are two main types of doctoral programs in psychology: the Doctorate of Philosophy (PhD) and the Doctor of Psychology (Psy.D.) degree.
    • The PhD degree is generally useful if you want to pursue a career in research or academia.
    • The Psy.D. degree is a clinical degree that will allow you to treat patients as a licensed doctor.[12]
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    Gain post-doctoral experience. In order to qualify for the Examination for Professional Practice in Psychology (EPPP) and gain certification, you will need to accrue two years of supervised experience working as a psychologist. One year is to be gained during your doctoral program (usually through an internship), and the second year is to be gained after you've graduated from your doctoral program.[13]
    • Depending on which state/province/territory you live in, there may be additional requirements for you to qualify for the EPPP. These may include a jurisprudence exam on the rules that govern psychological practice, or an oral examination.
    • See what your state/province/territory's requirements are in the Association of State and Provincial Psychology Boards (ASPPB) Handbook of Licensing and Certification Requirements for Psychologists in the U.S. and Canada.[14]

Part 2
Passing the Boards Exam

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    Register for the EPPP. The Examination for Professional Practice in Psychology is administered by the ASPPB. Where and when you take the examination will vary, depending on where you live. You can register by calling 1-800-513-6910 any time Monday through Friday between 8:00 am and 8:00 pm EST.[15]
    • Once your local licensing board confirms that you met the required degree and work experience requirements, they will upload your information to the ASPPB.
    • You will receive an automated email from to notify you when you can register online through the ASPPB website.
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    Study for the exam. It's important that you closely study the material you will be tested on in the EPPP. The exam is designed to test your knowledge of a practicing psychologist's responsibilities and areas of knowledge.[16]
    • Once you've been authorized by the ASPPB to take the exam, you will be able to take the practice exam online.
    • You will need to log into your ASPPB account to take the practice exam. It can be taken multiple times, either at home (online) or in a testing center.
    • The practice exam costs $55 to take online, or $155 to take at a Pearson Professional Center.[17]
    • The ASPPB only has one practice exam, which will remain the same no matter where you take it or how many times you attempt it.
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    Take the exam. You will need to arrive at your local test center at least 30 minutes before your scheduled exam time. You'll be required to show two valid forms of ID issued by the country in which you are taking the exam. If you do not have a qualifying ID, you may show a passport from your country of origin and a secondary form of ID.[18]
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    Pass the EPPP. After you've studied and taken the practice exam, you'll be ready to take the actual exam. The EPPP consists of 225 total questions: 50 ungraded pretest questions and 175 scored questions. Each question is in a multiple choice format, with four possible answers of which one is correct.[20] Your score will range between 200 and 800, with 500 being the minimum score for independent practice and 450 being the minimum score for supervised practice.[21] The test covers the following subject areas:
    • Biological Bases of Behavior (worth 12%)
    • Cognitive-Affective Bases of Behavior (worth 13%)
    • Social and Cultural Bases of Behavior (worth 12%)
    • Growth and Lifespan Development (worth 12%)
    • Assessment and Diagnosis (worth 14%)
    • Treatment, Intervention, Prevention, and Supervision (worth 14%)
    • Research Methods and Statistics (worth 8%)
    • Ethical/Legal/Professional Issues (worth 15%)
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    Receive your results. You will receive an unofficial score at the test center upon completing the EPPP. Your actual score (which typically does not vary from the unofficial score, except in rare cases such as suspected cheating) will be reported to your local licensing board within 10 days of the exam completion, and the board will determine whether your score meets the minimum criterion for your local jurisdiction.[22]
    • Your scores will be received by your jurisdictional licensing board on a Wednesday, covering test dates from the previous week (Sunday through Saturday).

Part 3
Gaining Experience in Performance Psychology

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    Choose an area of concentration. There are three primary career fields for sports psychologists. Which field you'd like to concentrate in will determine the focus of your studies and the scope of your internship/work experience. The three fields are:
    • academic jobs - teaching sports psychology coursework and conducting research at a university
    • applied psychology jobs - training athletes and working with entire sports teams to enhance team performance, motivation, and endurance[23]
    • clinical psychology jobs - working one-on-one with athletes and coaches to teach coping skills, work through stress and performance anxiety, and address any underlying psychological issues[24]
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    Take an internship. Some degree programs require an internship as a mandatory part of your education, and for good reason. Internships are an excellent way to gain experience in your field, add credentials to your resume, and make network connections that could last a lifetime.[25]
    • Try getting involved in sports, or at least following a team and learning the basics of the game. You'll ideally be working with athletes, so it's best to understand what athletes go through on a daily basis.[26]
    • Your college/graduate/doctoral program may offer specialized internships through some type of partnership.
    • You can find internships by reaching out to a practice you'd like to work with, or by searching the APA website for internships in your area.[27]
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    Join a professional association. Professional organizations are not a requirement for work in sports psychology, but they can help you build professional contacts and may open new career doors to you down the line. Some of the most common professional associations for sports psychologists include:
    • Advancement of Applied Sport Psychology (AASP)
    • American Psychological Association (APA), Division 47
    • International Society of Sport Psychology (ISSP)
    • North American Society for Psychology of Sport and Physical Activity (NASPSPA)[28]

Part 4
Finding Work as a Sports Psychologist

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    Put together a strong resume. Your resume is the first impression an employer will have of you before you ever walk through their doors. It's important to compose a strong, professional resume that highlights your education and work experience, as well as any other relevant accomplishments.
    • Use a standard, simple font like Calibri, Arial, or Tahoma. Keep your font size between 10 and 12 points, and be consistent with both font and font size.[29]
    • Include your name and contact information in the letterhead at the top of your resume.
    • List your educational history, including the dates you earned your degrees and any honors you were awarded, in reverse-chronological order (highest/most recent degree listed first).
    • Next, list your job experience in reverse-chronological order.
    • List any clubs/activities you were involved in during your studies.
    • Detail any scholarships or awards you were given.
    • Name any professional organizations/associations you've been a part of that are relevant to your career.
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    Find and apply to jobs. There are many ways to find psychology jobs. You might start by looking at professional association websites, like the APA or AASP.[30] You can also reach out to any professional contacts you've made over the years to see if your network knows of any job openings in your field.
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    Prepare for the interview. During the interview, it's important that you not only answer the questions asked of you, but also provide as much relevant information about your experience and credentials as possible. You can craft your responses to the interviewer's questions to address your strong points and highlight your resume.[31]
    • Be confident, but not arrogant.
    • Know in advance what is expected of you for the position, and address those expectations in everything you say during the interview.
    • Learn as much as possible about the team, institution, or clinic you are interviewing with.
    • When you're permitted to ask your own questions, ask something relevant to the employer to show you've done your research.
    • Don't be afraid to admit that you don't have an answer to a question. You can say something like, "I'm not sure about that off the top of my head. But I'd be happy to check into that and follow up with you at a later date."
    • Send any follow-up information that was requested as soon as possible.
    • Send a thank you letter or email to the interviewer to show your gratitude for the time and opportunity you were given.
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    Gain work experience. Depending on your internships, coursework, and prior work experience, you may need to take an entry-level position. Do not be discouraged, as any work experience helps further build your resume. There are also many options available to you, once you are working in your field. Common related careers for sports psychologists include:
    • team development
    • consulting
    • administrative work
    • academic work[32]


  • Keep in mind you will rarely deal with students and athletes that have no problems. Some of the issues that you will be exposed to can be serious, such as issues with depression and/or suicide.

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Categories: Psychology Studies | Legal Careers