Sports Psychologist Career (Salary + Duties + Interviews)

Working in a field that you are passionate about makes your job feel like a vacation. But not everyone believes that they can follow multiple passions at the same time – until they do a little digging and find there are industries and job positions available at the intersection of their passions. 

This is how many sports psychologists feel about discovering their career. Yes, I said “sports psychologist.” Baseball, tennis, football – all of these sports are played, coached, and watched by people whose mindsets can give insight into how to improve sports and help different sports organizations meet goals for their players, owners, and employees. If you are passionate about sports but also love learning about psychology and human nature, you can still pursue a career that speaks to both of your passions. 

What does a Sports Psychologist Do?

A sports psychologist studies, assesses, and shares how human behavior and decision-making impacts the world of sports, and vice versa. They look at sports through a psychologist’s lens. Their goals range from improving player performance to elevating the world of sports through safety initiatives and different expectations for players.

While some sports psychologists spend their careers researching different theories about playing, coaching, or watching sports, others are “on the field,” working with players, coaches, and larger sports organizations. Some sports psychologists give speeches about how you can be a better athlete, while others advocate for policies that protect players and make sports more fun to watch around the globe.

Job Requirements

You don’t have to be a star athlete to become a sports psychologist, but being a star student definitely helps! Sports psychologists must earn a doctorate degree, either a Ph.D. or a PsyD, specializing in sports psychology. (Yes, plenty of schools offer sports psychology programs!) Depending on your desired position and employer, you may also have to get board certification by completing an internship and passing an exam.

Salary (How Much Do Sports Psychologists Make?)

You might not have the same salary as Tiger Woods or Bill Belichick, but as a sports psychologist, you can still make a pretty decent salary. Salaries range based on who you are working for (a research facility will have fewer funds available to them than a professional sports team,) where you live, and how long you have been working in the field. Use these salary ranges as an estimate as you plan which college to attend and where you want to look for work as a sports psychologist: 

Sports Psychology Reported Salary

Low

Average

High

Payscale.com

$49,000

$72,527

$106,000

ZipRecruiter

$20,500

$73,501

$152,500

Glassdoor

$36,000

$73,462

$151,000

Schools for Sports Psychology Degrees

Sports psychology programs aren’t as common as more general psychology courses, but there are still a handful of schools that you can attend to become a sports psychologist. Start off your school search with these 10 colleges and universities: 

  • University of Denver (Denver, CO) 
  • Springfield College (Springfield, MA)
  • Purdue University (West Lafayette, IN)
  • Oregon State University (Corvallis, OR)
  • University of North Texas (Denton, TX) 
  • Stanford University (Stanford, CA)
  • The University of Michigan (East Lansing, MI)
  • Boston University (Boston, MA)
  • Florida State University (Tallahassee, FL) 
  • Ball State University (Muncie, IN) 

Companies That Hire Sports Psychologists

Sports psychologists may work directly with players, but not always. If you are interested in sports but want to advocate for public policy or answer the biggest questions you have about sports and decision-making, you may find yourself in a research lab or working with other organizations. Sports psychologists work at: 

  • Colleges and universities
  • Professional sports teams
  • Healthcare providers
  • Research facilities
  • American Psychological Association

Sports psychologists may open up their own private practice or business. Based on the research you have done and where you want to go in your career, you may find yourself at multiple different organizations or starting your own practice at different points throughout your career. 

Interviews from a Sports Psychologist

Want to know more about what it takes to be a sports psychologist? Hear it from sports psychologists themselves! Read through this interview with Jim Taylor or Adwait to learn more about what sports psychologists are doing all around the world.  

You can also watch these videos online. Hear from Seattle Seahawks sports psychologist Dr. Michael Gervais and the US Olympic Committee’s Karen Cogen about their field and what they do from day to day.

Interviews with athletes also show the impact that sports psychologists have on the world! Listen to a clip where Joe Rogan interviews kick boxer Rico Verhoeven on the importance of sports psychology.

Famous Sports Psychologists

Did you know that sports psychology was actually pioneered by an educational psychologist? That’s right! In the 1920s, educational psychologist Coleman Griffith published the first papers on sports psychology, including The Psychologist of Athletics. Griffith is considered “the father of sports psychology.” 

Many other sports psychologists have greatly impacted the field. Dr. John F. Murray is one of the most notable sports psychologists today, often called “The Freud of Football.” 

Dr. Robert Nideffer has published 15 books and over 100 articles on the subject of sports psychology. He has worked with US Olympic teams and institutions around the world. 

Although Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi is not primarily known as a sports psychologist, his work on the idea of “flow” has been applied to sports. He and Susan Jackson published “Flow in Sports” in 1999.

Sports Psychology Examples

Not all sports psychologists do the same thing day-to-day or have the same job as the sports psychologist next door. When you work in this position, you might find yourself: 

  1. Giving a speech to athletes on how they can improve their mental health
  2. Conducting research on how consumers watch, enjoy, and spend money on sports games
  3. Interviewing coaches on their leadership styles and how they treat players before a game
  4. Writing and publishing a book about how mindset affects sports performance
  5. Holding a workshop on team building and how coaches can support their players after a loss

Theodore T.

Theodore is a professional psychology educator with over 10 years of experience creating educational content on the internet. PracticalPsychology started as a helpful collection of psychological articles to help other students, which has expanded to a Youtube channel with over 2,000,000 subscribers and an online website with 500+ posts.