Ranking Top 25 Graduate Sports Psychology Degree Programs 2016

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By Kristen Fescoe
Published September 2016

Sports psychology is one of the most rapidly growing specialty areas within the greater field of general psychology. These specialized psychologists are becoming a common counterpart to a coach on many professional and even amateur sports teams. While it is the coach’s responsibility to focus on the physical elements of the team, the sport psychologist’s role is to focus on the athlete’s mind. Sport psychologists can work with athletes of all levels to help them reach their personal goals and exceed their expectations. Sports psychology graduate programs are similar to general psychology programs in many of the curricular requirements. They cover the high points of historical and modern psychology theories. The biggest difference is that less emphasis is placed on conducting research. While students in these programs will learn to conduct, interpret and use psychological research, there is less weight in this area than other psychology graduate programs. Thesis requirements vary from program to program; with most schools requiring students complete either a research based thesis or a literature review. Students have the option of working towards their master’s degree or doctoral level degree in the field. This list highlights the best graduate programs in the field of sports psychology in the United States.

Ranking Top 25 Graduate Degree Programs in Sports Psychology

#1: Purdue University- West Lafayette, Indiana

Purdue University Best Graduate Sports Psychology DegreeThe Department of Health and Kinesiology

Degrees Offered:
Master of Science in Sport and Exercise Psychology
Doctor of Philosophy in Sport and Exercise Psychology
Dual Master of Science in Sport and Exercise Psychology and Master of Public Health
Dual Doctor of Philosophy in Sport and Exercise Psychology and Master of Public Health
Affiliations:
The College of Health and Human Sciences

Points: 14
Program Website

All of these degree programs in sport and exercise psychology have a research emphasis, with focus on social relationships, self-perceptions, motivation processes, well-being, and adjustment to adversity in sport, exercise, and physical activity settings.

Average Annual Graduate Tuition and Fees: $10,002
US News and World Report Ranking:
#61 Best National University
#21 Top Public School
#46 Best Graduate Program in Psychology
Acceptance Rate: 59.2%
Accreditations:
American Psychological Association (APA)
Higher Learning Commission of the North Central Association of Colleges and Schools (NCACS)

#2: University of Utah – Salt Lake City, Utah

University of Utah Best Graduate Sports Psychology DegreeThe Department of Health, Kinesiology, and Recreation

Degrees Offered:
MS Degree in Kinesiology with an Emphasis in Sport & Exercise Psychology
PhD in Kinesiology with an Emphasis in Sport & Exercise Psychology
Affiliations:
The College of Health
The Department of Psychology

Points: 12
Program Website

The Master of Science can be pursued as a terminal or non-terminal degree, depending upon whether the student plans to pursue doctoral training after completion of the master’s plan of study.

Average Annual Graduate Tuition and Fees: $7,222
US News and World Report Ranking:
#115 Best National University
#55 Top Public School
#67 Best Graduate Program in Psychology
Acceptance Rate: 81.4%
Accreditations:
Northwest Commission on Colleges and Universities (NWCCU)

#3: Southern Illinois University – Edwardsville, Illinois

Southern Illinois University Best Graduate Sports Psychology Degree
The Department of Exercise and Sport Psychology

Degrees Offered:
Master of Science in Exercise and Sport Psychology
Affiliations:
The School of Education, Health and Human Behavior

Points: 12
Program Website

Students have the ability to pursue a thesis or non-thesis option, starting in the fall, spring or summer. The versatile program can be completed in as little as one year, with the average being 5 semesters to complete the degree.

Average Annual Graduate Tuition and Fees: $8,250
US News and World Report Ranking:
#44 Best Midwestern Regional University
#10 Top Public School
Acceptance Rate: 87%
Accreditations:
Higher Learning Commission of the North Central Association of Colleges and Schools (NCACS)

#4: Florida State University – Tallahassee, Florida

Florida State University Best Graduate Sports Psychology DegreeThe Department of Sports Psychology

Degrees Offered:
Master of Science in Sports Psychology
Doctor of Philosophy in Sports Psychology
Affiliations:
FSU College of Education

Points: 12
Program Website

Students enrolled in the MS and PhD programs have ample opportunities to provide sport psychology services to varsity and club teams at FSU, as well as athletes throughout the Tallahassee area.

Average Annual Graduate Tuition and Fees: $11,543
US News and World Report Ranking:
#96 Best National University
#43 Top Public School
#60 Best Graduate Program in Psychology
Acceptance Rate: 55.4%
Accreditation:
Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges (SACS-COC)

#5: Minnesota State University – Mankato, Minnesota

Minnesota State University Best Graduate Sports Psychology Degree
The Department of Sport and Exercise Psychology

Degrees Offered:
Master of Science in Sport and Exercise Psychology
Concentrations Offered:
AASP Certification Concentration
Non-Certification Track
Unrestricted Electives Track
Affiliations:
The College of Allied Health and Nursing
The School of Human Performance
The Department of Psychology

Points: 11
Program Website

Students have the opportunity to work hands-on with local college, high school and recreational athletes, while also joining research teams and publishing articles through this program.

Average Annual Graduate Tuition and Fees: $7,547
US News and World Report Ranking:
#75 Best Midwestern Regional University
#21 Top Public School
Acceptance Rate: 66.6%
Accreditations:
Higher Learning Commission of the North Central Association of Colleges and Schools (NCACS)

#6: West Virginia University – Morgantown, West Virginia

West Virginia University Best Graduate Sports Psychology Degree
The Department of Sport and Exercise Psychology

Degrees Offered:
Master of Arts in Counseling
Doctor of Philosophy Sport and Exercise Psychology
Concentrations Offered:
Sport and Exercise Psychology
Affiliations:
College of Physical Activity and Sport Sciences

Points: 11
Program Website

Graduates of the doctoral program are awarded a master’s degree in counseling and are qualified to sit for the licensure examination as a professional counselor upon graduation.

Average Annual Graduate Tuition and Fees: $8,568
US News and World Report Ranking:
#175 Best National University
#98 Top Public School
#78 Best Graduate Program in Psychology
Acceptance Rate: 85.8%
Accreditations:
Higher Learning Commission of the North Central Association of Colleges and Schools (NCACS)

#7: University of Missouri – Columbia, Missouri

University of Missouri Best Graduate Sports Psychology Degree
The Department of Educational, School and Counseling Psychology

Degrees Offered:
Master of Education in Educational, School and Counseling Psychology
Concentrations Offered:
Sports Psychology
Affiliations:
The College of Education

Points: 11
Program Website

This specialty degree combines the fields of sport psychology and career counseling to train students for careers in the world of sports, such as coaches, athletic trainers, athletic administrators and many more.

Average Annual Graduate Tuition and Fees: $9,506
US News and World Report Ranking:
#103 Best National University
#47 Top Public School
#40 Best Education School
Acceptance Rate: 77.7%
Accreditations:
Higher Learning Commission of the North Central Association of Colleges and Schools (NCACS)

#8: University of Tennessee – Knoxville, Tennessee

University of Tennessee Best Graduate Sports Psychology Degree
The Department of Kinesiology, Recreation and Sports Science

Degrees Offered:
Master of Science in Kinesiology
Doctor of Philosophy in Kinesiology
Concentrations Offered:
Sport Psychology and Motor Behavior
Affiliations:
The College of Education, Health and Human Sciences
The Department of Psychology

Points: 11
Program Website

This department is home to several kinesiology and sport science programs that include thorough training in the field of sports psychology as preparation for a wide range of careers.

Average Annual Graduate Tuition and Fees: $12,356
US News and World Report Ranking:
#103 Best National University
#47 Top Public School
#101 Best Graduate Program in Psychology
Acceptance Rate: 74.8%
Accreditations:
Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges (SACS-COC)

#9: Oregon State University – Corvallis, Oregon

Oregon State University Best Graduate Sports Psychology DegreeThe Department of Kinesiology

Degrees Offered:
Master of Science in Kinesiology
Doctor of Philosophy in Kinesiology
Concentrations Offered:
Sport and Exercise Psychology
Affiliations:
College of Public Health and Human Sciences
The School of Biological and Population Health Sciences

Points: 11
Program Website

Doctorate students in this program earn their degree while obtaining a doctoral minor in a complimentary area of study, such as Human Development and Family Sciences, Public Health, Psychology, Women’s Studies and several others.

Average Annual Graduate Tuition and Fees: $13,722
US News and World Report Ranking:
#135 Best National University
#68 Top Public School
Acceptance Rate: 77.8%
Accreditations:
Northwest Commission on Colleges and Universities (NWCCU)
The Council on Education for Public Health (CEPH)

#10: Temple University – Philadelphia, Pennsylvania

Temple University Best Graduate Sports Psychology DegreeThe Department of Kinisiology

Degrees Offered:
Master of Science in Kinesiology
Doctor of Philosophy in Kinesiology
Concentrations Offered:
Psychology of Movement
Affiliations:
College of Public Health

Points: 10
Program Website

The graduate programs in kinesiology and the psychology of movement train students as teachers, researchers, clinicians and practitioners, by giving students the opportunity to complete coursework, research and applied work through a range of areas within the greater discipline.

Average Annual Graduate Tuition and Fees: $16,144
US News and World Report Ranking:
#115 Best National University
#55 Top Public School
#52 Best Graduate Program in Psychology
Acceptance Rate: 61.7%
Accreditations:
American Psychological Association (APA)
Middle States Association of Colleges and Secondary Schools (MSACSC)

#11: University of North Texas – Denton, Texas

University of North Texas Best Graduate Sports Psychology DegreeThe Department of Psychology

Degrees Offered:
Doctor of Philosophy in Counseling Psychology
Doctor of Philosophy in Educational Research
Master of Science in Kinesiology
Concentrations Offered:
Psychosocial Aspects of Sport and Exercise (MS Kinesiology)
Psychosocial Aspects of Sports and Exercise (PhD in Educ. Research)
Sports Psychology (PhD Counseling)
Affiliations:
The Center for Sports Psychology

Points: 9
Program Website

Students in all of the graduate sports psychology programs have a competitive edge because they have direct access to the Center for Sports Psychology at North Texas, where they can work with athletes throughout their training.

Average Annual Graduate Tuition and Fees: $7,165
US News and World Report Ranking:
#141 Best Graduate Program in Psychology
Acceptance Rate: 62.1%
Accreditations:
Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges (SACS-COC)

#12: Ithaca College – Ithaca, New York

Ithaca College Best Graduate Sports Psychology Degree
The Department of Exercise and Sport Sciences

Degrees Offered:
Master of Science in Exercise and Sport Sciences
Concentrations Offered:
Sports Psychology
Affiliations:
The Department of Psychology

Points: 9
Program Website

This program qualifies students for certification by the Association for the Advancement of Applied Sport Psychology, to pursue careers as a college or university coach, college or university teaching positions or sport psychology consultant.

Average Annual Graduate Tuition and Fees: $19,248
US News and World Report Ranking:
#9 Best Northern Regional University
#12 Best Value School
Acceptance Rate: 59.1%
Accreditations:
Middle States Commission on Higher Education (MSCHE)

#13: Springfield College – Springfield, Massachusetts

Springfield College Best Graduate Sports Psychology Degree
The Exercise Science and Sport Studies Department

Degrees Offered:
Master of Science in Sports Psychology
Doctor of Philosophy in Sports Psychology
Concentrations Offered:
Affiliations:
The School of Health, Physical Education and Recreation

Points: 9
Program Website

Upon completion of the sport and exercise psychology doctoral program, graduates have completed the requirements for certification as a sport psychology consultant by the Association for Applied Sport Psychology (AASP).

Average Annual Graduate Tuition and Fees: $28,985
US News and World Report Ranking:
#29 Best Northern Regional University
#37 Best Graduate Program in Rehabilitation Counseling
Acceptance Rate: 70.9%
Accreditations:
New England Association of Schools and Colleges (NEASC)

#14 : University of North Carolina – Greensboro, North Carolina

UNC Greenboro Best Graduate Sports Psychology DegreeThe Department of Kinesiology

Degrees Offered:
Master of Science in Kinesiology
Doctor of Philosophy in Kinesiology
Concentrations Offered:
Sport and Exercise Psychology
Affiliations:
The School of Health and Human Sciences

Points: 8
Program Website

Both programs combine theory, research, and practice, to outline important areas such as cognitive, emotional, psychophysiological and social factors that influence sport and exercise behaviors.

Average Annual Graduate Tuition and Fees: $7,489
US News and World Report Ranking:
#187 Best National University
#105 Top Public School
#92 Best Graduate Program in Psychology
Acceptance Rate: 60%
Accreditations:
Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges (SACS-COC)

#15: Ball State University – Muncie, Indiana

Ball State University Best Graduate Sports Psychology Degree
The Department of Sport and Exercise Psychology

Degrees Offered:
Master of Arts in Sport and Exercise Psychology
Master of Science Sport and Exercise Psychology
Affiliations:
The School of Physical Education, Sport, and Exercise Science

Points: 7
Program Website

The Master of Arts (research project) and Master of Science (thesis) in Sport and Exercise Psychology degree programs are based in a strong curriculum that includes an ample amount of field experiences for experiential learning.

Average Annual Graduate Tuition and Fees: $8,904
US News and World Report Ranking:
#168 Best National University
#91 Top Public School
#158 Best Graduate Program in Psychology
Acceptance Rate: 59.9%
Accreditations:
Higher Learning Commission of the North Central Association of Colleges and Schools (NCACS)

#16: University of Denver – Denver, Colorado

University of Denver Best Graduate Sports Psychology Degree
The Department of Sport and Performance Psychology

Degrees Offered:
Master of Arts in Sport and Performance Psychology
Affiliations:
Graduate School of Professional Psychology

Points: 7
Program Website

The Department took a unique approach when creating the curriculum, allowing it to be designed completely for sport and performance psychology, rather than existing psychology curriculums with courses in sports psychology.

Average Annual Graduate Tuition and Fees: $43,458
US News and World Report Ranking:
#86 Best National University
#92 Best Graduate Program in Psychology
Acceptance Rate: 76.5%
Accreditations:
Higher Learning Commission of the North Central Association of Colleges and Schools (NCACS)

#17: University of Western States – Portland, Oregon

University of Western States Best Graduate Sports Psychology Degree
The Department of Sport and Performance Psychology

Degrees Offered:
Master of Science in Sport and Performance Psychology
Doctor of Education in Sport and Performance Psychology
Affiliations:
The College of Graduate and Professional Studies

Points: 6
MS Program Website
EdD Program Website

Both programs curriculum provides a range of sport and performance psychology topics to allow students to complete the specialized coursework to become a certified sport psychology consultant through the Association for Applied Sport Psychology (CC-AASP) at the master’s level and for both certification and licensure at the doctoral level. The Master’s program offers both an Applied Sports Psychology Graduate Certificate and a Sport Performance and Coaching Concentration.

Average Annual Graduate Tuition and Fees: $7,579
US News and World Report Ranking: Not Applicable
Acceptance Rate: Data not available
Accreditations:
Northwest Commission on Colleges and Universities (NWCCU)

#18: Georgia Southern University – Statesboro, Georgia

Georgia Southern University Best Graduate Sports Psychology DegreeThe Department of Kinesiology

Degrees Offered:
Master of Science in Kinesiology
Concentrations Offered:
Sports Psychology
Affiliations:
The College of Graduate Studies

Points: 5
Program Website

This program is firmly grounded in the combination of science with application in the area of performance enhancement and life skill development to offer students the fundamentals of the scientific process in group/team interventions.

Average Annual Graduate Tuition and Fees: $8,728
US News and World Report Ranking: Not Applicable
Acceptance Rate: 63.1&
Accreditations:
Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges (SACS-COC)

#19: University of the Rockies – Denver, Colorado

University of the Rockies Best Graduate Sports Psychology DegreeThe Department of Psychology

Degrees Offered:
Master of Arts in Psychology
Doctor of Philosophy in Psychology
Concentrations Offered:
Sport and Performance Psychology

Points: 5
MA Program Website
PhD Program Website

Both the Master of Arts and the Doctor of Psychology with a concentration in Sport and Performance Psychology can be earned completely in an online format.

Average Annual Graduate Tuition and Fees: $17,398
US News and World Report Ranking: Not Applicable
Acceptance Rate: Data not available
Accreditations:
Higher Learning Commission of the North Central Association of Colleges and Schools (NCACS)

#20: Barry University – Miami Shores, Florida

Barry University Best Graduate Sports Psychology Degree
School of Human Performance and Leisure Sciences

Degrees Offered:
Master of Science in Sport, Exercise, and Performance Psychology
Concentrations Offered:
Applied Track
Thesis Track
Dual Track

Points: 5
Program Website

The applied track curriculum includes courses in Performance Enhancement of Psychology, Service Delivery and Professional Practice. The thesis track emphasizes courses in Advanced Statistics and/or Qualitative Methodology, Thesis Proposal and Thesis Defense.

Average Annual Graduate Tuition and Fees: $17,820
US News and World Report Ranking: Not Applicable
Acceptance Rate: 46.1%
Accreditations:
Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges (SACS-COC)

#21: Boston University – Boston, Massachusetts

Boston University Best Graduate Sports Psychology DegreeThe Department of Counseling

Degrees Offered:
Master of Education in Counseling
Concentrations Offered:
Sports Psychology
Affiliations:
The School of Education

Points: 5
Program Website

Students have a range of field experiences, including four semesters of sports-focused experience and three semesters of clinical experience at schools, youth sport development sites, or collegiate sport settings.

Average Annual Graduate Tuition and Fees: $48,082
US News and World Report Ranking:
#41 Best National University
#46 Best Graduate Program in Psychology
Acceptance Rate: 34.5%
Accreditations:
New England Association of Schools and Colleges (NEASC)

#22: John F. Kennedy University – Pleasant Hill, California

JFK University Best Graduate Sports Psychology Degree
College of Graduate and Professional Studies

Degrees Offered:
Master of Arts in Sport Psychology
Master of Arts in Sport Psychology – Clinical PsyD Dual Degree
Master of Arts in Sport Psychology – MBA Dual Degree
Graduate Certificate in Sport Psychology
Concentrations Offered:
Sports Psychology
Affiliations:
The Department of Sports Psychology
The Department of Psychology
The Department of Business Administration

Points: 4
Program Website

Both the master’s and certificate programs can be completed in either an onsite, online or hybrid-learning format (combining online and onsite courses), depending upon student needs.

Average Annual Graduate Tuition and Fees: $23,640
US News and World Report Ranking: Not Applicable
Acceptance Rate: Data Unavailable
Accreditations:
Senior College and University Commission of the Western Association of Schools and Colleges (WASC)

#23: Capella University- Minneapolis, Minnesota

Capella University Best Graduate Sports Psychology DegreeThe Department of Psychology

Degrees Offered:
Master of Science in Psychology
Concentrations Offered:
Sport Psychology
Affiliations:
Harold Abel School of Social and Behavioral Science

Points: 4
Program Website

This program allows students to earn their degree in sports psychology fully online, with the “FlexPath Option” that allows students to work at their own pace.

Average Annual Graduate Tuition and Fees: $14,175
US News and World Report Ranking: Not Applicable
Acceptance Rate: Data not available
Accreditations:
Higher Learning Commission of the North Central Association of Colleges and Schools (NCACS)

#24: Argosy University – Phoenix, Arizona

Argosy University Best Graduate Sports Psychology Degree

The Department of Counseling, Psychology and Social Science

Degrees Offered:
Master of Arts (MA) in Sport-Exercise Psychology
Affiliations:
The Department of Psychology

Points: 4
Program Website

The Master of Arts (MA) in Sport-Exercise Psychology can be earned at all of the brick-and-mortar locations of Argosy, as well as fully online.

Average Annual Graduate Tuition and Fees: $13,628
US News and World Report Ranking: Not Applicable
Acceptance Rate: Data not available
Accreditations:
Senior College and University Commission of the Western Association of Schools and Colleges (WASC)

#25 : Adler University – Chicago, Illinois

Adler University Best Graduate Sports Psychology DegreeThe Department of Counseling

Degrees Offered:
Master of Arts in Counseling
Concentrations Offered:
Sport and Health Psychology
Affiliations:
The Department of Psychology

Points: 3
Program Website

This innovative degree program integrates the fields of sports psychology, health psychology, and counseling, to provide the sole master’s program in the country that offers a dual counseling and sport psychology credential.

Average Annual Graduate Tuition and Fees: $29,480
US News and World Report Ranking: Not Applicable
Acceptance Rate: Data not available
Accreditations:
Higher Learning Commission of the North Central Association of Colleges and Schools (NCACS)

Ranking Methodology – Sports Psychology Graduate Programs

This ranking list was formulated to outline the very best graduate programs in Sports Psychology in the United States according to a combination of several ranking factors. In order to be considered, each school must have received to proper accreditation. Factors considered:

Average Annual Cost of Graduate Attendance

One of the major factors being considered is the average annual cost of attendance. Schools offering academic training while also keeping student costs low are given higher consideration. Tuition data was collected using the College Navigator Tool.

Points:
Under $15,000 / $15,001 – $20,000/ $20,001 – $25,000:
3 Points / 2 Points / 1 Point

College Ranking

The next consideration was whether or not a school has been granted acknowledgement by a national ranking body. The major source of such national notoriety comes from the US News and World Report Best Colleges List. The Data being considered for this ranking list is National Ranking, Top Public School and Best Value Ranking.

Points:

US News and World Report Best National University Ranking:
Top 50 / Top 100 / Top 150
3 Points / 2 Points / 1 Point

US News and World Report Best Regional University, Best Graduate Program, Best Value School and Top Public School Ranking:
Top 25 / Top 50 / Top 100
3 Points / 2 Points / 1 Point

Number of Degree Options or Areas of Specialization

While it may not be imperative in some fields to offer an array of areas of specialization, psychology is not one of those fields. With a vast number of possible specializations and concentrations it is important to graduate psychology students to have the ability to pursue a degree specialized to fit their career goals.

Points:
Number of Available Degree Options or Areas of Specialization
2 Degree or Specialization Options / 3 or More Degree or Specialization Options
2 Points / 3 Points

Accreditation

In order to be included in this ranking list an appropriate ranking body must regionally accredit each college or university. Those schools that have received additional accreditation are given an edge over schools without the stamp of accreditation.

Points:

Each Accreditation: 1 Point

Grading Process

Once the points have been tallied the schools are arranged into groups by the amount of points they have earned. In the cases of ties, preference was given to those schools with the lowest tuition rates. The main purpose of this list is to highlight the top graduate Sports Psychology programs in the United States. Specializations, awards and achievements earned by the school or department have also been noted.

About the Author

After earning a Bachelor of Arts in Psychology from Rutgers University and then a Master of Science in Clinical and Forensic Psychology from Drexel University, Kristen began a career as a therapist at two prisons in Philadelphia. At the same time she volunteered as a rape crisis counselor, also in Philadelphia. After a few years in the field she accepted a teaching position at a local college where she currently teaches online psychology courses. Kristen began writing in college and still enjoys her work as a writer, editor, professor and mother.

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