Five Reasons to Pursue a Career in Sports and Exercise Psychology

There’s no doubt about it. We live in a sports-loving society. For perspective, sports activities in the United States, including everything from professional team ticket sales to equipment purchased at your local sporting goods store, generates about $400 billion annually. That is a large and very lucrative market. For those considering a career in sports and exercise psychology, have no fear, the demand is there. Here are the five top reasons you should consider an exercise psychology career.

Supply and Demand

As mentioned in the introduction, there is a high demand by consumers to watch and/or participate in sporting activities. No longer is it enough to just get out there and hope for the best. Before the high-flying days of multi-million dollar contracts, pro athletes had to work actual jobs in the off season to make ends meet. The Green Bay Packers of the NFL took their name from a local meat packing plant where many of the players worked. The bottom line is that today’s athlete demands highly educated professionals to help them train to perform at their physical and mental best.


According to the American Psychological Association (APA), sports psychologists in university athletic departments can expect to earn $60,000 to $80,000 annually. Those who go on to work for professional teams could easily top six figures. That’s not too shabby. If you decide to go into business for yourself as a consultant, there’s no ceiling to how much you can earn. When your clients are professional athletes and parents determined to get little Johnny into college on a full ride scholarship, the sky is the limit. There’s a good chance the market might tolerate an hourly rate equal to some doctors and lawyers.

Diverse Career Path

What does it mean to be a sports psychologist? For you, it can mean whatever you want it to mean. A career in this field could take a variety of paths, most of which fit into the following three categories. Applied sports psychology focuses on teaching skills to improve athletic performance. Clinical sports psychology combines mental training with psychotherapy to help clients with mental health problems like depression or eating disorders. Academic sports psychologists teach at colleges and universities, often pursuing areas of research that interests them.

Part of a Team

To many, the appeal of a career in sports and exercise psychology is the prospect of working within the team concept. In fact, it’s hard to get away from the idea of team in this field. Those who love to go it alone might want to reconsider the idea of becoming a sports psychologist. But there is a sense of camaraderie and “all for one” inherent in many of these types of jobs.

The Positive Mindset

It’s no secret that people traditionally go to a psychologist because they have a problem. That’s not always the case with a sports psychologist. Many clients have a history of excelling. They’re used to being good at something and want to learn how to get better. This positive mindset contrasts with other psychologists who often treat clients that have not had success in life, and are dealing with multiple areas of deficiency. Don’t underestimate the power of positivity!

Deciding whether or not to pursue a career in sports and exercise psychology is an intensely personal decision. What are your skills and interests? Expect that you’ll need a master’s or doctorate level degree to be competitive in the job market. If you don’t have a great love for sports and exercise, this is probably not something you will be well-suited to. But if you do, this could be the career you’ve been waiting for.


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