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Exercise Psychology Graduate Degree Programs

Learn about the graduate degree program requirements and coursework recommendations for becoming an Exercise/Sport Psychology professional. Explore undergraduate requirements, graduate level options, career licensure, and career options.

Comparing Different Exercise Psychology Graduate Programs

Master's Degree in Sports Psychology

Masters' programs in Sports Psychology require undergraduate completion of a Bachelor of Science in Psychology, Sports Medicine, or a related curriculum. Exercise/sports psychology integrates the fields of psychology, health, and education so undergrad degrees in these areas can often be applicable as well. Students can pursue Sports Psychology graduate degrees as either Master of Science (MS) or Master of Art (MA) which can be completed within two years, require 24 completed credits, and courses often include both applied and theory curriculum.

Students with Masters' degrees in Sports Psychology are recommended to obtain doctorate level degrees (PhD or PsyD) prior to obtaining state licensure (in most states, it is required). Common careers for Masters level students include: Sports Rehab Specialist, Sports Research Specialist, Sports Psychology Professor, Professional Team Coach, and more.

Master's Degree in Applied or Clinical Psychology

Master's degrees in Applied or Clinical Psychology that focus on Sports Psychology or Counseling require completion of a Bachelor of Science degree in Psychology, Sports Psychology, or related Health or Education study. These degrees typically take two years to complete and provide requisite training for doctorate level coursework and state accreditation. Common careers for Masters level students include: Clinical Psychologist (often requires a doctorate), Organizational Psychologist, Psychology Professor, and more.

Master's Degree in Counseling

Due to the fact that Sports Psychology is a relatively new career field, many students pursue Masters' Degrees in Counseling, which also take two years to complete. A B.A. or B.S. in Psychology is required to begin a Master's degree in Counseling. Those who choose this field of study should specialize in exercise and sports psychology. Again, it is recommended that this is followed up by doctorate level training resulting in either a PsyD (Doctor of Psychology) or a PhD in Psychology, and subsequent state certification. Common careers for Masters level students include: Rehab Counselor, Mental Health Counselor, Chemical Dependency Counselor, and more.

Doctorate Level Graduate Degrees

While both types of doctorate degree can prepare students to become licensed Sports Psychologists, there are a few differences between the application and course timelines. The PhD is a degree rooted in a curriculum of research, providing extensive coursework in studies, research principles, and research applications. The PsyD teaches the implementation of psychological service, based on previous empirical research, to the community it serves. PhD coursework typically runs 5-8 years, whereas a PsyD takes a shorter amount of time to complete.

Advanced Kinesiology

A course in Kinesiology at the graduate level focuses on a range of physiological fundamentals related to sports and sports injury. Core lessons include exercise physiology, biomechanics, motor control, and athletic injury prevention. Students come away with a comprehensive overview of exercise science, youth interventions, and athletic training in relation to the body.

Psychology of Athletic Injury

Closely tied to Advanced Kinesiology at the Masters' level is coursework centered upon the Psychology of Athletic Injury. Students learn principles of and approaches to helping athletes deal with and recover from injuries, psychologically and physically. Interventions are prioritized in how to both avoid and repair bodily injury due to exercise trauma.

Human Development

Courses in human development and biology are common at the Masters' level in Sports Psychology. These courses serve as an introduction to how the body works, physiological psychology, and the connection to the brain. How the body performs at various ages is often also discussed to help the student best serve potential clients.

Performance Technique/ Enhancement

In performance enhancement coursework, students are taught how to approach athletes in order to help them move beyond psychological and physical perceived boundaries. The main focus of this curriculum is learning techniques such as meditation, autogenic training, biofeedback, visualization, hypnosis, and progressive relaxation. Diet and health are also discussed and the dangers of synthetic drugs in relation to performance.

Applied Sports Psychology

Applied Sports Psychology is a core Masters' course which teaches the hands-on fundamentals of working as a sports psychologist. Coursework prioritizes the ethics of athleticism, teaches how to effectively research, and best approaches to sports psychology. It discusses all of the above curriculum as it relates to the hands-on practice of being a sports psychologist.

Graduate Degree Program Length Program Requirements Related Careers
Master of Sports Psychology 2 years *B.A. in Psychology
B.S. in Psychology
*B.A. in Health
*B.A. in sports-related discipline
*Sports Psychologist (with certification)
*Sports Rehab Specialist
*Sports Research Specialist
*Sports Psychology Professor
Master of Applied Psychology 2 years *B.A. in Psychology
*B.S. in Psychology
*B.A. in Health
*B.A. in sports-related discipline
*Sports Rehab Specialist
*Clinical Psychologist (often requires a doctorate)
*Psychology Professor
Master of Clinical Psychology 2 years *B.A. in Psychology
*B.S. in Psychology
*B.A. in Health
*B.A. in sports-related discipline
*Applied Sports Psychologist
*Clinical Sports Psychologist (requires a doctorate)
*Organizational Psychologist
*Psychology Professor
Master of Counseling 2 years *B.A. in Psychology
*B.S. in Psychology
*B.A. in Health
*B.A. in sports-related discipline
*Rehab Counselor
*Mental Health Counselor
*Chemical Dependency Counselor
PhD in Sports Psychology 2 years Intensive applied, research, and theory-based training (focus on research)*Applied Sports Psychologist
*Clinical Sports Psychologist
PsyD in Sports Psychology 2 years Intensive applied, research, and theory-based training (focus on applied)*Applied Sports Psychologist
*Clinical Sports Psychologist

Licensing Requirement

In order to practice as a Sports Psychologist in most states, you must get accredited after completing their applicable doctorate. Students can obtain certification from either the Association for Applied Sport Psychology (AASP) or the American Board of Sports Psychology (ABSP). It is important to note that most licensing boards will require all of the formal education already discussed, as well as hands-on experience (through an internship, etc).

Exercise and Sports Psychology graduate programs are a new field that can begin with a B.A. or B.S. in Psychology, Health, or Education. With the right program, students can specialize in graduate and doctorate schools to bring their career in sports psychology into focus.