Sport and exercise psychologists work with athletes, teams and coaches to improve their motivation and performance.
Salary range: £20,000 to £48,000
How to become a sport and exercise psychologist
You can get into this job through:
- a university course
You’ll need to complete:
- a degree in psychology accredited by The British Psychological Society (BPS)
- a BPS accredited master’s degree in sport and exercise psychology
- 2 years’ structured supervised practice on Stage 2 of the BPS Qualification in Sport and Exercise Psychology (QSEP)
You may be able to study for an approved postgraduate conversion course, if you’re a graduate in a subject other than psychology, or your psychology degree is not accredited by the BPS.
Competition for postgraduate training is strong. You’ll need an upper second class or first class degree, and evidence of excellent research skills to apply. You’ll also need relevant work experience.
You’ll usually need:
- 3 A levels or equivalent
- a degree in any subject for a postgraduate course
- equivalent entry requirements
- student finance for fees and living costs
- university courses and entry requirements
- you’ll need to register with the Health and Care Professions Council
Professional and industry bodies
You can join The British Psychological Society for professional development opportunities.
What it takes
Skills and knowledge
- counselling skills including active listening and a non-judgemental approach
- knowledge of psychology
- customer service skills
- the ability to understand people’s reactions
- sensitivity and understanding
- excellent verbal communication skills
- patience and the ability to remain calm in stressful situations
- to enjoy working with other people
- to be able to use a computer and the main software packages competently
Restrictions and requirements
You’ll need to:
What you’ll do
As a sport and exercise psychologist, you’ll:
- help athletes develop strategies to deal with nerves, anxiety, self-confidence, concentration and motivation
- set up activities to improve team and individual performance
- support athletes in coping with injuries
- give advice to coaches on team communication
- assess clients’ needs and develop fitness plans and recommendations
- work with health promotion staff to show the therapeutic and health benefits of exercise
- create exercise programmes in organisations, workplaces, prisons and psychiatric units
- teach mental skills to individuals to improve their wellbeing and performance
You could work at a sports arena, at a fitness centre, at a health centre, in a prison or on a sports field.
Your working environment may be outdoors some of the time.
Career path and progression
You could work as a full-time sport psychologist or you could combine consultancy work with teaching and research.
As an exercise psychologist, you could work for a local health authority, or on a GP exercise referral scheme. You could also assess exercise programmes in workplaces, prisons or psychiatric settings.
With experience and further study you could become a senior psychologist or head of a psychology department. You could also move into lecturing.