Approximately 181,700 psychologists are employed in the United States, although sports psychologists comprise only a small segment of this number. Sports psychologists are employed by athletes at the amateur, college, or professional level and by owners of professional, college, and private organizations. They may also work at colleges and universities as teachers and researchers.
Along the road toward a Ph.D. or Psy.D., students of all levels can get involved in the research or educational aspects of psychology, either as a volunteer subject or a paid helper. These positions will gradually increase in responsibility and scope as the student's education progresses. Eventually, the student will be eligible for internships that will, in turn, provide valuable contacts in the field.
Graduates can explore job opportunities with a wide variety of employers, from the university research branch of psychology or sport sciences to the world of elite athletes. Finding work with the latter, however, can prove extremely difficult.
Sports psychologists advance in several ways, but primarily by increasing the scope and caliber of their reputations in the field. This is accomplished, of course, by consistently helping athletes to improve their athletic performance and to reduce the emotional and/or mental strain placed upon them. Advancement might come in the form of a new position, such as working for a professional team, or it might come in the form of a solid private practice.
Sports psychologists who make their living largely in the academic world do so by successfully publishing the results of studies, research, or theories in specialized medical journals.
Attend the annual conference of the Association for Applied Sports Psychology to network and participate in professional development opportunities.
Read Sport, Exercise, and Performance Psychology (available at https://www.apa.org/about/division/div47) and the Journal of Applied Sport Psychology (https://www.appliedsportpsych.org/publications/journal-of-applied-sport-psychology) to learn more about the field.
Learn more about the types of jobs being offered for sports psychologists by searching the job listings posted on professional association's Web sites.
Become certified by the Association for Applied Sports Psychology and the American Board of Professional Psychology in order to show employers that you have met the highest standards set by your profession.