Sport Psychologist

    If you are wondering how to become a sport psychologist, below are tips and advice on training for and beginning careers in this field, as well as sports and leisure job prospects in the UK.

    The Job Description
    Sport and exercise psychologists study the mental and emotional aspects of taking part in sport and exercise. They typically specialise in either sport or exercise, although some work in both.

    As a sports psychologist you would work with teams and individuals at all levels, from amateurs to top professionals. You would help them with issues such as:

    dealing with nerves and anxiety
    improving self-confidence
    coping with the demands of training and competing
    improving concentration
    maintaining motivation and focus in spite of stress, discomfort or distraction
    coping with sports injuries
    controlling aggression
    goal setting.
    You would work closely with other professionals such as coaches, managers, nutritionists and physiotherapists.

    As an exercise psychologist you would apply your knowledge of psychology to finding ways of encouraging the general public to improve their health and well-being by becoming more active. You could:

    work in cardiac rehabilitation or GP exercise referral schemes
    work with health promotion staff to promote the therapeutic and health benefits of exercise
    study the reasons certain groups of people are more active than others.
    In both sport and exercise psychology, you would be likely to combine consultancy work with teaching and research, or with work in other areas, such as clinical or occupational psychology.

    Person Specification
    The key personal attributes of good sports psychologists include:

    an interest in how people react and interact
    an interest in sport
    a desire to help other people
    the ability to maintain a professional distance
    excellent communication skills
    the ability to work as part of a team
    a tolerant and patient manner
    good problem solving skills and a logical approach.

    How to become a sports psychologist
    You can qualify as a sport and exercise psychologist in two ways. You can become either:

    a Chartered Sport and Exercise Psychologist through the British Psychological Society (BPS), or
    an Accredited Sport and Exercise Psychologist through the British Association of Sports and Exercise Scientists (BASES).
    For both routes you would need to complete a degree, followed by a postgraduate qualification and a period of supervised practice.

    Entry requirements for degree courses are likely to include five GCSEs (A-C), and three A levels. However, you may be accepted with alternative qualifications, so you should check with individual colleges or universities.

    If you will be working with young people or other vulnerable groups you will need CRB (Criminal Records Bureau) clearance.

    BPS Chartered Sport and Exercise Psychologist
    To become a Chartered Sport and Exercise Psychologist through the BPS you would need:

    a degree in psychology from a course approved by BPS – this will give you Graduate Basis for Registration (GBR)
    at least three years’ full-time training under professional supervision that includes a BPS-accredited postgraduate qualification in sport and exercise psychology.
    See the BPS website for a full list of accredited courses.

    If you are a graduate with a degree in a subject other than psychology, you can achieve GBR by completing a BPS-approved conversion course, or by sitting the BPS Qualifying Exam.

    Visit BPS Division of Sport and Exercise Psychology for further details.
    BASES Accredited Sport and Exercise Psychologist
    To become an Accredited Sport and Exercise Psychologist through BASES you would need:

    a degree in Sport and Exercise Science (this would include subjects such as physiology and biomechanics as well as psychology, although you could focus on sport and exercise psychology)
    an MSc in Sport and Exercise Science/Psychology and three years’ supervision by a BASES Accredited Sport and Exercise Psychology Practitioner.

    Training and Development
    You can find out about registering for supervised experience from BPS, or from BASES, depending on whether you are aiming to become a BPS Chartered Sport and Exercise Psychologist or a BASES Accredited Sport and Exercise Psychologist.

    For some university jobs you will need a PhD, which involves carrying out research in sport or exercise psychology. See the Careers and Qualifications section of the BPS website for information on research, including funding opportunities and details of experts in particular fields or specialisms. You can also search for PhD opportunities on Find a PhD.

    Throughout your career you will be expected to keep your knowledge and skills up to date through continuing professional development (CPD). This can include attending courses, workshops and conferences – see the BPS website for information on their CPD scheme. The BASES also runs conferences and a programme of workshops covering a range of sport and exercise topics.

    The Pay (a rough guide)
    Starting salaries can be around £20,000 to £22,000 a year.
    This can rise to around £27,000 to £37,000.
    Senior psychologists and department heads can earn around £43,000.

    Job Prospects
    You would probably combine consultancy work with teaching and research or work in other areas of psychology. There are some full-time opportunities for sport psychologists with professional sports teams and sport national governing bodies.

    As an exercise psychologist opportunities include involvement in GP exercise referral schemes or evaluation of exercise programmes in employment, prison or psychiatric settings.

    Useful leisure or sport resources:
    British Psychological Society
    St Andrew’s House
    48 Princess Road East
    LE1 7DR
    Tel: 0116 254 9568

    This page is for sport psychologist careers advice and training opportunities.

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