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Becoming a sport & exercise psychologist
What do sport and exercise psychologists do?
What they do
It is rare for individuals to practise in both sport and exercise psychology. Though some exceptions exist, they generally specialise in one or the other.
Sport psychologists work with sports participants across both team and individual sports and from amateur to elite levels of competition. Their aim is predominately to help athletes prepare psychologically for competition and to deal with the psychological demands of both competition and training.
Examples of the work they carry out include helping referees to deal with the stressful and demanding aspects of their role, advising coaches on how to build cohesion within their squad of athletes and helping athletes to deal with the psychological and emotional consequences of sustaining an injury.
An exercise psychologist is primarily concerned with the application of psychology to increase exercise participation and motivational levels in the general public. Examples of the work they do include optimising the benefits derived from exercise participation and helping individual clients with the implementation of a plan to take more exercise.
Where they work
Sport and exercise psychologists work in a wide range of settings and with a diverse range of clients. Most sport psychologists combine consultancy work with teaching and research or consultancy in other areas of psychology. Some sport psychologists do hold full-time positions with professional sports teams or national governing bodies and opportunities to work as a full-time sport psychologist are increasing in number.
A similar scenario exists for exercise psychologists, with most practitioners combining consultancy with teaching and research careers. The work of exercise psychologists might involve GP exercise referral and setting up and evaluating exercise programmes in employment, prison and psychiatric contexts.
The work of a sport or exercise psychologist is centred on people and can be extremely varied. Although consultancy work may be office-based, it is equally likely that consultants will work in settings such as team premises, competition venues, clinical rehabilitation establishments and recreational exercise facilities.
How do I become one?
To become a Chartered Member of the Society through the sport and exercise psychology training route, you will need the following qualifications:
- Graduate Basis for Chartered Membership (GBC). This is achieved by completing a Society accredited degree or conversion course.
- A Society accredited Masters in Sport and Exercise Psychology or Stage 1 of the Society's Qualification in Sport and Exercise Psychology
- Stage 2 of the Society's Qualification in Sport and Exercise Psychology (two years supervised practice)
In order to use the title Sport and Exercise Psychologist, you will need to be registered with the Health and Care Professions Council (HCPC). This will involve completing Stage 2 of the Society’s Qualification in Sport and Exercise Psychology or an equivalent qualification that has been approved by the HCPC. Contact the HCPC for more information on the entry requirements for their register.
What is relevant work experience and how do I get it?
The universities offering the Masters courses will decide upon the type and nature of experience required. Identify the courses you are interested in and then approach the course tutors directly to see if they can provide you with a profile of the type of experience a successful applicant is likely to have gained. You should find that coaching, fitness and exercise instruction, and PE teaching will be beneficial.
How much will I get paid?
Pay is variable dependent on whether the individual is working with local level athletes or has a contract to work with elite sports teams. Many sport and exercise psychologists combine consultancy with lecturing therefore the usual salary for lecturers would be applicable.
For up to date information visit the Universities and Colleges Union website.
Where are jobs advertised?
- In Psychologist Appointments, which is part of The Psychologist, the Society's monthly magazine.
- In national newspapers (e.g. The Times, The Guardian, The Independent)
What if I'm a mature student?
Mature students often ask us if their age will prevent them from succeeding in a psychology career. You can find out more information under the Change of Career section.
Where do I find out more?
- The Society's Division of Sport and Exercise Psychology. Access to publications, conferences, and special interest groups and chat rooms with membership.
- BASES: British Association of Sports and Exercise Sciences
- Careers resources: published work covering sports and exercise psychology and other areas of psychology.
- BPS Shop: find an array of sport & exercise psychology publications through our online shop.
- Contact us: request form for further specific information.