Exercise psychologist helping patient

Sports and Exercise psychologist job profile

Sport psychology’s predominant aim is to help athletes prepare psychologically for the demands of competition and training.

Learn more about this career path

Exercise psychology is primarily concerned with the application of psychology to increase exercise participation and motivational levels in the general public.

Examples of the work sports psychologists carry out include counselling 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 with personal development and the psychological consequences of sustaining an injury.

Examples of the work that exercise psychologists do include optimising the benefits that can be derived from exercise participation and helping individual clients with the implementation of goal-setting strategies

Practitioners typically specialise in either the sport or exercise branches though some work equally in both fields.


Sport and exercise psychologists work in a wide range of settings and with a diverse range of clients participating in recreational, amateur, and elite levels of competition. 

Some sport psychologists work as private consultants or hold full-time positions with professional sports teams or national governing bodies of sport. Most combine their consultancy work with teaching and research or also work in other areas such as clinical and occupational domains.

Exercise psychologists combine 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, prisons and psychiatric contexts.


To become a Chartered member of the society through the sport and exercise psychology training route, you will need the following qualifications:

  1. Graduate Basis for Chartered Membership (GBC). This is achieved by completing a society-accredited degree or conversion course
  2. Society accredited Masters in Sport and Exercise Psychology

Plus one of the following doctoral-level qualifications:

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. 


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.


Pay is variable depending 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.


Job advertisements may be found in the following locations:

  • In national newspapers

Further information

What to do with a 2:2?

Admissions tutors will not normally accept graduates with a 2:2 unless they have achieved some higher qualification too. Any psychology Master's degree would be relevant: the main thing is that the MSc demonstrates applied research ability - a taught MSc would be less relevant unless there is a heavy emphasis on research methods.

Courses are looking for evidence that the person has the required academic and research ability. Usually, this means an MSc or MPhil in which the candidate has successfully completed an applied research project. Contact the universities directly for more specific information on their entry criteria.

What funding is available?

Course organisers are usually best placed to give advice on funding. There are a number of websites that offer information about postgraduate funding. A few examples are listed below:

Other useful links