10 Pros and Cons of Being a Sports Psychologist

Written By: Jennifer Schlette MSN, RN

Have you always wanted to pursue a career in the world of competitive sports but just not as the actual competitor. Do you feel that the discipline of psychology has always appealed to you? A career as a sports psychologist may be something that is worth considering, but do you know what are the pros and cons of being a sports psychologist? Continue reading below and you will learn the top 10 pros and cons of being a sports psychologist so you can figure out if this is the right career for you.

What is a Sports Psychologist?

A sports psychologist is a type of psychologist concerned with the psychological and physical factors that affect a person’s performance and motivation in competitive sports and the athletic arena. As a sports psychologist, you will be combining your knowledge of physiology, kinesiology, and your psychology training to address and treat a range of mental health issues affecting athletes and sports industry professionals. Your focus will be on the proficiency of mental health that affects those in the sports industry.


(The following are the top 10 disadvantages of being a Sports Psychologist.)

1. You will need to research a school that offers sports psychology as a degree option.

Unfortunately, in the world of sports psychology, there are not many institutions that offer a straightforward bachelor’s degree in sports psychology. Yes, as the discipline is becoming more popular, bachelor’s programs are beginning to pop up, but you first need to find them. Many students have chosen to take the road of earning a degree in psychology and exercise science or to pursue a degree in clinical psychology with a sports psychology concentration. Finding a program to attend to pursue this degree, definitely needs to be taken into consideration when exploring the pros and cons of being a sports psychologist. The last thing you want to happen is, you find out that you pursued the wrong type of degree and cannot continue on the path to being a sports psychologist until you meet the requirements.

2. You will need at least a master’s degree to get your foot in the door

Unfortunately, to be eligible to sit for licensure, you will need to obtain a graduate degree. A bachelor’s degree alone will just not cut it. A more advanced degree is required due to the psychological and medical components of this complex degree. This will require more time and money on your part.

3. A Ph.D. will give you more leverage in the job market

Although a Doctorate degree is not always required to practice, some employers and states will require that you hold this degree for certain positions in the world of sports psychology. Also, having a Ph.D. will give you leverage or a leg up when it comes to the competition you may encounter when applying for jobs. Keep in mind though, a Ph.D. will cost you not only money but also a tremendous amount of your free time that you once had, making this one of the top disadvantages of being a sports psychologist

4. Let’s not forget that you will need some hands-on training

Your education alone will not always be enough to land you that perfect job. A practicum or an internship may be required to gain the experience needed to excel in this career. These hands-on experiences tend to last anywhere from 6-24 months. Oh, and they usually are not paid. You will be working for free.

5. Do you have any idea how much all this will cost?

Think about it, the entry-level education to enter this profession is a master's degree, which will cost some cold hard cash to earn, making this one of the biggest disadvantages of being a sports psychologist. Let’s break it down. A bachelor's in psychology will run you anywhere from $8,000 to $60,000 a year. For example, at the University of Houston, the cost for in-state students is $18,513, while the out-of-state students, it is $27,009 per year for tuition and fees. Yale University will cost you around $60,000 per year. Now, you must earn your master's degree. Stanford University will cost you approximately $51,000 to earn your master's degree, and Boston University is somewhere around $57,000. If you choose to pursue a Ph.D., you should expect to spend anywhere from $11,000 to $45,000 per year for tuition and fees. These figures will vary depending on the school.

6. You may have to write and defend a dissertation.

One of the requirements of earning a Ph.D. is that you may have to write and defend a dissertation. This dissertation may include extensive research that you will have to complete and analyze. You will need to dedicate many hours and many pages of writing to this report. I’m talking chapters here. Oh, and did I mention that you may not successfully defend your dissertation the first time?

7. Will you pass the licensure exam?

To practice sports psychology in the clinical setting, you will have to pass your state's licensure exam. Each state’s requirements to sit for this exam are different. These requirements usually include a minimum degree requirement, whether it be a master's or a doctorate, and some form of supervised clinical hours through an internship or practicum. You will also be required to pay a fee to sit for this exam as well. In order to uphold your license, you must renew it every 2-3 years, depending on your state. Earning and maintaining your license is one of the disadvantages of being a sports psychologist. You cannot work without one. That is a lot of pressure.

8. You could find that you have irregular hours.

As a sports psychologist, your clientele will be people who perform within the sports arena. The clientele in this realm typically do not work a Monday through Friday job 9-5. Your services may be needed in the daytime, evening, weekends, and holidays. This will affect the hours that you will be working with your patients. You may be counseling them between games, before games, or after games. Remember, players will not only need your services when they are feeling well but may also need your services if they are in crisis.

9. You may find yourself traveling a lot.

As a sports psychologist, you may find yourself traveling a lot and not always at the most opportune times which is definitely one of the pros and cons of being a sports psychologist you will need to consider. Your clients, the sports athletes, and sports industry professionals will need your services when they are home or when they are on the road traveling to other places to play. This means you will most likely have to travel with them. Travel can impact your personal and family life. You may end up missing many memory-making moments with your family or those good fun times with your friends.

10. You may experience emotional strain.

As a sports psychologist, you will be hearing many people speak of their traumas and what ails them mentally and emotionally. Over time, being a sounding board for those in distress and crisis can burn you out. Do you really want to become burned out in a career that took so much educational training, time, and money to even get off the ground?


(The following are the top 10 advantages of being a Sports Psychologist.)

1. You can expect to make a pretty good living.

The base salary for an entry-level sports psychologist is not too shabby. If you have been on the job anywhere from 1-4 years, you can expect to make around $70,000 per year. Now, the more time you have been in the industry, you will begin to see an increase in your salary. Somebody who has been working as a sports psychologist for 5-9 years can expect a salary somewhere around $75,000 per year. A sports psychologist who has worked for 10 or more years is looking at a salary of around $96,000 per year. The earning potential that you will have if you pursue this career is one of the top pros of being a sports psychologist.

2. You can choose from different specialties within sports psychology.

Let’s be honest, everybody likes to have choices. Well, that is no different when you are talking about the world of sports psychology. Specialties that can be found within the career of sports psychology are applied sports psychology, clinical sport psychology, and academic sports psychology. If you choose a career in applied sports psychology, you will be teaching the skills to clients that are necessary for enhancing their athletic performance. As a clinical sports psychologist, you will be combining mental training strategies and psychotherapy to assist clients suffering from mental health problems, such as anxiety and depression to name a few, and if you choose academic sports psychology, this will involve you conducting research, and teaching clients at the college or university level. Having so much choice in your career is one of the biggest advantages of being a sports psychologist.

3. You can work in many different arenas, no pun intended.

Sports psychologists can utilize their education in many different settings. If you choose to pursue this degree, you can also decide where you will work. Some examples of options that may be available to you are, working in the college and high school setting as a sports counselor or you could choose to work with athletes and teams as a mental health trainer ensuring healthy team-building techniques. Other avenues you could think about venturing down as a sport psychologist are working as a mental health provider in a sports medicine clinic, or you could consider opening your own private practice.

4. You could be in charge of your day.

As a sports psychologist, you could start your own private practice or be a private consultant. Granted, you would need a Ph.D. in most states to accomplish this, but you would be the master of your own time. You could work when you wanted and schedule your clients around whatever else is happening in your life. I don’t know about you, but that is a pretty nice perk of the job and one of the pros of being a sports psychologist.

5. Boredom will not be a part of your life.

Choosing a career in sports psychology means that every day will be different for you. You will be treating so many diverse arrays of needs. One day you could be working with a team, assisting them with team building, and then the next, working with an athlete who is mentally and emotionally trying to work through an injury.

6. You could tour the country.

Speaking of travel, if you happen to land a job working for a sports team, you could get paid to travel the country. So, essentially you will get the best of both worlds. Having the ability to travel through work is one of the advantages of being a sports psychologist. You will be able to travel and get paid for it. In certain circumstances, you may even get to travel to other countries depending on your job type.

7. You could be helping others better themselves.

As a sports psychologist, you are arming individuals and teams with skills to help them emotionally, physically, and mentally better themselves. The techniques you will be teaching others will better their lives and help them work towards a positive and healthy outcome.

8. You could work with some pretty famous people.

Although working with a college or professional sports team is not something everybody will get to do in their lifetime, but it may be something that you get the opportunity to do. Through your career choice, you do have the potential to be one of the lucky few and not only meet but also regularly work with these people. I know this all sounds exciting, but remember you are still bound by Hippa.

9. It is a prestigious career.

To begin a career as a sports psychologist, you will need to put in the work. This career will require you to successfully earn a master's degree at a minimum. Earning a master's degree is a prestigious accomplishment in itself. Hey, some people even go on to complete their doctorate for this profession. That takes a lot of hard work and being able to say that you accomplished this feat is one of the advantages of being a sports psychologist.

10. You will have autonomy.

A career as a sports psychologist will enable you to work in a field where you will have autonomy over your practice. You will be managing your own clients and assessing their needs. You alone will have the independence to decide based on the client's needs what the best treatment plan is. Hey, I mean, you put a lot of time into earning this degree; you should be able to use your knowledge to its fullest potential. Having this autonomy is one of the pros and cons of being a sports psychologist that you will need to weigh when considering this career.

The Bottom Line

So, a career as a sports psychologist can be one of many rewards, but like anything, there can be a downside to it as well. This is why understanding the top 10 pros and cons of being a sports psychologist is so important. Now that you can answer the question of what are the pros and cons of being a sports psychologist, you can surely come to a conclusion of if this is really something you want to pursue. Now you need to decide if the pros of being a sports psychologist is worth more to you than the cons of being a sports psychologist, or will the cons of this career overpower the pros for you?

Jennifer Schlette MSN, RN
Jennifer Schlette is a registered nurse in pediatric critical care in New York City. She is the former Director of Undergraduate Nursing at a college located in New York. After obtaining her BSN from the College of Mount Saint Vincent, she went on to complete her MSN.