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Sport and exercise psychologist

Sport and exercise psychologists study the mental and emotional effects of taking part in sport and exercise.

Salary, a pound sign Salary: £20,000 to £48,000 average per year
Hours, a clock face Hours: 37.5 per week

1. Entry requirements

You’ll need:

  • a British Psychological Society (BPS) accredited degree in psychology leading to the Graduate Basis for Chartered Membership (GBC)
  • 12 months’ work experience in the specialism you want to work in like coaching, teaching or health promotion
  • a BPS accredited master’s degree in sport and exercise psychology
  • 2 years’ supervised practice

You’ll also need clearance from the Disclosure and Barring Service (DBS).

Once you’ve completed your master’s degree and 2 years’ supervised practice, you’ll need to register with the Health and Care Professions Council (HCPC).

If you already have a degree in a subject other than psychology, you may be able to achieve GBC by completing a BPS-approved conversion course.

2. Skills required

You’ll need:

  • excellent communication and listening skills
  • the ability to motivate people
  • good problem-solving and decision-making skills
  • the ability to organise a complex workload to meet deadlines
  • an accurate, logical and methodical approach

3. What you'll do

You’ll usually specialise in either sport or exercise, although you may work in both. 

Sports psychologists work with teams and individuals at all levels, and help with issues like:

  • nerves and anxiety
  • self-confidence
  • concentration
  • motivation
  • sports injuries
  • aggression

Exercise psychologists’ day-to-day duties might include:

  • working in cardiac rehabilitation or GP exercise referral schemes
  • advising and counselling patients who are ill and might benefit from getting involved in regular exercise
  • working with health promotion staff to show patients the therapeutic and health benefits of exercise
  • setting up exercise programmes in workplaces, prisons and psychiatric units
  • studying the reasons that some people are more active than others

4. Salary

Starter: £20,000 to £22,000

Experienced: £27,000 to £37,000

Highly Experienced: up to £48,000

As a consultant working with top professional athletes, you could earn up to £1,000 per day.

These figures are a guide.

5. Working hours, patterns and environment

You’ll often work Monday to Friday 9am to 5pm. You may also need to work in the evening and at weekends to fit in with training and competitions.

Some of your work will be office based, and you may also need to travel to team premises, competition venues and clinics.

6. Career path and progression

You could work as a full-time sport psychologist, or you could combine consultancy work with teaching and research.

As an exercise psychologist, you could work for a local health authority, or on a GP exercise referral scheme. You could also evaluate exercise programmes in workplaces, prisons or psychiatric settings.

With experience and further study you could become a senior psychologist or head of a psychology department. You could also move into teaching or lecturing.

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Last updated: 14 December 2016