Online Master’s Degrees in Sport Psychology
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Sport psychology explores the links between mental and physical factors that affect athletic or sports performance. Not only do sports psychologists have to understand the mechanics of how the human body works and what it is capable of, but they also have to understand the mental issues that can affect athletes. This can be a wide range of mental health issues, from anxiety to eating disorders, from addictions to depression, or from dysfunctional interpersonal relationships to obsessive-compulsive disorders.
Athletes, whether they be elite athletes that are household names or someone playing on their college volleyball team, can be vulnerable to mental health struggles. Overtraining, injury, or long periods away from home, among other things, are all stresses that can be specific to athletes that have a negative effect on performance.
Any stressor that the general public can face can also impact an athlete’s performance, which influences their training and career potential, interpersonal relationships between the coach and their other teammates, and can even lead to physical injury if it is not addressed.
Licensure for psychologists with specific training in issues faced by athletes is typically conferred by each individual state’s psychology boards, with licensing requirements varying by state. The American Board of Sport Psychology (ABSP) offers national certification in sport psychology. The Association for Applied Sport Psychology (AASP) also offers certification. Students can become Certified Mental Performance Consultant (CMPC) AASP.
Read on for more information on achieving an online master’s degree in sports psychology.
Typical Admissions Requirements for Online Master’s Degrees in Sport Psychology
Attending a school for a master’s degree in psychology typically requires a few first steps. First, the student should have completed high school or achieved their GED. Students should consider whether they wish to earn a master of arts or a master of science degree. An MS degree will likely put more emphasis on data collection and analysis used in research rather than the applications and theories as in an MA program.
Admissions requirements vary by school, but typical applications call for the completion of a bachelor’s degree. Students applying to a psychology program may find a greater chance of being admitted if their undergraduate coursework is in a compatible field such as sociology, counseling, social work, or health sciences. For sports psychology, other compatible undergraduate degrees might be kinesiology, anatomy, sports medicine, even business and marketing since many people with master’s degrees in sports psychology find jobs working for team sports, which are often treated as a business.
Some programs may have minimum grade requirements or a minimum cumulative grade point average (GPA). Other programs may or may not require a passing score on the GRE, a standardized test that is widely accepted as a criterion for judging a candidate student.
Other requirements for admission include a completed application with transcripts from previous schools, a personal statement of interest in the program, letters of recommendation from employers or academic mentors, and a resume outlining relevant academic and research experience. Sometimes, prospective students must complete an in-person or phone interview before the admitting decision is made.
Courses in Online Master’s Degrees in Sport Psychology
With the core coursework for an online master’s degree in sports psychology, students will take courses covering research, ethics, courses in the humanities that place sports within a social context, and others related to anatomical performance.
Some common courses include:
- Ethics and Professional Identity
- Personality and Counseling Theories
- Research Methods and Program Evaluation
- Sport in Society
- Psychology of Performance Excellence
- Applied Sport Psychology
- Applied Learning
- Psychological Preparation and Mental Skills Training
- Human Growth and Development
- Multicultural Counseling and Advocacy
- Athletic Nutrition Planning and Supplements
- Communication in Leadership Positions
- Positive Leadership in Business
- Leadership and Administration in Athletics
- Exercise Physiology
- Sports Nutrition
Supervised Clinical Hour Requirements & Internships – Online Master’s Degrees in Sport Psychology
Students in online master’s programs in sports psychology will likely find the best job prospects if they choose a degree program from an accredited school. Accreditation is covered in the next section.
The groups that accredit psychology or counseling-related programs typically require completion of a 60-credit degree program. Supervised hands-on experiences in the form of practicums (100 to 150 hours) and internships (600 to 700 hours) are also a requirement.
Program Accreditation for Online Master’s Degrees in Sport Psychology
Accreditation ensures that the content and quality of an educational program have been evaluated to meet certain key standards for both student education and professional development.
For online master’s degrees in sports psychology, as with most psychology programs, a few different agencies handle the accreditation. There are two primary certifying bodies of psychology and counseling-related programs: the Masters in Psychology and Counseling Accreditation Council (MPCAC), and the National Commission for Certifying Agencies (NCCA).
The American Psychological Association (APA) accredits only doctoral-level professional education and training in the United States. The Council for Accreditation of Counseling and Related Educational Programs, CACREP, is the primary certifying body for general counseling education at the master’s and PhD levels. However, CACREP does not accredit any type of psychology or social work program.
CACREP-accredited counseling programs require 60 credits followed by practicums and internships totaling about 850 hours. MPCAC has some slightly different requirements and often accredits programs that require completion 48 to 60 credits. The Institute of Credentialing Excellence created the National Commission for Certifying Agencies (NCCA) to develop standards that are consistent with the Standards for Educational and Psychological Testing as approved by the American Psychological Association.
Beyond these recognized accrediting bodies, the master’s level student should select a school that is at a minimum regionally accredited, which will ensure that they are receiving a quality psychology education that will be valued by future employers.
Featured Online Master’s in Sport Psychology Programs
The University of Western States has both master’s and doctoral programs available in sport and performance psychology. This flexible and interactive master of science (MS) degree is 100 percent online and is designed to help students complete the requirements to become a Certified Mental Performance Consultant.
A positive coaching concentration is available within the master’s degree; this concentration covers communication and leadership. UWS has several options for specialization. For instance, they offer graduate certificates in applied sports psychology, positive leadership and administration, and sports nutrition.
- Location: Portland, Oregon
- Duration: 54 credits
- Accreditation: Northwest Commission on Colleges and Universities
- Tuition: $540 per credit
Capella’s master of science in sport psychology is 100 percent online, with FlexPath available. This option lets students set their own pace of study by either taking one or two courses at a time or by completing as many as desired within 12 weeks for one tuition fee. Guide Path is the more traditional learning format.
The sport psychology MS requires completion of four core courses, seven specialization courses, and one final project.
- Location: Minneapolis, Minnesota
- Duration: 58 credits; with FlexPath, students can complete the program in 14 months or more
- Accreditation: Higher Learning Commission
- Tuition: $2,800 per 12-week billing session with Flex Path; $495 per credit with Guided Path
Adams State University in Colorado says their program is the first fully online applied sport psychology master’s degree in the US. This 36-credit program offers all courses online. Students can complete the program in two years, which includes all coursework and internships. This degree prepares students for attaining the Certified Mental Performance Consultant (CMPC) status with the Association for Applied Sport Psychology, which is the top certification in the field.
The Adams State Department of Kinesiology offers an online master of science with an emphasis in applied sport psychology, coaching (also online) or exercise science (on-campus). The master of arts (online) emphasizes sport management.
Notably, Adams State has a respected history as a Hispanic Serving Institution since 1998—the first HSI in Colorado.
- Location: Alamosa, Colorado
- Duration: 36 credits, two years
- Accreditation: Adams State University is accredited by the Higher Learning Commision
- Tuition: $435 per credit, plus fees
Named for the town “California” in Pennsylvania, this university is located in the Pittsburgh metropolitan area. The online master of science in exercise science and health promotion has a sport psychology concentration. Students can earn their master’s degree in less than two years. The program is flexible and customizable—students can select the sport psychology concentration alone for a 36-credit degree program, or add a focus area to create a 48-credit dual concentration. Dual concentrations can be completed in 18 months. Focus areas include:
- Applied sport science
- Group fitness leadership
- Performance enhancement and injury prevention
- Wellness and fitness
- Rehabilitation science
- Wellness coaching
For students at the bachelor’s degree level, California University also offers a bachelor’s in sport management that can lead to an accelerated master’s.
- Location: California, Pennsylvania
- Duration: 12 months full-time or 17 months part-time, 18 months or more for a dual concentration
- Accreditation: Middle States Commission on Higher Education
- Tuition: Tuition varies based on several factors; visit their tuition calculator
APUS is a private college, despite its name, but it is one of the largest providers of online higher education worldwide. APUS offers an online master of science in sports and health sciences degree that allows students to seek certification as a Certified Professional Trainer (CPT), Performance Enhancement Specialist (PES), Corrective Exercise Specialist (CES), or Group Fitness Instructor (GFI) through a partnership with the National Academy of Sports Medicine (NASM).
Students must choose a concentration of either exercise science and human performance, health and wellness management, or general. Online courses start monthly.
- Location: Charles Town, West Virginia
- Duration: 36 credits
- Accreditation: The American Public University System is accredited by the Higher Learning Commission
- Tuition: $370 per credit
The University of West Alabama offers an online master of science in experimental psychology. This unique program offers a general psychology option for 36 hours, a clinical psychology option for 39 to 57 hours, or a health and sports psychology option that requires 36 hours.
- Location: Livingston, Alabama
- Duration: 36 to 53 credit hours, one to two years
- Accreditation: Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges
- Tuition: $429 per credit, plus fees
National University offers a master of arts in performance psychology. National University is a private university founded in 1971. With courses offered both in-person and online, this program helps students achieve certification by the Association for Applied Sport Psychology (AASP). The program has monthly starts and accelerated classes. Four-week classes allow students to focus on just one topic at a time. The school is military-friendly and offers tuition discounts to servicemembers and dependents.
- Location: La Jolla, California
- Duration: 67.5 quarter-units
- Accreditation: WASC Senior College and University Commission
- Tuition: $442 per credit plus fees
A.T. Still University offers a post-professional degree in kinesiology as well as specialized certificates in kinesiology focus areas. Students pursuing this kinesiology degree will choose one of the five specialty certificate course groupings (or tracks) from the following: adaptive sports, corrective exercise and orthopedic rehabilitation, exercise and sports psychology, geriatric exercise science, and sports conditioning.
A dual-track option is available, allowing students to enroll in two of the specialty tracks. The online kinesiology degree program includes a week-long conference at the ATSU Human Movement Institute. A.T. Still University is home was founded in 1892 as a college for osteopathic medicine. It is the oldest osteopathic institution in the world.
- Location: Kirksville, Missouri
- Duration: 42 credits, 45 credits for dual-track option
- Accreditation: Higher Learning Commission
- Tuition: $537 per credit
Professors to Know in Online Master’s in Sport Psychology Programs
Sarah Castillo, PhD, CMPC
Director of Sport and Performance Psychology
University of Western States
Dr. Sarah Castillo completed her bachelor’s degree in psychology at UCLA, her master’s degree in kinesiology at Cal State Long Beach, and her PhD in education at the University of Idaho. Her graduate research projects built on one another, with her master’s thesis focusing on the impact of coach and athlete compatibility on levels of team cohesion, and her dissertation centered on the creation of a two-year intervention program with a newly formed NCAA Division I women’s soccer team.
She is a Certified Mental Performance Consultant (CMPC) and approved CMPC mentor through the Association for Applied Sport Psychology (AASP). She currently serves on the AASP executive board as the professional standards division head, overseeing activities related to certification, ethics, and continuing education.
Dr. Castillo comes to UWS from National University in San Diego, where she served as the program director for the bachelor’s in sport psychology program, acted as editor-in-chief for the online Journal of Performance Psychology and was co-director of the Center for Performance Psychology. Prior to her tenure at National University, she spent nine years as a performance enhancement instructor at the United States Military Academy, West Point. During her time with the Army, Dr. Castillo worked extensively with more than 15 intercollegiate, intramural, and club athletic teams.
Dr. Castillo’s passion is working with individuals and teams in their search for peak performance in any area of life. She currently works with various collegiate teams and individual athletes in the San Diego area, as well as the USOPC Paralympic track and field team.
One of Dr. Castillo’s main areas of interest is the implementation of interventions designed to allow performers to reach their potential through the application of mental skills and mindfulness training. Her goal is to collaborate with performers to help them become fully engaged in competition despite adverse thoughts, emotions, and playing conditions.
Sarah Everman, PhD
A.T. Still University
Dr. Sarah Everman graduated with a doctorate in kinesiology from Arizona State University, where her dissertation research was conducted in the Center for Metabolic Biology (CMB). During her research in the CMB, Dr. Everman studied some of the molecular mechanisms responsible for insulin resistance in lean and obese humans. Specifically, her work looked at the effects of an infusion of branched-chain amino acids in humans on insulin sensitivity in skeletal muscle. This research was performed using in vivo procedures such as the euglycemic hyperinsulinemic clamp, stable isotope tracer infusion, muscle biopsies, and mass spectrometry to assess the metabolism of glucose and protein under various physiologic and pathophysiologic conditions. Her work has resulted in publications at national conferences and in journals such as PLoS ONE, Medicine and Science in Sports and Exercise, and the American Journal of Physiology, Endocrinology, and Metabolism.
Dr. Everman joined the kinesiology faculty at A.T. Still University in 2011. Her teaching emphases are human physiology, the physiological adaptations to exercise, and research methods. Currently, she is working on a research project with her colleague Dr. Jack Daniels to study the effect of aging on cardiovascular responses to exercise in formerly elite male runners. She is also the vice-chair of the ATSU-CGHS Faculty Council and a Matter of Balance Master Trainer.
In addition to teaching and research, Dr. Everman dabbles in endurance sports and has worked with equestrian athletes of all levels. When she is not working, she studies enology (the science of wine and winemaking). Previously from Oregon, but now a resident of Arizona, she is thankful for the many athletic opportunities available year-round in the Valley of the Sun.
She looks forward to pursuing her passion for teaching, research, and service in the field of human physiology with the vibrant group at ATSU for many years to come.
Tom West, PhD, ATC
Department of Exercise Sciences and Sport Studies
California University of Pennsylvania
Dr. Tom West has been working at Cal U as a Professor since 2004. He has served in a number of roles during his time at Cal U. In the past he has served as the director of the graduate athletic training education program and chairperson of the Department of Health Science. His teaching has included courses in the graduate athletic training program, the exercise science and health promotion graduate program, and undergraduate courses primarily in the areas of anatomy and physiology, kinesiology, and exercise science. He enjoys teaching online and in the traditional classroom.
Dr. West has stayed active professionally in several ways. He is past president of the Pennsylvania Athletic Trainers’ Society. During his time as president, the society worked with legislators to introduce licensure legislation for Athletic Trainers, with a successful outcome. He serves as a site visitor for the Commission on Accreditation of Athletic Training Education.
He also has presented at numerous conferences, including the International Olympic Committee World Congress, the National Athletic Trainers’ Association Convention, Pennsylvania Athletic Trainers’ Society Annual Meeting, and NATA District meetings, among others. Dr. West has received a Service Award from the NATA and has been inducted into the Pennsylvania Athletic Training Hall of Fame.
Jobs for Those With an Online Master’s Degree in Sport Psychology
Jobs for those with an online master’s degree in sports psychology allow them to work with the general public as well as with specific populations such as athletes. Within that, sport psychologists can choose to work with children or adults, and in a variety of settings such as child sports programs all the way up to professional sports. Applying sport psychology in a clinical setting can mean working with athletes in specific settings such as private practice or in a college or high school setting.
Becoming a sports rehabilitation therapist means helping athletes who are injured to get back in shape, both mentally and physically. People with sports psychology degrees can work in clinical research settings, studying treatment and rehabilitation practices. They may work in academics or in tandem with other general psychologists to gain a better understanding of motivation and endurance.
High-level sports at the college or university level often employ sports psychologists as team members, working directly with the coaches or players to maintain strong personal mental health and team communication.