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How Many Years of School Does it Take to Obtain a Doctorate in Sports Psychology?

by Jillian L. Wendt , studioD

Athletes can be under enormous stress from the pressure to perform, and as a sport psychologist you can have the ability to assist athletes in managing struggles and enhancing performance. Obtaining a doctorate in sport psychology can allow you to enjoy a financially rewarding career while helping others through coaching, counseling and consulting. Knowing your options for degree paths and the time needed to complete each program will help you in constructing a successful career plan.

Bachelor's Degree

To reach the ultimate goal of earning a doctoral degree in sport psychology, you will first need to complete a Bachelor of Arts in sport psychology. A bachelor’s degree will take approximately 4 years to complete. A bachelor’s in sport psychology will arm you with the skills necessary for entry-level coaching. Courses needed for degree completion include probability and statistics, psychology, sport psychology, history, social psychology, research, biomechanics, exercise physiology and counseling, according to National University.

Master's Degree

Several doctoral programs require the completion of a Master of Arts in sport psychology. A Master of Arts degree will take between 2 to 3 years and will require completion of 77 credits and a comprehensive exam according to John F. Kennedy University. With a master’s degree, you will obtain skills for research, psychopathology, kinesiology and sport injury. Courses required for the degree include research methods, ethics, assessment, psychopathology, counseling, performance enhancement, social issues, behavior and consulting as well as completion of fieldwork and research.


To earn a doctoral degree in sport psychology, you will actually need to complete a Ph.D. in counseling psychology with a specialization in sport psychology according to the University of North Texas or a Doctor of Education Psychology with a major in sport psychology according to Florida State University. A Ph.D. in counseling psychology requires completion of 113 credit hours and can be completed in 5 to 6 years. An Ed.D. in sport psychology can be completed in 3 to 4 years. Courses required include history, social psychology, behavior, quantitative methods, physiology, psychotherapy, assessment, counseling, group work, psychopathology, human development and ethics. To add the sport psychology specialization, additional courses are required. These additional specialization courses include exercise and sport psychology, social psychology of sport and applied sport psychology according to the University of North Texas. A practicum, one-year internship and completion of a dissertation research are also required.


Some programs, such as the Ph.D. program offered by the University of North Texas, do not require completion of a Master of Arts degree. This could potentially shave off some of the time required to complete the Ph.D., helping you reach your goal more quickly. A career as a sport psychologist can yield an annual salary between $60,000 to well over $100,000 according to Rebecca Voelker of the American Psychological Association. Career options can include academic faculty, research instructor, coaching educator, consulting, military consulting, Olympic consulting and private practice.

About the Author

Based in Northern Virginia, Jillian Wendt has been in science and teacher education for eight years. She has been writing education-related articles for practitioner and research journals for several years. She holds a Doctor of Education in curriculum and instruction from Liberty University. Dr. Wendt is passionate about education and is a fervent reader, writer and researcher.

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