Sport and Exercise Psychologist

Job Description:

Sport and exercise psychologists work with athletes, teams and coaches to improve their motivation and performance.

Job Category:
Culture, Media & Sport

What you will do:

As a sport and exercise psychologist, you’ll:

  • help athletes develop strategies to deal with nerves, anxiety, self-confidence, concentration and motivation
  • set up activities to improve team and individual performance
  • support athletes in coping with injuries
  • give advice to coaches on team communication
  • assess clients’ needs and develop fitness plans and recommendations
  • work with health promotion staff to show the therapeutic and health benefits of exercise
  • create exercise programmes in organisations, workplaces, prisons and psychiatric units
  • teach people psychological techniques to improve their wellbeing and performance


You’ll need:

  • knowledge of psychology
  • to be able to use a computer and the main software packages competently

As well as:

  • counselling skills including active listening and a non-judgemental approach
  • customer service skills
  • the ability to understand people’s reactions
  • adaptable to your clients needs
  • sensitivity and understanding
  • excellent verbal communication skills
  • patience and the ability to remain calm in stressful situations
  • to enjoy working with other people (teamwork skills)

Restrictions and Requirements
You’ll also need to pass enhanced background checks

Illustration of employee looking at workspace

Entry Requirements:

To become a Sport and Exercise Psychologist, you’ll typically need to follow an educational and training path that includes undergraduate and postgraduate studies. While specific subjects are not typically required for entry into these programs, having a strong foundation in certain subjects can be beneficial for success in your studies and future career. These subjects include:

  1. Psychology: Knowledge in psychology or related subjects can be helpful, but it’s not usually a specific requirement.
  2. Science: Subjects like biology or physical education may provide a foundational understanding of human physiology and sports science.
  3. Mathematics: A good grasp of mathematics can be beneficial for statistical analysis and research in sports and exercise psychology.

Post School

You can get into this job through:

  • a university course

You’ll need to complete:

  • a degree in psychology- in the UK this will need to be accredited by The British Psychological Society (BPS)
  • master’s degree in sport and exercise psychology (in the UK again this will need to be BPS accredited)
  • a structured supervised practice programme accredited by the Health and Care Professions Council (HCPC)

You may be able to study for an approved postgraduate conversion course, if you’re a graduate in a subject other than psychology, or your psychology degree is not accredited by the BPS.

Competition for postgraduate training is strong. In addition to strong marks,  you’ll also need relevant work experience.

Working Hours and Environment:

You could typically work 37-39 hours per week including attending events or appointments over weekends and in the evenings. You could work at a sports arena, at a fitness centre, at a health centre, in a prison or on a sports field.

Your working environment may be outdoors some of the time.

Career Path & 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 assess 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 lecturing.