How to become a Sport Psychologist in four easy steps
If you're thinking about a career in sport psychology then I don't blame you! Working in sport psychology is a fantastic career path with multiple opportunities in a range of sports. Since I became an accredited practitioner, I've enjoyed working with athletes from grassroots to elite. It's a rewarding role and every experience is different. Still interested? Read on for my four steps to get you into the profession.
1 - Choose your Accreditation Route
Before we start, I should clarify a couple of things. Firstly, I'm talking about how to become a sport psychologist in the UK. The process may be different in other countries. Secondly, accreditation to become a sport psychologist is essential in my humble opinion. Becoming accredited is a signal to future employers and to future clients that you adhere to high standards of practice. For info, many National Governing Bodies of sport only accept accredited sport psychologists in their roles.
Accreditation is possible through two routes in the UK. One is through the British Association of Sport & Exercise Science (BASES) and the other is through the British Psychological Society (BPS). Take a look at each of these organisations and their accreditation process for sport psychology as they're a little different.
To summarise, each will require you to follow a certain pathway of undergraduate and / or post-graduate degree programmes (see below). Each will need you to evidence a certain number of hours of applied practice. This is a BIG piece of work so don't underestimate how much time and energy it will take. For my BASES accreditation I needed to evidence 500 hours of applied practice. This included some time for preparation and evaluation of workshops and one to one sessions with athletes. It also included learning opportunities that I attended; both BASES and non-BASES events. It took me 2-3 years to gain these hours before submitting my accreditation paperwork.
In addition to this, you will need to think about the cost of becoming accredited. There are different application fees and you may also need to pay for a supervisor who will oversee your work as a 'Trainee Sport Psychologist'.
As a side note, not everyone can call themselves a 'sport psychologist'. The term 'sport psychologist' is protected by the Health and Care Professions Council (HCPC) in the UK. Once accredited, it's a good idea to get HCPC registered; find out more on their website.
2 - Choose your degree / post-grad degree wisely
Once you've decided on which accreditation route you want to take, you can set out your plan for under graduate or post-graduate study. Both BASES and BPS are specific about which degrees and MSc's are accepted under their accreditation schemes.
Take a good look at each university's programmes before deciding on which path to follow. You might also want to look into the lecturing staff to see if they have experience that you're also interested in e.g. some of them may have worked in high performance sport previously.
BASES and BPS will be able to tell you at what stage you're able to start building up your applied practice hours. In my case. I started the process shortly before I finished my MSc in Applied Sport Psychology at Cardiff Metropolitan University. Since I graduated, the current MSc in Sport Psychology has become BPS accredited.
A great thing about starting accreditation whilst at university is that there are sports teams and individuals on tap who will love your support!
3 - Work towards accreditation
So you've chosen your accrediting body and also your study route. Now it's time to work towards your accreditation as a sport psychologist. As I mentioned previously, this is a big piece of work. As soon as you start working with teams / individuals you'll need to be keeping detailed records of what you deliver and why you've done it. One of the fundamental keys to being a successful sport psychologist is using evidenced based practice. That means using tried and tested methods, grounded in research to support your athletes.
You'll also need to record and demonstrate any courses, webinars and conferences you attend and record any learning from these. In addition to this, you'll need to be working alongside a Supervisor who can oversee your work and guide your practice along the way. Having a Supervisor is a great way to develop yourself; they are a fountain of knowledge and a great support mechanism.
Ready to submit your evidence for accreditation? Brilliant. Now it's just a matter of waiting for the review process!
4 - Practice and Continuous Professional Development
Once you've been successful in becoming a sport psychologist, the work doesn't end there. You'll need to continue to keep records of your clients and the work that you do for re-accreditation purposes. Keep good evidence of your decision making and make sure that you stay informed about the latest research in the field. You can do this by attending BASES / BPS webinars and conferences and by keeping an eye on journals such as the Journal of Applied Sport Psychology and The Sport Psychologist. Further journals can be found here.
If you've got a question that I've not covered here then please get in touch and I'll be happy to help! Plus if you'd like to see a selection of the organisations that I've worked with since becoming accredited then check out my portfolio.