Exercise psychologists provide a varied list of services. How they ply their craft depends upon the industry where they work. One of the primary functions of exercise psychology is concerned with how to motivate athletes and individuals to achieve fitness and exercise goals. Exercise psychology jobs can be found in the medical profession, education, sports and in consumer fitness programs and services.
Typical Work Activities
The duties of an exercise psychology job vary with the industry. For instance, exercise psychology jobs in the education field deal primarily with how to teach children, teens and college athletes to deal with the pressures of sports competition. Balance between scholastic success and athletic success is tricky and exercise psychology can help offer children solutions in time management, stress and goal setting. Exercise psychology also is concerned with how to set athletic goals and help young athletes compete and achieve fitness goals.
Overall, any exercise psychology job duties focus on motivation, goal setting and problem solving techniques to help the client achieve a desired outcome. This process is achieved through enhancing metal skills or focus, motivation imagery, counseling, anxiety management and education.
Jobs in exercise psychology cross many different areas including college teaching, performance enhancement consulting, health and exercise psychologist and sports medicine psychologist. The U.S. Space Program employs exercise psychologists to help train astronauts to deal with the psychological stresses of space flight and travel. It is also one of the listed education requirements for becoming an astronaut, according to the National Aeronautics and Space Administration. Other popular careers in exercise psychology are found in professional sports, medicine, dance, business and in a variety areas in the booming personal fitness industry.
Exercise psychology is under the broader category of Sports Medicine. You can pursue a bachelor's degree, and then choose to get a master's or PhD in exercise psychology. The level of your degree will be determined by which career area you choose. If you plan on teaching sports psychology or want to go into research, a more advanced degree is necessary. Many schools around the country offer degrees in exercise psychology within their sports medicine departments.
Exercise psychology jobs have a salary range from $20,000 to $200,000 annually, according to the University of Idaho. The average exercise psychologist salary is $86,000, as of 2010. Salary ranges also vary regionally with the cost of living. For example, an exercise psychologist in New York makes $103,000, but the same position in Illinois pays $63,000.
Pros and Cons
Weighing the pros and cons of pursing a career in exercise psychology can help you decide if this type of job is a good match to your personality and career goals. On the pro side is the diversity of clients, it is a challenging career with simultaneous duties, diversity of educational training from physical education, psychology, counseling, kinesiology, movement sciences and human performance and you can work independently or for an organization.
The cons of exercise psychology include a demanding educational background with many positions requiring Doctorate degrees for clinical work and counseling sport psychology. Positions in the athletic or academic area require at least a Master’s degree. Extra education in the exercise sciences is required and many sport exercise psychologist positions are limited to part-time.