A MSc degree in kinesiology (with an emphasis on sport and exercise psychology) can qualify students for a range of career paths without pigeon-holing them into a single one. One path leads towards to a job as a university professor or college instructor. To become a university professor, students would have to get a PhD after obtaining their Master’s degree. A master’s program is great in this regard: it can give you a taste of what it would be like to be a university professor before jumping into the long-term commitment of a PhD (4-6 years). To become a college instructor, often a master’s degree is the terminal required degree. The job doesn’t have the same emphasis on research as university professor, but you do get your summers off J -Several recent graduates from our program have taken these paths.
Other career paths lead students to jobs as professionals in a variety of fields. These fields include those that are traditionally associated with kinesiology and psychology (e.g., medicine, physiotherapy, occupational therapy, counseling), as well as those that aren’t (e.g., law, business). Additional schooling is required for all of these fields and it’s very competitive to get into those programs. A Master’s degree can help a student stand out from the masses of other applicants. Again, many of our graduates have gone down this path after getting their Master’s degree.
Essentially, a master’s degree shows that you’ve developed skills (e.g., working independently, critical thinking, problem solving, project planning/completion, creativity) that are valued in most professions. So, whether you want to become a coach, physiotherapist, personal trainer, or lawyer—or whether you have no idea what job you want to pursue—a Master’s degree can be useful. It provides you with two years to become an expert in an area of your choice and you come out with skills that can be applied in any number of ways. Pretty cool.
You may have noticed that I haven’t said anything about becoming an applied sport psychologist. That’s because it’s very tough to make your living solely doing that. Most applied sport psychologists supplement their work with athletes/teams with full-time jobs as university professors, college instructors, and/or mental health practitioners (e.g., counselors, clinical psychologists). There are a few people who are full-time sport psychology consultants, but they’ve really paid their dues to get there.
In our Master’s program, students can take courses that expose them to the basics of mental skills training and the foundations of counseling. They can also focus their thesis on a topic that is applied in nature. And if a student is so inclined, there are a lot of athletes/coaches/clubs in Thunder Bay that are looking for help with mental training (especially if they can get it for free). I encourage my graduate students to pursue these opportunities, as long as doing so doesn’t impede their progress in the program.
Division 47 of the American Psychology Association has published some information on career opportunities related to sport and exercise psychology. Check out their site for a different perspective.