Though it may not receive as much attention as other areas of psychology, performance psychology is a popular choice for many students. Performance psychology explores the ways a person’s mental state can enhance and affect their performance during physical activities, such as sports and the performing arts. However, this field of psychology is not limited to those two areas. In fact, this degree can be used in a wide range of industries including business, human resources, and the government sector.
Why a Ph.D. Degree in Performance Psychology?
A doctoral program in performance psychology prepares students to work directly with people in a wide range of professional fields. Because it studies the impact of a human’s emotions and mental faculties on the physical performance, it is often used in sports or with dance, music, or acting. However, the student can use this degree if they would like to work in business, healthcare, or in schools. Many athletes study this program to improve their own performance and give them an edge over their competitors.
Getting into a Performance Psychology Ph.D. Program
To be considered for Ph.D. performance psychology program, most applicants will need to complete a master’s degree in performance psychology or a related discipline within the field of psychology; otherwise he or she will probably be required to take additional classes(sometimes prior to admission). These additional classes may include anatomy, kinesiology, and introductory psychology. They may also need a degree in physical education for some programs. Other requirements include:
- Letter(s) of recommendation from professional and/or academic sources
- Personal essay/letter of intent
- Previous work experience or volunteer efforts in a related field (i.e. assisting a high school coach or working with special sports programs)
Inside a Performance Psychology Ph.D. Program
Students often have two options for the program. With the first option, they select the applied track for the degree. With this choice, they work with sports teams to build competencies and learn the various approaches to performance psychology. They will likely have internships at various locations to put the learning into practice. The graduate will be prepared to work in a handful of fields, including private businesses, athletic organizations, and branches of the military. This is seen as a terminal degree where the focus is on education for a job once the program is completed.
The other option is the thesis track where the student spends time on research. With this focus, they learn about research methods to understand the psychological factors that impact performance in sports and industry. They will work towards being published in scientific journals and speak at conferences.
What’s Next for Performance Psychology Ph.D. Holders
Career options for someone with a doctorate in performance psychology are varied. The graduate can work as a coach or sports trainer, or assist with an athletic organization at the public school or university level. However, the options are not limited to athletics. They can also apply this degree to business, medicine, government, the performing arts, or even the U.S. space program. In these career choices, they may work with businesses on employment policy or setting up systems to increase employee productivity. The graduate often will focus on ways to motivate people in their careers and work with low-performing staff to help them produce the desired results.
This area of psychology has exploded in recent years, especially in relation to the business world. As business becomes more competitive, companies are looking to find ways to motivate their employees and increase their potential. Performance psychologists have become an important part of that equation. In addition, trainers and athletes are seeing the benefit of working with a psychology professional to give them a competitive edge. Because of this growth, salaries are also becoming competitive. The income potential will depend on which direction the graduate chooses to go with their career. They will find a salary range from $60,000 all the way up to $80,000, depending on where they work, according to the American Psychological Association.