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Health Psychologist: Job Description, Duties and Requirements

Health psychologists require a significant amount of formal education. Learn about the education, job duties and licensure requirements to see if this is the right career for you.

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Health psychologists are required to have a doctoral degree in counseling psychology or clinical psychology and must meet the licensure or certification requirements of their state. As part of their professional training, these professionals will complete a residency or internship in health psychology.

Essential Information

Health psychologists concentrate on the diagnosis and treatment of an illness affecting the mental and bodily conditions of a patient. Interventions and repeated therapy are a common form of treatment. A career in health psychology requires a doctoral degree and compliance with state licensure requirements.

Required Education Doctoral degree in clinical or counseling psychology
Other Requirements Licensure and/or certification requirements vary by state
Projected Job Growth (2014-2024)* 19% for all psychologists
Median Salary (2015)* $72,580 for all psychologists

Source: *U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics

Health Psychologist Job Description

Health psychologists explore factors that affect an individual's well-being, including biological, psychological and social impacts. Health psychologists study the various reactions of individuals when diagnosed with a particular disease, as well as factors that affect their treatment choices. They assist patients through chronic disease care, such as diabetes or substance abuse, and encourage a healthy lifestyle. Health psychologists perform assessments and conduct interviews, as well as develop and implement specialized patient care programs in pain management, oncology and women's health.

Health Psychologist Job Duties

To assess a patient or group of patients, a health psychologist conducts surveys, personality tests, interviews and interventions. An intervention can pertain to chronic disease management, relaxation therapy or stress relief, with a goal of improving coping mechanisms and increasing social support. A health psychologist is most likely to complete both clinical and research activity. Research within health psychology specializes in illness development and prevention, pain reduction and recovery factors.

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Health Psychologist Job Requirements

To practice as an independent psychologist in the U.S., a 5-year doctoral degree is necessary in clinical or counseling psychology. During this period, a standard 1-year internship or residency specializing in health psychology training must be completed. Doctoral and internship coursework must be completed from an American Psychological Association-accredited program. Postdoctoral work may also be required and is available through medical centers, health programs and universities.

In addition to a graduate degree, health psychologists must meet licensure or certification requirements within their state. Licensing requirements vary by state, but typically include a graduate degree and passing an exam. Health psychologists must complete continuing education units, in state-specific durations, to renew or keep their license.

Health Psychologist Job Outlook and Salary Information

The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) predicted psychologists, overall, would see a 19% rise in employment opportunities between 2014 and 2024. Psychologists in general earned a median salary of $72,580 per year.

Health psychologists work with individuals who are coping with a physical or mental illness. They may help these individuals manage their pain or stress, and help them cope with the impact their illness has had on their life. Those who pursue a career in research may study ways to prevent illness and improve patient recovery.

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