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Health Psychology Graduate Programs with Career Information

Read about the curricula and requirements of graduate programs in health psychology. Learn about licensure, career options, and employment trends for graduates of health psychology programs.

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Essential Information

At the graduate level, students who want to work in the field of health psychology can pursue either a master's or a doctoral degree. It typically takes about two years, full-time, to earn a master's degree, and around seven years to complete a doctoral program, including the completion of a dissertation. Some graduate programs in health psychology are available online.

Applicants to these programs will need to hold a bachelor's degree, generally in a related field or with prerequisite coursework in psychology, and may need to pass entrance exams. Graduates of doctoral programs usually need to meet licensure requirements to practice psychology.

Master's Degree in Health Psychology

Master's degree programs in health psychology commonly combine theoretical and methodological foundations in the field with research or clinical experiences. Many programs offer students emphasis options, such as clinical health psychology, pre-doctoral health psychology or research. Depending on the track a student chooses, he or she might conduct thesis research or participate in a clinical practicum or internship.

Educational Prerequisites

Applicants to master's programs in health psychology might be asked to submit transcripts and GRE scores. Individuals should have completed prerequisite courses in psychology or health psychology as part of their undergraduate degree program. Some programs also require applicants to submit a resume.

Course Topics

Coursework in a health psychology master's program can help students learn about group processes, behavioral techniques, cognitive techniques, client care and evaluation programs. Students might explore topics such as:

  • Behavioral epidemiology
  • Behavior change
  • Multivariate statistics
  • Health promotion
  • Behavioral medicine
  • Psychopathology
  • Assessment
  • Clinical skills

Popular Career Options

Graduates of master's programs in health psychology aren't qualified to work as independent psychologists. However, they might find positions in the following:

  • Health counseling
  • Health education
  • Health promotion
  • Health psychology research
  • Community college instruction

Ph.D. in Health Psychology

Ph.D. programs in health psychology typically join principles in psychology with theories in other areas of study, such as biology, health and social sciences. Students explore a variety of factors that can impact health, such as biological, behavioral, social, cultural and environmental factors, and then apply their knowledge of these issues to help patients maintain their health or to develop treatments and interventions for illnesses. Many programs offer concentrations in areas such as clinical health, occupational health psychology, pediatric school psychology or community health psychology.

In most programs, students have the opportunity to participate in pre-doctoral or summer internships. Students typically complete clinical training and conduct research for thesis or dissertation work.

Educational Prerequisites

Admission to a Ph.D. program requires a minimum of a bachelor's degree in psychology or a related field. Applicants also might need to have completed prerequisite courses in the field and have experience in research methods or statistics.

Course Topics

Throughout the coursework in a Ph.D. health psychology program, students explore multiple disciplines. They might take courses that address topics such as:

  • Human development
  • Social behavior
  • Biological behavior
  • Individuality
  • Cognitive bases
  • Interventions
  • Organizational behavior
  • Human measurement methods

Career Outlook and Salary Information

Ph.D. recipients are eligible to pursue careers as psychologists after fulfilling state licensure requirements. According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), clinical, counseling and school psychologists, which included health psychologists, earned a median wage of $66,810 as of May 2010 ( Additionally, the BLS reported that jobs for clinical, counseling and school psychologists could increase by 22% between 2010 and 2020, which was faster than the average for most occupations.

Licensure Information

Many Ph.D. programs fulfill the education requirement for obtaining a state license to practice psychology. Usually, candidates for licensure also must pass examinations and complete a minimum number of supervised experience hours.

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