Health psychology is the field which studies how health is affected by psychological, behavioral, cultural and other factors, and how psychological approaches can be utilized to enhance health. Those interested in graduate education in this field can pursue a master's or doctoral degree, offered on-campus and online by major colleges and universities. Two-year master's curricula cover theoretical and methodological foundations, psychopathology and assessment, and health promotion. Students can choose to do thesis research or concentrate on clinical practice. Applicants must have a relevant undergraduate degree, pass entrance tests and submit transcripts, Graduate Record Examination (GRE) scores and a resume. In the more elaborate Ph.D. programs, students study biology, health and social sciences to develop an understanding of factors that impact health, and to develop treatments and interventions for patient illnesses. Possible specializations include occupational, pediatric school and community-health psychology. Direct experience is gained through internships. A research dissertation must be completed for graduation. Prospective students must have a bachelor's degree in a relevant field and experience in research methods or statistics. Doctoral programs usually take 4-6 years or longer to finish.
Master's in Health Psychology
Coursework in a health psychology master's program can help students learn about group processes, behavioral and cognitive techniques, client care and evaluation programs. Other topics to be explored are:
- Behavioral epidemiology
- Behavior change
- Multivariate statistics
- Health promotion
- Behavioral medicine
Ph.D. in Health Psychology
Doctoral health psychology curricula is multi-disciplinary, encompassing social-science, applied science and research methods. In addition to studying interventions, organizational behavior and human measurement methods, topics like the following will be addressed:
- Human development
- Social behavior
- Biological behavior
- Cognitive bases of behavior
Popular Career Options
Ph.D. holders are eligible for professional psychologist licensure and research and postsecondary teaching positions. Although master's graduates aren't qualified to work as independent psychologists, other career areas they could step into include:
- Health counseling
- Health education
- Health promotion
- Health psychology research
- Community college instruction
Employment Outlook and Salary Information
According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), employment for clinical, counseling and school psychologists (which includes health psychologists) is expected to grow at a rate of 20% over the 2014-2024 decade with a mean salary of $76,040 as of May 2015 (www.bls.gov).
Licensure requirements to practice psychology vary by state, but education requirements, examinations and a minimum number of supervised experience hours are typical mandates.
Master's and doctoral degrees in health psychology are very important for individuals seeking career advancement in this field. Advanced studies in health psychology can open doors to careers in counseling, research, and academia.