Clinical Health Psychology Programs: Education Options

Oct 09, 2019

Clinical health psychology programs are found at the graduate level. Both master's and doctoral programs require a clinical practicum in addition to coursework and research. Find out more about program, career and continuing education options for this psychology specialty.

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Essential Information

A master's degree in clinical health psychology lasts 2 years and provides students with an overall understanding of behavior and its contextual factors. Doctoral programs in clinical health psychology last 4-5 years and provide advanced study opportunities for students to understand how illness, behavior and well-being are affected by psychological, social and biological factors.

Coursework encompasses addictive behaviors, prevention studies, and psychosocial consequences of disease and health promotion. Prerequisites include a bachelor's degree (preferably in psychology or related field such as counseling, social work or mental health nursing), and a criminal background check may be required. Online programs are available, but generally not accredited by the APA. Master's programs require a clinical practicum and sometimes a thesis, while doctoral programs require completion of an internship and dissertation.

Master's Degree in Clinical Health Psychology

This program focuses on preventing illness through behavior changes and how disease can affect psychological health. Required clinical practicums provide students with valuable hands-on experience. Clinical health psychology programs at this level prepare graduates for licensure as master's level psychologists. Thesis and non-thesis versions of this degree are available. Program coursework includes theoretical, practical and research-based instruction. Topics typically include:

  • Clinical assessment
  • Group therapy
  • Psychopathology
  • Ethics in psychotherapy
  • Personality theory

Ph.D. in Clinical Health Psychology

Students demonstrate competencies and gain hands-on experiences through clinical practicums and doctoral-internship opportunities. Ph.D. programs in clinical health psychology emphasize research skills and require the completion of a doctoral dissertation. Program coursework incorporates classroom instruction, seminar discussions and clinical rotations. Students examine the effects of medical illness on psychological functioning, models for behavior change and research-supported intervention procedures. Other topics include:

  • Adult psychopathology
  • Counseling methods
  • Assessment theory
  • Behavioral medicine
  • Intervention models

Popular Career Options

Graduates often work alongside a team of primary care physicians to provide comprehensive care. Possible employers include outpatient clinics, residential treatment centers and educational settings. Specific job opportunities may include: school psychologist, mental health care provider, and community counselor.

Employment and Salary Information

Graduates are prepared for careers in academia, research or independent practice. The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics projected that employment for the category of clinical, counseling and school psychologists will increase by 15% between 2018 and 2028. The BLS reported in 2018 that those psychologists earned a median annual salary of $76,990.

Continuing Education

Clinical psychologists providing any type of direct patient care are required to become licensed. Although licensure requirements vary by state, common requirements include completion of a doctoral degree program, 1-2 years of professional experience and a passing score on a state-standardized test. Continuing education is often required in order to maintain and renew licensing credentials.

Individuals interested in becoming clinical health psychologists can consider a master's and/or doctoral degree program, both of which combine clinical practice with coursework. Graduates may need to earn licensure to work as clinical health psychologists.

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