Those who hold a bachelor's degree in psychology may enroll in online health psychology master's degree programs. These programs often have fully online coursework, though some may require some on-campus visits, such as an initial orientation, and/or a supervised internship or other experience that allows students to work directly with clients. A master's degree is considered the terminal degree for industrial-organizational psychologists and some school psychologists. Many states require anyone working under the title 'psychologist' to be professionally licensed or certified; check for state-specific requirements when choosing a degree program.
Master's Degree in Health Psychology
Health psychology is a relatively new field of study that examines how physical and psychological factors impact people's overall health. Students in the health psychology master's degree program explore why people knowingly engage in unhealthy behavior. They learn how to help patients overcome destructive thought patterns. Health psychology degree programs also pay specific attention to preventing chronic illnesses like diabetes and heart disease through lifestyle changes.
Students generally must hold a bachelor's degree in psychology and meet GPA requirements to apply to the master's degree program. Some universities also require students to submit their Graduate Record Examination (GRE) scores. Universities look for emotionally mature applicants who are effective communicators, since health psychology often requires interviewing and counseling patients.
Program Information and Requirements
The master's degree program in health psychology typically takes about two years to complete and culminates in a capstone project, a master's thesis or a comprehensive final examination. The capstone project usually requires writing a paper on a health psychology subject, while the master's thesis involves conducting research on an original hypothesis.
Courses can be taken entirely online; however, some programs require students to attend an orientation weekend on campus before beginning classes.
Common Health Psychology Courses
Health psychology courses for the master's degree program explore how people's mental outlook affects their physical wellbeing. The program requires students to look at health from psychological, physiological and holistic perspectives.
Students study the biological stress response shown in humans. The course also explores coping methods to relieve stress through a number of different methods, including relaxation techniques, therapy, exercise and nutrition. Students can often ask questions and get immediate feedback online through instant messenger from instructors and students.
Culture and Health
The class differentiates universal psychological responses that apply to people across the world from specific psychological occurrences that are only evident among certain cultures. Students examine the effects of acculturation, as well as race and ethnicity, on people's health. Instructors may provide lectures for students through video streaming or DVDs.
Students learn the skills needed to effectively question patients and interview research subjects in a non-threatening manner. They must keep cultural and social considerations in mind and learn the importance of using observational techniques to determine a person's comfort level. The assignments required for this class can be handed in through e-mail or a university's web based system.
Nutrition and Eating Disorders
The course explores different types of eating disorders and why some people react to stress by developing unhealthy relationships with food. Students learn how to formulate specific nutrition programs for patients who are attempting to overcome destructive eating habits. Interactive opportunities may be available through online message boards or forums.
Health Psychology Career Information
Graduates with a master's degree in health psychology can find employment as research assistants, psychological survey researchers and behavior specialists. They can work at hospitals, rehabilitation centers, health clinics, private practices and schools.
The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics reported that survey researchers earned a median annual salary of $53,920 as of May 2015 (www.bls.gov). The job market is favorable for researchers, since employees with effective interview skills and knowledge of data analysis are in demand. The BLS projected job growth of 12%, faster than the average for all occupations, for survey researchers from 2014-2024.
Continuing Education and Licensure Information
Clinical psychologists typically need a doctoral degree. Those who intend to pursue a doctoral program will want to check on whether a master's degree is required for admission to their doctoral programs of choice. To become a licensed psychologist, graduates need to earn a doctoral degree in health psychology or another related field of psychology. Graduates of the doctoral program can then enter into postsecondary teaching and academic research or start their own practice.
Graduates also might want to eventually receive certification through the American Board of Professional Psychology (ABPP). ABPP certification requires applicants to have a doctoral degree and licensure in the field of psychology and pass an examination.
In online health psychology programs, students can expect to study the connection between mental and physical health through streaming lectures, online assignments and virtual class discussions. Depending on their future career goals, they may consider enrolling in a doctoral program and earning clinical licensure or professional certification after they graduate.