What degrees can I earn?
Students can receive a BS in health psychology as well MA and MS degrees through health psychology graduate programs. The top health psychology degrees are conferred through PhD and PsyD programs. Health psychology also offers a range of online psychology degree options, from masters to doctoral programs.
Health psychology certificate programs require a bachelors degree from an accredited institution, and most applicants have a BA or BS in the social sciences or a medical field. Accredited health psychology certificate programs online and on campus are completed within a year and offer 12 credit hours that are transferable to graduate programs.
Although no school offers a BA degree in health psychology, there are a limited number of undergraduate programs that award BS degrees. For example, Jefferson Colleges of Health Sciences offers one of the few health psychology BS programs in the country.
Undergraduates can take health psychology courses as general psychology majors. They can also take courses in the subject through online psychology bachelors programs from schools like Penn State, whose BA and BS online programs in general psychology offer a variety of health psychology courses.
In order to be admitted to health psychology BS programs, you must have acquired a minimum GPA of 2.5 and completed some coursework in introductory psychology and science classes. Students usually complete a BS program in 4 years and are awarded between 80 and 85 credit hours.
MA and MS degrees are awarded in health psychology, as students can choose from an array of online masters in psychology programs in the subfield.
To be admitted into competitive health psychology masters programs, you need a bachelors degree from an accredited institution and a GPA of 3.0 or higher. You also need to have completed coursework or have professional experience in health psychology or a related field. MA and MS programs take 2 years to complete and award 36 credit hours.
Health psychology offers a health psychology PhD program as well as a PsyD program. PhD in psychology programs tend to be research centered, while all PsyD programs emphasize clinical training. For example, top PsyD programs integrate pre-doctoral internships at hospitals and health centers into the curriculum. Prerequisites for a doctoral program include a bachelors degree from an accredited university or college, a GPA of at least 3.0 and completed coursework in psychology. Doctoral programs take anywhere between 4 to 7 years to complete and offer 102 to 107 credit hours.
Are there any online programs?
There are several accredited health psychology online colleges available to students who want to pursue graduate work in health psychology. Most health psychology schools online can be completed entirely through distance learning, although the best health psychology online program will offer students on-site clinical training options. Traditional and online colleges confer a variety of online degrees in health psychology.
While no programs award a health psychology bachelors degree online, several offer a health psychology online masters degree, which allows students to pursue advanced work while working part or full time.
Students enrolled in masters programs should keep in mind that all practicing clinical health psychologists must have a doctoral degree and be state licensed. Professionals with online masters degrees in health psychology, then, have limited employment opportunities and usually work under the supervision of licensed clinical psychologists.
Students who pursue online psychology courses will also have limited on-site training. Thus, while there are several online PhD options in health psychology, students who prioritize clinical work should enroll in a traditional PsyD program, as about half of the coursework take place in clinical settings. PsyD programs are not currently offered online.
What kinds of classes will I take in my program?
Undergraduates interested in health psychology will take introductory courses in developmental, cognitive and social psychology as well as introductory courses in anatomy and physiology. Upper level undergraduate courses include biochemistry, ethical issues in psychology, learning and behavior and health and wellness seminars. For those enrolled in online programs, a similar variety of online health psychology courses are available.
Core graduate classes in the best programs integrate clinical work and research, whether in an MA, MS, PhD or PsyD program. Health psychology graduate students frequently take courses in personality and cognitive assessments, clinical research methods, psychopathology, clinical behavioral medicine and multivariate statistics. They also take advanced seminars in developmental, cognitive and social psychology.
What careers can I choose from?
Health psychology students pursue a variety of careers in psychology. Health psychology jobs usually involve clinical work in medical settings or research, with the best careers in health psychology including work as a clinical health psychologist or health educator. The average health psychology salary varies, depending on the level of training and industry that professionals work in, with licensed health psychologists earning about $80,000 a year, while professionals in entry-level positions earn about $40,000 a year.
Clinical health psychologist
Clinical health psychologists conduct behavioral assessments and personality tests, help clients work through unhealthy behaviors and create behavior modification programs for patients. They usually work in medical centers, community clinics, private doctors’ offices and hospitals. Some clinical health psychologists are also hired to conduct group assessments by nonprofits and private offices. They usually have doctoral degrees and complete their studies in 5 to 7 years. Clinical health psychologists earn annual salaries of $68,600 to $80,000.
Health psychologists also frequently work as health educators. They create programs and materials used in community health clinics, hospitals and schools and commonly work for nonprofits, the government, private businesses, doctors’ offices and hospitals. Some educators are hired as public policy lobbyists for private firms in the medical industry. Health psychologists who work in education most often have a masters degree in health psychology or a related field, although higher-level supervisory positions often require doctoral degrees. Health educators make an average salary of about $46,000.
Is there anything else I should know about getting a degree?
Health psychology certification for clinical health psychologists is administered by the American Board of Professional Psychology. All practicing clinical psychologists must be state licensed in order to work with clients, with state examinations and licensing requirements differing from state to state. Most states also require clinical health psychologists to be trained through a 1 to 2-year internship after earning their doctorate degrees and before they can take state licensing examinations. It may take up to 10 years of training in total before you receive your state license as a clinical health psychologist. Due to this lengthy time commitment, many students forgo clinical training and pursue research focused health psychology training in PhD programs.
Clinical health psychologists who provide direct care must accumulate a minimum number of hours of continuing education in order to renew their license every 2 to 4 years. Continuing education opportunities are frequently offered through university programs that award psychology certifications, such as the University of Florida’s certification program for psychology professionals.