Health psychology is a specialty area that focuses on how biological, social and psychological factors influence health and illness. Learn more about what health psychologists do, the training and educational requirements and the job outlook in this brief overview of careers in health psychology.
What Do Health Psychologists Do?:
Health psychologists engage in many different job-related tasks. The specific type of work that a health psychologist does on a daily basis may depend on work setting or specialty area. Many health psychologists work directly in clinical settings to help individuals or groups prevent illness and promote healthy behaviors. Others conduct research on health-related issues or influence public policy on health care issues.
Where Do Health Psychologists Work?:
Health psychologists work in a wide variety of settings including hospitals, health care clinics, private corporations and universities. Some health psychologists work in settings that specialize in a particular area of health care such as oncology, pain management, women's health and smoking cessation programs. Other health psychologists work in government settings, often administering community health programs or influencing public policy.
How Much Do Health Psychologists Earn?:
Salaries for health psychologists typically depend on a number of factors including geographic location, work setting, educational background and job experience. According to the American Psychological Association (APA), licensed psychologists working within direct human services (of which health psychology comprises 13-percent) earned an average of $80,000 per year. Other estimates suggest that licensed health psychologists typically earn anywhere from $40,000 (entry-level) to $85,000 (advanced-level).Training for Health Psychologists:
Most licensed health psychologists hold a doctorate-level (Ph.D. or Psy.D.) degree in psychology. In many cases, health psychologists pursue an undergraduate degree in general psychology and then specialize in health psychology in graduate school. Some programs offer degrees specifically in health psychology. The emphasis in these programs can vary - some focus on preparing students for clinical careers while others emphasize the role of research.
Those who want to be licensed in clinical or counseling psychology must complete a minimum of a one-year internship after earning a doctorate degree. The American Board of Professional Psychology also offers board certification in health psychology.
While a doctorate degree is usually required in order to become a licensed health psychologist, there are some employment opportunities for those with a bachelor's degree or master's degree. Employment at the bachelor's level is limited, but some find work in community mental health offices or correctional facilities. Those with a master's degree enjoy more employment opportunities, although they typically work under the supervision of a licensed clinical psychologist.
Subfields Within Health Psychology
According to APA Division 38 Health Psychology, the job outlook for health psychologists is strong, partly due to the increased hiring of psychologists by hospitals and other medical establishments. Fortunately, health psychologists have a diverse range of employment areas to choose from including colleges and universities, private practices, rehabilitation centers, government agencies and mental health clinics.