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Health Psychology Degree

Health psychology, also referred to as medical psychology, is a branch of psychology which is concerned with how social, mental, and emotional factors affect a person’s physical well-being. It is a relatively new branch of psychology and is therefore still developing itself. The field of health psychology officially became recognized as a separate branch of psychology in 1978. For those interested in pursuing a career in health psychology, there are a number of different degrees available for consideration.

What is Health Psychology?

A physician sees a patient and is concerned with the illness they are suffering from and ways in which it can be treated. Health psychologists, on the other hand, are less concerned with the disease itself. Their goal is to study and examine the particular patient. The field of health psychology is very broad and spans many different areas. Health psychologists  concern themselves with how an illness can affect the emotional and mental wellbeing of a patient. At the same time, they are also concerned with how a patient’s mental and emotional state can cause or affect physical illnesses.

What does a Health Psychologist do?

The precise duties of a health psychologist are subject to vary by professional and by the specific area of specialization that they have chosen. Within the field of health psychology, there are four main areas of specialization:

  • Community Health Psychology:

Community health psychology is an area which focuses on the health of an entire community as a whole. Those individuals who are inclined to focus on this aspect of health psychology are likely to study the prevalence of specific diseases in certain areas, and the causes behind such diseases.

  • Public Health Psychology:

This aspect of health psychology focuses on public and governmental policies and programs. Those who choose this area of specialization are likely to be working to try to influence government policies, work with low-income individuals, and organize public health awareness programs.

  • Clinical Health Psychology:

Clinical health psychology is the area of health psychology which focuses on treating individuals. Those which choose clinical health psychology as an area of specialization will focus on individuals and their lifestyles and behaviors. They will then try to determine how this may affect their overall health. Once they discover the root of the problem, clinical health psychologists will work with individuals to change their negative habits in order to positively change their overall health. 

  • Occupational Health Psychology:

Occupational health psychologists focus on a person’s job and their overall state of physical health. These professionals are likely to work within companies and businesses to help their employees be happier and have better overall physical health. Their job may involve changing company policies and counseling individual employees.

Types of Health Psychology Degrees

Listed below are the different types of degrees offered within the field of health psychology. Due to the fact that the profession is still relatively new, there are not that many programs in health psychology available. Furthermore, online programs are not that common within the field either.

Bachelor’s Degree in Health Psychology

There are very few schools which offer an undergraduate health psychology major. However, those that do offer the program offer it as a Bachelor of Science in Health Psychology.
Entry Requirements

  • A high school diploma with a specific GPA determined by the specific program and university you are applying to
  • A background in science courses in high school
  • Letters of recommendation

An undergraduate program in health psychology examines how an individual’s behavior is affected by social, emotional, physical, and mental health factors. Some of the courses taken throughout this degree include:

  • Developmental psychology
  • Human diseases
  • Medical ethics
  • Alternative health promotion techniques
  • Nutritional health 

This program is typically completed within 4 years.

Master’s Degree in Health Psychology

Master’s degree programs in health psychology aim to teach students how to develop and design programs which can encourage healthy behaviors.
Entry Requirements

  • A bachelor’s degree in psychology or a related field
  • Minimum GPA requirement determined by program
  • GRE scores

The precise curriculum of the program will vary depending upon which area of concentration you choose to pursue. The program also typically involves an internship or a thesis based on an original piece of research.
Some of the courses you can expect to take in this program include:

  • Mental health and wellness
  • Biological sources of mental health problems
  • Psychopharmacology
  • Abnormal psychology

This program is typically completed within 2-3 years.

Ph.D. in Health Psychology

Those who wish to specialize in the research or academic aspects of health psychology can pursue a doctoral program in psychology with a concentration in health psychology. This degree focuses on the current theory available in the field as well as the interdependence and interrelatedness of physical and mental health. The program culminates with a thesis on an original piece of research.
Entry Requirements

  • Master’s degree in psychology
  • Some programs may accept candidates with a bachelor’s degree in psychology provided they can demonstrate a high level of familiarity with master’s level psychology concepts
  • Specific GPA requirements are determined by individual programs

The first half of the degree is typically devoted to classroom based study and the latter half is devoted to research.
Some of the courses you can expect to take in the program include:

  • Advanced statistics course
  • Biopsychology
  • Social psychology

The program typically takes 5-7 years to complete.

Job Prospects and Salary

The specific salary that a health psychologist may make will be influenced by many factors. Some of these factors include the amount of experience they have, the place at which they are employed, and the amount of educational qualifications they have.
According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics:

  • The median annual salary for psychologists in 2012 was 90,020
  • BLS has projected that the profession will see a 12% rise in employment growth between 2012-22

Health psychology is the branch of psychology which concerns itself with mental and emotional states and how they are affected by illness and how they in turn affect illness. There are a plethora of factors which can contribute to or exacerbate an existing illness in a patient. Health psychology aims to discover this link and develop strategies to boost the overall health and physical well-being of individuals.



Frequently Asked Question(s)

Q:What kinds of subjects are typically taught in a health psychology online program?

A:The kind of courses you would study depends on the specialization, the level of education and the mode of education you choose to go for. Typical topics, however, would include the likes of behavioral nutrition, health and nutrition, social psychology, biopsychology, health promotion, alternative medicine, health psychosocial factors and healthcare intervention.

Q:What do I need to enroll in health psychology programs?

A:Health psychology is a rigorous program that requires a prior education and a lot of commitment on part of the applicant. To be eligible for application to a health psychology program, you must have a strong academic background and the relevant experience, a certain number of credit hours completed in psychology, including Introductory Psychology, Research Methods and a Statistics Course.

Q:What are a few health psychology courses?

A:Health psychology programs cover a vast set of topics in various courses such as data handling and research methods for applied psychology, lifespan perspective in health psychology, health psychology in practice, individual differences, health, stress and illnesses, research based project on health psychology, theories and perspectives in health psychology and so on.

Q:What health psychology degree programs can I go for?

A:The answer to this will depend on your prior educational qualifications and future career goals. If you have completed your high school or a GED equivalent, you can go for an associate program or a bachelors degree in health psychology. However, health psychology usually requires more advance knowledge, for which you can go for a master's or a doctorate program.

Q:Can you tell me the admission requirements of health psychology graduate programs?

A:If you want to enroll in a health psychology graduate program, you would generally need a bachelor's degree in psychology or a relevant field such as biology. Besides, the university may require you to have a certain minimum GPA. Some universities also ask students to submit reference letters and admission essays.

Q:What courses are covered in the curriculum of health psychology phd programs?

A:Health psychology PhD programs will cover a range of advanced level subjects. These may include: gerontology, community epidemiology, ageing and public policy, cardiopulmonary physiology, social and behavioral foundations of public health, advanced research, systems in psychology, ethics and professional issues, and health communication. The exact curriculum may vary a little from college to college.

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