Health psychology explores the intersection of mental and physical health. Sometimes called behavioral medicine, the field of health psychology deals with the impact psychological health and behavior have on physical wellness. A master's degree is typically the minimum requirement to work in health psychology.
A master's in health psychology also prepares students for doctoral programs, which qualify graduates to obtain licensure and practice clinically. This guide provides information about health psychology master's programs, including common elements of curricula and available careers for graduates.
Typical Admission Requirements:
Applicants generally need a bachelor's degree from an accredited institution and a minimum 3.0 GPA. Applicants must submit letters of recommendation, a personal statement, and GRE scores, including scores from the psychology subject test.
Time to Completion:
Most health psychology master's programs require 45-60 credits, which students typically complete in 2-4 years.
Why Get a Master's Degree in Health Psychology?
Health psychology graduate programs provide students with a variety of personal and professional benefits. Below are common reasons learners pursue a master's in health psychology.
A master's degree in health psychology can lead to a salary increase. Professionals with a graduate degree typically earn higher salaries than those with a bachelor's.
A health psychology master's degree qualifies graduates for a wider variety of jobs than an undergraduate degree, including advanced roles.
Students in master's programs develop advanced knowledge in health psychology, which prepares learners for high-level roles in the field.
Students often complete research projects while earning their master's degrees in health psychology. This can improve graduates' professional status and bolster their curricula vitae.
Health psychology graduate programs provide valuable opportunities to connect with professionals in the field and build a professional network.
The curricula of health psychology degree programs include coursework in general psychology and in principles and theories of health psychology. Students often take foundational courses in psychological theory and practice, including classes in health behavior, stress and coping mechanisms, and life span development.
Most health psychology master's programs culminate in a capstone or formal thesis project. These projects often require students to conduct research in the field, independently or with a group. Although course offerings and requirements vary by school, the classes detailed below are common to many health psychology programs.
This course explores the impact of communities on individual health. Students learn about patterns of mental and physical illness prevalent in various types of communities and explore how psychological theories apply to patterns of community health. Coursework examines the presence and persistence of diseases in various communities, and students analyze potential causes for these patterns.
Stress and Coping
This course examines various facets of stress and stress responses, including coping mechanisms and physiological and psychological reactions to stress. Coursework covers topics like trauma, psychoneuroimmunology, stress-related physical and mental disorders, and stress and chronic pain. Students discuss these topics within the context of health psychology.
Promotion of Healthy Behaviors
The promotion of healthy behaviors is central to health psychology. This course explores methods of changing health-related behaviors. Students discuss disease prevention and management and methods for preventing relapse. The course also covers issues related to physical health, including sexual practices, managing stress, and drug and alcohol use.
Social psychology examines the relationship between social interactions and psychological health. This course explores psychological theories, and students examine how and why people exhibit certain behaviors in social situations. Learners discuss the ways people influence and motivate one another. Coursework also examines bias, discrimination, and aggression.
What Can You Do With a Master's Degree in Health Psychology?
Graduates of health psychology graduate programs can pursue careers in a variety of settings. A master's degree in health psychology prepares students for entry-level careers in the field, including positions as research assistants and behavior specialists. A master's in the field also prepares students to teach college courses in psychology. Individuals typically need a doctoral degree to practice as clinical psychologists.
Earning a master's degree can lead to many health psychology careers. Although a master's degree qualifies individuals for most entry-level jobs in the field, many graduates pursue additional credentials. Earning a doctoral degree and licensure qualifies professionals to practice clinically and can lead to more advanced roles.
Clinical health psychologists typically need a doctoral degree to practice. Clinical practice requires a license, and most state licensure requirements include a doctorate from an accredited institution. Doctoral programs in health psychology also prepare students for advanced roles in private practice or for working with clinical teams in healthcare settings.
Doctorate-holders can also work in academia as professors, research team supervisors, and academic program directors. Some graduates pursue positions with government agencies — usually those related to public health.
Candidates interested in practicing clinically as health psychologists must earn a license. Each state sets unique requirements for licensure, but most state psychology boards require candidates to hold a doctorate in psychology. Additionally, most states require a minimum number of supervised practice hours, completed during or immediately following a doctoral program.
A health psychology license qualifies holders to pursue a variety of careers in the field. Licensed professionals can work in private practices and healthcare settings. Licensed health psychologists can also teach at postsecondary institutions. Licensure generally leads to higher salary potential.
- Society for Health Psychology The Society for Health Psychology, founded in 1978, highlights the contributions of psychological research to advancement in health and illness studies. The organization promotes psychology education and provides members with access to the scholarly journal Health Psychology.
- Association of Psychologists in Academic Health Centers This professional association advocates for psychologists working and practicing in medical schools, teaching hospitals, and academic health centers. Members have access to a scholarly publication and a yearly conference.
- Society for Occupational Health Psychology This organization works to advance psychological research in occupational health and to contribute to the overall well-being of workers. Members gain access to the organization's two scholarly publications.