This article will tell you about the benefits of earning a degree in health psychology. You will learn about how to select the best degree for your career goals. Also, we will describe what health psychologists do and will provide helpful recommendations for good quality health psychology programs.
What Is a Health Psychologist Degree?
Everyone gets sick at some time in their lives, as illnesses and diseases are a part of growing older. Some of these maladies may be caused by our environment and others can be caused by genetics. During the last several decades though, doctors and some scientists have discovered that some physical illnesses can be made worse from emotional and mental problems.
That is what the field of health psychology is all about. This is a special branch of psychology that looks at how mental, emotional and social factors can affect one’s general physical health. This growing psychology speciality is often referred to as medical psychology in some cases. Medical psychology focuses on how one’s mental and emotional reaction to a sickness can affect recovery.
A degree in health psychology will cover the various aspects of psychology that can be affected by illness and disease. Professionals who work in health psychology will often attempt to grasp how a sickness may affect your mental and emotional wellbeing.
Another intriguing aspect of a health psychology degree is teaching you how to understand why people seek healthcare and how they interact with their medical professionals.
A health psychology degree can be either a master’s or doctoral degree; you will need to obtain your doctoral degree to work in private practice, but you can work in some areas of health psychology with only a master’s degree.
Some possible courses you may take in a health psychology degree program include:
- Health Psychology Overview
- Lifespan Development
- Changing Health Behavior
- Stress and Coping
- Quantitative Reasoning and Analysis
- Research, Theory, Design and Methods
A key aspect of your education in psychology is earning your license to practice. After you graduate from your master’s or Ph.D. program, you are required to pass the Examination for Professional Practice in Psychology. You are advised to review the clinical hour requirements for your state to attain licensure at the Association of State and Provincial Psychology Boards.
Why Get a Degree in Health Psychology?
As people are living longer and have higher expectations for good health as they age, understanding the psychology of health is important. Understanding how health affects one’s psychology and recovery or treatment program is very important to improving health outcomes.
The importance of health psychology can be seen in the steady rate of job growth in the field. The job growth rate for psychologists is forecasted to hold steady at about three percent over the ten year period from 2019 – 2029, owing to a greater awareness of how important it is to address mental health issues, along with more access to the healthcare coverage that allows people to get the treatment they need.
Demand in many related fields of psychology are slated for similar rates of growth during that time, including clinical, industrial/organizational and counseling psychology. It is very likely that demand for health psychologists should only increase in the coming years as technology improves and people live even longer.
If you want a degree in health psychology, you have the option of earning your master’s and then a Ph.D. after you gain more work experience. Many psychologists prefer to work for several years and gain more experience before pursuing their doctorate degree. You may decide after getting some experience in the field that it would be worth it to earn your doctorate.
You also can expect to earn a solid salary in health psychology; the median income for all psychologists was $82,180 as of May 2020.
Health Psychology Online Programs
There are more online health psychology programs in master’s and Ph.D. degree options being offered today. To locate the best program to fit your career goals, please remember these guidelines and tips:
- How long has the program been offered online? Some of the best online psychology degree programs have been online for more than 10 years. Choosing a well established master’s or Ph.D. program online makes it more likely that the program will be high quality and will work smoothly.
- Will you need to take your classes alone on your schedule, or with other classmates at a set time? Either option works well but your schedule could mandate having to take your classes on your own.
- What is the level of support your university offers its online students? You should be offered all of the same academic and career support online that students receive on campus. For example, you will want to have plenty of guidance to find a job after you have earned your degree, however you earned the degree.
- How is the university accredited? You should ensure that the program has at least been regionally accredited by one of the US Department of Education regional accreditation agency.
- Is the program completely online, or are you required to visit campus to participate in some live classes? Some programs will require one or two campus visits per year, but others are entirely online.
Master’s Level Degree Options
If you believe that your passion is to work in health psychology, we recommend that you consider the Master of Science in Health Psychology program from Walden University. This program can be earned entirely online in two or three years.
Gain a broad, detailed understanding of principles, research strategies and theories of health psychology, while you focus on the skills and knowledge that are needed to promote, good healthy behaviors and prevent illnesses.
You also will learn how to apply advanced psychological knowledge and research to various real world scenarios that you will encounter in your career. Students also learn how to think independently and critically about research and theories of health psychology.
This program also offers 11 other specializations that you can choose in addition to health psychology. You will gain the skills and knowledge in one or more of these specialities that will help you to advance your psychology career to new levels. Some of these other specializations that you can pair with your health psychology focus include:
If you want to save time and money when you decide to earn your Ph.D. in health psychology, you can later on apply the credits from your master’s degree towards your doctoral degree. This could allow you to save up to six months off of your doctoral degree completion schedule.
It is important to consider the matter of accreditation of your health psychology program. For campus based programs, the American Psychological Association or APA accredits these programs. At this time, the APA does not accredit online psychology programs.
We recommend that you confirm that your university is accredited by one of the regional accreditation agencies recognized by the US Department of Education.
US Bureau of Labor Statistics data shows that over the ten-year period leading up to 2029, the psychology profession will see a three percent job growth rate, adding some 5,700 positions in that time. This demand should continue for many years. Earning a master’s or doctorate in health psychology could be the ticket to a long and lucrative psychology career.
2020 US Bureau of Labor Statistics job market and salary trends for Psychologists represents national data, not school-specific information. Conditions in your area may vary. Data accessed August 2021.