Health psychology is a new and emerging field in the overall discipline of psychology. Meanwhile, due to the tremendous demand for professionals in the entire health industry, the field of health psychology has already started to subdivide into different concentrations. If you are considering completing a master’s in health psychology (MHP) degree, then you are likely to also want to know how to attract the best salary. Completing a master’s degree requires a significant investment of both time and money, and seeing a return on that investment is very important.
Understanding Health Psychology
There are currently four accepted branches of health psychology:
- Community health psychology, which aims to improve the mental health of people in entire communities, rather than single individuals. A community health psychologist organizes campaigns and runs events to inform the community about what factors contribute to poor mental health, and how to address them.
- Public health psychology, which is very similar to community health psychology. The key difference is that public health psychology is more research-based, and aims to drive policy at the local, state, and national government level.
- Critical health psychology, which focuses on how power and finances affect how people experience mental health. The emphasis is on sociopolitical issues and how these affect health and access to healthcare. Specifically, it looks at issues, such as political oppression, poverty, sexism, and racism. A critical health psychologist is closely linked to the social justice system.
- Clinical health psychology, which is a combination of all of the above. The focus is on preventive measures, encouraging better decision-making to improve mental health and well-being.
The discipline of health psychology is covered under the American Psychological Association’s Division 38. This division was formed in 1978, which demonstrates that health psychology is a new field of work. In fact, it is thanks to professionals like Stephen Weiss and Joseph Matarazzo, about whom you should learn a lot during your degree program, that the division was formed.
If you want to get the best MHP salary, then you need to understand the key differences between these four areas and determine which one would be your personal preference. This will enable you to align your elective courses towards the discipline that you are most interested in. This, in turn, will make you more employable.
Key Factors that Determine Salary
Besides your curriculum, there are a number of other key factors that generally affect the salary of the health psychologist. Below are some of the other elements that you must take into consideration in terms of helping you attract the greatest salary.
1. The Right Degree
It is of vital importance that you choose a degree program not just with the right curriculum for your personal career goals, but also with the right accreditation. In order for your degree to be accepted, it must be accredited by the American Psychological Association (APA). This indicates that you will have been educated to a certain level, which exceeds minimum standards. Another consideration to make is whether you may want to study on towards a doctorate degree. For many fields of psychology, this is a requirement, and you will certainly make yourself more attractive to prospective employers by holding such an advanced degree.
Those who hold specific forms of certification usually attract the greatest interest from possible employers. The American Board of Professional Psychology currently has a certification option in place for clinical health psychologists. Different states also have different requirements in terms of licensure agreements.
3. The Industry in Which You Work
Health psychologists can work in a variety of different industries, and each of these offers different salaries. Some of the employment settings that are particularly popular include:
- Hospitals and clinics
- Research settings
- Government agencies, and particularly the Department of Health and Human Services
- Public policy settings
- Clinical settings
Each of these settings provides different annual salaries, but you also have to look beyond that. For instance, a government agency may pay less overall than a private hospital, but they do provide greater job security. Similarly, those who work in a nonprofit mental health agency will likely earn much less every year compared to the average, but they do have the benefit of making the greatest difference to the community in a direct way.
Overall, the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) predicts that the field of psychology will grow by 11% from 2014 to 2024. It is also known that there is a strong focus on preventive healthcare nowadays, which is a key area for health psychologists. This would suggest that there will be a very strong demand for these types of professionals, and particularly within government settings.
According to the APA, the average salary for a health psychologist with MHP degree is $80,000 per year. Overall, the best industries to work for in terms of annual salary (from lowest to highest) are:
- Nonprofit organizations
- Government settings
- Large health care organizations
- Private clinical practices
4. Extra Training
If you have become licensed as a health psychologist, you will need to maintain that license through continuous professional education. And even if you did not become licensed, as this generally requires a doctorate degree, continuing to take part in various courses is a great way to make yourself more employable. The healthcare industry is changing rapidly, and there is an increased demand for those who have an understanding of working across multidisciplinary teams.
Once you have completed your training and you have specialized in a certain field of health psychology, it will be time for you to start searching for a job. What you will quickly find is that there are a number of generic job titles used across different organizations nationally and that there are significant differences between the salaries attracted by each of those positions. Hence, thinking about which position you want to hold is of vital importance. Some of the most common job titles for which a doctorate degree is not required include:
- Behavioral Health Consultant
- Mental Health Clinician
- Community Behavioral Health Liaison Officer
- Clinical Psychology Research Assistant
- End of Life Care Provider
- Psychiatric Aide
5. Your Geographical Location
Another key factor in terms of attracting the best salary is your geographical location. However, there is a major caveat to this. Generally speaking, the locations that offer the highest salaries are also the areas where the cost of living is the highest. Hence, it is important that you calculate what your actual disposable income will be, before focusing solely on the highest-earning positions. In terms of salary alone, according to the BLS, the best places for a health psychologist to work are:
- California, with average annual earnings of $86,310
- New York, with average annual earnings of $85,820
- Massachusetts, with average annual earnings of $77,580
- Pennsylvania, with average annual earnings of $69,420
- Texas, with average annual earnings of $64,130
As you can see, the field of health psychology is incredibly varied and interesting. It is also rapidly growing, which means demand is on the rise. If you are considering an MHP degree, the most logical answer would be to go for it straight away.
- Pursuing a Career in Health Psychology. (n.d.) Retrieved from http://www.apa.org/action/science/health/education-training.aspx
- Public Health Psychologist Careers. (n.d.) Retrieved from http://www.careersinpublichealth.net/careers/public-health-psychologist
- Occupational Outlook Handbook – Psychologists. (2015, Dec. 17) Retrieved from https://www.bls.gov/ooh/life-physical-and-social-science/psychologists.htm
- Occupational Employment and Wages, May 2015 – Clinical, Counseling, and School Psychologists. (2016, Mar. 30) Retrieved from https://www.bls.gov/oes/current/oes193031.htm
- APA-Accredited Programs. (n.d.). Retrieved from http://www.apa.org/ed/accreditation/programs/
- Clinical Health Psychology. (n.d.) Retrieved from http://www.abpp.org/i4a/pages/index.cfm?