Health Psychology Degree and Career Guide
Clinical health psychology, also known as medical psychology, has been recognized by the American Psychological Association (APA) as a specialty since 1997.1 Clinical health psychology examines the relationship between behavioral, emotional, cognitive, social, and biological sources in humans to promote health, prevent illness and disability, and improve the healthcare system. A doctoral degree such as a Doctor of Philosophy (PhD) in Psychology or a Doctor of Psychology (PsyD) is required to become a health psychologist. A master’s degree in health psychology can lead to roles working under a licensed psychologist. A doctoral degree in health psychology will prepare graduates for more opportunities, such as supervisory positions in healthcare, academic, and research settings.
- There are 33 not-for-profit colleges and universities with health/medical psychology programs.2
- 3 school offers a certificate in health/medical psychology.2
- No schools offer an associate degree in health/medical psychology.2
- 13 schools offer a bachelor’s degree in health/medical psychology.2
- 17 schools offer a master’s or advanced degree in health/medical psychology.2
Table of Contents
- Health Psychology Degree Requirements and Coursework
- Best Value Schools With On-Campus Health Psychology Programs
- Select Health Psychology Degree Programs
- Health Psychologist Career Information
- Becoming a Health Psychologist
- Job Description
- Salary and Job Outlook
- Additional Resources
- Frequently Asked Questions
Degree Requirements and Coursework
There are two types of health psychology degree programs: clinical and non-clinical. Only clinical health psychology programs prepare graduates for licensure. A bachelor’s degree is required to enter an advanced degree program in health psychology and some undergraduate study in psychology or a related field is preferred, if not required, for admission. In a clinical health psychology graduate program, students learn about the development, implementation, and evaluation of prevention and treatment interventions with the goal of improving the physical and mental health of individuals, families, and communities. Typical requirements for entrance into an advanced health psychology degree program include a minimum undergraduate GPA of 3.0, official transcripts, three references, a personal statement, and a current resume. Some programs require GRE scores. There are typically no further specializations (also called concentrations, specialties, or emphases) available to health psychology students since it is already a specialization within psychology. Sample coursework includes:
- Cognitive Assessment
- Clinical Research Methods
- Ethics and Professional Issues
- Health Psychology
- Human Behavior Change
- Personality Assessment
- Physiological Psychology
- Practicum in Clinical Psychology
- Psychological Statistics, Research Methods, and Design
Best Value Schools With On-Campus Health and Medical Psychology Programs
We have researched the not-for-profit colleges and universities that offer on-campus health or medical psychology degrees at the graduate level to compile the best value list below. To determine which health psychology schools made our list, we first researched net price and graduation rate. We only included schools with an undergraduate net price of below $25,000 per year and with an undergraduate graduation rate of 50% or above. A high undergraduate graduation rate is typically an indicator of a school’s success, while net price is important for prospective students as they weigh the cost of their investment. We also included other data, such as national rankings, percentage of tenured faculty, and degrees offered.
|US News National Rank3
|% Tenured Faculty4
|East Carolina University
|PhD Health Psychology: Clinical Health
|University of North Carolina at Charlotte
|PhD Health Psychology
|University of Connecticut
|Certificate Health Psychology;
Certificate Occupational Health Psychology
|Virginia Commonwealth University
|PhD Health Psychology
|MA Psychology: Health Psychology
Select Health Psychology Degree Programs
Traditional Master’s Programs
The Chicago School of Professional Psychology (the Chicago School) offers a Master of Arts (MA) degree in Counseling Psychology with a Health Psychology Concentration at its main Chicago campus. The program teaches students how biological, psychological, and social factors can affect illness and overall health. Graduates of the program are able to help individuals engage in positive behaviors and make decisions that lead to good health and increased longevity. Graduates are prepared to sit for professional counselor licensure (LPC and LCPC) in the state of Illinois and other states. A total of 60 credits make up the program, including a nine-month placement experience and a 700-hour fieldwork requirement during the second year. Most students complete the program in two years of full-time study. A bachelor’s degree with coursework in psychology and statistics or research methods (grade of “C” or better) is required for entry, along with an essay, a resume or CV, and three letters of recommendation. Sample courses include Existential-Humanistic Psychotherapy; Evaluation and Treatments of Additions; and Psychology of Aging.
Traditional Doctoral Programs
The Psychology Department at the University of California Los Angeles (UCLA) offers a health psychology combined program that includes a master’s degree awarded after two years and a doctoral degree upon completion of the program. While both degrees are granted in the five-year full-time program, only students seeking the Doctor of Philosophy (PhD) are considered for entry. Part-time students are not accepted. Health Psychology is one of eight specialty areas offered by UCLA’s Psychology Department and this degree does not have a clinical focus; students wishing to offer mental health services are urged to apply to the clinical program. Admission requirements include three letters of recommendation, official transcripts showing a minimum GPA of 3.0, a statement of purpose, and interviews with faculty area admission committees. A GRE score is optional but may enhance applications. The program boasts a diverse student body and its major focus is the intersection of psychological processes and physical health and disease. Careful consideration is given to applicants’ statements of purpose, research experience, and letters of recommendation in order to ensure admitted students are a strong academic and cultural fit.
The University of North Carolina-Charlotte (UNCC) offers a Doctor of Philosophy (PhD) program in Health Psychology that focuses on the development, implementation, and evaluation of prevention and treatment interventions. Collaboration with other colleges and departments at the university is encouraged. Doctoral candidates in health psychology can choose between three program concentrations: Clinical Health Psychology, Community Health Psychology, or General Health Psychology. For the Clinical Health Psychology concentration, 88 credit hours are required, and for the Community Health and General Health concentrations, 78 credit hours are required. Research opportunities for students to work with faculty include areas such as cognition and mental health, obesity, pain, sleep behavior, and traumatic brain injury. A master’s thesis or second-year research project, a written comprehensive exam, a dissertation, and a year-long pre-doctoral internship (for clinical students only) are required for completion of the degree. Full- and part-time students are accepted into the program, and minimum requirements include at least 18 hours of coursework in psychology, a course in statistics, and an undergraduate degree with excellent grades (the average GPA for admitted students is 3.5). The GRE score requirement is waived for the 2023-2024 admission cycle. Undergraduate degrees in psychology, gerontology, public policy, or related disciplines are preferred.
Online and Hybrid Programs
Touro University Worldwide offers a Master of Arts (MA) in Psychology program with a concentration in Health Psychology that can be completed entirely online. Coursework is focused on research methods, social psychology, learning theory, personality, cognitive psychology, and ethical psychology practice. The MA in Psychology program at Touro emphasizes the practical application of research and theories in the real world. The MA in Psychology: Health Psychology program can be completed online in just one year for full-time students. Graduates will be prepared to teach people in their communities about how to become healthier through initiatives such as smoking cessation, improvements in nutrition, assistance with eating disorders, and treating emotional stress with coping mechanisms. They may work in settings like hospitals, universities, government agencies, healthcare clinics, and consulting organizations. Attendance is flexible, no GMAT or GRE scores are required for admittance, and six start dates are offered throughout the year to accommodate multiple schedules.
The University of Colorado Denver (CU Denver) offers a Doctor of Philosophy (PhD) program in Clinical Health Psychology. The six components of the doctoral program are core courses and electives; a master’s thesis; a clinical practicum; a comprehensive clinical competency evaluation (CCCE); a doctoral dissertation; and a pre-doctoral internship. Ambitious students can finish the program in five years. Required courses include Personality Assessment; Diversity in Clinical Psychology; Psychotherapy, Ethics, and Professional Issues; and Multivariate Statistics, among others. Admission is competitive and requires an undergraduate degree with a GPA of 3.5 or higher, and the completion of specific undergraduate courses related to the degree. GRE scores are not required. Potential students are asked to identify one to three core faculty members as potential research mentors in their personal statements. They must also include a resume or CV, three letters of recommendation (including two from academic references), and transcripts with their application.
The University of Florida Health’s (UF Health) Department of Clinical Health and Psychology and the College of Public Health and Health Professions jointly offer a combined Doctor of Philosophy (PhD) and Master of Public Health (MPH) in Clinical and Health Psychology program that can be partially completed online. The collaborative degree adds only one year to the time it would take to complete the PhD. Up to 15 credits of the MPH core courses may be taken online and nine credits of PhD courses may be applied to the MPH. While courses in the two programs can be taken concurrently, the recommended course of study is to devote the third year of study to MPH coursework (48 credits). Applicants must be accepted by both programs and will choose one of six MPH concentrations: Biostatistics; Environmental Health; Epidemiology; Population Health Management; Public Health Practice; or Social and Behavioral Sciences. An MPH internship is also required as part of the dual program, which is usually completed toward the end of the program.
Health Psychologist Career Information
How to Become a Health Psychologist
Health psychologists need a Doctor of Psychology (PsyD) or a PhD in Psychology to be eligible for licensure in all states. In addition to meeting the educational requirement, prospective health psychologists need to earn supervised experience as well as pass the Examination for Professional Practice in Psychology (EPPP). While licensing requirements vary by state, in general, prospective health psychologists will:
- Earn a bachelor’s degree and (optionally) a master’s degree in psychology or a related field.
- Earn an accredited PsyD or PhD in Health Psychology.
- Complete the required supervised clinical experience.
- Pass the required exam(s), including the Examination for Professional Practice in Psychology (EPPP).
- Apply for and receive a health psychology license.
- Begin practicing as a health psychologist in your state.
- Complete the required continuing education in your state to keep your license current.
Health psychologists are usually clinical psychologists who focus on how psychological factors affect health and illness. They promote healthy living strategies with their patients and develop programs to help address social health issues like teen pregnancy. In their day-to-day work, they may engage in academic research, professional practice, or education and training. Clinical health psychologists may conduct clinical interviews and behavioral assessments. They may organize or participate in interventions with individuals or groups, helping people to try to reduce stress, quit smoking, or become more active. They may also evaluate and treat patients with acute health problems and contribute to the treatment of serious diseases like AIDS, cancer, and diabetes. The type of job title you can get with a degree in health psychology depends largely upon the type of degree you obtain. Titles available to graduates of advanced degrees in health psychology include:
- Clinical health psychologist*
- Counseling psychologist*
- Health case manager
- Health consultant
- Health psychologist*
*A doctoral degree is usually required for this job title.
Salary and Job Outlook
The Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) reported that the national average salary of “all other” psychologists, which includes health psychologists, was $99,560 in May 2022.5 Average salaries for psychologists in this category range by state from $56,720 to $120,220.5 The outlook for health psychologists appears to be steady, with Projections Central reporting projected job growth of 2% for the “all other psychologists” category from 2020 to 2030.6
- Academy of Medical Psychology: Provides continuing education and mentoring opportunities for existing and aspiring medical psychologists.
- American Academy of Clinical Health Psychology (ABPP): Supports Board-certified psychologists in clinical health psychology.
- Center for Psychology and Health: An APA organization dedicated to advancing healthcare in the nation as well as improving people’s mental and physical health.
- Society for Health Psychology (SfHP): Seeks to improve clients’ lives and to further the professional development of its members by offering access to the latest research, ideas, and resources.
Frequently Asked Questions
How long does it take to get a degree in health psychology?
Doctoral degrees in health psychology take around five to seven years to complete, while master’s degrees generally take around one to two years.
What is the difference between clinical psychology and clinical health psychology,?
In contrast to clinical psychologists, who provide treatment for psychological disorders, clinical health psychologists help patients change health-related behaviors or cope with chronic conditions. For example, a clinical health psychologist might help a patient quit smoking, lose weight, or adapt to a cancer diagnosis.
What kind of degree do I need to get a job in health psychology?
Most people in this field have a doctoral degree in health psychology as that is the terminal degree and because clinical health psychologist licensure requires a doctoral degree.
A master’s degree in health psychology will prepare graduates to work in supportive roles under the supervision of a licensed psychologist.
What do health psychologists do?
Clinical health psychologists have extensive knowledge of how human psychology intersects with and impacts health behavior. Health psychologists primarily treat people who have physical ailments that interact with their emotional and mental health, such as weight issues, chronic pain, or tobacco use.
What jobs can you get with a degree in health psychology?
People with health psychology master’s degrees might find jobs in community or public health or as research assistants, but they typically must work under the supervision of a licensed psychologist. Graduates of health psychology doctoral programs can become licensed in their state and enter private practice or work for hospitals or medical clinics serving patients. They can also conduct research and influence policy in healthcare.
1. American Psychological Association, Clinical Health Psychology: https://www.apa.org/ed/graduate/specialize/health
2. National Center for Education Statistics College Navigator: https://nces.ed.gov/collegenavigator/
3. US News & World Report National University Rankings: https://www.usnews.com/best-colleges/rankings/national-universities
4. College Factual: https://www.collegefactual.com/
5. Bureau of Labor Statistics, May 2022 Occupational Employment and Wages, Psychologists, All Other: https://www.bls.gov/oes/current/oes193039.htm
6. Projections Central, Long Term Occupational Projections: https://projectionscentral.org/Projections/LongTerm