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Graduate Degree Programs in Medical Psychology Overview

Majors Overview December 31, 2015

This article talks about graduate degree programs in medical psychology and their education requirements, coursework, career choices, job and wage outlook, and continuing education choices.

Graduate Programs in Medical Psychology

The treatment of psychological disorders through the use of physical and psychotherapeutic treatment methods is the chief concern of medical psychology, a field closely related to clinical psychology. Schools offer graduate programs in medical psychology at the doctoral level.

In the Doctor of Philosophy (Ph.D.) programs in Medical Psychology, there is a combination of training in clinical and experimental psychology. Students learn about using the results of empirical research in treating various mental illnesses. The emphasis of many programs is on the neurological aspects of behavior, whereby students are helped to understand the somatic and cognitive aspects of mental health.

While some training in medical science is available through doctoral programs in medical psychology, schools don’t award a Doctor of Medicine (M.D.) degree to those enrolled, and program graduates cannot prescribe medications. Licensure is compulsory for program graduates seeking to work with patients. An internship and sufficient education apart, passage of an exam in their chosen specialty area is a requirement for licensure.

Education Requirements

Few applicants are admitted to Medical Psychology Ph.D. programs every year. Significant undergraduate experience in the natural sciences and psychology is required. Previous experience in statistics and psychological research combined with strong analytical reasoning skills can lead to admission.


Interdisciplinary program coursework includes courses in the physical sciences, psychology, statistics, and medicine. The emphasis of coursework is on the practical therapeutic application of research results, in addition to psychological research. Core coursework may cover topic areas such as:

•Cognitive psychological assessment
•Anxiety disorders
•Behavioral psychology
•Cognitive psychology
•Multivariate statistics
•Ethics in psychology
•Health Psychology
•Behavioral Neuroscience
•Psychotherapy for children

Career Choices

Program graduates can seek careers in advanced clinical and research positions in clinics, hospitals, and schools, where they can work independently as therapists or consultants, or as part of a medical treatment team.

Job and Wage Outlook

Psychologists are expected to see a job growth of 19%, over the 2012 – 2022 decade (U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS)). In 2014, clinical, school and counseling psychologists brought in an average annual wage of $74,030 (BLS).

Continuing Education Choices

Licensure is compulsory for psychologists who work with patients in any setting. Each state may have its separate licensure standards. Common requirements include the holding by psychologists of a doctoral degree and completion of a supervised internship, in addition to the passage of a written test in their specialized area. Fellowships and post-doctorate seminars in medical psychology are available at some schools. The duration of such programs varies between a few months and a year, and enrolled students gain intensive training in the methods and theories of medical psychology.

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