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Master’s Degree Programs in Health Psychology Overview

Majors Overview January 2, 2016

This article talks about master’s degree programs in health psychology and their education requirements, coursework, career choices, job and wage outlook, and continuing education choices.

Master’s Programs in Health Psychology

A master’s program in psychology with a specialization in health psychology is common. A master’s degree in health psychology, such as the Master of Health Psychology or Master of Science (M.S.) in Health Psychology, is rare. The focus of these programs is on the mind-body link between the brain and disease prevention, illness, and management of chronic illnesses.

In the relatively new academic field of health psychology, students learn about designing and evaluating programs aimed at encouraging healthy habits. They also learn about using psychology in managing and preventing chronic illnesses such as heart disease or diabetes. They may also choose to pursue clinical studies. A practicum or internship is in most programs, and students must usually research and defend a thesis. Some states permit graduates to practice as counselors, but the majority prefer to go on to earn a doctoral degree.

Education Requirements

Admission criteria typically require incoming students to hold a bachelor’s degree in psychology or sociology or another related field. While a health psychology concentration is in some programs at the bachelor’s level, schools accept a general bachelor’s degree in psychology or any specialization. Additionally, applicants may have to satisfy a minimum GPA standard, but may not have to submit an acceptable Graduate Record Exam (GRE) score.


Some general psychology classes are taken, in addition to health psychology specific classes. Students in some programs are offered the choice of an additional concentration in research, teaching or clinical practice – involving work with patients. Students in most programs are required to complete an internship or practicum that relates specifically to health psychology, in addition to an oral defense of a thesis crafted from original research. Core coursework may cover topic areas such as:

•Intervention techniques
•Mental health and wellness
•Abnormal psychology
•Biological sources of mental health problems

Career Choices

Program graduates from a master’s degree program in health psychology or psychology can seek careers in hospitals, community mental health agencies, or rehabilitation facilities. While a health psychologist typically needs to have a doctorate, those who complete a master’s degree program in the field can choose from possible job options such as:

•Community Counselor
•Health psychology research assistant
•Social worker

Job and Wage Outlook

Over the 2010 – 2020 decade, counselor, social worker and other community and social service specialists are expected to witness a 26% job growth (U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics). In May 2014, healthcare social workers brought in an average annual wage of $53,590 while community and social service specialists earned median wages of $43,740 (BLS).

Continuing Education Choices

In many states, students with a master’s degree can seek licensure as counselors. However, the majority of students opt for continuing education via a doctorate in the field such as the Doctor of Psychology (Psy.D.) and Doctor of Philosophy (Ph.D.) in Health Psychology. Graduates will get training for licensure as psychologists who seek more job choices in both research or patient care settings. In many states, license holders are required to renew their licenses annually through continuing education classes.

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