psychology: How to Find Work as a Health Psychologist

A health psychologist is also called a behavioral medicine or medical psychologist. A health psychologist studies the interrelationship between social factors, behavior, and biology. When a person has a disease, the health psychologist seeks to understand the underlying social and behavioral relationship to the disease, such as education and socioeconomic backgrounds.

Working as a health psychologist can be a very rewarding experience. Below is an outlne of the working life of a health psychologist, and tips on finding a job in the field.

The Job of a Health Psychologist

A health psychologist performs varied functions, from clinical work to research and public policy. Depending on the setting and the work environment, the health psychologist works directly with patients to help prevent illness and promote good health.

He or she also works on researching health-related issues, or participates in influencing public policy on issues related to health care in the community. Public policy influences governments and agencies in addressing community needs in healthcare and determining any required reforms.

Clinical work entails conducting behavioral assessments and clinical interviews. Interventions include helping individuals lead better lives through education on smoking cessation, stress reduction, and improving behaviors that lead to unhealthy lifestyles. Personality assessments help the health psychologist understand patient behaviors that influence healthy lifestyle choices.

Related to working with patients is conducting research on causes for health problems, preventive measures, and health promotion. This research also looks at the best ways to help patients cope with illnesses and/or pain, and how to gain patient compliance on seeking appropriate healthcare treatments.

How to Become a Health Psychologist
A health psychologist generally holds a PhD or PsyD (Doctoral degree) in psychology. The doctoral degree is obtained after completing undergraduate and master's level degree programs. Psychologists seeking licensure in clinical or counseling psychology complete an internship program that lasts for one year after they receive their psychology degree. A Board Certification in health psychology is offered through the American Board of Professional Psychology.

There are some undergraduate degree programs in health psychology focusing on abnormal and social psychology, behavior therapies, community psychology, and public health, along with technical areas such as anatomy and physiology, learning processes, and psychopharmacology.

Some schools train specifically for health psychology degrees. The trainings specialize in research careers, or focus on clinical patient practice.

Work Settings for Health Psychologists

A health psychologist may work in a hospital, clinic, or private company. They could also work in an academic or government setting developing issues affecting health care public policy or administering programs in the community. Health psychologists can specialize in pain management, oncology, health issues affecting women and/or minorities, or healthy lifestyle choices.

Income Earnings for Health Psychologists

A health psychologist that has a doctoral degree would fall under the career of a licensed psychologist, and would earn, on average, $80,000 per year, according to the American Psychological Association. There are other associations that estimate earnings at $40,000 for entry-level positions, and up to $85,000 for an advanced health psychologist. These estimates would depend on educational background, work setting, experience, and geographic location.

The job outlook for health psychologists is very good, as hospitals and medical organizations are at an increase in hiring psychologists, according to the APA Division 38 on Health Psychology.