Health Psychologist Career (Salary + Duties + Interviews)

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Published by:
Practical Psychology
Kristen Clure
Reviewed by:
Kristen Clure, M.A.

In recent years, you may have seen Instagram posts or heard from friends about how closely physical and mental health are tied. Although we don’t always treat these two types of health the same, it’s hard to deny how one affects the other. Stress affects sleep; trauma to the body can cause changes in the mind, and how we feel on the inside often reflects how we look on the outside. 

But we don’t have all the answers about the link between physical and mental health. Only a few decades ago, psychologists started to look at how mental health impacts physical health (and vice versa.) Health psychology is a relatively new field of study, but it’s already making a difference in our decisions regarding food, sleep, and other healthy habits. 

If the links between psychology and physical health interest you, you may want to pursue a career in health psychology! 

What does a Health Psychologist Do?

A health psychologist studies the decisions and thought processes related to health, from why we make certain healthy decisions to how our mind affects our physical health. Their goals include improving mental and physical health, from identifying healthy habits to creating a better healthcare system.

Health psychologists aren’t just found in research labs or teaching college courses. They do clinical work, consult with businesses, and advocate for better public policies to improve human engagement with healthy decisions. The emergence and growth of health psychology as a distinct field can be traced back to several factors. Over the past few decades, there has been a growing understanding of the intricate relationship between mental and physical health. As medical science advanced, it became evident that psychological factors can play a significant role in the onset, progression, and outcome of many illnesses

Concurrently, the increasing burden of chronic illnesses, many of which have behavioral components (e.g., diabetes and heart diseases), highlighted the need for a psychological approach to prevention, treatment, and management. Additionally, the rise in patient-centered care models and the emphasis on holistic treatment strategies necessitated the inclusion of psychological perspectives in healthcare. Recognizing these shifts, the field of psychology began to delve deeper into the links between the mind, behavior, and physical well-being, giving rise to health psychology.

Thus, while health psychology is a relatively newer branch, its significance has grown rapidly. Healthcare facilities are increasingly acknowledging the value of health psychologists and considering adding more professionals to their teams to provide comprehensive care to patients.

Job Requirements

Health psychology is a specialized branch with requirements comparable to sports psychologists, forensic psychologists, or clinical psychologists. While a bachelor’s degree lays the groundwork for a career in health psychology, a master's degree with a counseling focus might suffice for certain roles. However, for many positions, especially those in research or public policy, obtaining a doctorate (PsyD or Ph.D.) from an accredited university is often necessary. Along your educational journey, you should opt for a program that specializes in health psychology.

Additional qualifications might be needed for those aiming to work directly with patients. Counselors and clinical psychologists specializing in health psychology must complete an internship, pass a certification exam, and fulfill all criteria to become board-certified by the American Board of Professional Psychology.

Salary (How Much Does a Health Psychologist Make?) 

When you have studied a niche field that makes such a serious impact on people and the entire world, you’re going to be in demand. Health psychologists can make six figures earlier in their careers. Salaries vary based on your employer, how long you have been working in your field, and where in the country you are located. These resources give you a pretty good idea of what you can expect to make as a health psychologist in the United States: 

Health Psychologist Reported Salary














Bureau of Labor Statistics


Schools for Health Psychology Degrees

To pursue a career as a health psychologist, it's essential to receive specialized education and training. Numerous institutions offer graduate programs in health psychology, and while the best fit will depend on individual preferences and career aspirations, here are some prominent schools known for their contributions to the field:

  • University of California - Los Angeles (Los Angeles, CA): Renowned for its leading research initiatives and diverse faculty, UCLA offers a comprehensive health psychology program combining rigorous academics and hands-on experience.
  • East Carolina University (Greenville, NC): ECU is recognized for its community-focused approach to health psychology, emphasizing outreach and practical research applications.
  • University of North Carolina - Charlotte (Charlotte, NC): With a focus on interdisciplinary research, UNC Charlotte allows students to collaborate across various fields.
  • University of Connecticut (Mansfield, CT): UConn's health psychology program is known for its emphasis on both clinical practice and research, preparing students for diverse career paths.
  • Virginia Commonwealth University (Richmond, VA): VCU offers a holistic health psychology program that integrates traditional psychological principles with modern health practices.
  • Touro College (New York, NY): Situated in the heart of NYC, Touro College provides students with a unique urban experience and connections to various healthcare settings.
  • University of Colorado - Denver (Denver, CO): Praised for its advanced research facilities, UC Denver focuses on emerging trends and challenges in health psychology.
  • University of Florida Health (Gainesville, FL): UF Health emphasizes the connection between mind and body, providing students with a well-rounded understanding of health psychology.
  • Chicago School of Professional Psychology (Chicago, IL): Known for its clinical training and community partnerships, this institution prepares students for research and applied health psychology roles.
  • University of Pittsburgh (Pittsburgh, PA): With a rich history in psychological research, the University of Pittsburgh offers a robust health psychology program that stresses theoretical knowledge and practical skills.

When considering these or any other institutions, you must visit campuses, speak with faculty and current students, and assess the program's curriculum and resources to determine the best fit for your educational and career goals.

Companies That Hire Health Psychologists

Where do health psychologists work? Well, it’s no secret that health psychologists work at healthcare facilities, clinics, and hospitals. Health psychologists may also work with insurance companies to elevate healthcare and provide the best coverage. But you may also find yourself looking at openings for health psychologists in: 

  • Government agencies
  • Telehealth providers
  • Medical staffing companies
  • Research facilities
  • Colleges and universities 

Interviews with a Health Psychologist

What do health psychologists do every day? Watch this video and find out!

There are plenty of interviews with health psychologists online that you can watch or read to grasp what this career involves. Dr. Andrew Block talks about his journey online and how he became a health psychologist. Dr. Brian Luke Seaward talks about health, emotions, stress, and how you can elevate your mental health. There are so many ways to help people practice healthy habits through health psychology!

Interested in what a health psychologist does from a patient's perspective? A Reddit user responded to a post titled "What to expect with health psychologist?" with their experiences:

"I saw a rehabilitation psychologist at the University of Michigan Physical Medicine and Rehabilitation clinic for an 8-week course of ‘adjustment counseling.’ The focus was primarily on coping skills—chronic pain/neurological symptoms and chronic fatigue. It was heavily CBT-based. 

There was no delving into personal issues or history beyond how my medical status impacted me. I found this interesting and useful. I walked away with “homework” (in the form of handouts) every week, which helped reinforce various relaxation and fatigue management techniques. We would discuss how utilizing and practicing these techniques at home went each visit.

I learned how to more effectively manage my anxiety around living with chronic neurological symptoms, fatigue, and an uncertain diagnosis. I felt supported by the medical community in a way that I hadn’t before, which was nice."

Famous Health Psychologists

Where many fields of study in psychology have been around for over 100 years, health psychology is relatively new. William Schofield is one of the first figures in health psychology. His 1969 report, The Role of Psychology in the Delivery of Health Services, made a point about how psychology focuses on mental health but rarely considers the nuances of how the mind affects physical health. 

Eight years later, Joseph Matarazzo established a division of the American Psychological Association devoted to health psychology. He is credited with doing much of the early work in the field. 

Today, many figures in personality and positive psychology, such as Edward F. Diener and Martin Seligman, study the ideas of well-being. Well-being is often defined as both physical and mental health.

Health Psychology Examples

Health psychologists may find that their jobs and focus areas change as the field develops. Day-to-day, you might be doing different things, including: 

  1. Researching how different behaviors and messages could reduce smoking 
  2. Hosting training sessions with health trainers to help them work more effectively with clients
  3. Consulting with a new weight management center about their methods and strategies
  4. Publishing a report on how different diagnoses impact patients' mental and physical health
  5. Assessing patients and providing strategies for improved health

Reference this article:

Practical Psychology. (2021, June). Health Psychologist Career (Salary + Duties + Interviews). Retrieved from

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