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Salary Outlook with PhD in Health Psychology Degree

Completing a Doctor of Philosophy (Ph.D.) program means reaching the heights of what’s possible in most educational fields. For those with an interest in health psychology, this is generally the case.

While a Ph.D. in Health Psychology is not the only option for doctoral education in the field, it’s generally considered the most rigorous outside of a medical degree and may have the broadest possible set of applications when it comes to jobs.

Let’s take a look at the career outlook for health psychology Ph.D. programs and other important details students in the field need to know before embarking upon this challenging path.

Health Psychology Doctorate Options

Technically, anybody who possesses a doctoral degree could prefer to be called by the professional honorific Dr., but for those with training in health psychology, this is a little complicated. That’s because many of the colleagues you’ll encounter will have medical degrees, most commonly an M.D., and in the medical field, Dr. may be reserved for those who have completed medical school.

But there are several possible doctorates in health psychology, with important differences in each program to be aware of. Most commonly, health psychology students will pursue either a Ph.D. in Health Psychology or a Doctor of Psychology (Psy.D.) in the field.

Differences between the two may seem minor, but they can have a big impact on possible career options. That’s because generally, Psy.D. programs are geared more heavily toward clinical practice in psychology. In other words, treating patients or clients. On the other hand, Ph.D. programs will usually involve spending more time on things like lab time and academic research that’s aimed at advancing the study of health psychology.

It’s true that both Ph.D. and Psy.D. holders can have success at various types of jobs, but a good rule of thumb is that if you’re hoping for a career that involves working directly with individuals or groups to help them cope with behavioral and emotional issues, a Psy.D. is probably the better option, but if you envision your career being spent more on academic, research or administrative tasks, a Ph.D. may be right for you.

Health Psychology PhD Career Tracks

Given the specialized nature of health psychology, those who earn their Ph.D. or Psy.D. in the field usually don’t go on to become independent clinical psychologists, as is most often the case for many psychology doctoral graduates.

While that career path is certainly possible depending on a person’s educational history, there are a few careers that are more common for Ph.D. in Health Psychology graduates, including:

  • Health Services Manager
  • Rehabilitation Counselor
  • Medical Researcher
  • Wellness Consultant
  • Sports Psychologist
  • Health Educator
  • Recreational Therapist

Because health psychology focuses on how illness and health affect and are impacted by behavioral and emotional issues, graduates of these programs tend to work in medical settings, including hospitals, medical schools and public health departments.

Most states require those seeking psychologist licensure, such as clinical or counseling psychologists, to have gone through a specific educational path and have thousands of hours of clinical experience, which is why many in health psychology don’t go down that route. But a license may be required for some jobs, so it’s best to consult the laws in your state before making any firm commitments.

Health Psychology PhD Salary Overview

As the old saying goes, education opens doors. That’s certainly true when it comes to doors to higher wages. In fact, according to Census Bureau data, those with professional degrees like a Ph.D. earn one-third higher salaries on average than those with only a bachelor’s degree, and they make about double what the average high school grad earns.

To figure out what Ph.D. in Health Psychology graduates can expect to earn, we used U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics data on average annual wages for a variety of health psychology occupations. What we found was that salaries, as one would expect, vary pretty dramatically across the country. Here’s a look at the jobs we studied:

  • Rehabilitation Counselor
  • Health Services Manager
  • Health Educator
  • Medical Researcher

The District of Columbia has the highest average annual wage for health psychology professionals, and it’s the only place where the average wage for the four jobs was in the six figures, though a few states are close. Rhode Island and New Jersey took the second and third spots, respectively, while Mississippi had the lowest average at about $56,000. While this is considerably lower than the states at the top of the scale, it’s still much higher than the overall average salary in that state.

Average annual health psychology Ph.D. salary by state

District of Columbia $100,067.50
Rhode Island $97,917.50
New Jersey $94,615.00
Connecticut $93,010.00
Maryland $87,507.50
Massachusetts $87,372.50
New York $86,795.00
Delaware $86,722.50
Hawaii $86,190.00
California $86,125.00
New Hampshire $82,780.00
Colorado $81,977.50
Washington $81,470.00
Maine $81,205.00
Nevada $79,167.50
Illinois $79,067.50
Virginia $78,700.00
Oregon $78,482.50
Vermont $78,465.00
Pennsylvania $78,217.50
North Carolina $78,182.50
Georgia $78,125.00
Indiana $77,850.00
Minnesota $76,862.50
North Dakota $76,665.00
Alaska $75,650.00
Arizona $75,420.00
New Mexico $75,212.50
Nebraska $73,327.50
South Dakota $72,770.00
Florida $72,142.50
Louisiana $71,765.00
Ohio $70,692.50
Michigan $70,372.50
South Carolina $70,000.00
Texas $69,345.00
West Virginia $68,367.50
Missouri $68,125.00
Wisconsin $68,112.50
Utah $67,057.50
Montana $66,257.50
Arkansas $65,750.00
Idaho $65,322.50
Wyoming $64,833.33
Kentucky $63,995.00
Alabama $63,582.50
Kansas $63,220.00
Tennessee $63,115.00
Iowa $62,272.50
Oklahoma $61,440.00
Mississippi $56,597.50

Taking into account all states, the average annual salary for health psychology Ph.D. jobs is about $75,000, with Rehabilitation Counselor salaries being the lowest and Medical and Health Services Manager wages tipping the scales at more than $112,000.

Average annual salary, selected health psychology Ph.D. jobs

Medical and Health Services Managers $112,467.84
Health and Medical Researchers $89,304.49
All $75,538.38
Health Educators $58,617.84
Rehabilitation Counselors $41,763.33

Healthcare occupations are notoriously in-demand. In fact, healthcare employment is expected to grow by 14 percent through 2028, which is nearly three times the rate at which all jobs are projected to expand. In every state where the U.S. Department of Labor has published data, the four health psychology jobs we analyzed will become more common through 2028. Data for Alabama, Arizona, Kentucky, Massachusetts, Texas and Washington was not available.

Utah will see the most robust growth rate, with the selected health psychology jobs expanding by almost one-third, while the majority of other states will see double-digit average growth across the four occupations. Illinois’ 3.2% growth rate is the slowest.

Average projected growth in health psychology PhD job openings by state, 2018-2028

Utah 32.9%
Colorado 24.4%
New York 24.1%
Tennessee 23.7%
Georgia 18.2%
Arkansas 17.0%
Nevada 16.9%
Idaho 15.8%
California 15.8%
Florida 15.1%
Connecticut 15.1%
Iowa 14.8%
Maryland 14.8%
Oregon 14.6%
South Carolina 13.8%
North Carolina 13.7%
Indiana 12.3%
North Dakota 12.2%
Missouri 12.2%
Virginia 12.2%
New Hampshire 12.1%
Delaware 11.9%
Pennsylvania 11.2%
Montana 11.0%
Wyoming 10.8%
New Jersey 10.7%
West Virginia 10.6%
South Dakota 10.3%
Oklahoma 10.3%
Nebraska 10.3%
Ohio 9.9%
New Mexico 9.8%
Minnesota 8.9%
Alaska 8.8%
District of Columbia 8.6%
Hawaii 8.6%
Louisiana 8.3%
Wisconsin 7.5%
Rhode Island 6.6%
Vermont 6.4%
Kansas 6.4%
Mississippi 6.1%
Maine 5.8%
Michigan 4.5%
Illinois 3.2%

Each of the four jobs should see positive growth when zooming out to the entire country through 2028. The slowest-growing job, Health and Medical Researcher, still will have a growth rate that’s nearly double the rate projected for all jobs in the U.S. Medical and Health Services Managers will see their ranks swell by nearly 18%.

Average projected growth in health psychology Ph.D. job openings, 2018-2028

Medical and Health Services Managers 17.6%
All 11.5%
Health Educators 10.3%
Rehabilitation Counselors 9.9%
Health and Medical Researchers 8.0%

Conclusion

Given that healthcare is one of the biggest boom industries in the country with no signs of slowing, it’s not a surprise that any jobs connected to the field will be in high demand. So it shouldn’t be a shock to see that Ph.D. in Health Psychology jobs have high average wages and a positive prognosis.

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