Occupational Health Psychologist Career Guide

Overview

Occupational health psychology is a branch of psychology that studies the relationship between workplace stress and employee mental and physical health and well-being. The ultimate goal of occupational health psychology is to create or improve the work environment so that employees want to come to work each day. It also ensures that employees have an opportunity to partake in a healthy work/life balance. This branch of psychology combines occupational health sciences with human psychology, in an effort to create a safe work environment that promotes emotional, physical, and mental health and well-being.

What is occupational stress? Well, it is anything that negatively affects an employee’s ability to be productive within the workplace. It is also anything that reduces employee morale. This type of stress can cause a company to suffer a tremendous loss in revenue and a high employee turnover rate, which is why occupational health psychologists are hired.

Occupational health psychologists address workplace stress and employee needs before it destroys the company. One of the goals of this type of psychologist, along with decreasing occupational stress, is to reduce “call-outs” and tardiness, and to lower employee turnover rates. Companies employ occupational health psychologists to help them retain employees – by improving their work environments.

What is the Role of an Occupational Health Psychologist?

An occupational health psychologist designs the courses and activities concerned with the relationship between the employee and the organization, as well as taking care of the mental health conditions of employees. This is one of the simplest ways to let the management know which assignments should be given to which employees. They are also responsible for monitoring the performance of employees and their mental conditions. They need to be familiar with the norms of the culture within the organizational premises. They should also be familiar with how to deal with the issues of workplace aggression, stress and bullying, so that they can take care of the health issues of the employees.

Occupational health psychologists are usually required by the human resource department to look after job placement and recruitment. They also participate in management conferences, thus providing assistance to the executives who make the decisions about any modifications occurring within the working environment. This helps to enhance employee satisfaction, as well as improving productivity.

Occupational health psychologists also have one-on-one meetings with employees within the company to ask them about any problems within their workplace and also to provide useful advice about overcoming these problems. Occupational health psychologists also play a vital role in project appraisal and managing the talent within the organizational premises.

How Much Does an Occupational Health Psychologist Earn?

The U.S Bureau of Labor Statistics indicates in 2011, that the annual median salary for qualified psychologists was $94,720.

What Degree is Required for an Occupational Health Psychologist?

To take advantage of the most job opportunities, it is important for occupational health psychologists to have at least a master’s degree. To get a graduate degree, students must first complete a bachelor’s degree program. In this case, an undergraduate degree in general psychology, experimental psychology, health psychology, or industrial-organizational psychology is a good start.

Graduate programs should focus on health psychology, although a graduate program in industrial-organizational psychology could also work well. Either way, the graduate program will focus on combining advanced classroom studies with research that gives students the best foundation upon which to build a successful career. These programs can last from as little as two years to as many as four or five years, depending on the individual requirements of the program. Internship placements, practicum experiences, and post-graduate requirements can extend the program’s timeline quite significantly.

As with many other areas of work in psychology, the most jobs will be available to individuals that continue their education and complete a doctorate. With this additional training, which includes extensive research as well as specific training in occupational health psychology, psychologists in this field can work in a wide variety of settings, from private businesses to public non-profits to government agencies.

Having a doctorate also means there are opportunities for private practice, in which a psychologist could work as a clinician that sees individual clients. Private practice is also an option for occupational health psychologists that wish to work as a consultant for companies to address occupational health issues, such as work-related stress. Without a doctoral degree and licensure one cannot officially become a “psychologist”. Generally, a doctoral degree in psychology is required to be a licensed psychologist.

What Careers are Similar to Occupational Health Psychology?

Occupational health psychology has many related careers. Some of the most closely related occupations are:

  • Health psychology is the broad employment area of which occupational health psychology is a part. Health psychologists study how social, emotional, or mental functioning influences, or is influenced by, one’s physical health. Health psychologists may or may not have an area of specialization. Either way, health psychologists seek to promote healthy behaviors in clinical, research, government, and educational settings, among others.
  • Industrial-Organizational psychology, like occupational health psychology, seeks to improve the workplace experience. But, whereas occupational health psychologists are more focused on providing individual workers with services, such as therapy, industrial-organizational psychologists might be more focused on the system as a whole, such as employer-employee relations.
  • Public health psychology also deals with health-related issues, but rather than focusing their work on the workplace, public health psychologists apply their knowledge and skills to improving the health of the public at large. For example, a public health psychologist might work with a city government to develop and implement recreation programs designed to encourage residents to exercise.
  • Clinical health psychology is tasked with improving the health of acutely or chronically ill patients. Psychologists in this field take a multimodal approach to improving health by taking behavioral, social, emotional, and cognitive factors into consideration. Like occupational health psychology, clinical health psychology aims to promote good overall health and offer ways to maintain a healthy state.

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