Medical psychology is a new and rapidly growing field in health care. Medical psychologists are experts in the biomedical basis of behavior.
Medical psychologists undergo specialized medical training that allows them to prescribe medication and treat both the physical and psychological symptoms of illnesses.
Medical psychologists must have a doctorate degree in medical psychology or clinical psychology with additional education in medicine. Doctorate degrees usually take five to seven years to complete.
The American Psychological Association (APA) recommends post-doctoral fellowships and training in biological sciences, pharmacology, and clinical medicine for those pursuing careers as medical psychologists. Bachelor’s and master’s degrees in psychology or the sciences provide a good foundation for a doctorate in medical psychology.
The duties of clinical psychologists and medical psychologists have much overlap. However, in addition to the psychotherapeutic aspects of clinical psychology, medical psychologists receive advanced training in the ways that psychological factors affect physical illness. Medical psychologists call on their training in general medicine, psychopharmacology, physiology and rehabilitation to treat the types of patients they see on the job.
Some common responsibilities of medical psychologists include:
Medical psychologists work in a variety of settings. Many take positions at hospitals, medical centers or health care facilities. Some medical psychologists work solely in research positions, studying the ways that mental and physical factors are interrelated. Medical psychologists also work as consultants to other psychologists and health care professionals.
Although specific salary information for medical psychologists is unavailable, salaries in medical psychology are similar, if not higher than those in clinical psychology. According to a survey by the American Psychological Association (APA), the median salary for a licensed clinical psychologist was $85,000 in 2007. According to the U.S. Department of Labor, the annual salary for clinical psychologists working in scientific research or scientific consulting services—both popular career paths for medical psychologists—obtained a mean annual salary of $88,830 and $150,890 respectively. Those working in medical offices made a mean annual salary of $93,330.
The U.S. Department of Labor predicts faster than average growth for all psychology jobs in the next several years. As the medical community continues to discover the manners in which mental and physical health intersect, jobs in medical psychology should grow along with all healthcare positions.