Occupational Health Psychology

Doctoral Concentration in Occupational Health Psychology

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The Department of Psychology at East Carolina University (ECU) offers a concentration in Occupational Health Psychology (OHP) within its Health Psychology doctoral program.  This concentration is designed to provide students with the knowledge and skills necessary to engage in organizational research and develop interventions which are designed to improve the overall the quality of working life while ensuring organizational productivity.  The faculty of our program focus on areas such workaholism, employee engagement and burnout, addiction and creativity, counterproductive employee behavior, EEO law and disabilities, and quantitative methods.  The research of our faculty has been published in journals such as Journal of Occupational Health Psychology, Stress & Health, Psychological Bulletin, Substance Use & Misuse, Human Performance, Journal of Applied Psychology, Journal of Vocational Behavior, Organizational Research Methods, and Psychological Methods.

Students who enroll in our program are expected to first complete a master’s degree in Industrial/Organizational (I/O) Psychology (or have completed one previously).  It is our belief that successful research and practice in OHP is based on a strong foundation of I/O theory and best-practices.  We strongly encourage applications from students with and without a master’s degree.  However, most students who join our program with a master’s degree in another field will most likely be required to complete the courses associated with the I/O Master’s offered by our department.

In addition to engaging in research, an essential part of our program is an internship that typically occurs during the summer between a student’s first and second year.  This internship provides students with an opportunity to apply skills learned through coursework and acquire new skills in an organizational setting.  We have had students intern at organizations such as Duke Energy, PBS, Central Regional Hospital, and the U.S.  Army John F.  Kennedy Special Warfare Center and School.

In addition to traditional I/O coursework (e.g., Employee Selection, Organizational Behavior) and general psychology electives (e.g., Ethics and Professional Practice, Social Psychology), students in our program take specialist courses such as Counterproductive Work Behavior, Occupational Health Psychology, Career Development and Executive Coaching, and Employee Evaluation and Development.  The coursework culminates with Seminar in Applied Occupational Health Psychology Students during which students complete a service-learning project for a local organization.  Finally, our students typically complete a five-course statistics sequence which awards a Graduate Certificate in Quantitative Methods for the Behavioral and Social Sciences. Additional certificates in Leadership and Business Analytics are also available via the College of Business.

For additional information, please use the links on the menu above or contact our program director. Additionally, our program handbook (PDF) contains a substantial amount of information regarding the overall nature of our program and a student’s progression through it.

What is OHP

Careers in OHP

A professional in occupational health psychology works for private or public organizations, many in consulting positions. They can explore how stress affects individuals and recommend stress reduction practices and coping mechanisms, and they change stressful environments through job reorganization. These psychology professionals also work in public health or for private corporations designing and promoting stress prevention policies. Because they are also trained as I/O Psychologists they often work in organizations doing wage and salary administration, human resource development, personnel management, job analysis, quality assurance, selection and placement, and training and development. Research and teaching positions in both OHP and IO are also available at colleges and universities.


Students are admitted only in the fall semester of each academic year and are expected to attend the program full-time, on-campus. Sufficient preparation at the undergraduate level typically includes the completion or near completion of an undergraduate major in psychology at the time of application, although it is possible that some applicants will have sufficient course work in psychology while completing a different major. All admissions for the occupational health psychology concentration lead to earning the PhD. The Department of Psychology also offers a separate master’s degree program with a concentration in industrial/organizational psychology.

In selecting students for admission, the faculty attempt to bring together a cohort that is diverse in background and life experiences. Admission to the doctoral program is competitive and based on the following criteria:

  • Applicant’s overall academic record;
  • Field-specific undergraduate preparation (e.g., courses on statistics and research methods);
  • Three letters of recommendation from former professors or supervisors;
  • Scores on the Graduate Record Examination* (GRE);
  • A personal statement;
  • Evidence from application materials of requisite dispositions to be successful in the program and to work in the field; and
  • Other scholarly and professional accomplishments, particularly research experience – experimental or applied.

Students are offered funding in the form of teaching or research assistantships. These offers typically carry a monthly stipend and a waiver of all or a portion of tuition and fees, as well as health-insurance coverage. Specific information is not available until offers of admission are made each spring semester due to contingent financial conditions that change annually.

The priority application deadline is February 1st with applications no longer accepted after May 15th.

Hiring Our Students

East Carolina University (ECU) provides its PhD and Master’s level Applied Psychology students with the necessary skills to efficiently and effectively meet your I/O and OHP needs. Among others, ECU students are prepared to address issues such as:

  • Employee health and stress
  • Work/family conflict
  • Aggression and conflict resolution
  • Employee training and development
  • Recruitment and selection

Our students will address these issues by utilizing their skills in:

  • Statistics and research methods
  • Selection and job analysis
  • Organizational climate and culture
  • Survey development
  • Leadership assessment
  • Training needs analysis and development

Our students are excited to apply their training, gain experience and help your organization address its OHP issues through consulting projects and internships. The internships can range from short-term, voluntary positions to full-time, paid positions, depending on the availability of students and the nature of the project. We recognize the complex structure of the 21st century workplace and we welcome the opportunity to address the challenges facing your organization. To explore the possibility of enlisting the services of an ECU I/O or OHP student, please contact Dr. Jennifer L. Bowler (bowlerj@ecu.edu).