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Development of graduate training programs in occupational health psychology.

NIOSH 2003 Aug; :1-185
The primary objective of the Occupational Health Psychology (OHP) Graduate-Level Training Program was to establish the necessary expertise to advance knowledge of psychosocial/job stress factors in the workplace, their effects on the mental and physical health, performance, and well-being of workers, and ways for preventing such problems. This project expanded earlier efforts by CDC and NIOSH to supply professional manpower to address the growing problems related to occupational health and job stress. To accomplish the program objective, the sponsoring agent and contractor developed and implemented a plan to establish graduate-level ,training programs in OHP in multiple universities in the U.S. APA and NIOSH, with input from stakeholders from a variety of disciplines, implemented a plan of action to promote and establish 5-year graduate-level training opportunities in work organization, stress and health, developed a mechanism for soliciting, reviewing, and selecting applicants, and implemented program evaluation procedures. In addition, AP A has worked extensively and continues to work to incorporate this type of training as a recognized specialty area in the behavioral and occupational health sciences. Eleven universities in the U.S. were funded between 1998-2002. The first cohort included Bowling Green State University, Kansas State University, and the University of Minnesota (1998-1999). The second cohort included Clemson University, Tulane University, and the University of Houston (1999-2000). The third cohort included Portland State University and the University of California (2000-2001). The fourth cohort included Colorado State University, the University of South Florida (2001-2002), and the University of Texas at Austin (2001-2002). Nine of the 11 universities funded by AP A implemented formalized programs of study (e.g., minors, concentrations, certificates) in OHP for graduate-level students. These programs of study have created a strong foundation for building a qualified cadre of psychological and social science professionals trained in the field of OHP. Fifty-three students have enrolled in OHP , curricula programs of study and 15 students have completed the programs thus far. In addition, six students have been placed in professional positions that use their OHP training and eight faculty members were hired for OHP programs at funded universities. The development of OHP survey courses is also significant because many students are now exposed to the OHPcontent areas, though they may not choose to complete a formal curricula program in OHP. More than 120 students have now completed a survey course in OHP. Group identity is forming in this area at a national level, with the development of a listserv for OHP stakeholders, called the "Members of the OHP Forum," as well as an '\International Forum on Occupational Health Psychology." Project staff and faculty at university training sites collaborated and shared information with experts in Canada, the United Kingdom, and Japan at a workshop on OHP training. Occupational health psychology faculty are currently planning a second workShop for stakeholder input into the continued formalization of the field of OHP. Challenges to the training programs revolve around the logistics of class size and graduate program requirements, as well as the waning interest of collaborating faculty. Faculty report that it is very difficult for students to add courses over their current Pill degree program requirements. In addition, it was noted that it is hard to recruit enough students to boost course enrollments and sustain the programs. Most graduate schools have minimum enrollment policIes in place that must be met to justify scheduling the courses .on a recurring basis. Primary faculty also report that it is challenging to keep collaborating faculty involved when funding sources are removed. Evidence seems to indicate that it is typically the sole responsibility of the core faculty to keep the momentum going for the maintenance of the program. Nevertheless, OHP faculty are very pleased with the interdepartmental linkages that were created for the development and initial administration of the program. Overall, there is substantial evidence that the success of the OHP program outweighs its challenges. A critical mission of CDC and NIOSH is to supply professional manpower to address the growing problems related to occupational health and job stress. The current cooperative agreement has increased the longevity of OHP training opportunities by planting seed money to create self-sustaining graduate-level training programs. Funding curriculum development, rather than individuals, has been a more cost-effective means of ensuring a continuing cycle of training opportunities for behavioral scientists in the area of occupational safety and health. In turn, these programs will stimulate more research to strengthen the body of knowledge in the area of OHP and will benefit the field by introducing a new cadre of professionals to teach and practice in the field. Our recommendation is that NIOSH continue to support and encourage the education and training of graduate-level students in the NORA priority research area of work organization and health by directly funding university programs in occupational health psychology.
Psychological-stress; Stress; Workplace-studies; Worker-health; Occupational-psychology; Occupational-sociology; Occupational-health-programs; Training; Education
Publication Date
Document Type
Final Cooperative Agreement Report
Funding Amount
Funding Type
Cooperative Agreement
Fiscal Year
NTIS Accession No.
NTIS Price
Identifying No.
Source Name
National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health
Performing Organization
American Psychological Association, 750 First Street, NE, Washington, DC 20002-4242