The KSU Graduate Certificate Program in Occupational Health Psychology

In June of 2000, Kansas State University authorized the Department of Psychology to offer a new Certificate Program in the field of Occupational Health Psychology (OHP).  The development of this program was supported by a grant from the American Psychological Association with funding from the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health.  A definition of OHP, the courses required for the certificate and faculty members associated with OHP are provided below. Click below to go to the Kansas State University Division of Continuing Education OHP website for details on the program, enrolling at KSU, applying to the certificate program, and enrolling in an OHP course


What is Occupational Health Psychology?

The emerging field of Occupational Health Psychology (OHP) emphasizes the role of psychology in research and practice aimed at the prevention of occupational stress, illness, and injury. The field covers a wide range of topics including organizational risk factors for stress, illness, and injury at work. OHP concerns the application of psychology to improve the quality of work life, and to protecting and promoting the safety, health and wellbeing of workers. The notion of health "protection" refers to both work site interventions designed to reduce health/injury hazards and worker education/counseling designed to promote healthy lifestyles and work behaviors. OHP is especially concerned with the dramatic transformation of work and employment that has been underway in industrial economies since the 1980s (e.g., flexible employment and production processes), and how changing organizational structures and processes are influencing the health and wellbeing of workers and their families.

Courses required for the certificate

The four courses described below have been designed to provide comprehensive instruction in all aspects of Occupational Health Psychology. They include the theoretical foundations for this specialty, as well as research methods and practical applications. The courses are offered in the sequence indicated, one each semester, allowing students to complete the program in four semesters.

I. PSYCH 840 – Pro-Seminar in Occupational Health (3 credit Hrs) - An entry-level first year graduate course, this class offers a survey of the prototypical physical, psychosocial and emotional problems associated with work in professional, industrial, and governmental settings. Interdisciplinary approaches to such problems are emphasized and students are encouraged to apply their own experiences in work situations.

II. PSYCH 841 – Seminar in Occupational Behaviors (3 credit Hrs.) - A second year graduate class that explores organizational issues and intervention strategies for dealing with occupational health problems. Specific content focuses on the general principles of effective intervention, including health assessment techniques, management-worker communications, and the implementation of health maintenance and improvement programs. Representative case studies are reviewed in class sessions.

III. PSYCH 807 – Research Methods in Occupational Health Psychology (3 credit Hrs.) - This course is designed to provide a review of standard social science research methods. A set of supplemental research articles, and links to relevant web pages will be used to illustrate problems in the field of OHP. Topics included are: logic and ethics of social research; finding and reading research reports; measurement; research design and internal validity; types of measures; survey methods; quasi-experimentation designs; correlational methods; qualitative research; cross-sectional and longitudinal research; and interpretation and applied research.

IV. PSYCH 842 – Practicum in Occupational Health Psychology (3 credit Hrs) - A second, third or fourth year graduate course, the practicum is designed to provide practical experience with occupational health problems. Students are assigned to observe and evaluate local work sites which may include university facilities, manufacturing firms, a medium sized hospital, nursing homes, the city-county police force, the fire department, the public school system, and a nearby army base. They are required to identify salient health problems, as well as develop proposals for the implementation of programs to address these problems. A committee composed of collaborating faculty supervises this work, serving as consultants for the students.

Faculty associated with or supporting the certificate program

Richard G. Best, Ph.D., 2003 - Dr. Best is an industrial and organizational psychologist and health services investigator for Lockheed Martin. In his work in health services research, he has conducted numerous applied research projects targeting organizational and individual factors implicated in the quality of healthcare in the Military Health System. Topics of study include implementation of clinical practice guidelines and provider adherence, practice patterns for the treatment of low back pain, chronic pain, and serious mental illness conditions. He has a strong background in the academic and applied study of job burnout.

Laura Brannon, Ph.D., 1993 - Dr. Brannon is conducting an ongoing program of research concerning the development of effective communications for the distribution of information relevant to health practices. Her work has been published in leading professional journals and has been funding by the National Institutes of Health and USDA.

Amy Conner, Ph.D., 2005 - Dr. Conner has a broad interest in changing negative health behaviors. Her dissertation research investigated methods to reduce undergraduate binge drinking behavior, and she has published research on changing behaviors that put individuals at increased risk of AIDS transmission. In addition, she has a specific interest in Occupational Health Psychology (OHP). She earned OHP certification in 2003, and has conducted and presented research on techniques the reduce job burnout.

Satoris S. Culbertson, Ph.D., 2005 - Dr. Culbertson has expertise in the research areas of work-family conflict and facilitation, performance management, and employment interviews. Prior to joining the faculty at K-State, she worked as a human resources consultant in Chicago. Her work has been published in a variety of outlets, including Journal of Applied Psychology, Journal of Occupational Health Psychology, and Human Performance.

Ronald Downey, Ph.D., 1971 - Dr. Downey has primary expertise in quantitative methods, questionnaire design, and survey analysis, and has published many papers in these areas. He also has worked as a personnel management consultant in private industry, and conducted research on food preferences and job stress and burnout.

Clive Fullagar, Ph.D., 1986 - Dr. Fullagar has published extensively on labor-management relations, trade union issues, and socialization practices in the workplace. He has had substantial experience as a consultant to local government and private industry, and his most cogent expertise concerns the health implications of workplace socialization practices.

Michael J. Tagler, Ph.D., 2003 - Dr. Tagler received his Ph.D. in Social-Personality Psychology from Kansas State University in 2003.  He is an Assistant Professor of Psychological Science at Ball State University where he teaches courses in social psychology, health psychology, industrial-organizational psychology, and statistics. He has published research on selective exposure to information, attitudes toward the poor, sex differences in infidelity distress, and has published a spreadsheet-based statistics textbook.  His current research investigates the factors that influence sleep habits, and the design of interventions to improve sleep hygiene.


Betsy Barrett, Ph.D., 1993 - Dr. Barrett has primary expertise in food safety, HACCP, and hospitality and dietetics education.  She has published papers using the Theory of Planned Behavior to determine HACCP, food safety, sustainability and wine behaviors of managers, employees and consumers.  She has worked as a foodservice director and dietitian in healthcare operations.

Michael B. Cates, DVM (1980), MPH (1987), DACVPM - Dr. Cates has primary expertise in veterinary public health, serving in various leadership positions in veterinary medicine and public health practice.  He served as the chief executive of the Army's main public health organization and as the senior veterinarian in the entire military before moving to Kansas State University to direct its Master of Public Health Program.

Brenda McDaniel, Ph.D., 2007 - Dr. McDaniel's research program integrates personality, developmental, and health psychology emphasizing adolescent and young adult populations. Her research involves exploring the relationship of personality factors (e.g., shy, optimistic, and brave), moral-emotional development (e.g. prosocial behavior, emotion regulation), and environmental influences (e.g., family dynamics, role models) to health outcomes (e.g., depression, blood pressure, and cortisol stress levels).

Mitch Ricketts, Ph.D., 2007. Dr. Ricketts (Health, Safety and Environmental Quality Coordinator) is a Board Certified Safety Professional, with a Ph.D. in psychology and a M.S. in occupational safety management. He has worked in the field of occupational safety and health since 1992. As an employee of K-State Research & Extension, Dr. Ricketts works with businesses to reduce occupational injuries and illnesses. He also teaches courses in occupational and agricultural health.

Director of the Program is Ronald G. Downey, Ph.D. 1971.

He may be reached at Kansas State University, Department of Psychology, Bluemont Hall 472, Manhattan, KS. 66506. Tel. 785-532-5475; e-mail to