Career Profile - Psychologist
Written by Careers Advice
Sunday, 23 November 2008
What is the work like?
Psychologists study people's behaviour, motivations, thoughts and feelings. They use their understanding of theory, together with counselling and other forms of therapy, to help people avoid, overcome or control their problems.
As a psychologist you would typically specialise in one of the following areas:
Some areas of psychology have no direct training route. For example, to become a child psychologist you might first train as a clinical or counselling psychologist and then specialise in working with children. Alternatively, you could train in educational psychology and work with children in education.
- clinical psychology – see the Clinical Psychologist profile
- educational psychology – helping children and young people to overcome difficulties and promote their educational and psychological development
- occupational psychology – helping businesses improve their performance and increase employees' job satisfaction
- forensic or criminological psychology – using psychological theory to help investigate crimes, rehabilitate offenders and support prison staff
- health psychology – promoting healthy attitudes and behaviour, and helping patients and their families to cope with illness
- counselling psychology – helping people resolve their problems and make decisions, particularly at stressful times in their lives
- sports psychology – see the Sport and Exercise Psychologist profile
- neuropsychology – helping patients with brain injuries and neuropsychological diseases to recover or improve their quality of life.
What qualifications and experience will employers look for?
Your first step would be to complete a psychology degree accredited by the British Psychological Society (BPS) leading to the Graduate Basis for Registration (GBR). See the BPS website for a list of accredited courses.
For entry to a degree you would usually need five GCSEs (A-C), plus three A levels. You should check exact degree entry requirements with each college or university.
If you are a graduate with a degree in a subject other than psychology, you can achieve GBR by completing a BPS-approved
conversion course, or by sitting the BPS Qualifying Exam. Check the BPS website for further details.
Once you have GBR you need to take a postgraduate professional training course relevant to the area you wish to work in. Competition for postgraduate courses is strong and entry requirements can include a first or upper second class honours degree, evidence of your research skills, and some relevant work experience.
Once you have a BPS accredited degree, you need to take further training to qualify to practise in your chosen area of psychology:
Check with the BPS for full details on the qualifying in the different areas of psychology.
- clinical psychology: a three year, full-time, NHS funded Doctorate in Clinical Psychology (see the Clinical Psychologist profile for more details)
- educational psychology: in England, Northern Ireland and Wales, a three-year Doctorate in Educational Psychology.
- occupational psychology: an MSc in Occupational Psychology, plus two years' supervised practice, or three years' supervised
- practice which includes the BPS Postgraduate Certificate in Occupational Psychology
- forensic psychology: an MSc in Forensic Psychology plus two years’ supervised practical experience
- health psychology: an MSc in Health Psychology and two years’ supervised experience
- counselling psychology: the BPS Qualification in Counselling Psychology or a BPS accredited postgraduate training course in counselling psychology
- sport and exercise psychology: an accredited MSc in Sport and Exercise Psychology plus two years' supervised work experience,
- or a minimum of five years' supervised experience
- neuropsychology: training in either clinical or educational psychology, plus two years' supervised practice and an accredited course
- in neuropsychology.
What further training and development can I do?
Once you are qualified you could have the opportunity to specialise further within your branch of psychology.
Throughout your career you will be expected to take part in continuing professional development (CPD) to keep your knowledge and skills up to date. See the BPS website for details.
What salary and other benefits can I expect?
Figures are intended as a guideline only.
- Starting salaries are around £20,000 to £22,000 a year.
- With experience, salaries can range between £27,500 and £37,500 a year.
- Senior psychologists and department heads can earn around £43,000.
- Psychologists in the private sector or in industry can earn around £80,000.
What are the hours and working conditions?
Your working hours would vary depending on the area you specialise in, but would typically be 9am to 5pm, Monday to Friday. You
might also have opportunities for part-time work and job sharing.
You may work in hospitals, schools, prisons or exercise facilities. You would usually have an office base, but may also use treatment rooms or visit clients in their own home.
What skills and knowledge will I need?
What opportunities are there?
- an interest in how people react and interact
- a desire to help other people
- the ability to maintain a professional distance
- excellent communication skills
- the ability to work as part of a team
- a tolerant and patient manner
- good problem solving skills and a logical approach
- respect for confidentiality
- an accurate and methodical approach
- IT skills.
Most opportunities are with local authority education or social services departments, and in the NHS. You could also work for the
Prison Service, some government departments or in the private sector.
Alternatively, you could specialise in teaching and research work in colleges and universities.
Where can I go for more information?
British Psychological Society
St Andrew's House
48 Princess Road East
Tel: 0116 254 9568
PO Box 376
Tel: 0845 606 0655
If you would like to discuss your career options with a learning adviser, call 0800 100 900.