Occupational psychologists apply their knowledge of psychology to the workplace. They look at how people behave and perform at work and how this behaviour affects the organisation they work for. Their aim is to increase efficiency and job satisfaction throughout the organisation.
Also known as
- Psychologist, Occupational
- Business Psychologist
Video: - Angie: Occupational Psychologist
Occupational psychologists have two main aims:
- to increase the effectiveness of the organisation they are working for
- to improve the job satisfaction of individuals within the organisation.
To achieve these aims, they get involved in a broad range of activities, covering areas such as:
- recruitment and selection
- personnel management
- individual performance
- work environment and ergonomics
- organisational change.
While some occupational psychologists may work in all of the above areas, most will specialise in some of them.
In recruitment and selection, occupational psychologists suggest ways to identify and attract candidates with the right skills and abilities for a particular job. They may design and use psychological tests or exercises that help assess a candidate's suitability. They also monitor the selection process to make sure it is fair and effective.
In personnel management, they may recommend the best type of management system for the company. They may set up appraisal systems for the benefit of staff and management and train managers in appraisal techniques.
When working on individual performance, occupational psychologists help people to develop skills in communication, teamwork, assertiveness and leadership. Interviews and tests can help people to get a better idea of their strengths, weaknesses and the work they enjoy doing most.
Occupational psychologists may also improve an individual's performance by developing training and evaluation techniques. They also offer advice on stress management, helping individuals and organisations to prevent or manage stress.
Occupational psychologists recognise the impact of the work environment on people's mood, motivation and happiness. They work closely with engineers and ergonomists (experts in the interaction between people and their working environments and equipment) to improve the design of a new building, for example.
They also advise on health and safety issues, studying the causes of accidents and ways to prevent them.
When working in the area of organisational change, occupational psychologists may help to design a new management or staff structure, or a new company image.
Being able to read, write and speak Welsh may be an advantage when you’re looking for work in Wales.
Personal Qualities and Skills
As an occupational psychologist, you need:
- An investigative mind.
- A strong interest in the way people think and act.
- A logical and methodical approach to problem solving.
- Excellent communication and interpersonal skills.
- A calm, professional approach at all times.
- The ability to express your findings, including in reports.
- Teamworking skills, to work with other professionals.
- Strict respect for your clients' confidentiality.
- The psychological knowledge to understand behaviour in a scientific way.
You should also be:
- A good listener.
- Logical and systematic.
- Patient, non-judgemental and objective.
- Able to relate to people of all ages, from all walks of life.
- Able to build a trusting, constructive relationship with clients.
- Committed to helping people transform their lives in a positive way.
- Able to achieve results over a short period of time, and work to strict deadlines.
- Resilient and able to avoid becoming burdened by the difficulties you encounter.
Pay and Opportunities
Earnings for occupational psychologists vary depending on their area of specialisation and whether they are employed or in private practice.
The pay rates given below are approximate.
Occupational psychologists earn in the range £21,500 - £27,500, rising to £37,000 - £51,500 with experience. Senior positions can attract a salary in advance of £60,000.
Occupational Psychologists working within the NHS are paid according to NHS salary bands, and will earn in the range £25,528 - £27,625, rising to £65,270 - £80,810 with experience. Senior NHS positions can expect to earn up to £97,478.
Hours of work
Occupational psychologists usually work a basic 37-hour week. Some evening and weekend work may be required. Part-time opportunities are also available.
Where could I work?
Opportunities for occupational psychologists occur throughout the UK.
Employers include private companies, consultancies, the Civil Service and local government. Psychologists also work in university teaching and research and in private practice.
Opportunities exist for occupational psychologists to work in independent private practice.
Where are vacancies advertised?
Vacancies are advertised in the following places:
- Local/national newspapers.
- NHS jobs website.
- Jobcentre Plus.
- The Universal Jobmatch website.
- The British Psychological Society's Psychologist Appointments website.
Entry Routes and Training
To become a Health and Care Professions Council (HCPC) regulated occupational psychologist, you need to follow a British Psychological Society (BPS) training route.
The BPS's Graduate Basis for Chartered Membership (GBC) is the first step. You can obtain the GBC by completing a BPS-accredited degree in psychology.
If your psychology degree is not accredited or your degree is in a subject other than psychology, you can obtain the GBC by taking an accredited postgraduate conversion course.
It is usual for potential psychologists to spend at least a year gaining relevant work experience, often as an assistant or research psychologist, before being accepted onto a postgraduate course.
After gaining the GBC, you need to complete an accredited MSc (one year full-time or two years part-time) in Occupational Psychology followed by two years' supervised practice as an occupational psychologist.
With experience, psychologists can progress to supervisory and management positions.
Previous experience gained in a relevant area, such as human resources, training, or recruitment and selection are useful for this career.
Rehabilitation of Offenders Act
Chartered psychologist posts are exempt from the Rehabilitation of Offenders Act 1974. This means that you must supply information to an employer about any spent or unspent convictions, cautions, reprimands or warnings, if they ask you to. This is different from other careers, where you only have to reveal information on unspent convictions if you are asked to.
For entry to an accredited degree course in psychology, the usual requirement is:
- 2/3 A levels
- GCSEs (A*-C or 9-4) in 2/3 other subjects
- English, Maths and science GCSE subjects are usually preferred, and a science subject at A level is sometimes required.
Psychology at A level is not a requirement.
Other qualifications, such as a BTEC Level 3 qualification or the International Baccalaureate Diploma could also be considered.
However, course requirements vary, so please check college/university websites very carefully.
Some universities accept the Welsh Baccalaureate as equivalent to 1 A-level.
It is illegal for any organisation to set age limits for entry to employment, education or training, unless they can show there is a real need to have these limits.
Skills and abilities gained in a relevant area, such as human resources, training, or recruitment and selection are useful.
If you don't have the qualifications needed to enter your chosen degree course, a college or university Access course (eg, Access to Psychology) could be the way in. No formal qualifications are usually required, but you should check individual course details.
There are accredited conversion courses open to graduates with degrees in subjects other than psychology (and those with non-accredited psychology degrees). You can find out more by looking on the British Psychological Society's (BPS) website.
Part-time degree study is available from a number of universities. However, most part-time degrees are not accredited by the BPS.
Distance or open learning is available from the Open University, which offers a BSc degree in Psychology. This qualification is accredited by the BPS.
The University of Coventry, University of Leicester and Birkbeck, University of London offer a two year, part-time, BPS-accredited MSc in Occupational Psychology via distance learning.
Funding sources for postgraduate training include the Economic and Social Research Council (ESRC).
The BPS website has a searchable database of funding opportunities. These range from studentships to research grants.
- 22% of psychologists are self-employed.
- 33% work part-time.
- 14% have flexible hours.
- 9% of employees work on a temporary basis.
Queen's University Belfast
Open University (OU)
Tel: 0845 3006090
Health and Care Professions Council (HCPC)
Address: Park House, 184 Kennington Park Road, London SE11 4BU
Tel: 0845 3006184
Economic and Social Research Council (ESRC)
Address: Polaris House, North Star Avenue, Swindon SN2 1UJ
Tel: 01793 413000
British Psychological Society (BPS)
Address: St Andrews House, 48 Princess Road East, Leicester LE1 7DR
Tel: 0116 2549568
Getting into Psychology Courses
Author: Maya Waterstone Publisher: Trotman
British Psychological Society
Publisher: British Psychological Society (BPS)
Tel: 01223 378 051
Institute of Psychoanalysis
Address: Byron House, 112A Shirland Road, London W9 2EQ
Tel: 020 7563 5000