Psychologists study the way people think and act. They look at all aspects of behaviour and the thoughts and feelings that make us act the way we do. Psychologists use their understanding to help people with difficulties to change their lives for the better.
Many psychologists work in health and education services, but they can be found in a wide range of other areas.
Video: - Marilyn: Clinical Psychologist
Video: - Claire: Educational Psychologist
Video: - Claire: Clinical Psychologist
There are may different types of Psychologist, and they all use their understanding of psychology to try to help people change their lives for the better.
Here are some different types of Psychologist:
As a Clinical Psychologist you will help people who have physical and mental health issues. For example, you may train people in relaxation techniques to help them cope with anxiety. You may also work with people who have eating disorders, phobias, head injuries and illnesses.
You'll work in health and social care settings, such as hospitals, health centres and community mental health teams.
As a Sports Psychologist you will work closely with athletes and sports coaches to help improve sports performance. You may help to introduce relaxation techniques, or methods of overcoming performance nerves, which affect many sports athletes. Helping athletes to recover from injuries is an important aspect, and also helping on field communication in team sports.
As an Educational Psychologist, you will study and treat the learning, behaviour and emotional problems of children and young people. You'll assess young people's progress, and also help them with their school and emotional needs.
You might be required to help teachers to improve their school environment, recognising that this can influence young people's behaviour and ability to learn. You'll usually work in schools, colleges, nurseries and special educational units.
As an Occupational Psychologist you will look at the performance of people at work and in training. You will be involved in issues like the selection and training of staff, effective management and the working environment. You'll might work for a large company or the government, or possibly as a private consultant.
As a Counselling Psychologist you will help people to improve their sense of well-being and overcome problems in their lives. You'll work with individuals, groups or families. You might work privately, or in GPs' surgeries, counselling organisations and academic settings (schools, colleges, universities).
As a Forensic Psychologist you'll give evidence in courts of law and tribunals, and also to prisoners' review panels. You'll help offenders to understand their behaviour and to avoid re-offending when they are released. You might be involved in prison management, or work with the victims of crime.
As a Forensic Psychologist you can expect to work in prisons, youth custody centres, special units and regional secure hospitals.
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 a Psychologist, you need:
- An investigative mind.
- To be interrested in how people think and act - how do our minds work?
- Excellent communication and interpersonal skills.
- A calm, professional approach at all times.
- The ability to present your findings to all kinds of people - including in reports.
- Teamworking skills, to work with other professionals.
- Strict respect for your clients' confidentiality.
- The psychological knowledge to be able to understand how we behave in a scientific way.
You should also be:
- A good listener.
- Logical and systematic.
- Patient and non-judgemental. Don't let your own personal opinions interfere with your professional work
- Able to talk to people of all ages, from all walks of life.
- Able to build a trusting, constructive relationship with your clients.
- Committed to helping people transform their lives in a positive way.
Pay and Opportunities
Earnings for Psychologists vary depending on your area of specialisation and whether you are employed or in private practice (self-employed).
The pay rates given below are approximate.
Psychologists earn in the range of:
Starting: £21,000 - £28,500
With experience: £37,000 - £52,000
High flyers: £55,000+
Hours of work
As a Psychologist you will work a basic 37-hour week. Some evening and weekend work may be required. Part-time opportunities may be available.
It can be difficult to secure a place on a postgraduate training course, due to high demand.
Where could I work?
Employers include the NHS, private companies, consultancies, the Civil Service and local government. Psychologists also work in university teaching and research.
Opportunities for Psychologists occur throughout the UK.
It is possible for psychologists to set up in private practice.
Where are vacancies advertised?
Vacancies are advertised in local/national newspapers, on job boards, on the British Psychological Society's 'Psychologist Appointments' website, on employers' websites, at Jobcentre Plus and on the Universal Jobmatch website.
Entry Routes and Training
You need to be registered with the Health and Care Professions Council (HCPC) in order to become a Psychologist.
The steps towards registration with the HCPC are shown here:
- Complete a psychology degree accredited by British Psychological Society (BPS)
- Make sure the degree gives eligibility for the Graduate Basis for Chartered Membership (GBC)
- Start building up work experience in your specialist area of interest
- Study for a postgraduate professional training course accredited by BPS.
If your first degree isn’t in psychology or isn’t BPS-accredited, there are conversion courses you could take so you will be eligible for GBC.
Once you have graduated you may be able to begin working as an Assistant Psychologist.
A great way to get into this career is through an internship. Take a look at our information article '
Firstly, you'll need to demonstrate your motivation, and show that you have a realistic understanding of what this role involves. Work experience, such as shadowing an experienced Psychologist, or maybe working in a care environment (such as a care home) will really help to show that you have the necessary skills and motivation.
In order to get a place on a HCPC-approved postgraduate training course, you’ll need at least a 2:1 degree, as well substantial relevant experience.
The postgraduate qualification you choose will depend on the area you want to specialise in. For example, educational psychology, occupational psychology and forensic psychology each has a slightly different route to qualification. Most will take at least two years to complete.
Once you’ve qualified, you’ll still need to keep up to date with changes and further develop your skills.
With experience, you can progress to supervisory and management positions.
Some Psychologists specialise further or study for a PhD, eventually moving into teaching or research.
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 requirements are:
- 3 A levels, including a science subject in some cases.
- 5 GCSEs at C/4 or above including English, Maths, and sometimes a science subject.
Psychology at A level is not a requirement.
Other qualifications, such as an Edexcel (BTEC) Level 3 National qualification or the International Baccalaureate Diploma could also be considered. Entry requirements for degree courses vary; check prospectuses 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.
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 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.
Professional institutions have the following roles:
- To support their members.
- To protect the public by keeping standards high in their professions.
For more information on the institution(s) relevant to this career, check out the contacts section.
Local government vacancies
myjobscotland: Scottish local government vacancies
NHS Wales Careers
Publisher: National Leadership and Innovation Agency for Healthcare
Step into the NHS
Tel: 0345 6060655
Skills for Health
Skills for the health sector
Address: Goldsmiths House, Broad Plain, Bristol BS2 0JP
Tel: 0117 9221155
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
NHS Education for Scotland (NES)
Address: Westport 102, West Port, Edinburgh EH3 9DN
Tel: 0131 6563200
A Guide to Careers in Sport and Exercise Sciences
Publisher: British Association of Sport and Exercise Sciences
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
British Association of Psychotherapists (BAP)
Address: 37 Mapesbury Road, London NW2 4HJ
Tel: 020 8452 9823
Tavistock and Portman NHS Foundation Trust
Address: Tavistock Centre, 120 Belsize Lane, London NW3 5BA
Tel: 020 7435 7111
People Exchange Cymru (PEC)
Public sector recruitment portal for Wales