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How to become a Psychologist

psychologist careers

What does a Psychologist do?

Psychology is the study of people; their behaviour, motivations, thoughts and feelings. Psychologists are interested in how people act as individuals, and interact in groups. They use their understanding together with counselling and other forms of therapy, to help people avoid, overcome or control their problems. Psychologists use scientific methods to record behaviour. All psychologists are likely to be involved in attending meetings and case conferences, keeping records and writing up reports.

There are eight main areas of psychology:

  • clinical psychologists work with people who have a wide range of mental health problems. They try to reduce psychological distress in clients through treatments which can include counselling, therapy or advice
  • educational psychologists work with children and young people experiencing problems in education. They use a range of techniques including counselling, and supported learning programmes, to ensure that each child makes the most of their potential
  • occupational psychologists aim to help businesses improve performance and increase the job satisfaction of staff. This area can include ergonomics, time management and human resources management
  • forensic psychologists (or criminological psychologists) apply psychological theory to criminal investigations. They work with offenders and prison staff, and use therapy and rehabilitation programmes to modify behaviour
  • health psychologists are concerned with public health. They promote healthy attitudes and behaviour, and help patients and their families to cope with illness
  • counselling psychologists help people resolve their problems and make decisions for themselves, particularly at stressful times of their lives
  • sport psychologists help athletes at all levels to prepare psychologically for training, competition, and for times of injury. Exercise psychologists work with the general public, for example as a result of a GP referral, to increase exercise participation by using a range of strategies including goal-setting
  • neuropsychologists help patients with brain injuries and neuropsychological diseases to recover or improve their quality of life. They often work alongside neurosurgeons and neurologists.
Other areas of psychology have no direct training route. For example, child psychologists initially train as clinical psychologists or counselling psychologists (specialising in children). Alternatively they train in educational psychology and work with children in education.

What's the working environment like working as a Psychologist?

Working hours depend on duties and the type of psychology practised. Many psychologists work normal office hours, but some also work evenings. Part-time work and job sharing may be possible.

Psychologists may work in hospitals, clinics, recreational exercise settings, schools, businesses and prisons. They are usually office based but may meet clients in treatment rooms or the client's own home.

What does it take to become a Psychologist?

As a psychologist, you will need:

  • an interest in people, their abilities and temperaments
  • a desire to help other people, and the ability to maintain a professional distance
  • excellent communication skills
  • the ability to work as part of a team
  • a tolerant and patient approach
  • good problem solving and logical thinking skills
  • the ability to act in the best interests of clients, while maintaining confidentiality
  • to be accurate and methodical, especially in terms of gathering and using data
  • computer literacy skills.

Psychologist Career Opportunities

Local authorities employ psychologists mainly in education or social services departments, working in child guidance and community homes.

The Civil Service employs psychologists in the Home Office, Prison Service, Department for Education and Ministry of Defence.

Psychologists specialising in teaching and research work will be based in schools, colleges and universities.

Psychologists in the private sector work in human resources management, private practice, market research or freelance consultancy.

Opportunities are increasing as the importance of psychology becomes more widely recognised. Currently there are national shortages of clinical and educational psychologists.

Promotion prospects are good for chartered psychologists. Some organisations have clearly defined career paths. It may be necessary to move to another area to find a post initially or for promotion.

Further information

If you would like to know anything about Psychologist that does not appear on Hotcourses, further information can be found below.

The British Psychological Society
St Andrew's House
48 Princess Road East
Tel: 0116 254 9568

NHS Learning and Development Service
Tel: 08000 150 850
Email: learning@nhscareers.nhs.uk

NHS Careers
PO Box 376
BS99 3EY
Tel: 0845 606 0655

Courses to help you become a Psychologist