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.
There are various different types of psychologist, although they all use their understanding of psychology to try to help people change their lives for the better.
Clinical psychologists help people who have physical and mental health issues. For example, they may train people in relaxation techniques to help them cope with anxiety. They also work with people who have eating disorders, phobias, head injuries and illnesses.
Clinical psychologists work in health and social care settings, such as hospitals, health centres and community mental health teams.
Health psychologists apply psychological knowledge and methods to the study of health care. For example, they investigate why and when people seek professional advice, what might prevent them from using medication, and how they cope with illness.
Health psychologists usually work in universities, medical schools and health services.
Educational psychologists study and treat the learning, behavioural and emotional problems of children and young people. They assess young people's progress, and academic and emotional needs.
Increasingly, educational psychologists help teachers to improve the school environment, recognising that this can influence young people's behaviour and ability to learn. Educational psychologists usually work in schools, colleges, nurseries and special units.
Occupational psychologists look at the performance of people at work and in training. They are involved in issues like the selection and training of staff, effective management and the working environment. They work for large companies, the government and public services, and as private consultants.
Counselling psychologists help people to improve their sense of well-being, resolve crises and increase their problem-solving abilities. Counselling psychologists work with individuals, groups or families. Some work privately, others in GPs' surgeries, counselling organisations and academic settings.
Forensic psychologists give evidence in courts of law and tribunals, and to prisoners' review panels. They help offenders to understand their behaviour and to avoid re-offending on release. Some forensic psychologists are involved in prison management, others work with the victims of crime.
Forensic psychologists work in prisons, youth custody centres, special units and regional secure hospitals.
Pay Earnings for psychologists vary depending on their area of specialisation and whether they are employed or in private practice.
The pay rates given below are approximate.
Some psychologists in private practice can earn considerably more.
Hours of work Psychologists work a basic 37-hour week. Some evening and weekend work may be required. Part-time opportunities may be available.
Demand Demand for psychologists is steady.
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 with employers in towns and cities throughout the UK.
Self-employment Opportunities occur 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 website and employers' websites and at Jobcentre Plus offices.
Entry routes At the moment, there are no legal minimum qualifications needed to become a psychologist. However, as psychology will be regulated by the Health Professions Council from 2011, this is likely to change.
In the meantime, to become a Chartered Psychologist, you should usually have an honours degree in psychology. This degree must be accredited by the British Psychological Society as conferring the Graduate Basis for Chartered Membership (GBC), as this is a requirement for all postgraduate training courses.
If your degree course 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.
Training Chartered Clinical Psychologists and Chartered Educational Psychologists follow achievement of the GBC with a relevant three-year accredited postgraduate training course: the Doctorate in Clinical Psychology or Educational Psychology.
Trainee Chartered Occupational Psychologists follow the GBC with an MSc in Occupational Psychology. This should be followed by two years' practice under the supervision of a Chartered Occupational Psychologist.
Chartered Counselling Psychologists follow achievement of the GBC with a BPS accredited postgraduate training course, leading to the BPS Qualification in Counselling Psychology. Alternatively, you can take an accredited Doctorate in Counselling Psychology.
To register as a Chartered Forensic Psychologist, you need to obtain the GBC, then complete an accredited MSc in Forensic Psychology or stage 1 of the Society's Diploma in Forensic Psychology, followed by two years' practical experience under the supervision of a Chartered Forensic Psychologist.
Progression With experience, psychologists may progress to supervisory and management positions.
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.
Psychology at A level is not a requirement.
An Edexcel (BTEC) National qualification or other vocational qualification may be an acceptable alternative to A levels; you should check prospectuses.
A Progression or Advanced Diploma in Society, Health and Development may also be considered as an alternative to A levels for entry to some higher education courses. Check prospectuses carefully.
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). Alternatively, candidates can sit the BPS Qualifying Examination. 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. The Open University also offers a postgraduate conversion diploma in psychology. These qualifications are accredited by the BPS.
The BPS website has a searchable database of funding opportunities. These range from studentships to research grants.
Getting Into Psychology Courses
Trotman & Co Ltd
So you want to be a Psychologist
British Psychological Society
A Guide to Careers in Sport and Exercise Sciences
British Association of Sport and Exercise Sciences
British Psychological Society
Association of Child Psychotherapists
020 8458 1609
British Association of Psychotherapists
020 8452 9823
0845 300 60 90