I Want to Work in … Psychology


What is Psychology? psychologist

The British Psychological Society (BPS) www.bps.org.uk defines Psychology in the following way:

“Psychology is the study of people: how they think, how they act, react and interact. Psychology is concerned with all aspects of behaviour and the thoughts feelings and motivations underlying such behaviour.”

What do Psychologists do?

The following describes what Psychologists do. It is, again, taken from a description used by the BPS:

“psychologists do not simply collect evidence to explain people's behaviour; they use their understanding to help people with difficulties and bring about change for the better. For example, psychologists are concerned with practical problems such as:

So psychologists have a valuable contribution to make in all areas of life today.”

PROFILE: Psychologist

helps people with psychological difficulties & brings about change for the better. There are many types of psychology including clinical, forensic, counselling, educational & occupational. May involve assessment of people problems, helping them explore their feelings & behaviour. Developing treatment programmes. Giving advice & counselling. Writing assessments & reports.
SATISFACTIONS: helping people to improve & get better.
NEGATIVES: can be deflating when people don't respond to treatment.
SKILLS: communication, listening, analysis, investigation.
DEGREE: If your degree is not in psychology you must gain Graduate Basis for Chartered Membership (GBC) to become a psychologist. You can gain GBC through an accredited postgraduate conversion course. The British Psychological Society has a list of these.
TIPS: There is strong competition for jobs. Get relevant voluntary work and research the various specialisms.

Do I need a Psychology degree?

For many careers in psychology you need something called GBC which an accredited Psychology degree confers. If your degree is in another subject, you can gain GBC through an accredited postgraduate conversion course. See the following BPS site for more details www.bps.org.uk/careers/accredited-courses/accredited-courses_home.cfm 

There are large numbers of psychology graduates, so even after getting GBC you will face a lot of competition for jobs!

What are the different Psychology careers?

This is where it gets complicated. There are various “Psychology” careers. These are shown below with links to external information sources and brief descriptions taken from the BPS careers site. They can be arranged into two main categories:
1.) Careers requiring GBC from the BPS
2.) Careers where a degree in psychology is useful, but not essential.

1. Where the possession of GBC and/or a degree in Psychology is essential:

Clinical Psychology www.bps.org.uk/careers/what-do-psychologists-do/areas/clinical.cfm

Clinical psychologists aim to reduce psychological distress and to enhance and promote psychological well-being. They deal with anxiety, depression, relationship problems, learning disabilities, child and family problems, and serious mental illness.

Clinical assessment may involve using a variety of methods such as psychometric tests, interviews and direct observation of behaviour leading to therapy, counselling or advice.

Clinical Psychologists work largely in health and social care settings including hospitals, health centres, community mental health teams, child and adolescent mental health services and social services.

They usually work as part of a team with, for example, social workers, medical practitioners and other health professionals. Most clinical psychologists work in the National Health Service, which has a clearly defined career structure, but some work in private practice.

The work is often directly with people, either individually or in groups, assessing their needs and providing therapies based on psychological theories and research. Some clinical psychologists work as trainers, teachers and researchers in universities.

Relevant experience relating to this occupation is often gained by obtaining the entry-level job of an Assistant Psychologist.

The University of Surrey has tightened up its work experience pre-requisite for admissions to the Practitioner Doctorate in Clinical Psychology. The requirement is now for at least 9 months of clinical or clinically relevant research experience, this experience would typically be supervised by someone with knowledge of psychological theories and models. Applicants will be expected to have experience in applying and implementing psychological interventions. As a consequence of this the 9 months requirement needs to be work experience gained as an assistant psychologist or clinically based research assistant, rather than other roles such as mental health support worker, special needs assistant or health care assistant.

Prospects Occupational Profile:

For more details see the careers information file in the Careers and Employability Service library: Classification C3.5
Forensic Psychologist
Health Psychologist
Occupational Psychologist
Teaching & Research

Counselling Psychology

The BPS describes this occupation in the following way: “ Counselling psychologists are a relatively new breed of professional applied psychologists concerned with the integration of psychological theory and research with therapeutic practice. The practice of Counselling Psychology requires a high level of self-awarness and competence in relating the skills and knowledge of personal and interpesonal dynamics to the therapeutic context.

Prospects Occupational Profile:

For more details see the careers information file in the Careers and Employability Service library: ClassificationB3

Educational Psychology

The BPS describes this occupation in the following way: “ Educational psychologists tackle the problems encountered by young people in education, which may involve learning difficulties and social or emotional problems. They carry out a wide range of tasks with the aim of enhancing children's learning and enabling teachers to become more aware of the social factors affecting teaching and learning. Reports may be written about children for allocation of special educational places, or as part of court proceedings or children's panels.”

Prospects Occupational Profile:

For more details see the careers information file in the Careers and Employability Service library: Classification A6

Forensic Psychology

The BPS describes this occupation in the following way: “ Forensic Psychology is devoted to psychological aspects of legal processes in courts. The term is also often used to refer to investigative and criminological psychology: applying psychological theory to criminal investigation, understanding psychological problems associated with criminal behaviour, and the treatment of criminals. Key tasks undertaken by forensic psychologists include piloting and implementing treatment programmes; modifying offender behaviour; responding to the changing needs of staff and prisoners; reducing stress for staff and prisoners; providing hard research evidence to support practice; undertaking statistical analysis for prisoner profiling; giving evidence in court; advising parole boards and mental health tribunals; crime analysis.

The largest single employer of forensic psychologists in the UK is HM Prison Service (which includes the Home Office Research and Development Unit as well as prisons). However, forensic psychologists can also be employed in the health service (including rehabilitation units and secure hospitals), the social service (including the police service, young offenders units, and the probation service), and in university departments or in private consultancy.”

Prospects Occupational Profile:

For more details see the careers information file in the Careers and Employability Service library: Classification D3

Health Psychology

The BPS describes this occupation in the following way: “Health psychologists work in a relatively new field of applied psychology. Psychological principles are used to promote changes in people's attitudes, behaviour and thinking about health and illness. The breadth of the discipline is far-reaching, including:


For more details see the careers information file in the Careers and Employability Service library: Classification C7.2


The BPS describes this occupation in the following way: “ The clinical side of neuropsychology overlaps with academic neuropsychology, which provides a scientific understanding of the relationship between brain and neuropsychological function. This in turn helps form the basis for assessment and rehabilitation of people with brain injury, or other neurological disease. Neuropsychologists work with people of all ages with neurological problems, which might include traumatic brain injury, stroke, toxic and metabolic disorders, tumours and neuro-degenerative diseases. Neuropsychologists require not only general clinical skills and knowledge of the broad range of mental health problems, but also a substantial degree of specialist knowledge in the neurosciences. Specialist skills are required in the assessment of neurological patients, and rehabilitation encompasses a broad range of specialist behavioural and cognitive interventions not only for the client, but also for the client's family and carers. Neuropsychologists are also to be commonly found in the management of rehabilitation facilities, and in individual case management. Leadership of multidisciplinary rehabilitation teams is frequently part of their clinical role.”

Occupational Psychology

The BPS describes this occupation in the following way: “ Occupational Psychology is concerned with the performance of people at work in training, how organisations function and how individuals and small groups behave at work. The aim is to increase the effectiveness of the organisation, and to improve the job satisfaction of the individual. The speciality is broader in scope and less formalised than most other areas of psychology, and it touches on the diverse fields including ergonomics, personnel management, and time management. Work can be in an advisory, teaching and research roles, and to a lesser extent, technical and administrative roles.”

Prospects Occupational Profile:

For more details see the careers information file in the Careers and Employability Service library: Classification L5

Sport & Exercise Psychology www.bps.org.uk/careers/what-do-psychologists-do/areas/sport.cfm

The BPS describes this occupation in the following way: “ It is relatively rare for individuals to practice in both sport and exercise psychology; typically, though some exceptions exist, they specialise in one or the other.

Sport psychologists work with sports participants across a range of both team and individual sports and from amateur to elite levels of competition. The aim is predominately to help athletes prepare psychologically for competition and to deal with the psychological demands of both competition and training. Examples of the work they carry out include counselling referees to deal with the stressful and demanding aspects of their role, advising coaches on how to build cohesion within their squad of athletes and helping athletes to deal with the psychological and emotional consequences of sustaining an injury.

An exercise psychologist is primarily concerned with the application of psychology to increase exercise participation and motivational levels in the general public. Examples of the work they do include optimising the benefits that can be derived from exercise participation and helping individual clients with the implementation of goal-setting strategies.”

Sports Psychology has limited opportunities in the UK and is an extremely competitive career to enter. You need evidence of strong academic performance as well as significant sporting achievement.

Prospects Occupational Profile:

For further details about this career area see the following link:

The British Association of Sport and Exercise Sciences (BASES), 114 Cardigan Road, Headingly, Leeds  LS6 3BJ, Tel: 0113 230 7558 www.bases.org.uk

For more details see the careers information file in the Careers and Employability Service library: Classification F1

Teaching & Research

A range of jobs in education including teaching in secondary schools, lecturing in Further Education colleges and Higher Education Institutions such as universities.

Prospects Occupational Profiles:

Other Areas (see links)

2. Where a degree in Psychology is useful/helpful and informs the occupation, but is not necessarily essential.

This is not a definitive list of psychology-related careers. Use the BPS website and careers information for further details. See also the Prospects site for occupational profiles of all these careers: www.prospects.ac.uk/links/Occupations

Job Vacancies

Psychology-related job vacancies are advertised in the BPS’s Appointments Memorandum. See www.appmemo.co.uk Also, check the links to each occupation for specific vacancy sources.

Other vacancies may be found at some of the following sites:

Psychology in other countries



Last fully updated 2012