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A Career Guide to Psychology

Published: Friday 28th February 2020

750,000 people in the UK work in a role that involves psychology or counselling, so it’s a large employment sector with plenty of opportunity for those committed to helping people with emotional and mental health issues. Hardly surprising when you consider that psychologists, therapists and counsellors work in many industry sectors, including business, health, education and sport. There, in a wide variety of roles, they help people overcome trauma, depression, tackle addiction and learning difficulties, rehabilitate offenders and motivate high profile individuals to perform to the best of their ability. 

Pursuing a career in psychology

Smiling mature woman psychologist, wearing white shirt working distantly on laptop

There’s no fast track route to becoming a psychologist – you’ll need a relevant postgraduate qualification before you can practice. The most practical route to this is through a psychology degree (minimum 2.1), after which you gain Graduate Basis for Chartered Membership (GBC) of the British Psychological Society (BPS). You’ll then have to complete three years of postgraduate study. If you are a graduate from another discipline, you can complete an accredited conversion course which typically takes one year full time or two years part time study. 

Despite the time and commitment involved in becoming a psychologist, there is a lot of competition for places on postgraduate courses, so many candidates aim to secure some practical experience in order to boost their chances of being accepted onto a course. Much of this is done in a voluntary capacity.  

Choose your specialism 

Group of students, professionals disscuss ideas engaged in educational meeting

There are many types of psychologist jobs and it’s during the years of postgraduate study that students specialise in their preferred nicheThese include 

  • Clinical Psychologist – specialises in conditions such as anxiety, stress, depression and mental illness.  
  • Counselling Psychologist – counselling people who are dealing with emotional issues or a stressful period in their life. 
  • Educational Psychologist – helping young people overcome learning difficulties. 
  • Forensic Psychologist – using psychology to assist police, rehabilitate offenders and support prison staff.  
  • Health Psychologist – understanding how psychology is related to illness and healthcare. 
  • Occupational Psychologist – helping businesses improve performance and enhance staff morale and job satisfaction. 
  • Sports Psychologist – focused on improving motivation and performance in sports teams and individuals. 
  • Neuropsychologist – helping people with brain injuries or conditions to improve their quality of life.  

Neuropsychology - Young female psychologist working with boy suffering from autistic disorder

Of course, qualifications will only get you so far. Psychology is a demanding role requiring excellent interpersonal skills for dealing with all types of patients, as well as other medical staff. You’ll need to be patient, committed and empathetic to needs of your patients. 

Counselling and therapist roles 

Not everyone interested in psychology go on to be professional psychologists. Some work in counselling, or in therapist roles. Professional counselling training takes three to five years. To fully qualify, however, you will need to achieve a minimum number of hours in a work placementQualifying means completing a certificate in counselling skills: this is a one year course, typically followed by a two year diploma in counselling. Alternatively, you can study at degree level.  

Doctor, psychologist talking to patient, consultation and psychology concept

Counselling and psychology aren’t easy career paths. As well as the years of training, there are other criteria that need to be fulfilled, sometimes involving substantial costs. These include disclosure checks and indemnity insurance, but the career can be highly rewarding. Trainees in the NHS start at just over £30,000 per annum, rising to over £37,000 after qualification. Consultant level psychologists can earn more than £80,000.  

For a wide range of therapist jobs, counselling roles and psychologist vacancies, try a search on Zoek UK today 

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