What does a psychologist do?
A psychologist studies people’s or animals’ behaviours and cognitive processes. Typically, this involves examining a subject’s reactions to certain situations, their physical or mental attributes, and the effects of their personal history.
Unlike a psychiatrist, the role of the psychologist is not to diagnose. A psychologist may have a doctorate degree but is not classed as a medical doctor, whereas a psychiatrist is. Similarly, a psychologist cannot prescribe medications whereas a psychiatrist can. Psychologists work to analyse and assess what may be causing an individual’s stress, anxiety or behavioural issues.
As a psychologist, you may be employed by the NHS or privately. Your skills may be required in hospitals, clinics, community organisations, social services, or even laboratories or veterinary practices.
What education do you need to become a psychologist?
To become qualified in psychology, you will need a degree level qualification. You can work your way up to this from A-Level or GCSE. If you’re starting at GCSE level, it’s recommended to have at least one GCSE in a science-based subject – ideally a psychology GCSE if you can.
You can then progress to A-Level Psychology, after which your university degree should be psychology or a related field that involves psychology, such as education. Your degree should be accredited by the British Psychological Society (BPS), after which you can progress to a postgraduate qualification. You will need this if you want to become a Chartered Psychologist, and to register as a practitioner with the Health and Care Professionals Council.
If you want to branch out into specific areas of psychology, such as neuropsychology, you will need a relevant postgraduate qualification. If you already have a degree, you could also try a psychology conversion course. This will help you to gain Graduate Basis for Chartered Membership, as approved by the BPS.
What personal skills do you need to become a psychologist?
As a study of behaviour, psychology requires a great deal of empathy and communication skills. You may need to step into a counselling role, which requires listening, sensitivity and understanding. The subjects you will be dealing with may be under significant amounts of stress or anxiety, so you should be patient and non-judgemental.
Psychologists enjoy working with people or animals, so you will need to display confidence without being overbearing. You should have a solid background in psychological treatment methods and techniques, which in turn lend themselves to analytical skills, literacy, and computer work.
If yours is more of a study-based role, such as research, then you should have an inquiring mind that can process numbers. You should be happy to work in teams and on your own when you need to, presenting information in a clear, concise way.
Your role may expose you to distressing situations. You need to be mentally tough enough to work with vulnerable people, from children to those suffering from mental health issues.
What are the benefits of becoming a psychologist?
As a psychologist, you will be directly responsible for making vulnerable people or animals feel better. While this doesn’t translate as prescribing the best medicine, it does mean offering the right paths and treatments to improve lives. You will find this role rewarding with everybody you help, be they individuals or groups of animal species.
Psychologist roles tend to be very lucrative, with entry-level salaries starting around £30,000 per year. With career progression and years of experience, this can rise to as much as £87,000 per year. You also have the freedom of choice to work privately or for the NHS. This may give you flexibility to set your own hours.
Every day is a new challenge for a psychologist. You may be working with an elderly person one day and a child the next. No two patients are the same and you will benefit from working with people from all walks of life.
If yours is more of a research-based role, you may also contribute landmark findings to the field of psychology. Applying these findings could change the course of society, from the criminal justice system to social care and education.
How much does a psychologist make?
Psychologists have a very attractive starting salary thanks to their years of study. Depending on whether you work privately or for the NHS, your salary can range from £31,000 to £32,000 as a starter, before progressing up to six figures.
How much does a psychologist earn?
£93,000 to 108,000
£47,000 to 63,000
What is the career path for a psychologist?
A qualification in psychology can offer a huge choice of opportunities and sectors, which is why you should start building a solid foundation now to become licensed. After becoming a registered practitioner with the British Psychological Society, you may have the freedom to ‘niche down’ into a specific area of psychology, for example:
A clinical psychology role involves assessing and recommending treatment for those with mental or physical health conditions, such as anxiety, depression or eating disorders.
As a counsellor, you will have the role of guiding people through tough times including bereavement, abuse and relationship breakdowns.
An educational psychologist specialises in working with children and young people, helping to assess their emotional needs and recommend the right treatment.
A forensic psychologist works with prisoners, offenders and professionals in the criminal justice system to effect change in policies.
A role in occupational psychology will see you making changes to the workplace, focusing on employee performance, behaviour and wellbeing.
This field of psychology involves working with athletes to improve their performance and resilience.
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