Jobs in psychology are among the most varied and interesting out there.
In this post, we tackle these questions:
- What qualifications do you need to work in psychology?
- What can you do with a psychology degree?
- Who do psychologists work for?
- Do jobs in psychology require work experience?
- What do psychologists earn?
'Learn about the 9 types of psychology jobs and what qualifications you need to do them'
What is psychology?
Psychology is the science of the mind. It’s impossible to see inside the human mind in the way that you can a body part like the heart or lungs. Psychologists study the mind by observing human behaviour.
What qualifications do I need for jobs in psychology?
There are no hard and fast rules about what specific A-levels or post-16 qualifications you’ll need to study psychology at university. However, we recommend taking, erm, psychology A-level. It probably won’t be required, but it will give you a good grounding in the subject.
Many universities ask for at least one science A-level or equivalent. Any of the following subjects will stand you in good stead include:
Most psychologists end up embarking on postgraduate degrees in the area of psychology they want to practice.
This is vital if you want to become a chartered psychologist, which is an extra badge of honour which shows you have a deep knowledge and understanding of psychology. It is the gateway to many jobs in psychology.
If you gain a 2.ii or higher in your undergraduate psychology degree, you’ll be eligible to apply for so-called “graduate basis for chartered membership” (GBC) of the British Psychology Society (BPS). You need this to embark on many of the BPS-approved postgraduate psychology courses, which you need to become a chartered psychologist.
If you don’t get a 2.ii or higher, you may need to study for a master’s to qualify for GBC.
To work in psychology, you’ll need to be registered with a body called the Health and Care Professions Council (HCPC).
So just what can you do with a psychology degree? That's what we'll look at in the next section.
What can you do with a psychology degree?
The findings that psychologists make can be used for all sorts of things, which means that psychology paves the way to a wide range of jobs.
The British Psychological Society identifies nine areas that you can go into with a psychology degree:
Health psychologists use their understanding of the human mind to improve health and well-being. This includes finding psychological techniques to help people fight addiction or make lifestyle changes, such as giving up smoking.
Clinical psychologists also deal with mental and physical health problems, such as addiction or depression. This could include carrying out a thorough investigation of a patient to get to the bottom of their problem – for example, by testing them, talking to them, or observing their behaviour.
Educational psychologists use a psychological approach to help children who are struggling in the early stages of their development or education because of psychological, social or emotional problems, or because of other disabilities.
Academic psychologists carry out research to build on our understanding of the mind. This might involve working with patients or test subjects, carrying out experiments and observation to find out whether or not their ideas are right. Academic psychologists also teach students, often by involving them in their research.
Occupational psychologists improve people’s working lives so that companies can function better. This means taking a psychological approach to people’s working conditions and environment, their time management and the way people interact as part of a team.
Counsellors help people deal with mental health problems. They talk to the patient to understand their state-of-mind, and then come up with a course of treatment they believe will improve the patient’s mental health.
Neuropsychologists work with people to help them recover from a problem with their brain – whether caused by an injury, or a medical condition such as a stroke, tumour or disease.
Sportspeople deal with extreme stress every day, and often face setbacks such as injuries. Raw ability is often not enough to help a sportsperson perform at their best, and sports psychologists help sportspeople use psychological techniques to work at their very best level.
Forensic psychologists work with police, prisoners and other people in the criminal justice system. They work to change prisoners’ behaviour and stop them committing crimes in the future. They also help reduce stresses on prisoners and prison staff to improve everyone’s well-being.
Who do psychologists work for?
This wide range of applications means that employers who recruit psychologists are equally diverse. This is just a short list:
- Government: Forensic psychologists work in prisons as part of the justice system.
- NHS: Health, clinical, neuro and counselling psychologist work in the NHS to help people suffering from mental and physical problems.
- Police: Psychologists work with victims and suspects to help the police tackle crime and help those affected by it.
- Universities: Researchers are employed by universities and other academic organisations.
- Advertising and marketing: Psychological techniques help companies persuade people to buy things.
- Human resources departments: Occupational psychologists work in HR departments, which are responsible for employees’ well-being at work.
Do jobs in psychology require work experience?
No, but as always, it will help.
The university summer vacation is a good time to do work experience. It will put you ahead of other candidates.
Many employers offer internships for university students.
Your work experience will depend on the jobs you’re considering, but could be in a:
- Probation service
- Local council
- Sports team
What do psychologists earn?
According to the National Careers Service, jobs in psychology earn between £31,000 and £98,500 per year.
Yes, we know, that’s quite a broad range. What you earn will depend on your qualifications and experience, and what kind of psychology you practice.
Starting salaries typically range from £31,000 to £41,000, while an experienced psychologist usually earns between £41,000 and £57,000, and a very experienced psychologist even more.
Want a quick refresh of where psychology could take you in your career? Take a look at our post.