Psychology Jobs and Careers

If you are interested in what makes people tick and have a scientific leaning, then it is quite possible that you already have an existing interest in psychology.

This is the scientific study of the human mind and behaviour in relation to the problems that people experience. In the context of psychology jobs, this takes the form of studying and treating mental illness and disease.

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Professional psychologists apply strictly scientific methods to achieve an understanding of human behaviour. When working with clients or patients, this means that there is always a comprehensively researched, statistical basis to the psychologists' diagnosis and approach. This enables psychologists to work with:

What is Involved in the Job?

The daily work of a psychologist depends on the sector they work in. Here, we will look at some of the areas psychologists are concerned with.

Clinical psychologists promote well-being through the reduction of psychological distress. This means dealing with mental problems such as depression, anxiety and relationship issues in both adults and children.

Counselling psychologists work with clients to examine and explore the causes of mental health issues. This means working closely together to identify and address the wider causes of mental health issues.

Educational psychologists usually work within the education system to help young people and children dealing with social and learning issues.

Criminal psychologists (also known as criminologists, legal or forensic psychologists) are involved in the legal process, assisting with criminal investigations by applying knowledge of the psychological problems associated with criminal behaviour. They are also involved in treating criminals.

Health psychologists apply psychological principles to support people's ability to cope mentally with health and illness. This can mean working with attitudes, behaviour and thoughts, not only about illness, but about preventative healthcare, such as quitting smoking and practising safer sex.

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Neuropsychologists work with issues relating to the functioning of the brain, such as the senses, or biological conditions such as depression. These professionals also work with people overcoming or living with the effects of brain injury, stroke, brain tumours, brain diseases, etc.

Occupational psychologists work within organisations to increase the effectiveness of the workforce. This means improving job satisfaction and career development, so that staff are motivated and perform better. This role may involve working with psychometric testing and helping develop career plans for individuals.

Sports psychologists work with athletes in individual and team sports to increase participation and motivational levels, by applying psychological principles.

Researchers in the field of psychology usually work in higher education institutions such as universities, where they also lecture. They may combine this with work in the sector they specialise in.

Other areas of psychology include social psychologist, cognitive psychologist, child psychologist and animal psychologist, although many of these other areas are not formally recognised by the British Psychological Society and are not chartered fields.

Is This Job Right for You?

As psychology, unlike counselling, is a science-based, clinical profession, you clearly need to have a liking and aptitude for science subjects. High levels of personal responsibility and integrity are a must.

You need to be an emotionally stable person in your own right, with an interest in people, coupled with the ability to work closely with people who are not always easy to communicate with. The role requires sensitivity and compassion, in other words the real desire to help people overcome their problems. Patience is important, as changes in patients' situations may be slow and may sometimes not happen at all.

Much of the work is conducted alone, on a one-to-one basis with patients or clients. At other times, it is necessary to work in teams, particularly within health institutions. The ability to research is vital, both in the undergraduate and graduate study stages, but also for ongoing professional development, and according to the needs of individual cases.

Environment and Hours

Working conditions vary according to the field the psychologist is working in. Many clinical psychologists have their own offices, being wholly or partly self-employed. There is often a need to work evening or weekend hours so that all clients can be accommodated.

Psychologists working in hospitals or long term care facilities may work irregular hours according to the needs of that institution. Educational psychologists will work more regular hours.

Research psychologists working in colleges and universities often divide their time between lecturing, research and administration, with part-time consulting practices as well. Academic hours will be fairly structured, although research projects with deadlines may require overtime hours at times.

How to Become a Psychologist

You need a degree to become a psychologist. Psychology at degree level can be studied on its own or as a joint subject. Entry does not always require A-level psychology, but studying the subject will help you take on the degree topics.

It is important to opt for a degree that is recognised by the British Psychological Society. This will include study of biological, cognitive, developmental and social psychology, the personality, conceptual and historical issues and research methods.

To become a chartered psychologist, you need to have graduated with a recognised degree and completed a prescribed program of post graduate study and training in your chosen specialist area. The British Psychological Society must also judge you 'fit to practice'.

Salaries and Prospects

Upon graduation, a chartered psychologist could expect to earn around £25,000 a year. This would rise rapidly to the £30,000-50,000 range in the NHS. Senior psychologists in management roles can earn over £80,000.

Although prospects vary from one region to another, and from one specialist area to another, the outlook for psychology jobs is very positive. There are shortages in two fields: those of neuropsychology and criminal psychology. These fields therefore offer extremely good opportunities for rapid progression, although progression is not slow in any area.

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