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Explore: careers in psychology

Here we provide you with all the information you need to start your career in the varied and exciting psychology sector.

Explore: careers in psychology header

The psychology sector is immensely important to society and there are so many exciting careers to consider within the sector. If you’re curious, analytical and empathetic, you might find yourself gravitating towards a psychology career where you can add value to the lives of others.

Regarding career options, you can be a psychologist specialising in a field of your choice, a counsellor, a teacher or even an academic researcher. Psychiatrists also exist within the field of psychology, but to be a psychiatrist you need a medical degree in order to diagnose illnesses and treat patients. In this guide we’re going to be focusing on careers you can achieve with a psychology degree.

The global psychology sector

Let’s start by taking a look at what we mean when we talk about psychology careers, as well as what the current global situation looks like. This is a great way of understanding some of the current trends and the future outlook for those in the field.

What is it?

Psychology as a sector doesn’t stand by itself in the same way that the education industry or healthcare industry does. Instead, it weaves between the lines and exists as part of the health industry, social care sector, education industry and more. This is because psychology affects every facet of our lives; our performance at school and work, our mental and physical wellbeing, and our relationships are all dependent on psychology. 

>> Explore our collection of online psychology degrees

How big is the sector?

The statistics below were taken from the Psychologists Global Market Report by The Business Research Company in 2018. 

  • In 2017, the global psychologists market was given the value of 39.8 billion dollars. North America accounted for 19.1 billion dollars, which is 0.4% of the global market, making it the largest market worldwide. 
  • The psychologists market is segmented into clinical psychologists, counselling psychologists, health psychologists, and other varying types of psychologist  – but it doesn’t include the pharmaceutical industry which is an enormous market that psychologists also navigate.
  • Psychologists are starting to get younger – traditionally clinical psychology was a field with a lot of old men (think Sigmund Freud and Ivan Pavlov), but we’re seeing some changes in recent years. Between 2007 and 2016, the median age of clinical psychologists decreased from 50.1 to 48.9 years and now younger generations have taken over from baby boomers as the majority of the workforce.
  • The percentage of clinical psychologists who are women also increased from 57% to 65%, so now there are significantly more female psychologists than male.
  • We are seeing some changes in diversity too – from 2007 to 2016 the number of clinical psychologists who are from ethnic minorities nearly doubled, although the total percentage of minorities in 2016 was still only 16%. Hopefully, in the years to come, we’ll see a much greater diversity within the psychology sector.

How has the COVID-19 pandemic impacted psychology careers?

There aren’t many industries that have managed to completely bypass the negative effects of the pandemic. An analysis by the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics found that since March, industries that employ psychologists have been suffering large-scale cutbacks and job losses in the U.S. and the same is probably true for the rest of the world. However, it’s not been all doom and gloom for the psychology sector.

Demand for psychological services is actually on the rise, which is understandable when we consider the effects of covid-19 on mental health. Additionally, there has been a movement towards virtual working, where many psychologists have been offering services over the phone or via video call. Psychologists have also been playing an important role in researching the human impact of the pandemic, including the effects on mental health and the social impact. 

What kinds of jobs are there in psychology?

Psychology is an extremely varied field, and there are many different career paths you can choose to take. Not all of them require you to be an actual psychologist either, so your options are still pretty open once you’ve committed to a psychology undergraduate degree.

Clinical psychologist

A clinical psychologist is what most people think of when they think about psychologists. It is the responsibility of a clinical psychologist to reduce psychological distress, often surrounding anxiety, depression, addiction and relationship problems. Some examples of methods they might use include conducting interviews, running psychometric tests, clinical assessments and direct observations of patients. This could be a great role for you if you’re an analytical person and passionate about mental health.

Forensic psychologist

You’ve probably come across forensic psychologists on a lot of crime television shows. It is their job to apply psychological theory to criminal investigations, understand criminal behaviour and undertake the psychological treatment of criminals. Their job involves creating and testing treatment programmes, modifying behaviour of offenders, reducing stress for prison staff and prisoners and making suggestions to create a more beneficial experience in prisons. If you’re interested in understanding criminal minds and working with the police, this could be your ideal role.

Health psychologist

Health psychologists are concerned with people’s experiences of health and illness. Their main roles are to help people deal with the emotional and psychological aspects of illness, helping people give up addictions, supporting chronically ill people and helping doctors communicate more effectively with patients. This job would suit someone who wants to work with other healthcare professionals and is interested in the intersection between physical and mental health.

Educational psychologist

If you like working with children and are interested in children’s behaviour, you might want to go into educational psychology. Educational psychologists help children and young people who are experiencing issues that impact their ability to learn. They tackle learning difficulties, social and emotional problems, issues around disability as well as more complex developmental disorders. They carry out observations, interviews and assessments and give advice to parents and teachers.

Occupational psychologist

Occupational psychologists aim to improve job performance and analyse how different factors affect job satisfaction of employees at work. This speciality is quite broad and less formalised than other areas of psychology, so if you prefer working closely with groups of people in a work environment, you might enjoy being an occupational psychologist. The job includes teaching about time management, personnel management and ergonomics.

Additional jobs

What skills do I need to enter a psychology career?

Initially, you need to be good at both communication and science. If you’re passionate about biology and enjoy learning about the human body and brain, this will be especially useful. This is because science forms the basis of some areas of psychology; it also contains a lot of scientific methodology. Therefore, it’s important to understand the human brain and behaviour from a scientific perspective and be able to use scientific research methods.

The hard skills you need will depend on which field of psychology you’re interested in – for example, educational psychology is quite different from forensic psychology. The main thing to keep in mind is that your interests and skills should align.

However, don’t worry about knowing which career in psychology you want to aim for before you go to university. After studying psychology, you might find out which area is right for you. Below are some soft skills that you should have before deciding to study psychology.

Soft skills

  • Interest in and knowledge of psychology
  • Great listening skills
  • An empathetic nature and non-judgemental attitude
  • Excellent people skills including good verbal communication
  • Ability to remain calm and composed
  • Good research skills
  • Adequate IT skills

What are psychologist salaries around the world?

Salaries for psychology careers vary depending on the area of psychology, level of experience and the country you work in. Below we’ve found some average salaries for psychologists and related careers across the UK, USA, Canada and Australia. This data is from the National Careers Service on the UK government website, Payscale and Seek.

Clinical Psychologist£31,365 - £44, 503$70,580C$99,392AU$108,258
Forensic Psychologist£31,365 - £44, 503$65,000C$83,200AU$71,250
Special Education Needs (SEN) Teacher£26,582 - £44,849$61,030 C$69,551AU$80,000
Sport and Exercise Psychologist£20,000 - £48,000$71,645C$73,501AU$70,000
Counsellor£19,000 - £47,000$49,950C$77,434AU$75,000
Psychology Teacher£24,000 - £37,000$45,000C$60,921AU$70,000

Why choose a career in psychology?

There are many reasons why you might want to work in the psychology sector And, while many of these depend on the individual, there are several notable ones worth mentioning: 

  • You’re an empathetic person. If you have empathy for different people from all walks of life, even if you can’t personally relate to them, you’ll be a great psychologist.
  • You want to help other people. The main aim of psychology is to help other people and improve their lives, so this desire is vital and the work is extremely rewarding.
  • You’re passionate about your field of psychology. If possible, everyone should work in a field that they love, and there are so many fascinating elements of psychology. If you’ve found your desired field, go for it, because passion is the most important quality an aspiring psychologist should have.
  • You love to research and have a scientific mind. Psychology requires a lot of scientific research and analysis, so if you love science but are also interested in the mind and human behaviour, psychology is the obvious career choice.
  • There is a clear career path. Most of us want stability in our careers, and sometimes this is easier when you know exactly which route to go down. Psychology is a route with a clear path, particularly throughout education and training, and this provides clear structure for people.
  • Potential for self-employment and flexible work hours. When psychologists, counsellors and therapists become well established, they are able to be self-employed if they so wish. This can mean more flexible work hours and higher pay. 

How to get started in a psychology career

You don’t need to worry about what you’ve studied in secondary school or further education too much, as long as you can demonstrate an interest in psychology and an aptitude for scientific research and essay writing. A popular route is taking psychology as an A-level, sometimes coupled with biology. Some schools and colleges also offer psychology diplomas that are more specific, such as a BTEC in criminology. 

>> Explore our range of online criminology degrees

Psychology courses in the UK

If you decide you do want to pursue a career as a psychologist, you’ll need to gain the qualifications below. However, some careers will only require a psychology undergraduate degree and then separate training – for example, if you want to be a psychology teacher.

  • An undergraduate psychology degree accredited by The British Psychological Society (BPS) (3 years)
  • Graduate Basis for Chartered Membership  – e.g. Masters in forensic psychology (1-2 years)
  • An accredited postgraduate qualification in a specialism of your choice (2 years)

There is also the possibility of working in the psychology sector even if you didn’t study it at university for your initial undergraduate degree. There are conversion courses in the UK which take a year to give you the equivalent of a psychology degree – from there you can choose to do the additional training if you desire.

Final thoughts

That concludes our detailed look at the psychology sector. As we’ve seen, it’s a sector that is essential to the everyday lives of people globally, and the demand for psychological services is rising. 

The types of job roles available span many different fields and areas, meaning that there’s something for just about anyone. With the right skills, training, and passion, you can start your own career in the psychology sector.

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