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How to become a psychologist

Interested in learning about the human mind and having a positive impact on people’s lives? Discover how to become a psychologist and explore whether it’s the right career path for you.

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More and more people are considering a career in psychology. As awareness around mental health continues to grow, the important role of a psychologist has been thrust into the spotlight. 

If you’re considering a career in this rewarding profession, then this guide on how to become a psychologist is a great place to start. In this article, we’ll take a look at what a psychologist does, the different types of psychologists, the average psychologist salary, and more.

What is a psychologist?

A psychologist is someone that’s professionally trained to recognise and diagnose mental states and behaviour. As a psychologist, you’ll provide treatment to patients in the form of discussion and therapy, that help to get to the root of a patient’s problem and tackle mental health challenges.

What does a psychologist do?

Psychologists play an important role in treating mental disorders, using their expertise and knowledge of how people think and behave, to come up with effective solutions. They focus on treating cognitive, emotional, and social processes and behaviours and some of the ways they do this include:

  • Recognising emotional and behavioural patterns
  • Diagnosing disorders
  • Creating treatment plans
  • Making referrals

Psychologists carry out their work in a range of settings, including private practices, hospitals, schools, nursing homes, and community health centres.

Qualifications for a psychologist

Whilst you don’t necessarily need a psychology-related degree to become a psychologist in the UK, you’ll need to make sure that you have the right qualifications and training. There are several routes to becoming a psychologist, and these include:

Psychology degree at university

Psychology conversion course

  • If your psychology degree is not accredited by the BPS or you have a degree in a subject other than psychology, then you may be able to take a conversion course.

BPS qualification

  • The BPS offers a range of qualifications that help you to gain the correct credentials for your specialism. Once you have completed your specialist further study or training, you can then apply to become a Chartered Member with the BPS.

What are the different types of psychologists? 

A big part of recognising what psychologists do is understanding all the different fields you can specialise in. Below, we’ve listed some of the main types of psychologists and what they’re responsible for. 

  • Clinical Psychologist – Diagnoses and treats people suffering from mental and physical health difficulties. Areas of focus can include anxiety, eating disorders, addiction, and more.
  • Community Psychologist – Focuses on individuals within communities and how they interact. Community psychologists aim to relieve community tensions and issues.
  • Developmental Psychologist – Examines how human minds change from early development through to adult years.
  • Education Psychologist – Looks at psychological approaches to learning and how to make improvements to education.
  • Forensic Psychologist – Studies criminals and crime in general to determine commonalities which may help those working in law.
  • Geropsychologist – Helps older people and their families so that they can get the most out of life as they age.
  • Health Psychologist – Targets physical health as a way of promoting greater overall wellbeing.
  • Neuropsychologist – Studies specific structures and functions of the human brain.
  • Rehabilitation Psychologist – Works with people that are recovering from addiction to help them overcome their issues.
  • Social Psychologist – Looks at how people impact the behaviour of an individual.
  • Sports Psychologist – Helps athletes who struggle with maintaining positive wellbeing when experiencing challenges or suffering from an injury.
  • Transpersonal Psychologist – Investigates spiritual practices and experiences.

Difficult and challenging situations may come about when working as a psychologist. However, the rewarding nature of this career means you’ll have the opportunity to change lives – whether on a personal level with patients or within an area of research. And there is no greater feeling than knowing you’ve made a difference. 

How long does it take to become a psychologist?

This will completely depend on your learning pace and the route you choose to take to becoming a psychologist. Other factors, like the area you want to specialise in and the position you’re applying for, can also have an impact.

The timelines below are a good guide to follow:

  • Gaining a bachelor’s degree from an accredited course can take approximately four years.
  • A master’s degree typically takes two to three years to complete.
  • Doctorate degrees usually require four to seven years of further education.
  • Training and licensing will often take one to two years.

How much do psychologists make?

Factors that will impact how much money you make include the area of psychology you specialise in, how senior you are, and whether you work privately or as part of an organisation.

In the UK, as an estimate, you can expect to earn £39,262 on average per year. However, as a trainee clinical psychologist your salary will start at £32,306, and as a more experienced psychologist you can expect somewhere between £47,126 and £63,862.

In the US you are likely to earn closer to $106,765.

Other notable average salary expectations from around the world include:

How to become a psychologist: additional learning

Hopefully, you now feel a little more clued up on how to become a psychologist, and are one step closer to beginning your journey. Whilst you’ll inevitably face some challenges, seeing your patients make real progress and work towards their goals can give you an unmatched feeling of accomplishment.

At FutureLearn, we offer excellent psychology and mental health courses to assist your studies, so you can be confident that you have all the expertise and knowledge to thrive. Take a look at some of our psychology courses and discover the skills you need to take on new challenges, help people grow, and even learn a few things about yourself.  

Online psychology courses on FutureLearn

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