Psychology Careers – The Training and Qualifications Needed to Become a Psychologist in the UK

Psychology is a people based science – the science of mind and behaviour. It is one of the most challenging of professional careers and offers a wide variety of specialities and types of practise.

Psychology is one of the most popular university degree subjects, and the critical thinking and scientific analysis skills it provides means that a university graduate with a psychology degree can apply their skills to, and find employment in a wide range of non psychology related jobs.

Psychology Degree Entry Requirements

If you are looking to complete a university degree in psychology it is essential you check that the relevant body – Health Professions Council and/or British Psychological Society, accept it as an accredited qualification.

This usually means a starting with single honours degree in psychology, completion of which confers eligibility for Graduate Basis for Chartered Membership of the British Psychological Society.

Places on psychology undergraduate degree courses are sought after and the A level grades / points needed for entry are usually quite high. Although an A Level in psychology is not always required, you should check with the university to which you are applying – most will specify at least one science A Level since the content of a psychology degree is highly science oriented and an ability to grasp the scientific method and the underpinning mathematical and statistical concepts is essential.

Completing an A Level in psychology is, however, a good way to show that you have some understanding of, exposure to and affection for the subject. Consequently your choice of psychology degree will be better informed.

When you come to apply for a Masters degree / Professional Doctorate in your chosen area, a 2.1 in your psychology degree will be the likely minimum requirement – even a first class honours degree for very popular courses. Again, competition for places on postgraduate psychology degree courses can be intense s0 some relevant work experience is almost compulsory.

You should also keep checking that the university route you choose will ultimately confer eligibility for entry onto the Health Professions Council HPC register. A Post graduate PhD degree, for instance, will not, as it is a research rather than a practitioner degree.

Legal Regulation of Psychologists in the UK

On 1 July 2009 the Health Professions Council (HPC) became the statutory regulator for practitioner psychologists and opened the psychology section of their Register. The Health Professions Council provides a code of conduct which members of the register must abide by.

There are numerous other prefixes which psychologists may use which are not legally recognised or protected such as business psychologist, child psychologist, criminal psychologist, social psychologist, cognitive psychologist, consumer psychologist or animal psychologist, but these terms are not legally protected and there is nothing illegal in a person using one these titles.

The advantage of using a psychologist who appears on the register is that you can have faith in their qualifications and standards of professional conduct. If using a psychologist, it is wise to check the nature of their professional qualifications and status.

Practitioner Psychologists treat, practise or deal with members of the public and are regulated under the Health Professions Council. Non-practitioner Psychologists do not have to be Health Professions Council registered, and so cannot use one of the HPC Protected titles.

Entry onto the appropriate section of Health Professions Council (HPC) register allows you to use one of the following legally protected titles -

Clinical psychologist
Counselling psychologist
Educational psychologist
Forensic psychologist
Health psychologist
Occupational psychologist
Sport and Exercise psychologist

It is necessary to be registered with the HPC to practise in the UK under any of these titles. All psychologists who are on the HPC register may additionally use the titles Practitioner Psychologist and Registered Psychologist.

The single term psychologist, and any other prefix other than those listed above, can be used by anyone, whether qualified or not. If using a psychologist, it is wise to check the nature of their professional status.

Teaching and Research in Psychology

In theory, you don’t need any qualifications in psychology to teach it! One does not need to be a Registered Psychologist with the Health Professions Council to teach psychology, since teaching psychology is not actually the same as practising psychology. This can be quite common at A Level where the tutor may be a qualified teacher rather than a qualified psychologist.

However, at university degree level this would be a rare situation and many university psychology lecturers are at a minimum Chartered Psychologists, even though they may not be qualified to use one of the protected titles as their work is is essentially academic in nature and they do not practise with members of the public.

At university, teachers at psychology degree level not only teach, but also have an active research role as well, and are expected to regularly publish the results of their research. Their training may be purely academic (e.g. research PhD based) rather than practitioner based. Psychology students studying for a postgraduate research degree, such as MPhil or PhD, in a university will often also work as a research or teaching assistant.

However, many university based psychologists, especially those involved in the postgraduate training of Practitioner Psychologists, also work as Practitioner Psychologists in their own right, and so are registered with the Health Professions Council (HPC).

Psychology research is not the sole preserve of universities. Many HPC registered Practitioner Psychologists also carry out their own research to inform and support their own professional practise.

Professional Bodies for Psychologists

The British Psychological Society states its aims as setting standards of training and practice in psychology, raising public awareness of psychology, and increasing the influence of psychology practice in society.

Originally, the British Psychological Society was a ‘learned body’, but gradually took on a voluntary regulatory function. Until Psychologists became regulated by the Health Professions Council in 2009, the British Psychological Society was the only regulatory body for psychologists in the UK. Although even then membership was non-compulsory and any non-member could still use any of the (now) protected titles. One has to be a Chartered member of the British Psychological Society to use the title Chartered Psychologist.

The BPS also has a number of specialist divisions, full membership of which currently allows immediate entry onto the relevant part of the Health Professions Council Register.

In summary – to use a protected title and practise in one of the protected areas, entry onto the Health Professions Council register is essential. The qualifications required to gain entry onto the Health Professions Council Register are stipulated, approved and in some cases awarded by the British Psychological Society. This is likely to change in the future as the Health Professions Council begins to accredit courses directly – it will then be possible to apply for entry onto the register without having to join the BPS at all.

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How to Find A Psychologist

Once in a while we are asked why we call our selves ‘Private or Independently Practising Psychologists, therefore I thought I would spend some time to explain this for EzineArticle readers:

Similar to Doctors, you’ll discover a variety of psychologists, some work with a government organisation just like the NHS along with other working individually (or both) but they need to feel the same rigorous training schedule to obtain the title of ‘Chartered Clinical Psychologist’.

Chartered Clinical psychologists can cope with an in depth scope of concerns for example stress, anxiety, relationship problems, depression, learning disabilities, family problems and may also specialise in areas for example education, dyslexia etc. In addition to clinical psychologists, you’ll discover educational psychologists, Neuropsychologists (who identify injuries associated with your brain), Occupational psychologists (the kind seen in Corporations frequently during the time of recruitment and redundancy), Forensic psychologists (who help with the court proceedings in the court, criminal behavior, etc.), Sport psychologists (although rarer, they use they and them psychologically focused), and finally Health psychologists (helping people to give up smoking, alcohol, drugs as well as altering the way in which people look at illness or their own health) these psychologists made a decision at the outset of their careers to think about a particular path/speciality.

Private psychologists can sometimes get more versatility inside their approach in comparison to public sector employed psychologists, it isn’t that they’re missing any qualifications, however their time is seriously restricted regularly to tight structural programs. However, When you’re paying for a private psychologist you will probably be seen in your time scale and treated at your convenience inside your environment or school, home or workplace.

Sometimes you will find special cases that you want more sensitivity, clients that need more participation, and that level of involvement is some thing that you should be always hopefully experiencing from private psychologists. From time to time, one does not wish to be very straight forward or direct with just any clinical psychologist and so you can take things at a pace you are comfortable with by visiting a familiar private psychologist..

A HPC registered ‘Chartered Psychologist’ wouldn’t risk supplying details about patients or breaking their trust as it can certainly have lots of implications on their own reliability as well as their status.

Now you know the different kinds of psychologists there are, let’s move on to how to find a psychologist. Psychologists probably won’t be difficult to find, however you need to be mindful of their level of qualification and ensure they have the correct indemnify insurances and HPC registration etc. You may research with The British Psychological Society as they have a whole listing of chartered psychologists and you can enter information like the kind of problem (broadly speaking of course) you have, plus your location and you will receive a list of names that you could go to. Also you can ask your family doctor to refer a psychologist to you, you can even ask your friends and family (there is no need to be shy about it, a lot of people visit the psychologist for one reason or the other). You can even ask the psychology department of your school or university and even your school or your child’s school for the matter!

Most Chartered clinical Psychologists possess a broad spectrum of training, they can refer you to other professionals or they might specialise in your concerns. Yes – there are costs involved unlike GP referrals, however these costs are small when your well-being or your family’s is under concern. Waiting 1-10 months to see somebody can sometimes be detrimental or unnecessary.

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Continuing Education Psychologists Need

Being in the field of psychology necessitates knowledge in a variety of areas. Continuing education psychologists need is often required for them to keep their license if they have a clinical practice. If you are in this field you may even be a teacher. Much of the knowledge gained with a psychology degree is very important for teachers.

If you are a teacher with a degree in the field of psychology then you are not likely to be required to take the same type of continuing education psychologists are required to have. This does not mean that you as a teacher should ignore expanding your knowledge. The school where you work may require some continued learning anyway. Being a teacher is a field that necessitates a broad range of knowledge even if you are only teaching one subject.

Even though you may already have a psychology degree, as a teacher it would not hurt to learn even more in this field. Working with kids can do a number on the brain of a teacher. It is important for a teacher to really understand his or her students and the age group that they are teaching. Knowing the different stages of how students think will help you a great deal as a teacher. Courses in continuing education psychologists need might be a benefit to you as a teacher as well.

Taking these courses will also look good on your resume in case you decide to change directions in your career. You could have the opportunity to become a social worker, counselor, or even a psychologist. The more courses that you have under your belt in this field, the better it will look to prospective employers.

As a teacher, you should also be reading all of the time. You could do some of this reading in topics of psychology to help you have more insight into your students. Some institutes that offer courses in continuing education psychologists use may also offer a magazine with topics in psychology and even in other topics that pertain to what you need to learn. Getting a subscription to one of these magazines may be helpful for you so that you do not have to necessarily take a course.

If you think you are too busy for extra courses, you may be right. Teachers can be very busy with making tests, grading papers, as well as having the extra-curricular activities that often come up. If you do have an hour a day though that is free, you probably have time for an online class. You might not even have to do an hour a day. You might have more time in one day, and you may be able to put in more time during that day.

Whatever the case, as a teacher, you should keep learning. Your students will appreciate it, and they will respect you for being knowledgeable in your subject matter as well as in how to deal with them.

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