I’m sure I’m not the only professional psychologist who has to regularly describe what I actually *do* for a living. Despite the best efforts of the British Psychological Society, my experience tells me that a lot of the British public are still unclear as to what psychologists do and how they differ from psychiatrists, psychoanalysts and counsellors. It’s a regular conversation topic when I meet new people at parties and even with some clients, believe it or not.
On top of explaining what I do as a psychologist, I also get asked about the profession by people considering a career change or who have children making career plans for the future. By and large, they are surprised at the amount of work involved. For a start, you need to complete an approved undergraduate psychology degree. The BPS has a standard these courses need to meet andthey keep a list of them online. So it’s worth checking that. Then, you need to complete postgraduate training, the nature of which will depend on the specialism you’re going into.
For clinical training, this can take the form of a three-year doctoral course, including work placements in NHS settings. The same generally holds true for Counselling Psychology and Health Psychology. For Occupational Psychology training, this is usually a one-year MSc course, followed by three or four years of supervised practice to attain Chartered Psychologist status. Some, but not all, occupational psychologists also have doctorate-level qualifications.
Confused about what the different types of psychologist do? Click here for a simple breakdown from the BPS.
Because the training standards for the different specialisms differ, it can be confusing to the public. So in terms of a “quality standard”, you can check if the psychologist has chartered psychologist status (CPsychol) and if they’re registered with the Health Professions Council (HPC).
All in all, training to become a psychologist can take as long as, or even longer than, medicine or dentistry and so represents a significant investment in terms of time and money. I would argue that it’s well worth that investment – it’s an incredibly interesting and rewarding career.
As for what I actually *do* as an occupational psychologist, you can read all about that here.