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Becoming an occupational psychologist
What do occupational psychologists do?
What they do
Occupational psychology is concerned with the performance of people at work and with how individuals, small groups and organisations behave and function. Its aim is to increase the effectiveness of the organisation and improve the job satisfaction of individuals.
The speciality is broader in scope and less formalised than many areas of psychology and it touches on diverse fields, including ergonomics, personnel management and time management. Work can be in advisory, teaching and research roles, and to a lesser extent, in technical and administrative roles.
Where they work
Occupational psychologists often work for large private companies, in government and public services, in management training centres and for private consultancies. They usually work alongside other professionals such as managers, trade union representatives, training offices and specialist staff from the firm or industry concerned. The Civil Service is one of the largest single employers of occupational psychologists. The Prison Service, the Home Office, the Employment Department Group (including the Employment Service), the Ministry of Defence and the Civil Service Commission all employ occupational psychologists.
How do I become one?
To become a Chartered Member of the Society through the occupational psychology training route, you will need the following qualifications:
- Graduate Basis for Chartered Membership (GBC). This is achieved by completing a Society accredited degree or conversion course
- Society accredited Masters in Occupational Psychology or Stage 1 of the Society's Qualification in Occupational Psychology
- Stage 2 of the Society’s Qualification in Occupational Psychology (two years supervised practice)
In order to use the title Occupational Psychologist, you will need to be registered with the Health and Care Professions Council (HCPC). This will involve completing Stage 2 of the Society's Qualification in Occupational Psychology or equivalent qualification that has been approved by the HCPC. Contact the HCPC for more information on the entry requirements for their register.
The universities offering the accredited Masters courses for Occupational Psychology will decide upon the type and nature of experience required. Identify the courses you are interested in and then approach the course tutors directly to see if they can provide you with a profile of the type of experience a successful applicant is likely to have gained.
With the many changes in society, economy and technology, the services of occupational psychologists are increasingly in demand. Opportunities exist in both the public and private sectors although most occupational psychologists are employed in the private sector. Salaries can vary enormously.
Where are jobs advertised?
- In Psychologist Appointments, which is part of The Psychologist, the Society's monthly magazine.
- In national newspapers (e.g. The Times, The Guardian, The Independent)
- In specialist publications from the Civil Service
What if I'm a mature student?
Mature students often ask us if their age will prevent them from succeeding in a psychology career. You can find out more information under the Change of Career section.
What to do with a 2:2?
Admissions tutors will not normally accept graduates with a 2:2 unless they have achieved some higher qualification too. Any psychology Masters degree would be relevant: the main thing is that the MSc demonstrates applied research ability - a taught MSc would be less relevant unless there is a heavy emphasis on research methods.
Courses are looking for evidence that the person has the required academic and research ability. Usually this means an MSc or MPhil in which the candidate has successfully completed an applied research project. Contact the universities directly for more specific information on their entry criteria.
Where do I find out more?
- Accredited Psychology Courses: Contact courses direct for more information about content, entry requirements, application procedure etc.
- The British Psychological Society Division of Occupational Psychology. Access to publications, conferences, and special interest groups and chat rooms with membership.
- Careers resources: Published work covering occupational psychology and other areas of psychology.
- BPS Shop: Find an array of occupational psychology publications through our online shop.
- Contact us: Request form for further specific information.