Health psychologist job profile
Health psychology is primarily concerned with people’s experiences of health and illness.
Learn more about this career path
Health psychologists use their knowledge of psychology and health to promote general well-being and understand physical illness.
They are specially trained to help people deal with the psychological and emotional aspects of health and illness as well as supporting people who are chronically ill.
Health psychologists promote healthier lifestyles and try to find ways to encourage people to improve their health. For example, they may help people to lose weight or stop smoking.
Health psychologist also use their skills to try to improve the healthcare system. For example, they may advise doctors about better ways to communicate with their patients.
Health psychologists are employed in a number of settings, such as hospitals and community health settings, health research units, local authorities, public health departments and university departments. Consultancy companies may also employ health psychologists to provide expertise such as training, research or intervention skills.
They may deal with problems identified by health care agencies (including NHS Trusts and health authorities) or by patients themselves.
This is in addition to working alongside other medical professionals such as GP’s, nurses, dieticians, surgeons and rehabilitation therapists. Health psychologists may also deal with organisations and employees outside the health care system.
In universities, Health Psychologists are employed in lecturing, supervision and research roles in a range of departments including; Psychology, Medicine, Nursing, Pharmacy, Dentistry and Health Services Research.
Health psychologists may not necessarily stay with the same type of employer. An individual may move from a university to applied practice, and vice versa. There may also be joint appointments between universities and health services or units. Some health psychologists may also take on consultancy work, either for an employer, or on a self-employed basis.
Regardless of setting, all members of the Society should follow the guidance within the society's Code of Ethics and Conduct, (and if they are HCPC registered then they are bound by the policies of the HCPC), and should ensure they have access to adequate supervision and professional indemnity insurance.
To become a Chartered Member of the society through the health 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
Plus one of the following 'Stage 2', doctoral-level qualifications:
- The society's Qualification in Health Psychology Stage 2 (QHP Stage 2)
- A society accredited Doctorate in Health Psychology
In Scotland, an NHS-funded Stage 2 training scheme employs a number of Trainee Health Psychologists each year.
This enables Chartership through the society’s Qualification in Health Psychology.
Currently, there is not an equivalent funded Stage 2 training scheme for the rest of the UK, however, some institutions and funding bodies do offer Trainee Health Psychologist roles or funding for training.
In order to use the title Health 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 Health 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 in Health Psychology will decide upon the type and nature of experience, if required.
First you should 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 will have gained.
Professional Doctorates will generally require you to have access to suitable opportunities for placements, and some courses will require you to have these arranged before you enrol.
NHS-funded Stage 2 training places may require you to have a number of years experience working in relevant areas such as working with people with physical health problems, supporting people to make lifestyle changes, population-based interventions, or undertaking research and evaluation.
Work experience can be from either paid or voluntary roles, and may come from a variety of settings including hospitals, pharmacies, and community care settings. Relevant experience could include contact with patients, an understanding of healthcare professions and providers, health service evaluation or training staff. Other skills such as time management, communication and knowledge of research methodology are also invaluable for postgraduate study. It is also worth considering the type of work you might want to do after you have qualified, and look for relevant work experience that will support you with this goal.
If you are interested in volunteering, the following websites may help:
Some psychologists may be willing for trainees to shadow them. You can contact local psychologists by searching the society’s directory of Chartered Psychologists.
Students and trainees should receive supervision from an appropriately experienced qualified Health Psychologist, either in their place of employment or through their training course. If this is not available, students should seek appropriate supervision through the Division of Health Psychology.
In the NHS, all applied Psychologists are employed on the same grades. A newly qualified Health Psychologist enters the NHS at band 7. Progression to band 8a should occur a few years after qualification.
Progression through the NHS grades is typically achieved through being appointed to new roles. Band 8b roles should start to provide you with more opportunities to develop your skills to become a Consultant level Health Psychologist, which is typically after 6 or more years of practice.
Posts go up to band 9 for Heads of Psychology Services, with bands 8c and 8d representing Consultant Health Psychologist levels.
The BPS has a National Assessor scheme, which supports organisations to interview and decide when a Psychologist has the skills and experience to achieve Consultant level of practice. Details of the most recent salary scales can be found on the NHS Careers website.
Research and lecturer contracts are frequently paid on University Academic and Related Staff Scales. Details of typical salary scales can be found on the University and College Union website.
Jobs advertisements may be found in the following locations:
- Jobs.ac.uk - Academic, research and science jobs
- Local authority websites
- Charity websites
- The national press
- Specialist publications from the Health Service Journal and Department of Health website
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.
What funding is available?
Some MSc courses offer bursaries; see individual course websites or contact course directors for details.
An NHS-funded Stage 2 training scheme in Scotland employs a number of Trainee Health Psychologists each year.
There are a number of websites that offer information about postgraduate funding. A few examples are listed below:
- Association of Commonwealth Universities (ACU)
- DirectGov - Funding your postgraduate course
- Postgraduate Studentships
- Prospects - Funding my further study
- Economic and Social Research Council