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What is psychology?

Discover what psychology is, the different types of psychology, and explore the career options in this field.

Psychologists think about what's going on in your head

Why do you think, behave and feel the way you do? How does that affect your memory, the way you communicate and your ability to complete tasks?

Psychology - the study of the mind and behaviour – tries to get to the bottom of questions like these.

Psychology applies sound scientific methodology to understand why people act the way that they do. We can then use that knowledge and understanding to address real-world issues.

Psychology is everywhere

Psychology is at work all around you in your everyday life.

Did you know that the time of factory workers' tea breaks is all down to psychology?

So too is the reason cash machines give you your card back before your money – and why celebrities are so regularly used in adverts.

Psychologists inform how we investigate crimes, teach our children and support people with emotional, psychological, behavioural and neurological conditions.

Psychology is also at work on a much larger scale. Psychologists are playing a role in the fight against climate change and are involved in developing artificial intelligence.

Find out more about the history of psychology and how this has shaped our world.

What types of psychology are there?

Clinical Psychology

Clinical Psychology involves the study and assessment of a wide range of mental and physical health problems, including addiction, anxiety, depression, learning difficulties and relationship issues, using a variety of methods such as psychometric tests, interviews and direct observation.

View the Clinical psychologist job profile.

Coaching Psychology

Coaching Psychology is the scientific study of behaviour, cognition and emotion to deepen our understanding of individuals' and groups' performance, achievement and wellbeing, and to enhance practice within coaching.

Coaching psychologist job profile coming soon.

Counselling Psychology

Counselling Psychology involves a range of life issues including bereavement, domestic violence, sexual abuse, traumas, and relationship issues, working with an individual's unique subjective psychological experience to empower their recovery and alleviate distress.

View the Counselling psychologist job profile.

Educational and Child Psychology

Educational and Child Psychology looks at how children and young people experience life within the context of their school and home environment and how different factors in these environments interact with each other.

View the Educational psychologist job profile.

Forensic Psychology

Forensic Psychology involves working with people who have been affected by crime or other legal systems (e.g. family courts), while also exploring and understanding offending behaviour, the factors associated with the risk of further offending, and potential opportunities for recovery and rehabilitation.

View the Forensic psychologist job profile.

Health Psychology

Health Psychology focuses on studying the psychological processes underlying health, illness and health care. Health Psychology applies these findings to the promotion and maintenance of health, the analysis and improvement of the health care system, the prevention of illness and disability, and the enhancement of outcomes for those who are ill or disabled.

View the Health psychologist job profile.


Neuropsychology looks at the structure-function relationships in the living brain, their development across the lifespan, and the impact and potential for rehabilitation following a brain injury or other neurological disease.

View the Neuropsychologist job profile.

Occupational Psychology

Occupational Psychology focuses on the performance of people at work and how individuals, small groups and larger organisations behave and function. Its aim is to both increase workplace efficiency and improve the job satisfaction of workers.

View the Occupational psychologist job profile.

Sport & Exercise Psychology

Sport & Exercise Psychology is primarily concerned with the application of psychology to increase exercise participation and motivational levels in the general public, while also studying the factors which influence performance and behaviour of athletes during competition and training.

View the Sport & Exercise psychologist job profile.

Other paths in psychology

Wider Psychological Workforce

The Wider Psychological Workforce is made up of professionals who are working in psychological practitioner and applied psychology roles that are not regulated by law. The growth of this workforce is integral to the future of the NHS and is an initiative in relation to The NHS Long Term Workforce Plan.

Our Wider Psychological Workforce (WPW) Register lets you search for professionals within the following roles:

Wellbeing Practitioner roles

  • Psychological Wellbeing Practitioner (PWP) - registration open
  • Children's Wellbeing Practitioner (CWP)
  • Education Mental Health Practitioner (EMHP)

Associate Psychology roles

  • Clinical Associate in Applied Psychology (CAAP) Scotland
  • Clinical Associate in Psychology (CAP)

Teaching and academia

The Division of Academics, Researchers, and Teachers in Psychology promotes the professional interests of psychologists who teach and/or conduct research, whether in a university, school, college or any other academic environment.

View the Academia, teaching and research job profile.

Begin your career in psychology

Are you thinking about pursuing a career in psychology? Find out how you can get started wherever you are in your education or read more about different career options in psychology.

You can also take a look at the latest psychology roles on Jobs in Psychology.