Choosing a career path in psychologyPosted on: April 14, 2022
by David Diaz
Psychology is a relatively new field of study compared with other scientific disciplines, having only emerged in the 1870s. Despite this, the scope of career options in psychology is wide and varied with psychology career opportunities to be found in many different sectors with good earning potential. To become a practising psychologist, postgraduate qualifications are required, so there’s no quick route to a career in psychology or a single psychology degree that leads to instant qualification.
A Bachelor’s degree (BSc) followed by a Master’s degree (MSc or MPhil) in an area of chosen psychology specialism is the route that most people take to becoming a psychologist. Undergraduate courses and graduate courses must be accredited by the British Psychological Society (BPS).
Common career paths in psychology
There are a wide variety of specialisms in psychology, including:
- Clinical psychology
- Educational psychology
- Psychology research and teaching
- Occupational psychology
- Counselling psychology
- Sports psychology
- Forensic psychology
- Health psychology
Psychology careers: which one is for you?
Many believe that we are experiencing a mental health crisis, which likely already existed but has been exacerbated and brought to light by the global pandemic. There’s increasing evidence that children are experiencing anxiety and depression at a younger age and that this is affecting them in school as well as at home.
Ongoing national and international emergencies are creating a ‘permacrisis’ in which children are exposed to anxieties about the future and have questions. Parents often don’t have the tools to navigate this curiosity about the world and may worry about what is the ‘right’ answer. This can lead to important conversations being shut down, so now more than ever, psychologists are uniquely placed to support society in understanding how to approach difficult subjects in a healthy and meaningful way. Unfortunately, due to the increased demand for mental health services, there is a shortage in professional psychology providers, and the impact of funding cuts in social services and social care are now being felt.
Educational psychologists can help as registered health professionals who are experienced in supporting children and young people in the educational environment. Sometimes these counselling psychologists are referred to as school psychologists. They often support those with learning disabilities, but are providers of therapy to all those who experience an interruption in their learning in school or higher education for whatever reason, from family problems to substance abuse.
Healthcare professionals across the world are experiencing the symptoms of PTSD (post-traumatic stress disorder) and CPTSD (complex post-traumatic stress disorder). Complex PTSD is when numerous traumatic events, sometimes seemingly innocuous or mundane, pile up over months or years rather than one major traumatic event happening from which symptoms can be traced back. The American Psychological Association describes trauma as “an emotional response to a terrible event like an accident, rape or natural disaster.” It’s true that PTSD is often thought of as related to war veterans, refugees, survivors of sexual abuse, and those who have lived through natural disasters. It is, though, increasingly recognised that stressful everyday events such as toxic work environments, abusive relationships, and invasive surgeries can create trauma, especially with long-term or repetitive exposure.
Clinical psychologists can support people in understanding what happened and putting it into perspective. However, it is also increasingly acknowledged in the field of psychology that trauma is held within the body and so somatic therapies can be more effective in aiding with the healing process alongside talk therapy, if required. This has led to books such as Dr Bessel van der Kolk’s The Body Keeps The Score gaining popularity and in this case, remaining at the top of the New York Times bestseller chart for over three years.
Health psychologists are not only in a position to help members of the public cope with managing stress, anxiety, and depression, but also to help their colleagues in the health services, especially first responders and frontline workers.
Organisational psychology is one of the more modern areas of psychology that is gaining traction. Sometimes called organisational psychotherapy, this approaches the mental health of an entire organisation holistically. Human resources teams in all sectors tend to favour business coaching as one of the more ‘acceptable’ interventions for issues between staff members, but it can also be a superficial way of demonstrating professional and personal development. If problems with communication, relationship building, and behaviours are problematic throughout teams, organisational psychologists can help the wider company get along without singling out individual stakeholders.
The practice of a psychologist takes many different forms, from running a practice in the private sector to being a social worker within one of many government agencies. Particular environments also offer job opportunities, such as forensic psychologists who work within the prison system and law enforcement. Sports psychologists work within the growing field of professional sports providing mental health support and motivation to footballers, tennis players, equestrians, and many more in different sports.
Neuropsychologists are concerned with the effects of traumatic brain injury, stroke, toxic and metabolic disorders, tumours, and neurodegenerative diseases. Specifically, their work is dedicated to understanding the links between the brain and human behaviour. They also work with neurodivergence expressed through autism and learning and attention disorders. To become a neuropsychologist requires not just general clinical skills and wide knowledge of mental health problems, but also specialist knowledge in neuroscience. Neuropsychology is a post-qualification discipline, requiring qualification first as a chartered psychologist within the field of clinical or educational psychology.
If remaining within academia is of interest, further study can be carried out as a research psychologist in a related field of specialisation. The work experience and internships that psychology students carry out as part of their undergraduate and postgraduate degrees often help them with the orientation of their doctoral degree and in choosing their preferred form of practice or area of research.
Gain an MSc in Psychology no matter what your undergraduate degree
Don’t have a Bachelor’s degree in psychology? Both psychology graduates and those who hold an undergraduate degree in a different subject are able to apply for a 100% online, part-time Master’s in psychology with the University of Wolverhampton. Find out more today and take the next step towards a career that is both personally and professionally rewarding.