University & Degrees

Different types of psychologists, what they do and how to become them!

3 min
November 16, 2021
There are loads of careers available in psychology; in this article, we’re going to break down what they are, what they do and how to get there! Let’s dive in! First of all…

What does a psychologist do? 

There are loads of different types of psychologists - so it can be tricky to explain, but generally, psychologists seek to understand and explain emotions, thoughts and behaviour. Depending on the field/area, psychologists use various techniques such as observation, assessment, and experimentation to develop theories that attempt to explain why people do what they do. Psychologists can also be tasked with administering personality, performance, aptitude, or intelligence tests.

Some psychologists work in more of a freelance capacity, performing research or working exclusively with patients or clients. Others work in a more clinical setting as part of a healthcare team, collaborating with physicians, social workers and healthcare professionals to identify, diagnose and treat illness.

A psychologist will: 

  • Conduct studies to understand human behaviour and brain function
  • Collect information through observations, interviews, surveys and tests
  • Work with individuals, couples, and families to help them make positive changes 
  • Identify and diagnose behavioural, mental or emotional disorders
  • Cooperate with physicians and social workers to help treat patients
  • Develop and carry out treatment plans
  • Find patterns that will help understand and predict behaviour

How to become a psychologist

Many people don't realise that doing a psychology degree doesn't mean you are a psychologist, for that you have to do further training. It will take a minimum of six years to become a fully qualified psychologist, which includes a three-year degree and three years of postgraduate training. To become a psychologist, you'll need: 

  • A British Psychological Society (BPS) accredited psychology degree
  • Graduate Basis for Chartered Membership, this is achieved by completing a BPS approved course 
  • An accredited postgraduate qualification in your chosen specialism.

Once you have a psychology degree, you can then specialise in an area of your choosing which may require further training/study. 

What does a forensic psychologist do?

We’ve always been interested in why people do bad things. It’s been the inspiration for countless TV shows, films and books, but it’s not all Criminal Minds BAU! Forensic psychology is a fairly new field of work which means its applications are constantly growing. Forensic psychologists work with all aspects of the criminal justice system, from police forces to parole boards and offenders themselves. More specifically, forensic psychologists could:

  • Give competency evaluations of suspects awaiting trial
  • Provide sentencing recommendations based on the suspect's mental health
  • Evaluate  the risk of reoffending and rehabilitation potential
  • Testimony as an expert witness
  • Teach in a university setting
  • Conduct research on criminality and the justice system
  • Diagnose and treat offenders for mental health conditions
  • Act as a consultant to help with jury selection, witness preparation, or legal strategies
  • Design correctional and rehabilitation programmes.

How to become a forensic psychologist

To become an accredited Forensic Psychologist, you'll need:

  • A British Psychological Society (BPS) accredited psychology degree or an accredited postgraduate conversion course if your degree is not BPS-accredited
  • A BPS-accredited Masters in forensic psychology
  • Stage 2 of the BPS qualification - a minimum of two years of supervised practice at applying forensic psychology. 

Once you complete Stage 2 or the Doctorate in forensic psychology, you'll be able to register for chartered status and full membership of the BPS Division of forensic psychology.

To practice as a Forensic Psychologist in the UK, you must also be registered with the Health and Care Professions Council (HCPC).

What does a clinical psychologist do?

Clinical psychology is one of the largest areas within psychology. It primarily focuses on assessment, diagnosis, validation, and treatment of mental health conditions and psychological challenges. Psychologists practising in this area usually work in clinical (health) or counselling services, and they help support individuals with mental health conditions that range from mild to severe.

Clinical psychologists provide a wide range of psychological services to individuals across all age groups, with many specialising in working with children or adults. In addition to working with individuals and groups, clinical psychologists may also undertake research, teach or supervise PhDs. 

Clinical psychologists have skills in three core areas:

  1. Assessment and diagnosis: clinical psychologists are trained in assessing and diagnosing mental illnesses and psychological problems
  2. Treatment: clinical psychologists use various therapies to treat mental health disorders and develop individual treatment plans.
  3. Teaching and learning: research and teaching are both vital components of being a clinical psychologist. Clinical psychologists are usually also involved in the design and implementation of treatment strategies in various settings and evaluating the outcomes of those programmes to be replicated to help more people.

How to become a clinical psychologist

To become an accredited Clinical Psychologist, you'll need:

  • A British Psychological Society (BPS) accredited psychology degree
  • Graduate Basis for Chartered Membership, this is achieved by completing a BPS approved course 
  • A BPS accredited doctorate in clinical psychology.

To practise as a clinical psychologist in the UK, you must be registered with the Health & Care Professions Council (HCPC), which involves training at the doctorate level.

What’s next? 

Now that you know more about what psychologists do and what it takes to become one, are you interested? Start your journey into the world of psychology by completing some virtual work experience. You’ll get to test your knowledge and question the experts! 

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