Your Career Change: How to Become A Psychologist is the third guide in our Career Change series. We put the spotlight on a career and how to transition into it. In this guide, you’ll discover the benefits of changing careers to become a psychologist and the steps you need to take to make the switch.
We are currently in the midst of a mental health pandemic. According to Mind, 1 in 4 people will go through some kind of mental health problem each year in England. With an increasing number of people requiring the support of a psychologist, there is no better time to make a career change to psychology.
Many career changers may feel like becoming a psychologist later in life is an impossible task. It’s well-known that psychology is an academic profession that requires extensive training. However, it is absolutely possible to make the switch at any stage of your career. Studies show that 1 in 3 UK workers is over 50 and this figure is expected to grow by 1 million by 2025. Therefore, changing careers to psychology may be more achievable than you think.
We break down everything you need to know about becoming a psychologist and the benefits of retraining for a career in psychology later in life.
Should I Make a Career Change To Psychology?
Starting a new career in psychology can be a thrilling and rewarding new challenge, but that doesn’t mean it’s the right career path for everyone. Psychology is a demanding profession so it’s crucial that you weigh up the advantages and disadvantages before making the switch.
- A career change is a fresh challenge and chance to grow both personally and professionally
- Psychology is a rewarding career where you can make a real difference
- It provides you with the opportunity to work with people from a diverse range of life experiences, cultures, and age groups
- Psychology spans a wide range of topics, allowing you to specialise in your area of choice
- There is high demand for psychologists
- It’s a well-respected career path with good earning potential
- Psychology is an emotionally demanding career
- You will need to go back to school to retrain as a Psychologist. Psychology training courses are intensive and demand a lot of hard work and dedication
- Going back to education is a financial strain
- Training as a professional counsellor training takes three to five years to reach the diploma or degree level. To obtain the qualification, you must complete a minimum number of client hours during your work placement
- You will need to put in long hours as you start a career in Psychology which isn’t always a good fit for older workers with family commitments
The best way to find out if a career in psychology is right for you is to speak to professionals in the industry. Lean on your network and make connections with practising psychologists to ask for their advice. In particular, try to speak to professionals who have made a career change to psychology and learn about the process.
You may also be able to gain experience and an insider’s view of the profession through volunteering with a mental health charity or looking for an adult internship.
How To Become a Psychologist: What Skills Do I Need?
To successfully make the transition to psychology, you will need to develop your skill set. As a clinical psychologist, your duties will include:
- Assessing clients using psychometric testing, interviews, and observations
- Liaising with other professionals such as social workers and psychiatrists
- Assign and monitor treatment programmes for your clients
- Carry out applied research
- Write legal reports and keep detailed client notes
- Monitor the progress of clients and adapt treatment as necessary
- Consult on multidisciplinary teams
Unless you have previous work experience in a similar field, you will need to hone these skills during your retraining. Fortunately, as a career changer, you have a well-developed set of transferable skills and life experiences that will facilitate the switch.
Generally speaking, psychologists are excellent communicators, empathetic, and have creative problem-solving skills. Here are some other key skills you will need to develop:
- Critical thinking
- Research and analytical skills
- Teamwork and collaboration
- Ability to work in high-pressure situations
- Negotiation and mediation skills
- High attention to detail
- Excellent interpersonal skills
Most clinical psychologists are also expected to have a valid driving licence and strong IT skills.
For many career changers, the pivot can seem overwhelming. Imposter syndrome sets in and it may seem like an impossible task. Our advice is to stay positive and don’t underestimate your skill set. You may have more transferable skills and experience than you give yourself credit for. Browse our confidence tips if you need a boost.
It’s also worth bearing in mind that older workers and career changers are huge assets for employers. So, focus on your skills and break the transition process down into manageable steps to avoid getting overwhelmed.
Your Career Change: How To Become a Psychologist
Is it your dream to be a clinical psychologist but you don’t know where to start? We break down everything you need to know on how to become a psychologist.
1. Research Available Funding Options
Making a career change to psychology comes with a financial implication. While you are paid during your training, you will need to pay for your studies. For those who are unable to self-fund, you may qualify for funding or financial assistance.
Check the gov.uk website for more information on student funding options available to you.
2. Get Qualified
To work as a psychologist in the UK, you will need to obtain the following:
- A 3-year bachelor’s degree in psychology, accredited by the British Psychological Society (BPS)
- A 3-year postgraduate doctorate in Clinical Psychology (BPS accredited)
Since competition for postgraduate spots is fierce, you will usually need a first or upper 2:1 in your degree to qualify. In addition, you will need to provide evidence of outstanding research skills and relevant work experience.
If you are a career changer with a degree in a different field, you may be required to first complete a BPS-accredited psychology conversion course.
In the UK, all clinical psychologists must be registered with the Health & care Professions Council (HCPC). To become registered, you will need to obtain a Doctorate in Clinical Psychology.
Finally, all clinical psychologists must have an enhanced Disclosure and Barring Service (DBS) check.
Throughout your training, you will be employed by the NHS. As such, you will receive a salary, starting at £32,306. The training programme entails a blend of academic and practical components, such as clinical placements.
Once you have successfully completed your degree and Doctorate, you are eligible to apply for HCPC registration and chartered status with the BPS.
3. Gain Relevant Work Experience
Most Doctorate courses require applicants to complete a minimum of 12 months of work experience. You will usually receive advice from your course provider on how to gain the necessary experience. For instance, many Doctorate courses look favourably on candidates with experience as an assistant psychologist in the NHS or clinically-oriented research.
There are other channels for gaining work experience. For example, you could look for work as a nursing assistant, mental health worker, healthcare assistant, or psychological well-being practitioner. Some applicants may even consider volunteering to gain the experience they need.
Work experience should be directly relevant to the field of clinical psychology.
4. Update Your CV
After you have completed your retraining as a psychologist, you are able to look for employment. Clinical psychologists in the UK are typically employed by the NHS. This could be in a range of locations, including hospitals, social services, prisons, community mental health teams, or psychiatric units.
Alternatively, you could look for career opportunities in a private practice or as a self-employed psychologist. Here are some of the best sites to check for job roles in psychology:
Before you begin the job hunt, you will need to first update your CV. Start by removing any irrelevant details and showcasing new qualifications and work experience. We suggest focusing on pertinent valuable transferable skills and how you can apply them in your new career. If you are worried you lack experience, a skills-based CV is a great way to spotlight skills and experience even if you come from a completely different background.
Do you need assistance reworking your CV? Our comprehensive guide on writing a career change CV offers advice on how to optimise your CV for job-seeking success.
The advantages of changing careers can be monumental. As the UK workforce grows older and retirement rates continue to rise, it’s never too late to pursue your dream career. Changing careers to psychology is an opportunity to embark on a new and rewarding adventure. Plus, demand is high for psychologists as the mental health crisis rages on.
Starting a new career in the world of psychology gives you the opportunity to make an impact on your clients in a well-respected field. That said, a career change to psychology is not the right move for everybody. To make sure it’s the right career path for you, we recommend doing your research thoroughly and speaking to professionals in the field. They will be able to provide you with guidance, recommendations, and advice on the retraining process.
Once you are certain it’s the right choice for you, you will need to retrain and update your CV. It will take you years to gain your full qualifications, but the sooner you begin the sooner you will qualify.
Be sure to check our dedicated career change jobs board regularly to find career opportunities in psychology near you. We have everything from NHS jobs for ex-teachers to jobs for good communicators.
For more information on changing careers, browse our career change support and resources.