Psychology & Counselling

Psychology & Counselling

What is Psychology?

  • Psychology is the scientific study of all forms of human and animal behaviour.
  • Psychology is an extremely popular degree – after Business degrees, Psychology is the most popular undergraduate degree
  • 1 in 20 graduates who study Psychology at university will go on to become professional psychologists and as such, becoming a professional psychologist is a very competitive process which involves further study and training.
  • A psychology degree is very well viewed by employers because it has both scientific and behavioural content, both of which develop very strong graduate attributes
  • The British Psychological Society has an excellent interactive resources to help you with careers decisions and information

What is Counselling and psychotherapy?

  • Counselling and psychotherapy are umbrella terms that cover a range of talking therapies. They are delivered by trained practitioners who work with people over a short or long term to help them bring about effective change or enhance their wellbeing
  • You can study counselling at postgraduate level, regardless of what you have studied at undergraduate level.

Each section below gives you links to information on specific career areas – work activities, related professional bodies, employers/job search and other relevant information.

Clinical Psychology

Clinical psychology aims to reduce psychological distress and to enhance the promotion of psychological well-being. Clinical psychologists deal with a wide range of mental and physical health problem, including addiction, anxiety, depression, learning difficulties and relationship issues.  They may undertake a clinical assessment to investigate a client’s situation.  Assessment may lead to advice, counselling or therapy.

What is relevant experience?

  • Throughout university, get as much experience as possible with people who need help:  this might include adults or children with learning disabilities, adults with mental health problems, children/teenagers with mental health problems, elderly people with mental health problems or as a research assistant on a clinically relevant project
  • Volunteering can help you gain excellent, relevant experience throughout your time as a student
  • Paid employment in the health and care sectors will also provide relevant experience
  • Research experience – developed research skills are essential to train as a clinical psychologist – consider the CUROP scheme in the School of Psychology (or contact your tutor to see if there is any research work that you can help with on a voluntary basis)

Advice from former students

  • “Take a placement year!”
  • “Do a practical final year project!”
  • “Get as much experience as possible – as varied as possible”
  • “Get a 2.1 or a 1st!”
  • “Be prepared – it’s a long haul…..but it’s definitely worth it!”


Clinical Psychology training diagram










Should you do a masters after qualification? There is no straight yes or no answer to this question, but the following points are worth considering:

  • Research skills are highly sought after on the DClin course.  A Masters qualificaion can be very useful in developing these research skills.
  • In recent years there have been several masters courses in Clinical Psychology introduced.  These are often run by universities that already run a DClin course and they have been set up to train graduates with the skills that help them get onto the DClin.  The best of these courses provide large chunks of work experience – and work experience is vital to gain a place on a DClin course

Educational Psychology

Educational psychologists tackle the problems encountered by young people in education, which may involve learning difficulties and social or emotional problems. They carry out a wide range of tasks with the aim of enhancing children’s learning and enabling teachers to become more aware of the social factors affecting teaching and learning. Reports may be written about children for allocation of special educational places or as part of court proceedings or children’s panels.

Local education authorities employ the majority of educational psychologists. They work in schools, colleges, nurseries and special units, primarily with teachers and parents. They regularly liaise with other professionals in education, health and social services.

The work of an educational psychologist can either be directly with a child (assessing progress, giving counselling) or indirectly (through their work with parents, teachers and other professionals).

Direct work involves some form of assessment to uncover a child’s problem through consultation with professional colleagues, observation, interview or use of test materials. Interventions might plan learning programmes and collaborative work with a teacher. Recommendations are then made to determine the most appropriate educational provision for that child. Indirect work requires consultation and careful discussion, as the psychologist’s contribution needs to be seen as relevant to people who know little about psychology.

Indirect work may involve providing in-service training for teachers & other professionals on issues such as behaviour and stress management.

In their role within a local authority, educational psychologists are often called upon to advise or join working groups concerned with organisation and policy planning. With their research background they are in an ideal and often unique position within the education authority to plan and carry out research activities.

(Source: BPS Website)

Educational Psychology training diagram










Relevant experience/knowledge

The Children’s Workforce Development Council specifies that: “You will need at least one year’s relevant experience of working with children and young people. This can include roles such as assistant educational psychologist, teacher, SEN co-ordinator, classroom/learning assistant or research activity with children and young people. Other relevant experience is also considered”

Candidates need to demonstrate how they have used their qualifications and experiences to prepare themselves to be applied psychologists. Courses will primarily be interested in what applicants have learnt from their experiences that is relevant to work as an educational psychologist, and how they have been able to apply the knowledge gained through first degrees.

Working with children in a school environment is relevant work experience prior to training.  Teaching is, of course, also relevant and qualified teachers may be granted some exemptions on the three-year Doctorates (check with course leaders).

A detailed knowledge and insight into the varied work of an educational psychologist and the work of the wider multidisciplinary team that supports children in their learning and emotional development.


Forensic Psychology

Forensic Psychology is concerned with the psychological aspects of the legal processes in courts. Forensic psychologists apply psychological theory to criminal investigation and consider psychological problems associated with criminal behaviour and the treatment of criminals.

Key areas of work include:

  • Assessment/intervention
  • Training
  • Consultancy
  • Research

Challenges include:

  • Ethical considerations
  • Security considerations
  • Personal responsibility
  • Psychological/emotional impact
  • Balancing risk assessment & interviews
  • Balancing academic & clinical practice

Key tasks undertaken by forensic psychologists may include piloting and implementing treatment programmes; modifying offender behaviour; responding to the changing needs of staff and prisoners; reducing stress for staff and prisoners; providing hard research evidence to support practice; undertaking statistical analysis for prisoner profiling; giving evidence in court; advising parole boards and mental health tribunals; crime analysis.

In the treatment of offenders, forensic psychologists are responsible for the development of appropriate programmes for rehabilitation. They may include anger management, social and cognitive skills training, and treatment for drug and/or alcohol addiction. In the support of prison staff, forensic psychologists may be responsible for the delivery of stress management or training on how to cope with understanding bullying and techniques for hostage negotiation.

(source: BPS website)

The National Offender Management Service (NOMS)(HM Prison Service & Probation Service) is the single largest forensic psychology employer in the UK.  NOMS currently funds trainees through to registration – need to be qualified to Masters level to be eligible. However, forensic psychologists can also be employed in the NHS (including rehabilitation units and secure hospitals), the Social Service Police, and in university departments or in private consultancy.

Forensic Psychology training diagram



























Relevant work experience

  • Experience with disadvantaged children who are at risk of offending.
  • Experience of working with Youth Offending Teams.
  • Working with voluntary organisations to stop crime.
  • Working in the voluntary sector with offenders or victims. For example: working with the National Association for the Care and Resettlement of Offenders (NACRO), in bail hostels, refuges, drug and alcohol treatment centres or with victim support groups.
  • Experience of working with people experiencing substance misuse problems (the assumption being that drug addiction leads to crime in many cases).
  • Working in secure units with people who have committed crimes.
  • Working in a prison – voluntary or paid.
  • Students can start gaining this experience throughout university through voluntary schemes run by the Students’ Union.


Occupational/Organisational Psychology

Occupational/Organisational Psychology is:

  • Working for large organisations alongside other professional human resources staff to assess and improve work performance, motivation and the effectiveness of the organisation.
  • Working for Occupational/Organisational Psychology consultancies, occupational psychologists involved in selection, assessment and personality testing for other large companies. They could also be involved in the cultural changes in an organisation, training and development, teamwork or communication skills.
  • Occupational Psychology consultancies also work with organisations by conducting audits to monitor factors such as stress and motivation amongst staff, analysing data and making recommendations for organisational change. Possible projects you might be engaged in:-
    • Understanding personality.
    • Understanding how individuals are different.
    • Investigating different models to measure intelligence.
    • Looking at group dynamics (originally team building).
    • Looking at potential – how do you measure this?
    • Leadership behaviour and competency framework.
    • Habit formation – developing & coaching individuals.
  • Working for the Employment Service helping job seekers who are often excluded from the workplace e.g. those with disabilities or mental health problems.

Key points

  • There is more to becoming an Occupational/Organisational Psychologist than doing the MSc straight after graduation.
  • You may be expected to work with senior management in businesses, and/or design selection questionnaires or assessment and training programmes for organisations. Thus, previous experience in a commercial environment is essential in most cases. See below for types of experience that it will be useful to get.
  • It is well worth considering a Placement Training Year with the School of Psychology. Each year, several students take a year’s placement within an occupational psychology organisation. This will be excellent experience for any future Occupational Psychology graduate training positions and for gaining entry onto the very competitive masters courses where often a year’s experience is essential.
  • Becoming a member of the BPS and joining the Division of Occupational Psychology will give you a useful insight into the role. As a member you can also have access to a list of registered Occupational Psychologists which will help you with networking and applications. You will also receive the publication “Journal of Occupational and Organisational Psychology”.


Occupational Organisational Psychology training diagram










There are 23 courses in Occupational/Organisational Psychology in the UK  accredited by the BPS.  Accreditation of courses means that the six core elements for the first level of chartered status to work as an Occupational Psychologist are met. As more than 100 courses have the title Occupational or Organisational psychology, look carefully to see that the course you are applying to is approved by the BPS for accreditation towards chartership in occupational psychology.

Masters first v experience first? There is no obvious answer to this and it can depend very much on the individual experience and circumstances of the applicant.

Relevant experience (before and after graduation, before embarking on an MSc)

  • Taking a placement training year (PTY) in an occupational psychology organisation
  • Work in personnel or human resources
  • Work in sales or marketing
  • Any graduate level employment in the commercial sector, where you will gain an understanding of how business works
  • Work in the Civil Service (specifically if you want to become an Occupational Psychologist in the Employment Service)


Related links

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Getting started

Professional bodies

Employers and vacancy sources