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Where to start

There are a range of roles in the psychological professions, all delivering support for patients in different ways and with different entry and training routes. Some will require a British Psychological Society accredited undergraduate degree or postgraduate conversion course whereas others are open to those from a range of degree disciplines. For information about counselling and psychotherapy check the relevant A-Z page.

Psychological professions fall into two broad categories, chartered psychologists and psychological practitioners. Chartered Psychologists work in one of nine specialisms (Academic research & teaching, Health, Clinical, Counselling, Sport and Exercise, Educational, Occupational, Forensic, and Neuropsychology) and their job title is legally recognised and awarded by the British Psychological Society upon completion of postgraduate level training set out by the BPS. Find out more about these specialisms and the specific training on the British Psychological Society’s careers pages.

Psychological practitioners work closely with chartered psychologists and use different therapeutic models to provide mental health support or therapy to people in clinical and community settings. Most have a specified entry route via trainee positions, during which you will be supported to develop your practice and complete relevant qualifications. Many have progression routes to further training e.g. as a High Intensity Therapist or Clinical Psychologist. Learn more about practitioner roles and their entry requirements by exploring the NHS job profiles:

How to know if you’re suited to this sector

For any role in psychology you need to be empathetic, able to build rapport and have well developed listening and communication skills. You will also need to be confident in exploring difficult aspects of a person’s life, and able to be non-judgemental regardless of a person’s actions or circumstances.

How to get the experience to be credible

Exposure to the potential patients/client groups that you’d like to work with will help you to decide whether a career in Psychology or a related profession is for you.

Work experience is highly valued when applying for both entry level roles and postgraduate study. If you are considering training as a Chartered Psychologist, some courses will particularly look for experience gained as an Assistant Psychologist.

Alternative opportunities include paid or volunteer work in hospitals, care homes, and in the education sector. Look for opportunities that involve client contact and utilise your listening skills, such as Nightline, mentoring young offenders, and working on outreach events with young people.

Further study or certification required

Requirements for further study, and specific qualifications are dependent on the role you are interested in. To become a Chartered Psychologist, you will need to complete British Psychological Society accredited vocational training, usually encompassing a Professional Doctorate or BPS Stage 2 qualifications as set out on the BPS Careers pages

Training routes for practitioner roles vary. Some require a BPS accredited degree in Psychology, while others will have slightly different training routes for those with or without a Psychology background. Most involve a combination of work and fully funded study, with the Clinical Associate in Psychology role being offered as a level 7 (master’s level) apprenticeship, while others such as the Psychological Wellbeing Practitioner role offering a fully funded master’s qualification alongside a salaried trainee position. Check the links in the section above for more details. 

How to find employers or training courses

For Chartered Psychology roles, check the British Psychological Society jobs board
Psychological practitioner roles, including trainee positions are advertised via NHS Jobs 
You can also find mental health and psychology related jobs in charities, educational settings and other community organisations advertised via the following websites: 

Tips for succeeding in the application or selection process

Relevant experience, in contact with clients (either paid or voluntary) will help you to demonstrate relevant skills and your suitability for a face-to-face helping role. Experience gained via volunteering or paid work with charities, community organisations or in the healthcare sector will support your application. Work as a healthcare assistant or healthcare support worker, particularly in mental health or psychiatry settings can help you to develop relevant experience.

Your personal statement or application will need to clearly articulate your motivation for the role, reflecting on what you learned from your experiences and how they have informed your decision to pursue this career path. 

What Cambridge offers to help with this career

Local organisations for volunteering opportunities:

  • Cambridge Hub - supports students to tackle social challenges, learn about issues and connect with each other
  • Cambridge Streetbite - a student-run project that helps the homeless community in Cambridge
  • Cambridge University Hospitals - one of the largest and best known hospitals in the UK
  • Citizens Advice - helps people with the problems they face, while campaigning to improve the policies and practices that affect people's lives
  • Jimmy's - for over 20 years, Jimmy's has been providing help for the homeless in Cambridge
  • Nightline Association - a student listening service which is open at night and run by students for students
  • Samaritans - help support anyone who needs someone to talk to
  • Student Community Action - encourages the involvement of students in voluntary community work
  • Student Minds - formerly known as the Mental Wealth Campaign
  • JCR; Widening Participation/Access team in your college or at the university level
Other things you should know

Competition for chartered psychology training and Assistant Psychologist roles can be fierce. It is not uncommon for graduates to undertake a substantial period of full-time work experience after graduation beyond the requirements for professional training. The BPS and NHS have now removed barriers to accessing further funded training, therefore it is now possible for those who have completed practitioner training to apply for further funded training in Clinical Psychology and High Intensity Therapy.

What to do next

Now you have looked at this page, think about your next steps. Everyone's journey is different. There are many ways to move forward. Here are some actions you could take now: