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Psychology: Sector Overview

a guide to careers in psychology


Sector Overview

What jobs are available and how to get them


Routes into psychology careers

Insider Views

See what former students have done and get insights into working in the sector

Jobs and Experience

How to get helpful work experience and get started

Tips for Applying

How to get work in this sector


  • Public sector cuts are having an impact on assistant psychologist positions in the NHS
  • An increasing number are being advertised for internal applicants only
  • Major changes to SEN (special educational needs) provision due to be implemented in 2014 could have a major impact on the role of educational psychologists


Facts and Figures


Sector Overview

  • You can specialise in many different areas. Clinical, Educational, Forensic, Health, Occupational, Sport and more…
  • The BPS has a comprehensive guide to types of psychologist and how to qualify
  • Other emerging areas of psychology include: neuropsychology; coaching psychology; environmental psychology; marketing or consumer psychology; parapsychology; animal or pet psychology; teaching and research in psychology; human computer interaction (HCI). Find out more about each in Higher Education Academy's Psychology Student Employability Guide



The NHS is the single largest employer of psychologists in the UK:

  • Most psychologists will have clinical, health or counselling psychology background/qualifications
  • Work might involve health promotion, helping people with anxieties/eating disorders or helping people overcome the effects of traumatic events (brain injury, surgery, accidents or crime)
  • Another important role is policy evaluation and the development of evidence-based treatments

More information at CareersInPsychology


Public Sector

The main employers of psychologists in the public sector (outside of the NHS) are Local Education Authorities, the Prison Service and the Civil Service:

  • Local Education Authorities - every authority is required by law to provide educational psychologists. Work might involve dealing with learning difficulties or helping individual pupils. Each authority is responsible for its own recruitment of educational psychologists
  • Prison Service - recruits forensic psychologists, either to be employed centrally (policy development) or assigned to individual prisons. Work in prisons may involve specific groups of inmates (e.g. sex offenders) and also training prison officers
  • Civil Service - the Department of Work and Pensions is a major employer of occupational psychologists. Other major recruiting departments include the Home Office and the Ministry of Defence

Other Job Roles and Opportunities

  • The NHS is a major employer of psychologists. Government investment has increased for Improving Access to Psychological Therapies (IAPT), with more emphasis on cognitive behavioural therapy (CBT), and this is a growth area for psychology graduates
  • Enter as a psychological wellbeing practitioner (PWP) or graduate mental health worker and progress via further training to high intensity therapist

Careers in Psychotherapy and Counselling

  • Counsellors and therapists are trained professionals who offer talking therapies to clients
  • Therapy or counselling can be over a short or long-term period to help clients bring about change and improve their wellbeing
  • There is a wide range of different therapeutic models that therapists or counsellors can choose to work with, including: CBT, drama therapy and psychotherapy
  • Some therapists and counsellors choose to specialise and only work with particular client groups

Out There

Unusual psychology jobs: