There are plenty of reasons to plan a career as a psychologist: the work is well rewarded, deeply needed and highly engaging, you’ll always be in demand, and the ability to practice as a part of the NHS, privately or create a mix of the two gives you remarkable flexibility, perhaps you want to help people who are in need or simply have an abiding love of Frasier.
Finding out how to train to be a psychologist isn’t a challenge: the government itself offers advice on the pathways available, from full time degree courses to part time training over a longer period, and specialist experience and study. More details can be found by talking to a careers advisor or looking into the courses on offer at university.
What’s perhaps less easy to imagine is what psychology jobs actually look like: where will you working and what will it look like?
Where you might end up working is dictated more than a little by how you specialise: Educational psychologists work with children and young people experiencing difficulties in the education system and help them work through them and engage constructively with lessons, and they have very different skillset and qualifications to forensic or criminal psychologists, who work to solve crimes, understand the factors behind offending rates and help to rehabilitate criminals. While each different discipline has some shared skills, their work takes them into very different contexts.
If you’re attached to the NHS, you’ll likely be working either in a hospital – particularly in a specialised mental health unit, or as part of a therapy service to which patients can be referred.
You’ll have offices, either in the hospital, or in your own building, but some work might oblige you to visit people on the ward, especially if you’re assessing a patient’s mental state to help create a treatment plan.
Forensic and Criminal psychologists work, are, if not based in a prison permanently, frequently to be found there, or in unit attached to a police or probation service. The overriding principle is that whatever your specialism is governs where your workplace will ultimately be.
If you’re practicing privately you will, of course have to provide your own office for the purpose. Some psychologists providing therapy to private clients use a room in their own home, but many prefer to rent a more anonymous office to ensure some professional separation from their home life.
Either way, you will need to preserve a neutral space so the patients you speak with aren’t overwhelmed with your personality, nor isolated in a stark environment. Some gentle, not too personal art helps to create a backdrop that allows people to relax and speak with you honestly.