Educational Psychologist

The Job and What's Involved

Educational psychologists help young people to overcome learning difficulties, social problems or emotional problems in educational, family or community settings. They may work directly with young people, as individuals or in groups. They also help parents, teachers, social workers and others to understand the young person's difficulties and support them in teaching or caring for the young person. The work may involve:

  • Making assessments by observing the young person, interviewing them, talking to people who know them well and gathering information about their progress at school and in other situations.
  • Producing written reports and making recommendations on how to improve the young person's learning, or tackle behaviour problems.
  • Training parents, teachers and other professionals on topics such as bullying or behaviour management.
  • Advising schools and education authorities on their policies on children with special needs and mental health difficulties.
  • Undertaking research or shaping government policies.

Educational psychologists usually work between 35 and 37.5 hours a week, from Monday to Friday. They may need to attend evening meetings. Around half their time is spent in an office; they also visit schools and nurseries, run training sessions and attend conferences.

A driving licence may be useful.

Salaries start from around £26,000 a year.

Getting Started with this Career Choice

Most educational psychologists in the UK work for local authorities, but there are also opportunities in private practice and with voluntary organisations. Competition for postgraduate training is fierce, but there is a shortage of qualified educational psychologists.

Education and Training

The basic qualification for anyone aiming at a career as a professional psychologist is a degree in psychology. Graduates then undertake relevant work experience before applying for postgraduate training in their chosen specialism.

The minimum requirements for a degree course are normally two A levels and five GCSE's (A*-C) or equivalent qualifications. Entry requirements vary and candidates are advised to check with individual institutions. Psychology degrees are increasingly popular, with intense competition for places, so entry requirements are usually set higher than the minimum.

Most higher education institutions are flexible about subjects required at A level, but candidates are expected to demonstrate that they are numerate, and capable of handling scientific concepts and developing writing skills. Some universities prefer a science subject at A level. A level psychology is not required for degree entry, although it does provide a useful background to the subject.

To become a fully-qualified educational psychologist, candidates must:

Complete an honours degree in psychology that is accredited by the British Psychological Society (BPS) for the Graduate Basis for Registration (GBR).

Gain relevant work experience with children and young people before applying to postgraduate programme's. This need not be in teaching; experience as a graduate assistant in an educational psychology service, learning support assistant, educational social worker, learning mentor, speech and language therapist, care worker, or work in an early years settings may be accepted.

Complete a three-year, full-time BPS-accredited doctorate course in educational psychology.

To work with children, applicants need to undergo checks through the Criminal Records Bureau.

A Few More Exams You Might Need

Psychology graduates who intend to take up a career as an educational psychologist usually need to gain considerable work experience in their chosen field before applying for a relevant BPS-accredited postgraduate qualification.

Registration as a psychologist is open to BPS members who:

  • Hold a Graduate Basis for Registration (GBR).
  • Have completed a BPS-accredited postgraduate qualification in psychology along with any period of supervised practice that may be required, or have completed a PhD in psychology.
  • Have been judged fit to practice psychology without supervision.

Becoming a chartered psychologist reassures employers that individuals have been properly trained and qualified, and are answerable to an independent body.

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Skills and Personal Qualities Needed

An educational psychologist should:

  • Have excellent problem-solving skills.
  • Have excellent listening and communication skills.
  • Have a good grasp of scientific techniques.
  • Have motivational skills.
  • Have patience and empathy.
  • Be skilled at working with children and young people.
  • Be able to inspire trust and confidence in people from a wide range of backgrounds.
  • Be able to explain complex issues to people who have little or no specialist knowledge.
  • Be observant and able to interpret people's body language as well as what they say.
  • Be able to produce clear, concise written reports.

Your Long Term Prospects

Skilled, experienced educational psychologists may progress to senior or principal educational psychologist roles. Some become senior officers in local authority children's services departments.

There may also be opportunities for self employment or freelance work with independent consultancies.

Get Further Information

Association of Business Psychologists (ABP),
211/212 Piccadilly, London W1J 9HG
Tel: 020 7917 1733

Association of Educational Psychologists (AEP),
4 The Riverside Centre, Frankland Lane, Durham DH1 5TA
Tel: 0191 384 5912

British Association for Counselling and Psychotherapy (BACP),
BACP House, 15 St John's Business Park, Lutterworth LE17 4HB
Tel: 01455 883300

The British Psychological Society (BPS),
St Andrews House, 48 Princess Road East, Leicester LE1 7DR
Tel: 0116 254 9568

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