A health psychologist uses psychological research methods and therapies to promote wellbeing and help people understand their illness. Their aim is to improve healthcare provision, general levels of health and promote a healthier lifestyle.
You could be:
exploring the links between unhealthy lifestyle habits and poverty
promoting and protecting health by encouraging exercise, healthy diet and health checks
helping develop health awareness projects and analysing how effective they are
advising health professionals about how to communicate with patients
examining the effect of individual mental attitude on the ability to cope with chronic physical disease
advising patients on how to deal with anxiety and stress caused by illness and treatment
examining the links between mental stress and physical illness such as heart disease and cancer
researching the processes which can explain, predict and change health and illness behaviours
advising government bodies on developing health policy.
You might work with groups such as older adults, pregnant teenagers or patients with chronic illnesses.
The figures below are only a guide. Actual pay rates may vary, depending on:
where you work
the size of the organisation you work for
whether you are self-employed.
The salaries for NHS Psychologists in Scotland are usually based on the NHS Agenda for Change pay rates. The current pay scales are from April 2023.
Qualified psychologists start on Band 7, £46,244 to £53,789 a year. With experience this rises to Band 8a, £56,992 to £61,522 a year, and Band 8b, £67,285 to £71,978 a year.
Consultant/lead psychologists are on Band 8c, £79,466 to £85,121 a year.
Health psychologists work in a range of settings including hospitals, community centres, local clinics and local authorities.
Some carry out research in university or health service premises.
You may work with people one to one, in groups or in families.
You usually work office hours from Monday to Friday.
There is opportunity for part time work.
You have occasional work in the evening or at weekends.
You would work towards registration with the British Psychological Society (BPS).
To be eligible for the Graduate Basis for Chartered Membership (GBC), you need either a BPS recognised degree (first or second class Honours) in psychology, or a degree in another subject plus a BPS recognised conversion course.
To do an Honours degree in psychology you usually need 4-5 Highers.
Paid or unpaid work experience is advantageous.
After your degree you would find relevant paid or voluntary work experience (at least 12 months) ideally as a psychology assistant or research assistant, before choosing your speciality.
In order to qualify as a health psychologist, you must complete a BPS accredited MSc in Health Psychology. In Scotland, this is available at the universities of Aberdeen, Glasgow Caledonian, St Andrews and Stirling.
This is followed by the BPS Qualification in Health Psychology Stage 2, involving 2 years of supervised practice or a BPS accredited Doctorate in Health Psychology.
Glasgow Caledonian University and the University of Stirling offer the accredited doctorate course in health psychology in Scotland. This can be done over three years full time.
You will require a satisfactory criminal record check from Disclosure Scotland to show that you are suitable for this type of work. Contact Disclosure Scotland for details on the type you would need.
Health psychologists work in hospitals, academic research institutes, health authorities and university departments. There has been an increase in jobs in lecturing and in research into social and behavioural factors in health.
the ability to communicate with all kinds of people
good observation skills
problem solving skills
In Scotland, an NHS funded Stage 2 training scheme offers a number of trainee health psychologists each year. See the NHS Education for Scotland website for details.
Once you have achieved Chartered Membership of the BPS you will continue to learn and train during your career through a programme of Continuous Professional Development (CPD).
You will need to keep up to date with research on a wide range of conditions and developments in the treatment of these conditions.
Apart from the usual routes of promotion to senior level there are opportunities to move into training or self-employed consultancy work.
There is a wide range of jobs, although the vacancies do not always use the job title 'health psychologist'. Health psychologists work as applied psychologists, teachers, consultants and researchers for the NHS, the universities, schools, industry and health promotion organisations.