A health psychologist uses psychological research methods and therapies to promote wellbeing and help people with understanding health and 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 2019.
- trainee psychologist - Band 6, £30,401 to £38,046 a year
- psychologist – Band 7, £37,570 to £44,688 a year
- principal psychologist – Band 8a, £45,446 to £51,883 a year and Band 8b, £53,291 to £62,259 a year
- consultant/lead psychologist – Band 8c, £63,570 to £74,710 a year and Band 8d £76,083 to £88,132 a year
- head of psychology services – Band 9, £92,208 to £105,650 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.
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- 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, St Andrews and Stirling. The University of Strathclyde offers an MSc in Clinical Health Psychology.
- 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 offers the only accredited doctorate course in health psychology in Scotland. This can be done over three years full time.
- All practising psychologists must register with the Health and Care Professions Council (HCPC).
- 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.
Workforce Education Levels (UK)
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Job Outlook Scotland
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Job Outlook Scotland and UK
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What Does it Take?
- an interest in researching new areas and methods
- good statistical skills
- the ability to communicate with all kinds of people
- good observation skills
- problem solving skills
- good organisation.
- 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.
The following organisations may be able to provide further information.
Health and Care Professions Council (HCPC)
Tel: 0300 500 4472
The Health and Care Professions Council (HCPC) is the UK-wide regulatory body responsible for setting and maintaining standards of professional training, performance and conduct in the following health care professions: Arts Therapists; Audiologist; Biomedical Scientist; Chiropodist and Podiatrist; Clinical Scientist; Dietician; Dramatherapist; Occupational Therapist; Operating Department Practitioner; Orthoptist; Paramedic; Physiotherapist; Practitioner Psychologist; Prosthetist and Orthotist; Radiographer; Speech and Language Therapist. (The HCPC may regulate other healthcare professions in the future.) The HCPC website contains a register of all approved courses in the above professions.
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