Assistant psychologist

Psychology is the study of how people think and behave. It is a combination of science and practice.

Assistant psychologists work in multidisciplinary teams to deliver psychology services across a range of settings.

Starting your career

Subject choices

To become an assistant psychologist, you need a good standard of education. Useful subjects include:

  • Psychology
  • Religious, Moral and Philosophical Studies
  • English
  • Human Biology
  • Maths

Work placements and volunteering

You may find it helpful to get some experience of working in healthcare by doing a work placement. There may also be opportunities to volunteer. This could help you when applying to university, college or a new job with NHSScotland.

Apprenticeships

Foundation Apprenticeships

A Foundation Apprenticeship could give you valuable work experience. Find out about Foundation Apprenticeships in:

College and university

You will need an undergraduate degree in psychology to become an assistant psychologist.

Most universities accept a wide range of qualifications, giving you the option of applying directly from school or going to college first.

At college, you could do a Higher National Certificate (HNC) or Higher National Diploma (HND) to set you on the right path. These include:

Widening participation supports adult learners who want to go to university. If you’re an adult with few or no qualifications, you could get into higher education through the Scottish Wider Access Programme (SWAP). Many universities also provide access programmes to help you get the degree entry qualifications you need.

Search for college or university courses on My World of Work.

The role

As an assistant psychologist you will contribute to providing a specialist psychology service for all clients of the service. You will work as part of a multidisciplinary team and provide specialist research expertise to enhance the delivery of the service.

What you’ll do

Tasks include:

  • undertaking psychological assessments of clients
  • formulating and delivering care plans, under the supervision of a qualified professional psychologist
  • assisting in the coordination and running of therapeutic groups
  • assisting in the development of a psychologically-based framework of understanding and care
  • assisting qualified professional psychologists in the delivery of teaching, training or support to staff
  • assisting in the design and implementation of audit and research projects
  • data collection, analysis and producing reports and summaries, using IT and statistical programmes
  • searching evidence-based literature and research

Top skills

You’ll need these skills:

  • active listening
  • patience
  • compassion
  • empathy
  • good communication skills
  • ability to work independently
  • teamwork
  • relationship building

Who you'll work with

You’ll work with a range of people, including:

  • clinical and applied psychologists
  • mental health professionals
  • nurses
  • allied health professionals
  • doctors

Working environment

You could work in:

  • hospitals
  • community health centres
  • schools
  • social services
  • prisons
  • psychiatric units
  • rehabilitation units

Useful information

To work as an assistant psychologist in NHSScotland, you’ll need to join Disclosure Scotland's Protecting Vulnerable Groups (PVG) scheme.

Learning and development

Your career could lead to training as a fully qualified clinical, health, counselling or forensic psychologist, as you'll have gained practical, hands-on experience.

Regulators and professional bodies

The British Psychological Society (BPS) is the professional body for psychologists in the UK. They offer 3 levels of membership:

  1. Student membership is open to everyone studying on a BPS accredited undergraduate degree or conversion course.
  2. Graduate membership of the society is the starting point to your career as a psychologist. It is a prerequisite for many accredited post-graduate and doctoral programmes.
  3. Chartered membership reflects the highest level of psychological knowledge and expertise.

Visit the BPS website to find out more.