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How to become an assistant psychologist

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

What is a 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 as assistant psychologist

Choosing subjects at school

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 healthcare experience by doing a work placement or volunteering. You’ll get training, increase your knowledge, and learn new skills. This could help you when applying to university, college or a new job with NHSScotland. 

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. Related courses include:

Widening access

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.

Course search

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

Get to know 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.

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

You'll need these skills:

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

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

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

You could work in:

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

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.

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

To find out more visit the BPS website.

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