How do I become a psychologist?


26th Jan 2022




Psychology is a fascinating subject, with an ever-growing number of people interested in pursuing psychology as a career. In fact, the British Psychological Society (BPS) suggest that currently upwards of 750,000 people work in a psychology-related field in the UK.

You might be wondering how do you become a Psychologist? And what is the difference between a Chartered and Practitioner Psychologist?


Chartered Psychologist vs Practitioner Psychologist

Well, in the UK, ‘Chartered’ is a legally recognised title awarded by the BPS, which demonstrates that a person holds the highest standard of psychological knowledge. This typically requires the completion of an undergraduate course that is accredited by the BPS, and additional postgraduate study and/or training (such as completing a PhD) in a particular field. Chartered Psychologists are expected to uphold professional development and ethical standards set out by the BPS, and when their membership is confirmed, they are granted the use of ‘CPsychol’ after their name.

Similarly, the ‘Practitioner’ or ‘Registered’ title is also legally recognised, which people need to register with the Health and Care Professions Council (HCPC) to obtain. Those registered may want to practise in a specific area of psychology, such as: clinical, forensic, counselling, health, educational, occupational, or sport and exercise psychology. To be a Practitioner Psychologist, individuals are typically required to complete a BPS accredited undergraduate course, as well as a HCPC approved postgraduate course (in one of the areas previously mentioned). They must follow the HCPC’s conduct, performance and ethical standards, as well as remain on their register whilst working. However, unlike Chartered Psychologists, Practitioner Psychologists do not receive any additional titles.

Individuals may choose to hold both Chartered and Practitioner status, whilst others may wish to hold one or none.


Routes into a career in psychology

There are a lot of routes into and within a career in psychology, whether you are currently a student or someone looking for a career change. We will now outline the three main steps to becoming Chartered or Practitioner Psychologist in the UK, which starts with enrolling onto a BPS accredited programme.


1. Study a BPS accredited psychology degree

A Google search will bring up thousands of psychology short courses, as well as Bachelors degrees, Masters degrees and conversion courses. With the vast number of qualifications available to choose from, the decision on what to pick to study can seem a daunting one.

However, if you plan on becoming a Chartered and/or Practitioner Psychologist, you can narrow down your course search to only BPS accredited degrees, such as our BSc (Hons) Psychology. Accreditation provides assurance that the course includes content relevant to meet the requirements of the Graduate Basis for Chartered Membership (GBC) curriculum, and offers students the opportunity to become Student Members of the BPS. For more information on the benefits of studying our 100% online BPS accredited psychology degree – check out this blog.

Other psychology courses that aren’t BPS accredited are just as worthwhile to study, but more suited to individuals looking to pursue careers broadly related to psychology: for example, those providing advice and guidance, in human resources, or staff training. If you’d like to combine your interest in psychology with a complementary discipline, then BPS accreditation might not be a factor you need to consider, and these other psychology degrees at undergraduate and postgraduate level might be of interest to you:


2. Achieve Graduate Basis for Chartered Membership (GBC)

Achieving GBC demonstrates that you’ve studied psychology at a sufficient level to become a Graduate Member of the BPS and use their ‘MBPsS’ title. This marks the start of your career in psychology and offers additional benefits to your membership with them. It also means that you can start pursuing postgraduate study or training, likely accredited by the BPS and/or HCPC, in your field of choice.

Further training is very specialised, and jobs are highly vocational. Therefore, it is recommended you identify which specialism interests you most and seek to gain relevant work experience. For instance, work experience in a human resource department would benefit those considering specialising in occupational psychology. You may be able to work out your preferred specialism based on your previous work experience or modules you enjoyed during your studies.

On our BSc (Hons) Psychology, provided you gain at least a Lower Second-Class (2:2) Honours degree overall and pass your Final Psychology Project with a minimum of 40%, you will be eligible for GBC.


3. Undertake further training in the field of psychology you want to practice

Undertaking postgraduate study or training in the area you want to specialise in is the final step to becoming a Chartered or Practitioner Psychologist. These areas include:

  • Academia, research and teaching.
  • Clinical psychology.
  • Counselling psychology.
  • Educational psychology.
  • Forensic psychology.
  • Health psychology.
  • Neuropsychology.
  • Occupational psychology.
  • Sports and exercise psychology.

There are a few routes you could pursue at this stage that is dependent on the area of psychology you want to practice in, such as:

A postgraduate taught degree in a specialist area

You will need to complete an MSc or MPhil with an applied research project, preferably in an area relevant to the field of psychology you want to pursue. Most postgraduate programmes will require you to have significant work experience in order to gain a place on their course, so it’s a good idea to build your work experience as soon as you can.


A postgraduate research degree

Doctorates usually take 3 to 4 years (full-time) or 6 to 8 years (part-time) to complete. For some specialist disciplines, a BPS and/or HCPC accredited Doctorate is the only pathway available, such as in clinical or educational psychology. However, there are other areas of psychology where additional accreditation is not required, which still lead to a specialist career, such as social psychology.In order to get a place on a Doctorate programme, you will normally need to have a 2:1 or higher undergraduate degree. Some institutions might accept a 2:2 if you have a relevant Masters or PhD. You should always check with individual course providers to find out their specific entry requirements.


A BPS qualification

This is a good option for those already working in the area they wish to qualify in. The BPS currently offers qualifications in the following applied areas:

  • Qualification in Clinical Neuropsychology
  • Qualification in Counselling Psychology
  • Qualification in Educational Psychology (Scotland) (Stage 2)
  • Qualification in Forensic Psychology (Stage 2)
  • Qualification in Health Psychology (Stage 2)
  • Qualification in Occupational Psychology (Stage 2)
  • Qualification in Sport and Exercise Psychology (Stage 2)

Through supervised practice from a senior psychologist, these qualifications will help you to enhance and recognise your skills in your chosen field of applied psychology.

Once you have completed your specialist further study or training, you will then be able to apply to become a Chartered Member with the BPS and/or register as a Practitioner Psychologist with the HCPC. Chartered Membership will enable you to use the title CPsychol as well as the Chartered Psychologist logo, and you will be included on the List of Chartered Members. You will also be able to advertise in the Directory of Chartered Psychologist and/or join one of the BPS’s Specialist Registers. Other benefits include a subscription to The Psychologist and discounts on conferences and events. You can view the full benefits available to chartered members here.


Want to take your first step towards becoming a psychologist? Download a prospectus to learn more about our 100% online BPS accredited BSc (Hons) Psychology. A member of our knowledgeable Admissions team will then get in touch to answer any questions or concerns you may have.

Alternatively, if you already know you want to study with us, you can submit an online application. It’s free and straightforward to fill in an application – there are just 5 steps to complete the form – so if you’re ready, apply now!