Occupational psychologists work with organisations, businesses and individuals to increase performance, effectiveness and job satisfaction. They study the way people think, their emotions, behaviour and social interaction through discussion and observation and then interpret these before working in collaboration to help them get fulfilment from their working lives and increase wellbeing. For organisations the aim is to increase productivity and efficiency and recommend changes to get the most from their personnel. They use their extensive psychological knowledge and techniques both practically and in an advisory capacity. They can be employed either as consultants or employed in house within organisations.
Typical tasks and responsibilities could include:
- Helping people to manage and develop their careers.
- Helping individual to adapt to changes at work e.g. restructure, redundancy, change of management, through guidance, coaching and interventions.
- Devising and implementation of strategies to increase satisfaction within organizations
- Helping organizations to change and develop
- Working with management to look at the skills of the workforce so that these can be optimized.
- Mediation in disputes between employees and management
- Motivation of workers and managers to improve performance and develop potential.
- Team building and leadership development.
- Helping design effective payment, bonus and appraisal systems and monitoring their effectiveness.
- Looking at human resources and recruitment, including the use of psychometric tools, to ensure that employees are managed effectively and fairly and that the right personnel are recruited for the organisation.
- Advising on the management of workplace stress and working conditions.
- Looking at human-machine interaction and collaborating with designers to look at the work stations and computer systems to make these usable, comfortable for use and maximize efficiency.
- Designing and developing training schemes and delivering these to groups.
Many occupational psychologists work on a consultant basis though this is usually after gaining considerable experience, possibly through working in a consultancy firm where a group of psychologists work together. These are often small organizations though there are larger firms which are multi-disciplinary like recruitment companies.
Most will be mainly office based but you could be working in client's homes or other venues.
A portfolio career is common where the occupational psychologist is employed by more than one employer on a part-time basis. This is increasingly on a contractual basis. Some occupational psychologists work evenings and weekends seeing private clients.
Hours are variable particularly for those with portfolio careers or self-employed. Typically, 37.5 hours per week for those on a permanent contract.
They can work under a number of job titles including ‘Organisational Psychologist', ‘Work Psychologist' and ‘Business Psychologist'
Most will specialise in a certain area within the field. This could be helping organizations to change, recruitment, personnel, ergonomics, working conditions.
There is no established promotion route within Occupational Psychology. There is most often progression through making the most of opportunities, networking and specialization.
Salaries vary, management consultancies and self-employed individuals typically earn more than public and third sector employees, but these positions are more likely to offer regular hours and more permanent work arrangements.
Personal Qualities and Skills
Key skills for occupational psychologists
- An excellent communicator who is confident of their own skills.
- Patient and caring and a good listener.
- Culturally aware and able to work with a diverse range of people
- Good at problem solving
- Flexible and adaptable
- Able to keep calm while devising interventions and strategies on the spot.
- Good at keeping to deadlines as the work can be pressurized.
- You should be resilient and open to feedback both from supervisors and clients.
- Some circumstances can be upsetting and you would need to remain calm and professional.
- Able to write reports and comfortable with doing presentations.
- Be able to balance a number of activities at a time.
- Be commercially aware.
Pay And Opportunities
Typical employers of occupational psychologists
As working lives become more complex and the pace of change within work increases along with the need to work more effectively, Occupational Psychologists are more in demand.
- Occupational Psychologists work in organisations both large and small and with both public and private sectors. The Civil Service is particularly large employer with Occupational Psychologists being employed in areas such as HM Prisons, Department for Work and Pensions and the Police. Large corporations in industry also employ Occupational Psychologists.
- Work in assessment and testing centres particularly with the use and interpretation of psychometric tests. This could often be a first job for a newly qualified Occupational Psychologist.
- They also work in research and teaching, particularly in universities and business schools.
- Are self-employment and work on a consultancy basis.
- Vacancies are to be found in Psychologist Appointments in The Psychologist which is the magazine of the British Psychological Society as well as national newspapers and civil service publications. There are also vacancies advertised on company websites.
Qualifications and training required
To be become an Occupational Psychologist with Chartered Status with the British Psychological Society there are two stages.
For stage one you would need to study a degree that is accredited by the British Psychological Association (BPS). You need at least a 2:1 to be able to apply or an accredited conversion course.
Entry to a recognised degree course …………….
This should be followed by an accredited Master's Degree in Occupational Psychology with a research component.
The second stage (Qualification in Occupational Psychology - QOP) consists of at least two years of supervised practice by a BPS registered Occupational Psychologist, though in practice this can often take longer.
HR qualifications, like CIPD, can be an advantage particularly if you are wanting to work with larger organisations.