Psychologist (educational): job description

Educational psychologists work with, observe and assess the behavioural, social, emotional and educational problems and needs of children and young people below the age of 19 years.

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Most educational psychologists are employed by local and county councils.

What does an educational psychologist do? Typical employers | Qualifications and training | Key skills

Typical responsibilities of the job include:

  • using psychological tests, theories and procedures to support the wellbeing and learning of young people
  • helping young people with learning difficulties to achieve their full potential
  • recommending, developing and administering appropriate therapies and strategies
  • educating and working with young people, their families and school staff, including teachers and learning support assistants
  • carrying out psychological assessments to uncover a child's problem
  • writing reports
  • conducting research
  • providing training
  • advising and making recommendations on educational policies.

The work commonly requires local travel to visit clients in their homes or in schools, colleges and nurseries. Regularly dealing with the problems faced by children and young people can make the job stressful and emotionally demanding.

Typical employers of educational psychologists

The majority of educational psychologists are employed by local authorities. Other employers include: consultancies, social services departments, universities, child psychiatric units, paediatric assessment units, independent schools, voluntary organisations and Child and Adolescent Mental Health Services (CAMHS) within NHS trusts. There is strong competition for training places. Opportunities are advertised in national newspapers, the Times Educational Supplement and its website, and on specialist psychology jobs websites.

An increasing number of educational psychologists work as independent or private consultants, too.

Qualifications and training required

A lengthy period of study and vocational training is required for qualification.

In England, Wales and Northern Ireland you'll need a psychology degree accredited by the British Psychological Society. There are accredited conversion courses available if your first degree is not in psychology. Entry requirements for undergraduate psychology degrees vary. Psychology A level is not usually required but may give you helpful insights. Numeracy, an ability to grasp scientific subjects and good written communication skills are all likely to be useful, so science or humanities subjects could be relevant, as could English or maths A level.

After completing an accredited psychology degree you will need to undertake a three-year professional doctorate in eduational psychology that combines practical experience with academic knowledge. Applications for doctorates in England are made through the Association of Educational Psychologists, and goverment funding is available towards the cost of training. In Scotland, the postgraduate element of study and training is an accredited masters course in educational psychology followed by a further qualification in educational psychology.

Educational psychologists are registered and regulated by the Health and Care Professions Council (HCPC).

Key skills for educational psychologists

  • The ability to relate to children and young adults
  • Sensitivity
  • Ability to cope with emotional situations
  • Excellent listening
  • Observational skills
  • Verbal communication skills
  • Empathy and rapport.

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