Skip navigation

How to Become an Occupational Psychologist

The qualifications you need and the career paths you can take with our online MSc

Occupational Psychology is one branch of several pathways you can take after completing a general psychology degree. 

In the UK, becoming an Occupational Psychologist requires you to achieve Chartered Psychologist status with the British Psychological Society (BPS). 

You’ll also need to register as an Occupational Psychologist with the Health and Care Professions Council (HCPC).

But to get there you’ll need to take a few key steps first – including earning a Masters degree, such as Northumbria’s Occupational and Organisational MSc

If you’re interested in joining the profession, but wondering what it takes and where it can lead, here’s our comprehensive guide to becoming an Occupational Psychologist. 


Woman and man interview at a desk

What is an Occupational Psychologist?

Occupational psychology is a specialist branch of psychology. Instead of focusing just on individuals, it involves applying your understanding of human behaviour to businesses, organisations or institutions. 

There are many areas that an Occupational Psychologist within a company could advise on. These include:

  • Hiring processes
  • Managing personnel 
  • Designing the physical layout of premises
  • Time management 
  • Learning, training and development
  • Organisational culture 
  • Systems usability and ergonomics
  • Workplace wellbeing


Why Psychology is Important in Business

Businesses, government departments and other private and public organisations can all benefit from employing Occupational Psychologists, and many are starting to do so in far greater numbers. Hired either full-time or on a consultancy or project basis, Occupational Psychologists bring their scientific, evidence-based insights into how humans behave within large groups and structures. With their help, management can improve the productivity, efficiency and wellbeing of their teams.

For example, if an organisation is restructuring, an Occupational Psychologist, armed with a expert knowledge of business psychology, might be brought in. He/she can provide insight into how changes might affect the mental wellbeing of employees, how to mitigate negative outcomes, and generally improve conditions and profitability.

Organisations have an interest and responsibility to take human causes and consequences into account – which is where a psychologically trained professional can help. 

Office workers around a computer work station


The Path to Becoming an Occupational Psychologist

The first thing you need is a general interest in psychology, and in business or organisations. What makes people tick and how do they behave in work environments? 


Psychology Qualifications 

The first step to becoming a Chartered Occupational Psychologist in the UK is to gain a BPS accredited degree in Psychology. You may choose to gain one at undergraduate level by completing a full BSc. 

However, if you already have an undergraduate degree in another discipline, you can find accredited Masters degree conversion courses that will give you the strong foundation in psychology you need. Northumbria University’s Psychology MSc, for example, is designed to do just this.

After completing your BPS accredited Psychology degree, you will be ready for a specialist Masters degree, like Northumbria’s distance learning MSc in Occupational and Organisational Psychology. Your chosen postgraduate course in the UK must be accredited by the BPS as Stage 1 training for Occupational Psychology if you are looking to take the pathway towards Chartered status. 

You’ll also need to apply for Graduate Basis for Chartership (GBC) with the BPS. You will be eligible for this after completing your BPS-accredited undergraduate degree or Masters qualification.

After completing your MSc in Occupational Psychology, you’ll be ready to start getting work experience in the field of business psychology. Following two years of supervised practice, you’ll be ready to take Stage 2 Qualified Occupational Psychology assessment to register with the HCPC

It may be possible to take a specialist Masters course even if you do not have a Psychology degree. Our Masters in Occupational and Organisational Psychology welcomes students who have no previous psychology experience, for example. 

However, please note that you would still need to complete a general BPS accredited Psychology course, either at undergraduate or postgraduate level, after graduation in order to achieve GBC status and to be eligible for your Stage 2 training. 

Once you have Chartered Occupational Psychology status, you’ll have the business psychology knowledge, skills, and experience to consult on more advanced projects and draw a bigger salary.


What Does an Occupational Psychologist Do?

We’ve discussed in detail elsewhere what the day-to-day tasks and aims of an Occupational Psychologist are. Our online MSc course modules include everything you need to learn to transform organisations and improve workplace outcomes. 

But once you graduate and start to pursue your career goals, where can you find an Occupational Psychologist job? 

Career Options for an Occupational Psychologist in the UK

Though business psychology is a discipline that’s growing and recognised worldwide, in the UK there are several main paths of employment for Occupational Psychologists: 


1. Civil Service and UK Government Departments

The UK Government employs Organisational Psychologists in a range of areas and departments. Psychological insight into behaviour is invaluable in a range of public policy and administrative management roles.

The competitive nature of these sought-after roles means you’ll want to graduate from a BPS-accredited MSc to be in with a chance. But once you’re part of the Government Occupational Psychology Profession you’ll be subject to standard Civil Service salary bands and opportunities for career development.  


2. NHS roles

The National Health Service always has roles for psychologists. Occupational Psychologists in the NHS can expect similar public sector pay rates, from around £30,000 to £44,000, increasing with experience. 


NHS logo white letters on black background


3. Private sector roles

A large proportion of Occupational Psychology jobs are with consultancies. Salaries are likely to be more generous in the private sector. You’ll either work in-house at a particular institution, or on an external placement at whichever organisations you’re sent to. 

If you don’t work via a consultancy, you might find a direct employer who has use for a full-time Occupational Psychologist, perhaps within a wider HR or talent management team.

As you gain more experience as a private sector Organisational Psychologist, you might lead teams, or even run your own consultancy. 


4. Academia and portfolio careers

If you progress to BPS Qualified Occupational Psychologist (Stage 2) training, you’ll be able to study for this doctoral-level qualification while you work. 

Your expertise and specialism at this stage will likely open prospects in academia – be that teaching, research, or both. Many of our staff in the Occupational and Organisational Psychology faculty at Northumbria have extensive industry experience.

Ultimately, this kind of portfolio career, balancing academic research and university work with industry practice, is a varied, rewarding path for many specialists. 


Pursue an Occupational Psychology Path

Occupational Psychology is a very rewarding career route, which gives you the chance to work one-on-one with people but also at a company level. Opportunities for progression and career development are plentiful. Although jobs can be competitive, the variety and challenge of the work is always fulfilling. 

A BPS-accredited specialist MSc course like ours, which you can study online while you work, is one of the best ways to start your journey to becoming an Occupational Psychologist. 

Visit our distance learning course page to find out more about our programme and the School of Psychology at Northumbria University. 

a sign in front of a crowd

Northumbria Open Days

Open Days are a great way for you to get a feel of the University, the city of Newcastle upon Tyne and the course(s) you are interested in.

a person sitting at a table using a laptop
NU World Virtual Tours

Virtual Tour

Get an insight into life at Northumbria at the click of a button! Come and explore our videos and 360 panoramas to immerse yourself in our campuses and get a feel for what it is like studying here using our interactive virtual tour.

Latest News and Features

GFW2024 winner Abbie Inwood
Connie Dalton, Jo Baker, Carolina Gomez
gettyimages/Eduard Figueres
Small Business Charter award
Act Now, Common Sense Policy Group
Nigel Coates Business Clinic
More events

Upcoming events

REVEAL: Architecture
REVEAL: Industrial Design
REVEAL: Graphic Design
REVEAL: Animation

Back to top