Occupational psychologists use their understanding of how people behave at work, to improve productivity, job satisfaction and effectivity within an organisation

As an occupational psychologist, you'll apply psychological knowledge, theory and practice to the workplace. Providing support on an individual or organisational basis, you'll address issues such as performance, culture and change.

Focusing on employee performance, behaviour, health and wellbeing and how individuals, groups and organisations function, your aim is to improve the effectiveness of the organisation and employee job satisfaction.

Your work overlaps with the roles of ergonomists, business coaches, recruitment consultants, human resources (HR) officers and training and development officers. Collaboration with professionals in these roles is common, as well as with management, management consultants, careers advisers, clinical psychologists, trade union representatives and staff, both in teams and individually.

You can work in a consultancy role or in-house as an employee of an organisation. You may also be known as an organisational or work psychologist.


You'll carry out a range of tasks as an occupational psychologist and may need to:

  • identify and facilitate employee coaching and training and development needs, to improve workplace performance and support employees in managing their careers
  • support organisational adaptation to internal or external change
  • assist with employee recruitment and selection processes, including the evaluation of interviews, situational judgement tests and assessment centre activities
  • administer psychometric and psychological assessments of employees
  • collect and analyse quantitative or qualitative data, including conducting surveys and writing reports
  • develop talent management interventions to support the progression of high-potential employees and contribute towards the improvement of workforce productivity
  • review the quality of employer and leadership assessments
  • assess workplace needs and implement strategies to support them
  • identify where and how reasonable adjustments can be made and introduce these to employees
  • promote change within organisations and encourage new practices to be adopted
  • design and improve processes for managing employee appraisal and performance
  • work in a one-to-one capacity with employees to support them to enhance their wellbeing in the workplace
  • mediate in situations where there is conflict between employees and management, or in an employment dispute
  • review and develop HR policies.


  • Starting salaries are around £27,000 to £42,000 per annum, depending on your experience.
  • More experienced occupational psychologists can earn between £45,000 and £55,000.
  • At senior level, salaries may rise to £70,000.

Salaries can vary significantly depending on the setting and sector you work in. Jobs in public sector organisations, such as the NHS and Civil Service, will typically follow a structured grading system. Private sector organisations tend to pay more than the public or third sectors and academia.

Additional benefits will depend on the organisation and specific nature of the role, but may include private medical and life insurance, a competitive salary and pension scheme, health and gym benefits and a car allowance.

Income figures are intended as a guide only.

Working hours

Working hours are generally Monday to Friday, 8am to 6pm. However, many organisations offer flexible working arrangements, which could include part-time work and the potential to work from home.

What to expect

  • You may work on-site with a client, at a training or management development centre or at your company's offices. Occasional travel away from your typical location of work may be required to liaise with clients or conduct research.
  • You may work with employees and managers at all levels, as well as a range of other professionals such as trade union representatives, trainers, counsellors or other psychologists, HR staff, recruitment consultants and external stakeholders.
  • Jobs are available throughout the UK. Self-employment and freelance work is common for psychologists with substantial experience in a specialist area. You'll need to build up a good client base before becoming freelance.
  • Consultants must respond to client needs. This often means working to tight deadlines. Business clients will usually expect you to dress professionally.
  • Many employers will be committed to encouraging equity, diversity and inclusion (EDI) in the workplace. Supporting employees from ethnic minority backgrounds or with neurodivergent profiles may therefore be an expectation in your role.


To work as an occupational psychologist, you must complete The British Psychological Society (BPS) Stage 2 Qualification in Occupational Psychology (QOP) and be registered with the Health and Care Professions Council (HCPC).

First, you'll need Graduate Basis for Chartered Membership (GBC), which is achieved by completing a BPS-accredited psychology degree or conversion course.

You must then complete a BPS-accredited Masters in occupational psychology, or equivalent Stage 1 course, which usually takes one year full time or two years part time. To get a place on a Masters course, you'll usually need to achieve a 2:1 or above, although entry requirements may vary. Relevant work experience is also useful. Search for a BPS-accredited course.

This is followed by the BPS QOP (Stage 2), which is a doctoral-level award consisting of a minimum of two years full-time (or part-time equivalent) supervised practice that builds on the knowledge gained during your Masters degree. You'll need to be employed as a trainee occupational psychologist in a role (either paid or voluntary) related to occupational psychology for the duration of the training. You'll receive support and supervision from a coordinating supervisor who will act as your mentor as you develop your skills, and knowledge of the consultancy cycle.


You'll need to have:

  • excellent verbal communication and interpersonal skills for working with clients
  • good written communication skills for producing reports, proposals and policies
  • a knowledge of organisational structure
  • an adaptable and flexible approach
  • problem-solving ability
  • the ability to collaborate with employees, managers, other workplace professionals and external stakeholders
  • resilience and a positive attitude
  • the ability to work under pressure, as you'll need to achieve results within fixed deadlines while working on multiple projects
  • knowledge of workplace selection and assessment processes
  • knowledge of psychological testing, particularly the use of psychometrics in recruitment processes
  • IT skills as you will use online assessment platforms to manage projects
  • the ability to take an innovative approach towards creating training packages, resolving workplace difficulties and promoting organisational development
  • data analysis skills.

Depending on your role, you may also need specialist skills for working with specific groups of employees. This could include the ability to conduct psychological assessments of mental health difficulties or neurodiversity.

Work experience

To get a place on a BPS-accredited Masters course, you'll often need relevant work experience. Any paid or voluntary role where an understanding of the structure and functioning of organisations can be developed will be useful.

Obtaining work experience in an HR department can be an effective way to gain insight into organisational structure, understand workplace difficulties and expand your interpersonal skills.

To develop skills that are relevant to the role of occupational psychology, you could work for a psychometric test publisher or seek out work experience opportunities involving recruitment and selection processes, coaching or training and development.

You could also contact an occupational psychologist and ask to work shadow them, although it is not essential to have direct experience of working within the field of occupational psychology to be accepted on to the Masters course.

Find out more about the different kinds of work experience and internships that are available.


Opportunities exist within organisations of all sizes in the public, private and not-for-profit sectors, although most occupational psychologists are employed in the private sector. Some experienced occupational psychologists may also choose to be self-employed, running their own consultancy business and undertaking contract work when opportunities are available.

Typical employers of occupational psychologists in the public sector include government and public services, with the Civil Service being one of the largest employers. Occupational psychologists can also work in universities in teaching or research roles.

Another option is to have a portfolio career combining several aspects of teaching, research and consultancy. There may also be opportunities with organisations that specialise in research into workplace issues and policy advice in this area.

Other employers of occupational psychologists include:  

  • HM Prison and Probation Service
  • Home Office
  • Ministry of Defence
  • NHS and private healthcare providers
  • Banks
  • Insurance companies
  • Metropolitan Police
  • Psychometric test publishers.

An increasing number of graduate schemes are available if you have a BPS-accredited occupational psychology Masters. These provide opportunities to further develop leadership, psychological, and general HR skills. Graduate schemes can act as a gateway to more senior occupational psychology positions.

Look for job vacancies at:

Professional development

Qualified occupational psychologists are required to engage with continuing professional development (CPD) opportunities, to maintain HCPC registration and BPS chartered membership. CPD can be a combination of directed and self-directed activities, which develops existing skills and keeps you up-to-date with advancements in psychological theory, research and practice.

CPD activities can include:

  • taking core skills workshops and e-learning courses
  • attending conferences and events
  • taking post-qualification training courses
  • reading relevant publications
  • writing for journals
  • undertaking and presenting research and papers at conferences
  • obtaining additional qualifications, such as a psychometric accreditation or occupational psychology PhD
  • attending and facilitating supervision sessions.

Training and development opportunities can be found independently, as well as through the BPS learning platform.

You could also do an MBA or undertake further research at PhD level.

Career prospects

In general, there is no clear career path in occupational psychology, and it's often down to you to determine how your career progresses. After graduating from your BPS accredited first degree and occupational psychology Masters, you'll have the relevant qualifications to enter a graduate scheme or an entry level role. You could also obtain employment in a HR, training or recruitment role whilst undertaking the BPS Stage 2 QOP.

If you're working for the Civil Service as part of the Government Occupational Psychology Profession you'll have access to a range of learning, qualifications and opportunities to help develop your skills and career. Other organisations may also provide similar opportunities. You'll be able to progress through the grades as you gain experience and knowledge.

With the right combination of skills, knowledge and experience, there are opportunities to progress to senior posts, leading teams or projects, or becoming self-employed. If you're working for a small unit, you may need to change job or organisation to progress your career.

It's also possible to pursue an academic career either after a period as a practitioner or by doing research for a Doctoral degree after a Masters and gaining a post as a university lecturer or researcher.

While occupational psychology provides a breadth of experience in several areas, many related professions, such as occupational health and safety, ergonomics, HR, and recruitment and talent consultancy, have their own qualification structures and training programmes. Taking further related qualifications, such as professional diplomas and short courses, may provide you with more opportunities to elevate your career prospects.

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