Career profile: Educational Psychologist

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A 2010 DEdPsy graduate Cardiff University, currently working as an Educational Psychologist for a local authority provided the case study below about her current role and how she got there.

How did you get your job?

The initial step was to get my first degree in Psychology- I graduated from Aston University in 2001. During that degree I worked as a clinical psychology assistant for the NHS for 12 months. After graduation I worked as a mental health support worker for a year, and decided that I wanted to pursue the Educational Psychology route and taught in a primary school for 2 years following a PGCE.

At the time, 2 years of teaching was a prerequisite to be accepted onto the DEdPsy course, and whilst it no longer is, the classroom experience gave me a firm foundation to then apply for an Assistant Educational Psychology post which then led to successful acceptance onto the Doctorate course.

The course consisted of placements working as a Trainee Educational Psychologist in three different local authorities, a number of research projects and a thesis. I graduated and have been working ever since for a local authority.

What does your role involve?

I work with children and young people between the ages of 0-19 and the systems around them (school, family, community) using a consultation approach in order to facilitate change. There is a lot of multi-agency and liaison work, which involves working collaboratively with school staff, parents, and a range of other professionals (e.g. Social Services, Speech and Language Therapists, Youth Offending Service, Child and Adolescent Mental Health Services) to identify and support any wellbeing or additional learning needs.

Adaptability and the ability to communicate with others is key. I work with 15 schools including primary, secondary and pupil referral units and work one-to-one with a child using psychological assessments, individual therapeutic work and observations. I also undertake more proactive group interventions to help the children and young people develop social skills, self-esteem and self-regulation. I also work at a systemic level, supporting schools to develop policies and interventions, and provide training to teachers, LSAs and ALNCOs on topics such as self-regulation, anxiety management, psychological approaches and attachment. There is a lot of administration too- I have to research and analyse the effectiveness of interventions, write reports and ensure that I keep up to date with the latest research in order to provide evidenced based practice.

How did your degree help?

If you want to become an Educational Psychologist having the Doctorate in Educational Psychology is an essential requirement by the British Psychological Society (BPS). My DEdPsy involved 3 placements which were invaluable in finding out the variety of approaches which are used in different local authorities. My 50,000 word thesis explored the impact of teachers using Solution Focused approaches in schools.

What advice would you give anyone else wanting to get into educational psychology?

With fewer assistant educational psychology posts available due to funding cuts, you will have to work harder to evidence your motivation for the DEdPsy course.

Tips:

  • Experience of working with young people and children is essential. Get into a school and classroom setting to get a better understanding of the educational and school systems. Experience beyond the classroom is also invaluable e.g. in youth clubs, sports clubs, playgroups, voluntary agencies. This will give you a holistic insight into what children deal with on a daily basis and some of the challenges they face. It is vital that you gain experience of working with children from all backgrounds with a variety of needs and will be key in being able to demonstrate your communication skills and your empathetic nature.
  • Always consider the link to psychology in what you have done e.g. if you work as a learning support assistant or volunteer with a play scheme, think how you have used psychological principles to deal with challenges successfully.
  • Demonstrate your enthusiasm and initiative by asking to shadow professionals that work with children and young people- social workers, clinical psychologists, therapeutic workers. If they can’t spare the time for you to come out for the day, ask if you can at least speak to them – try to gain insights wherever and whenever you can. Ask questions and demonstrate that you’ve gone the extra mile with additional research- contacts can be key to professional development in this field.
  • Get research experience during the summer- seek out psychology research projects and get involved.
  • Consider choosing a dissertation topic related to children or young people. This will not only help demonstrate your interest and increase your knowledge but could also bring you into contact with a range of other professionals who also work with children.
  • Keep up to date with the latest research- journals such as Educational Psychology in Practice, Educational & Child Psychology, developments in the profession through the BPS and if possible attend any appropriate training courses.

Final note from the Careers Service:

For further advice and information about psychology careers see our ‘I want to work in healthcare’ pages. If you miss our ‘Careers in Psychology’ event, don’t forget you can find content on our Careers Downloads page.

Image from: http://www.morguefile.com

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