Pathways into occupational psychology

A recent Division of Occupational Psychology event addressed some timely career issues

How do occupational psychologists practise? What routes are there into the industry, and what are the advantages and disadvantages of working in respective areas such as academia, consultancy and government? These questions and more were addressed by an informative and engaging Division of Occupational Psychology ‘Pathways’ event in February.

It was a timely event for a couple of reasons. First, MSc students are increasingly concerned about career prospects after graduating:?there are even fewer roles on offer after the recession, and high competition. Second, experienced OPs are seeking new opportunities within OP or related roles due to redundancies or lack of freelance work. 

The speakers at the Pathways event were Professor Fiona Patterson, Kajal Ruparell and Fiadhna McEvoy, all occupational psychologists at different stages in their career. The speakers all talked about their current and past roles, the advantages and disadvantages of their current role and how they entered the industry. Helen Baron, who facilitated the event, helped to answer questions from the audience in relation to freelance work as an OP.

The event helped to dispel a popular myth that not getting into an OP role soon after graduating from an MSc constitutes failure. The majority of OP graduates gain experience in related areas such as recruitment and HR before embarking on a career as an OP and subsequently becoming a fully qualified OP. 

Occupational psychologists can practise in a number of areas, such as consultancy, central government, local government, retail, academia and freelance. The speakers represented some of these sectors and talked candidly about the highs and lows of work in their respective fields. 

Kajal Ruparell talked about her experience of working for a talent management consultancy in London. She started her career in recruitment and worked her way to a senior role.  She learnt to work with a range of clients from different sectors, built her commercial awareness and introduced psychometric testing to recruitment processes. This experience helped Kajal to leverage her experience into a consultancy role. As Kajal did not have direct experience of working in consultancy, she made the decision to take a pay cut when she moved in that direction. Within two years she gained her chartership and was subsequently promoted to a senior consultant role. 

According to Kajal, the upsides of working in consultancy are variety of work and development opportunities. Designing selection processes for central government organisations, and leadership development programmes helping middle managers, has meant developing a range of skills. The downsides are long hours, extensive travelling, and the pressure of managing numerous projects at the same time.

Fiadhna McEvoy spoke of her experiences as an OP since joining local government last year. Early in her career she undertook an international internship as part of her MSc project and was subsequently recruited to an assistant OP position in a London-based consultancy firm. Over the following two years she was promoted to a consultant role and completed her chartership. Her career goal of working as an internal OP was fulfilled when the opportunity to work in an organisational development role for a large local authority arose.

By highlighting a number of key projects, Fiadhna gave a flavour of possible OP activities in local government, such as assessment and development, organisational restructuring, coaching and culture change. She also described the overall structure of the council along with the vast complexity of the services delivered. Together these provide a stimulating, diverse OP work environment. For example, her projects cut across many occupational areas, ranging from waste management to legal services. Throughout the talk, Fiadhna recounted her differing experiences of public and private sector environments, focusing on work–life balance, variety and culture. 

The feedback received from the first Pathways event was very positive. To let the DOP know what events you would like to see in the future, e-mail [email protected].

BPS Members can discuss this article

Already a member? Or Create an account

Not a member? Find out about becoming a member or subscriber