Psychologist, educational

Works with children and young people to assess and support their emotional, educational, behavioural and psychological development.

Job description

Educational psychologists work with children and young people to assess and support their emotional, educational, behavioural and psychological development. They apply psychological theories, models and research to deal with the problems encountered by young people in education, which may involve learning difficulties and social or emotional problems.

They carry out a wide range of tasks with the aim of enhancing children's learning and enabling teachers to become more aware of the social factors affecting teaching and learning. Their work involves making recommendations to schools about ways to improve the mental health of young people, and working closely with teachers and parents to help prevent problems arising.

The National Educational Psychological Service Agency (NEPS) provides psychological services in public and private primary and post-primary schools in Ireland and in related educational centres. Funded by the Department of Education and Skills (DES), NEPS psychologists specialise in working with the school community. They work in partnership with school guidance counsellors, teachers, parents and children in identifying educational needs and offer a range of services aimed at meeting these needs, for example, supporting individual students (through consultation and assessment), special projects and research.

Work activities

  • Assessing students to uncover problems, through consultation with professional colleagues, observation, interview, or use of test materials.
  • Diagnosing and clarify problems by discussion, interview and questionnaire.
  • Making recommendations as to the most appropriate educational programme to meet the child's needs.
  • Working with teachers to help them work with pupils appropriately by advising them regarding teaching style, behaviour management, programme planning.
  • Helping schools develop policies such as anti-bullying and critical incident management.
  • Providing counselling service for the pupils.
  • Helping teachers identify pupils with learning or behavioural difficulties.
  • Keeping up-to-date with the literature and best practice in terms of intervention programmes.
  • Training others and carrying out research.

Work conditions

Travel: during the working day can be a regular feature.
Working ours: Mainly office/school hours Monday–Friday, with possibility of extra hours. May involve some evening or weekend work particularly for those in private practice.
Location: mainly in towns or cities throughout the country.
Opportunities for self-employment: possible.

Typical employers

  • National Educational Psychological Service (NEPS)
  • Health Service Executive (HSE)
  • Education and Library Boards (NI)
  • Voluntary Agencies
  • Academic institutions
  • Private practices.

Career development

Career development into senior specialist posts, senior management psychologist, principal educational psychologist and regional director.

Opportunities also exist in training, lecturing and in research.

Entry requirements

Republic of Ireland: An honours undergraduate degree or a postgraduate conversion course accredited by the Psychological Society of Ireland (PSI) where psychology is the major subject is required. Completion of a recognised postgraduate training programme in educational psychology is then normally necessary.

Psychology is one of the professions listed for statutory registration with the relevant registration board of the Health and Social Care Professionals Council. The title of the profession is protected by law and can only be used by registered practitioners.

UK: In order to practice in the UK as an educational psychologst, you must be registered with the Health Professions Council and meet the requirements laid down by the British Psychological Society.

Specific degree subjects required

  • Psychology.

Postgraduate study

Completion of a recognised postgraduate qualification in educational psychology is essential.

Specific entry requirements

An excellent academic record and appropriate personal qualities (maturity, emotional stability) are required. Relevant experience is normally essential.
Police/Garda clearance is generally required before commencing training.

Tips for applications

Competition is very keen for entry to all postgraduate courses in psychology. You can enhance your chances of achieving a place on a postgraduate programme by achieving a high grade at undergraduate level (minimum 2.1 grade) and obtaining teaching experience or experience working with young people in an educational setting. Working with students with disabilities would also be helpful. However, a teaching qualification is not necessary.

Skills and qualities

  • Commitment to helping children and young people overcome learning and behavioural problems.
  • Ability to use a logical and objective approach to solving problems.
  • Patience and a caring personality combined with the ability to empathise with clients.
  • Excellent listening, interpersonal and communication skills.
  • Excellent motivational skills.
  • Sensitivity, tact and diplomacy combined with ability to build and maintain trusting relationships with young people.
  • Confidence in working with people from a wide range of backgrounds.
  • Ability to explain complex issues to people with little or no specialist knowledge.
  • Excellent observational and analytical skills.
  • Ability to produce clear, concise written reports.
  • Excellent time management skills.