Career Profile: Working as a Psychologist

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Michael Byrne, Principal Psychology Manager with HSE tells us about his educational path and his work as a psychologist with the Health Service Executive.

From an early age I wanted work as an engineer. Before becoming a psychologist I enjoyed working as a design engineer exclusively through Japanese. My prolonged immersion in the vibrant but different culture of Tokyo made me realise that people were more challenging and interesting than future technologies.

Early Work Experience

Along with summer work, I took a year out before the final year of my undergraduate degree in Psychology (BA). I worked in various clinical settings in North America. This gave me the chance to sample what it was like to work as a psychologist. This working experience was significantly reinforcing. It showed me the theory-practice links needed to work effectively with a variety of clinical populations. It also taught me that psychologists were both highly employable and well paid.

After I completed my Masters and Doctorate in Clinical Psychology, I worked with children and adolescents with mental health issues. This was rewarding because early intervention can be particularly effective. However, the team I worked on did not work as well as it could have. Many of our service users lived in families with multiple problems. This highlighted the need for multi-disciplinary approach, over and above what I could offer them.

Working with Adults

Since then, I work mostly with adults with mental health problems. On any given day I could see a caseload of people, either one-to-one of or in a group for therapeutic work. This work can be challenging. By the time they attend, service users’ problems may be fairly entrenched. These could be problems such as varied as chronic depression or eating disorders. However, I find that challenges are a learning opportunity.

Our Department’s research programme publishes many papers on a variety of related issues. Our research work is progressively helping us to answer the question: ‘What is the clinical need out there and in what way can we best service this need?’

In addition, my job includes training psychologists and other heath care professionals. I also contribute to national policy development.

Opportunities for Psychologists

In the health service, there are many opportunities to work with a variety of clinical populations. There is also the option of private practice. So, psychologists have a good deal of choice regarding their careers.

Overall, my decision to become a psychologist is highly rewarding. If you are interested in a career in psychology and lifelong learning, look up the Psychological Society of Ireland website. Better still, talk to any psychologists you know. But as with everything else, chunk it down by taking it one step at a time. Get a good Leaving Certificate and get a good BA. Then pause to consider the many career opportunities open to you, be they within psychology. These include clinical, counselling, educational, occupational, research and sport.  And, at all stages, remember to enjoy your career journey. is a national database of universities, colleges, institutes and providers of third level and PLC courses in Ireland. We operate a national search database of courses at certificate, diploma and degree level as well as providing information about career paths and directions.
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