Neuropsychologists are specialised hospital doctors. You would treat patients with disorders of the brain. You would work within the field of neurology. Neuropsychology is a new discipline in medicine and has only been around for about fifty years. It is the branch of psychology concerned with how a person’s cognition, understanding and behaviour are related to the brain and the rest of the nervous system. It specifically looks at how injuries or illnesses of the brain affect cognitive and behavioural functions. A neuropsychologist will seek to discover how the brain works with the mind through the study of neurological patients. Neuropsychologists are an important part of the health family of the UK and usually work in hospitals run by the National Health Service (NHS). Some may also work in private hospitals, but this is much less common. There has been a shortage of neuropsychologists and other senior health professionals in recent years. This means the position is increasingly well-regarded and well-paid.
What Does a Neuropsychologist Do
Neuropsychologists are expected to be able to treat a wide variety of conditions which affect the brain and mind. This can include psychiatric issues as well as working with stroke survivors and those with brain cancers. Other medical issues a neuropsychologist might deal with are neurological diseases such as epilepsy and Parkinson’s. Any condition that has impacted on the brain can fall within the remit of a neuropsychologist. Types of work falling within the remit of a neuropsychologist include:
- Diagnosis: You will work with new patients to accurately diagnose neurological problems.
- Referral: You must map routes to support new patients.
- Management: Dealing with long-term patients, often with complex conditions, through out-patients clinics.
- Research: As neuropsychology is such a new and emerging field, many in the profession are also active in research. You will also spend part of your working time in academic meetings with other neurological colleagues.
You would also work with the wider healthcare family, including many other highly specialised professionals.
Who Employs Neuropsychologists
In most circumstances, neuropsychologists in the UK work within NHS hospitals. All jobs a neuropsychologist does through their NHS employment will be delivered free to the public. They are classed as public sector workers. A small number of neuropsychologists will also work in private hospitals. Others may be employed within the pharmaceutical industry. Both of these types of neuropsychologists will be classified as private-sector workers.
Job Salary for a Neuropsychologist
Neuropsychologist salaries can vary quite significantly depending on a neuropsychologist’s experience and seniority. Here are three indications of different salary levels per year in England:
- Basic junior doctor – £29,384 to £34,012.
- Speciality training as a neuropsychologist – £40,257 at minimum
- Consultant neuropsychologists (senior doctors) – £84,559 to £114,003.
Some other figures are useful to allow you to compare salaries. In the UK, the national average wage is estimated to be around £30,000 according to the Office for National Statistics (ONS). Further, the current National Living Wage must be paid to people aged 23 and over. This means the minimum untaxed income for a 40-hour week is over £21,000 per year.
Geographic Weightings in Pay
Some neuropsychologists get additional pay to help them with the cost of living in areas where things cost more. Recent examples of the three geographical weightings are calculated as follows:
- Inner London: 20% of basic salary, subject to a minimum payment of £4,888 and a maximum payment of £7,377.
- Outer London: 15% of basic salary, subject to a minimum payment of £4,108 and a maximum payment of £5,177.
- Fringe: 5% of basic salary, subject to a minimum payment of £1,136 and a maximum payment of £1,915.
How Often is a Neuropsychologist Normally Paid
As a neuropsychologist you can normally expect to be paid a salary every month. This is the standard method of payment for employees of the NHS.
Who Negotiates a Job Salary for a Neuropsychologist
The salary levels of neuropsychologists are set through negotiations between the governments in different parts of the UK. For example, the UK Government negotiates with neuropsychologists and other doctors in England.
What Sort of Contracts Do Neuropsychologists Have
Neuropsychologists will have set contracts with the NHS that guarantee a minimum number of hours per week. This will mean these contracts set out all the relevant terms of employment.
After completion of the training, neuropsychologists’ pay increases significantly. Those working as consultants may also sometimes work outside the NHS for additional income. Private sector consultancy often pays better than the NHS. Additional payments based on geographic weightings to deal with higher costs of living also exist for those living in London and the surrounding area. Additional benefits of being a neuropsychologist are:
- You have the potential for a high income early in your career.
- There is also the opportunity to travel and work anywhere in the world.
- You will also get an excellent pension scheme.
- Additionally, there is good holiday entitlement.
How to Become a Neuropsychologist
Understanding the educational and training requirements to become a neuropsychologist is important if you want to become one. You will need to have a medical degree first and then take additional training within the NHS for several years.
Qualifications/Courses – Neuropsychologist
To become a neuropsychologist, you will first need to get a degree in medicine. To study medicine at university you will need three A or A* passes at A level including chemistry for a five-year undergraduate degree in medicine. Additionally, many people who apply for a course in medicine are asked to take the University Clinical Aptitude Test (UCAT), BioMedical Admissions Test (BMAT) or Graduate Medical Schools Admissions Test (GAMSAT). The British Medical Association (BMA), which represents doctors, also encourages you to have some relevant paid or voluntary work experience before applying to a medical school at a university. Once you have a degree you then need to join the paid two-year foundation programme and secure a place as a trainee neuropsychologist. Most have to work in six placements in different settings. After you have completed a foundation programme, you then need to apply for paid speciality training to become a neuropsychologist, which will take a minimum of five years. Most of your study will be within a clinical placement being taught by experienced neuropsychologists. This learning will be supported by access to teaching and learning materials.
General Skills Required
- Excellent problem-solving and diagnostic skills are essential for this role. Neuropsychologists must be able to deal with highly complex and highly specialised challenges in a developing area of medicine.
- A neuropsychologist must have the willingness to continuously learn about human anatomy. You must be prepared to keep learning about new issues in medicine throughout your working life.
- Strong emotional resilience, a calm temperament and the ability to work well under pressure are required in a neuropsychologist.
- Excellent communication skills are needed because you will be working with a wide variety of different people from different walks of life and, usually, a wide variety of ages. This will include the families of patients as well as the patient themselves.
- You will also need to be able to put patients at their ease and gain their confidence. This includes the ability to work sensitively and constructively with patient fears.
- You must be a good team player and have the ability to work constructively with others carrying out aligned tasks in healthcare.
- Some computer literacy to record information relating to patients.
- Confidentiality relating to patient records is needed.
- A clean Disclosure and Barring Service (DBS) check is required for people who wish to work with children or vulnerable adults.
Mechanical Skills Required
A neuropsychologist will need to be able to operate all of the medical apparatus needed to support the health of a patient.
Challenges of Being a Neuropsychologist
- Any aspect of health care is challenging for all the professionals involved. But being a neuropsychologist can be especially challenging. This is because of the severity and seriousness of the illnesses of patients.
- Neuropsychologists must be able to deal with highly complex and highly specialised challenges. It is also a developing area of medicine.
- Due to the nature of the patients being cared for, there is a relatively high death rate among those needing neuropsychological support. Emotional resilience is absolutely essential in dealing with such circumstances.
- Neuropsychology is a high-stress environment.
- Maintaining a professional outlook which treats the public with respect, no matter how difficult a patient is being, is essential.
- You will always need to wear protective clothing and a uniform.
- Exposure to unpleasant sights and smells is part of the job.
- You must always be prepared for the unexpected. This can be exciting but also challenging at times.
Type of Person Suited for this Work
- A person with a commitment to the values of the NHS.
- An extremely innovative and thoughtful person who can apply problem-solving and diagnostic skills with confidence.
- A person with a genuine interest in healthcare and, in particular, the treatment of neurological conditions.
- Someone with a calm and patient outlook and the ability to deal with stress.
- A team player who can work with direction from more senior team members. If you are promoted to team leader, then you should be able to demonstrate the capacity to lead multidisciplinary teams.
- Additionally, you need to be someone willing to learn as their career progresses and they build up a specialism.
- You also need to be a responsible person who is dedicated to the care of a patient for the duration of their treatment.
General Expected Working Hours
As a neuropsychologist, you can expect to work at least a fifty-hour week. Further, most neuropsychologists generally work sociable hours with a moderate on-call commitment. Additionally, some of you can also work part-time as their career and seniority progresses.
Location of Work
The majority of neuropsychologists usually work in hospitals run by the National Health Service (NHS). Some may also work in private hospitals, but this is much less common.
It is possible to build a successful and well-paid career as a neuropsychologist. Many neuropsychologists make a huge contribution to medicine and patient care in an emerging field of healthcare. As your career progresses, you may become a consultant neuropsychologist. Doing this role will bring responsibility to lead a large multidisciplinary team and cross-consult with other specialists. Other future prospects include teaching medical students or postgraduate students in training. Alternatively, some neuropsychologists also become involved in research at universities, the NHS or the private sector. The progression from junior doctor to consultant neuropsychologist is a steep one. But it is one that many neuropsychologists achieve. Because of the shortage of neuropsychologists, promotion prospects may well be increased.