Becoming a professional: The five pillars of identification in Occupational Psychology in the UK


This study aims to explore how professional identification occurs in Occupational Psychology (OP) in the UK. Professional identification is a sense of belonging and individual feelings towards a group. In OP, competition for jobs is high and availability of roles with the title of “Occupational Psychologist” is low. Thus, many OPs are self-employed and multiple terms are used to describe the profession. Twenty working individuals, with a BPS accredited entry-level and master’s qualification in OP, participated in narrative interviews. Thematic analysis led to the development of five ‘pillars’ of professional identification: a) education and learning; b) networking; c) managing challenges; d) career-crafting; and e) professional recognition and authenticity. Each of the five pillars have a unique role to play in supporting professional identification in OP. Strong professional identification requires sustained effort in all pillars. Practitioners supporting the careers of Occupational Psychologists, and Occupational Psychologists themselves must develop stronger opportunities for networking and relationship building to enable individual development through multiple and diverse experiences. Furthermore, routes to accredited professional practice must be diversified and a positive rhetoric constructed around the achievement of Chartered status. Suggestions for future research are presented providing clear actions for the practitioner community.


Occupational Psychology, professional identification, thematic analysis, narrative interview, career development

How to Cite

Elsey, V., Thompson, N., Sillence, E., Longstaff, L. & Moss, M., (2020) “Becoming a professional: The five pillars of identification in Occupational Psychology in the UK”, EWOP in Practice 13(1), 42–67. doi:







Vicki Elsey (University of Nor thumbria)
Neill Thompson (University of Nor thumbria)
Elizabeth Sillence (University of Nor thumbria)
Laura Longstaff (University of Nor thumbria)
Mark Moss (University of Nor thumbria)



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