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When is a psychologist not a psychologist?

Karen Moore (CPsychol, CSci, AFBPsS, EuroPsy, MSCP, MIoD) | 2021-10-22

If you are an AOC operating out of Europe, you are now required under EASA CAT.GEN.MPA.175(b) to undertake a psychological assessment exercise of new pilots within the period 24 months up to when they commence line-flying for you. There are stipulations about the content of the assessment, and that the exercise must be 'validated and either directly performed or overseen by a psychologist with acquired knowledge in aviation ... and with expertise in psychological assessment, and where possible, the psychological selection of aviation personnel'. It is also clearly stated that the exercise should not be a clinical assessment.

If you are fortunate enough to have an in-house psychologist experienced in interviewing, and also have access to a simulator and personnel with enough time to take every applicant through a robust process of competency interviewing and sim, then you have a thorough process that would meet the requirements. Otherwise, you will need support. Finding an appropriate psychologist may not be a straightforward process, however, so here are some key questions you should ask of potential service providers:

Are you registered with your national professional body?

In some countries the national aviation authority has provided guidance as to the specific requirements for psychologists who can be involved in the psychological assessment of pilots. Different nations have different requirements for registration. In most countries the title 'Psychologist' is legally protected and in many the activities of psychologists are regulated.

What qualifications do you have?

Required professional qualifications vary from country to country. 'Acquired knowledge in aviation' is widely accepted as a minimum of three years working in the sector. A useful starting point is the EuroPsy website ( which lists 24 countries that recognise the EuroPsy certification amongst the 39 EFPA member nations, 21 of which are also EASA member nations. Additionally, the European Association of Aviation Psychologists (EAAP) has a register of accredited Aviation Psychologists; many of these are clinical psychologists so you need to check that they have experience of psychological selection (usually performed by an Occupational Psychologist) rather than purely psychological assessment from the clinical standpoint. The EAAP register is not exhaustive; there are a good number of psychologists working in the sector who are not members but are appropriately qualified and experienced. Some countries also have specialist qualifications in psychological or psychometric testing, and all reputable test publishers require users of their tests to be trained in their interpretation.

What experience do you have of psychological assessment and selection of aviation personnel?

They should be able to detail a minimum of three years' experience selecting the appropriate tests to use with personnel in the aviation sector, conducting testing, interpreting reports, and providing appropriate information to people making hiring decisions. The psychologist may be external to their client AOCs, providing specialist support to pilot hiring teams for example, or they may be in-house and work (often) within the HR function. In either case it is rare for the psychologist to be the decision maker, normally they provide objective information to ensure a fair process for all applicants. They should have knowledge of applicable assessment standards and ethical codes of conduct; these may be national standards or the broader ISO10667 Assessment Service Delivery.

Do the tests you use have appropriate norms?

Many non-aviation test providers have seen the introduction of the EASA CAT.GEN.MPA.175(b) regulation as an opportunity to move into what they see as a lucrative market. However, their tests will largely be based on general population data, and as such are not so good at discriminating within the pilot group. They may also lack measurement of traits that are of particular interest when considering the required aptitudes for pilots. The EASA regulation specifies four areas that must be covered in the psychological assessment – how confident are you that your intended provider covers these areas? A robust competency-based interview is an essential part of the process. It is also useful to support this with an appropriate personality questionnaire, which can be used to inform the interview. You might also consider using a cognitive reasoning test and a test of psychomotor skills as well as some assessment of interpersonal skills, though these can be assessed through observation at interview.

How can Symbiotics help?

Symbiotics can help you to understand the specific requirements for registration as a psychologist in your country. We can provide information about the relevant professional body, and help you understand the particular nuances of local regulation. Our team of psychologists are all highly experienced in the aviation sector and are members of the British Psychological Society. The team includes holders of the EuroPsy certificate; members of the EAAP; and holders of the UK's specialist Qualifications in Test Use.

At Symbiotics, we have been providing testing services to the aviation sector for almost 25 years. We provide tests that are specific to the role and have an extensive database of results against which we compare results. We are, therefore, well placed to help you ensure that your approach to compliance is truly compliant.

We have produced some white papers relevant to this area, which can be downloaded here:

EASA CAT.GEN.MPA.175(b) – How Symbiotics covers the requirements

Symbiotics Response to IATA PAT Guidelines 2019 v1.2

If you have any questions, please contact us here.