How to become a Clinical Psychologist

As the popularity of psychology degrees is growing in the UK, one of the most popular destinations for psychology graduates is a career in clinical psychology. Although many psychology students aspire to become clinical psychologists, the majority do not pursue this career.

What do clinical psychologists do?
Clinical psychologists deal with the well being and stress reduction of clients and primarily work in the NHS. They deal with depression, schizophrenia, neurological disorders, addictive and challenging behaviours, eating disorders and learning disabilities. To assess clients, psychologists use a variety of skills including direct observations and psychological assessments. These assessments may lead to therapy counselling or advice . Clinical psychologists work in health and social care settings such as hospitals and local council services such as the social services.

Clinical psychologists are often confused with psychiatrists. Psychiatrists are medical doctors who have completed five-year medical degrees and specialise in psychiatry. Psychologists complete three year degrees and a three year doctorate degree and cannot prescribe drugs like psychiatrists do.

How do I get into Clinical Psychology?
Firstly you need to have completed an accredited undergraduate psychology degree accredited by the British Psychological Society (BPS) and have Graduate Basis for Registration (GBR). If you have not completed a psychology degree you can complete a one- year conversion course. After the undergraduate degree you need to complete a three year NHS funded doctorate in clinical psychology.

Competition to obtain a place on a clinical psychology doctorate is fierce, around 30% of applicants are successful each year. To increase you chances you need a 2.1 at undergraduate level, however if you did not get a 2.1 a masters or a lot of work experience will be a benefit. Work experience in care homes, social services or hospitals will help. Additionally research experience and skills would also be a benefit. Another stepping stone to getting a place on a clinical doctorate is a position as a assistant psychologist or a research assistant.

In conclusion the journey to becoming a clinical psychologist may seem long but with the right mindset, contacts and work experience you can make it, they key is just to be prepared.

The British Psychological Society