So, you want to be a clinical psychologist?
Note: whilst the career paths of Psychology graduates are diverse in nature, this blog will focus on the clinical route since that is where my aspirations lay.
Many psychology students come into university with the aspiration of becoming a clinical psychologist. Many dream of coming out of university and sitting listen to people and offering counselling services (although I must inform you that is not all there is to it). As the years go by, some change their mind, as you would expect. Wherever, you are one of those that will change your mind or not, this blog attempts to portray a realistic view into what it takes to get into the clinical field.
To become a clinical psychologist, you must obtain a doctorate degree in clinical psychology. These PhDs are funded by the NHS but there are limited spaces. Ratios of 300 applicants to 8 positions for the doctorate degrees are common meaning competition is fierce. Although there are not many specific strict requirements, except a BSc in Psychology and some experience in the field, it is important you have built up enough relevant and adequate experience in the field in order to make sure you are well a suitable competitor.
You may ask *what* is adequate experience? But if there is one thing I have learnt through my research, there is no way of quantifying it. Although not a requirement, after completing their BPS accredited degree, many (not all) successful candidates go on to complete master’s degrees. However, as I learnt from a workshop that I attended (pre-corona), it does not matter specifically what master’s course you do as long it is psychology related. In fact, having clinical psychologists that have different backgrounds, specialisms, and interests is important to ensure we have a range of clinicians with varied knowledge and expertise. A master’s degree not only helps you be a more successful competitor amongst other applicants but and allows room for specialism in comparison to your BSc Psychology degree.
It is also paramount that you have at least a year worth of clinical experience before applying for your doctorate degree. Ideally everyone would want to work as an assistant psychologist or research assistant, however competition for these roles can also be high. The BPS recognise this and stipulate that voluntary experience or paid roles such as nursing assistant, social worker, care assistant can also provide relevant experience. The most important thing is that the experience should allow you to work with organisations or services that are directly related to clinical psychology. So, whether that be a mental health charity of the NHS, the experience you get must provide you with the opportunity to interact with people with health or psychological difficulties in some way.
As an undergraduate you may be wondering how can I prepare myself to be a good competitor? As you can see there is no *one* way, but building experience from early can be helpful. It may not be in clinical settings but remember that many roles provide you with transferable skills that may benefit you when later applying for more specialised clinical or health related roles. (I may do a whole blog post on how to gain experience whilst still in university if that may be helpful).
I hope this blog has given you some helpful insight into what it takes to become a clinical psychologist! More info can be found at: