Clinical psychologists aim to reduce the distress and improve the psychological well-being of clients. They use psychological methods and research to make positive changes to their clients' lives and offer various forms of treatment.
Clinical psychologists often work alongside other professionals in multidisciplinary teams in order to tackle complex patient problems.
Clinical psychologists work with clients of all ages on a variety of different mental or physical health problems including:
Clinical psychologists tend to work with one particular client group, such as children or people with learning disabilities. They also often work in a particular setting, for example a hospital or through social services.
Tasks can include:
More experienced clinical psychologists are often called on to write legal reports and act as expert witnesses. They keep detailed paperwork about clients in order to monitor the progress of the clients' treatments.
In order to become a qualified clinical psychologist you will usually need to hold a British Psychological Society (BPS) accredited psychology degree with a degree classification of 2:1 or above, although some courses will accept a 2:2 and a Masters degree. For a full list of psychology courses in the UK, search British Psychological Society (BPS) Accredited Psychology Courses .
If your course is not accredited or your degree is not in psychology, you can obtain Graduate Basis for Registration (GBR) in one of the following other ways:
Entry with just an HND is not possible.
A further three years of postgraduate study leading to a Doctorate in Clinical Psychology is also needed in order to be eligible for chartered status.
A minimum of 6 to 12 months' relevant clinical work experience is essential in order to secure a training place. Some course providers have specific requirements or give advice on how to go about gaining the necessary experience (successful applicants typically have two years' work experience).
Relevant experience can include work as an assistant psychologist in NHS clinical psychology departments, sometimes on a voluntary basis. Work in other areas, however, is also relevant, e.g. in nursing, social work, mental health work or services for individuals with disabilities. Mental health workers provide additional, specialist services for people experiencing mild to moderate mental health problems. People recruited to the role come from a wide range of backgrounds but are often psychology graduates, amongst other professionals.
Research experience as a research assistant in a branch of psychology is also relevant, particularly if the research is clinically oriented. It is helpful to have a good balance of experience in both academic and clinical areas. It is also useful to get work experience working under the supervision of a qualified clinical psychologist within the NHS.
Candidates will need to show evidence of the following:
As posts often involve local travel, having a full driving licence and a car is a definite asset.
Applications for most three-year Doctorate courses in clinical psychology are made through the Clearing House for Postgrad Courses in Clinical Psychology . The closing date for courses is early December but it is recommended you apply before mid-November. Competition for entry is stiff, with just one in six applicants currently gaining a place; it is common for people to apply several times. It is not usually possible to fund yourself or to use funding from sponsorship or scholarships in order to gain access onto the course, as the NHS provides enough funding for all the places available.
Entry onto accredited postgraduate training courses is competitive. Many of the successful applicants for the Doctorate course have a postgraduate qualification such as a Masters and at least two years' relevant experience.
Gaining relevant experience will improve your chances of getting onto the course. On average, it takes around three years after graduating to get onto the Doctorate course and the average age of applicants is 26. However, it is illegal to discriminate against applicants on the grounds of age and there are some courses which favour undergraduates.
For more information, see work experience and internships and search courses and research.
The majority of those accepted onto the Doctorate in Clinical Psychology course are employed as trainee clinical psychologists through The National Health Service (NHS) . For more information on job roles see NHS Careers . Information on careers for clinical psychologists in other areas of the UK can be found at:
Training in your first post will be mainly on the job and will include a range of short courses.
Further study is encouraged and once you have qualified there are opportunities to move into different specialisms, such as clinical neuropsychology on completion of the Division of Neuropsychology's Practitioner Full Membership Qualification, or forensic psychology on completion of the Diploma in Forensic Psychology. Health psychologists study behaviour relevant to illness, disability and healthcare. A small number of health psychologist posts currently exist in the NHS and it is a rapidly developing field.
Upon qualification, and as soon as their services are offered to the public, chartered clinical psychologists are obliged by the British Psychological Society (BPS) to take part in continuing professional development (CPD) in order to maintain occupational competence in their specialist area.
In addition to general CPD, clinical psychologists may also be required by the relevant division of their society to undertake further training each year in their specialist area.
Employment prospects for qualified clinical psychologists are generally good, although the situation varies according to geographical region, the overall number of jobs available in each specialist area and the popularity of particular fields.
For all specialist areas, there is a relatively short promotion ladder, both within and outside the NHS. Even though the training is the same, differences in the organisational structures of the health authorities in Northern Ireland and Scotland may lead to different career progression routes and opportunities for specialisation.
Some clinical psychologists go on to work as trainers, teachers or researchers in universities. Opportunities to work abroad are limited. Further training is usually required to practise in another European country and requirements also vary from state to state in the USA and Australia.
Clinical psychologists are currently in demand and will continue to be required by The National Health Service (NHS) .
There are currently over 4,000 clinical psychologists working in the UK in a wide range of health and social care settings, including:
Most clinical psychology services are organised within NHS trusts or partnerships between NHS trusts and local authorities, called care trusts. Some trusts provide services to other trusts through service level agreements and almost all have a professional advisory mechanism for guiding decisions about the provision of psychology services.
Clinical psychologists may also be employed by schools and universities. Others work in the private sector or are self-employed.
Recruitment agencies rarely handle vacancies.
Get tips on job hunting, CVs and cover letters and interviews.