Clinical Psychology is the specialism that we receive the most enquiries about, so whilst this information covers all psychology professions, we have given clinical psychology greater coverage. All specialisms are also included under BPS careers and there are also specific descriptions of many of the specialisms within the Prospects job profiles.
The majority of clinical psychologists work in hospitals and community settings within a healthcare team. Whilst most work in the NHS, some work in private practices. They see clients individually or in groups, helping with a variety of psychological difficulties. Most work with a particular client group, e.g. adult mental health or learning difficulties.
To train as a clinical psychologist you need to first obtain the GBC from the BPS either through an accredited psychology degree or a conversion course. You then need to obtain relevant work experience, e.g. assistant psychologist or research assistant, before embarking on a three-year doctorate in Clinical Psychology. These are NHS-funded, and there is considerable competition for places.
Applications for most clinical psychology doctorate courses are made through the Clearing House for Postgraduate Training Courses in Clinical Psychology, with closing dates in late November to early December, although you are advised to apply before mid-November. Each course has a slightly different structure and ethos, so spend time thinking about your interests and research courses to find one that reflects these. You’ll find more information about courses in The Alternative Handbook For Postgraduate Training Courses in Clinical Psychology and from the Clearing House website. Queens University Belfast operates its own admissions process; please contact them for more information.
It is usual to gain two years of relevant experience before embarking on an HCPC-approved doctorate in Clinical Psychology, and the ideal pre-application experience would be an assistant psychologist or a research assistant post, although competition for these jobs is fierce. Often voluntary experience or related work, such as a nursing assistant or a care assistant, can help secure these sought-after positions. It is usual to spend a year building up relevant experience (volunteering and / or paid work) to help you secure these sought-after positions. Some examples of opportunities to look out for include:
- Improving Access to Psychological Therapies (IAPT) wellbeing practitioner – search NHS Jobs using the keyword facility
- nursing assistant/auxiliary nurse
- care assistant
- helpline volunteer with organisations such as Nightline or Childline
- graduate mental health worker
- support worker
Recruitment websites such as Mental Health Jobs and others listed under the External Resources below can be a useful source of vacancies.
You may find it helpful to visit the discussion forum on ClinPsy which is run by qualified Chartered Clinical Psychologists, providing advice and information about entry to the profession.
Life as a student in Oxford can also provide opportunities for building up relevant skills and experience, for example by getting involved in welfare or peer support in your college, or by volunteering with organisations such as Nightline.
Counselling psychology is a relatively new specialism concerned with the integration of psychological theory and therapeutic processes. Practitioners need to have a high level of self-awareness, and relationship building with the client is very important. Counselling psychologists will be helping clients who are facing difficulties or life issues and they will aim to help people improve their sense of well-being and ability to problem-solve. They work with individuals, couples, families and groups in the NHS, private practice or other organisations.
After obtaining your GBC through an accredited psychology degree or conversion course, you will need to obtain relevant experience before either embarking on an HCPC approved Doctorate in Counselling Psychology or gaining the BPS’s Qualification in Counselling Psychology. It is common for people to enter this specialism as mature applicants and the postgraduate training is usually self-funded. Volunteering with a support service such as Nightline would give you an opportunity to develop relevant listening skills whilst also finding out if you are suited to this sort of work.
The training route in England and Wales requires an HCPC approved Doctorate in Educational Psychology. Entry requirements for the Doctorate include eligibility for the GBC (a relevant degree or conversion course needs to be passed before you can apply) and at least one year’s relevant experience of working with children within educational, childcare or community settings. This could be from working in a variety of roles such as a teacher, a graduate assistant in an Educational Psychology Service, a Learning Support Assistant or a Care Worker. Information about the Doctorate course (including course providers) and the application process can be found from the Department for Education and also from the Association of Educational Psychologists who handle the applications. In your application you will be expected to demonstrate how you have applied the knowledge of psychology in your work experience.
The postgraduate training route in Scotland involves a two-year Masters programme followed by the BPS’s Award in Educational Psychology, which includes a year of supervised practice that has been approved by the HCPC.
Forensic psychologists apply psychology to criminal and legal issues, working mainly in the prison and probation service to develop intervention techniques and treatment programmes for use with both offenders and those under supervision. They also liaise with other professionals and agencies. They work directly with prisoners and also help prison officers. The largest single employer of forensic psychologists is HM Prison Service; however, opportunities also exist within the health service and the social services. To become a forensic psychologist you need to obtain the GBC through an accredited psychology degree or conversion course, and then complete the BPS’s accredited Masters in Forensic Psychology followed by Stage 2 of the BPS’s Qualification in Forensic Psychology (two years of supervised practice) that has been approved by the HCPC.
Occupational psychologists are involved in assessing the performance of people at work, how organisations function and how individuals and small groups behave at work. The aim is to increase the effectiveness of the organisation and to improve the job satisfaction of the individual. Opportunities exist to work within private and public organisations and also in consultancies. To become an occupational psychologist you will need to obtain the GBC through an accredited psychology degree or conversion course, and then complete the BPS’s accredited Masters in Occupational Psychology followed by Stage 2 of the BPS’s Qualification in Occupational Psychology (two years of supervised work, or a Doctorate in Occupational Psychology).
There are other specialist areas within psychology, which include sport and exercise psychology, health psychology, neuropsychology, and teaching and research in psychology. For further information about these routes please visit the British Psychological Society.