What is a clinical psychologist?
A clinical psychologist is the broadest type of psychologist you can be. They can work in pretty much every setting and are not confined to just health care, although most do. A clinical psychologist helps people to address any issues they may have, generally speaking if you have a psychological problem a clinical psychologist can help you with it!
Why are you working/training as one?
I have always had the desire to make a difference in someone’s life. As I have been working as a support worker this has confirmed that even small differences to me can make a massive difference to someone else. I find it really satisfying and enjoyable watching someone change for the better and start to piece their lives back together, knowing that I helped in that process.
I’ve been working towards this for 11 years now (since I was 16) and I may have forgotten the initial reason but I’m always told ‘wanting to help people’ is not an acceptable answer, because you can’t help everyone!
What do you find attractive or rewarding about your job/training?
I think the personal satisfaction of watching someone grow is extremely rewarding. It also has extremely good job prospects (one of the very few that you are pretty much guaranteed a job once qualified). It is also a desirable qualification for moving to other countries like Canada, Australia, New Zealand. In terms of work life balance, it is also a 9-5 job (maybe on-call duties but that depends where you work!) and has a good wage.
What have you found surprising about your training/work?
The length of time to complete it! I decided I wanted to do clinical psychology at the age of 16 when picking my A levels. I have been doing everything I can for the past 10 years in an attempt to get my CV to the standard that would be accepted on a DClinPsy. I have already been unsuccessful once and am approaching my second year of trying!
Where do you see yourself in 5/10/20 years’ time?
I’d like to think I’d be qualified in 5 years and either just starting my career in clinical psychology or at least 1 year into it! I hope 20 years down the line I’ll be comfortable in my job, maybe working as an academic alongside it.
Is it competitive?
It is highly competitive!! See the processes below of what you need. Just to give you an idea of my experience and qualifications and I was still beaten by others:
- Undergraduate degree with honours (BPS accredited) (Coventry University)
- Distinction at Masters (MSc) (University of Leicester)
- 4 and half years as a support worker
- 2 years as a part time honorary research assistant
- 2 years as an assistant psychologist
- Experience with LD, ASD, PD, Schizophrenia, Bipolar, Depression, GAD, Schizoaffective, Women, Men, challenging behaviours, x-related disorders, epilepsy, children, teenagers, community, locked inpatient, medium forensic,
Training as a clinical psychologist is paid at band 6, your student fees are also paid for so you have no loans to come to terms with at the end or trying to find the money before you even start your doctorate. This is the only route in psychology that is paid for by the NHS. This is why it is so competitive. Most other routes cost around £30000 to do the doctorate (this does not necessarily include all of the qualification you have do before you even start the doctorate.
What qualifications would you recommend?
Undergraduate degree, needs to be psychology/psychology related and needs to be BPS accredited (look for the BPS accredited and then you can pick any of those)
Masters. It doesn’t really matter as long as its psychology related, but beware if you don’t get on Clinical and decide you don’t want to just keep applying then pick a masters with another job option. All other psychology fields require a specific masters to get on the associated doctorate, for instance occupation health psychologist you need to do occupational psychology, for forensic psychologist you need to the forensic MSc.
Did you consider any other degrees or careers? If so, why did you choose yours?
I did but it was the psychological reward and home/work life balance of being a clinical psychologist that really did for me. I considered medicine but my stomach churns even at the thought of dealing with a wound! I thought about nursing but didn’t realise at the time that not all nursing is personal care! And I didn’t want to do that. Ironically my first job after qualifying in psychology was as a support worker with LD/ASD and a lot of my job was personal care, it’s not as bad as you think! I can also manage with wounds now so could have gone for medicine!
What 3 pieces of advice would you give someone who is considering psychology as a career?
Do you really have the stamina to go 10-15 years before you qualify? If yes go for it! But if no then think about something with a job at the end, like Mental Health Nursing or combine your psychology degree with something like law. You can always go into psychology in the future, especially if you combined a BPS accredited degree.
Really REALLY think about it. I have now been earning peanuts for 6 years of hard working after paying thousands out for a degree. I’m planning to go further so it makes it easier to swallow. If you do a psychology degree and then think this isn’t for me then you’ve just picked a degree that has NO jobs at the end of it, you’re now in thousands of pounds of debt to the student people and at the same place in the job market you would have been if you hadn’t gone to university. If you want to go anywhere with a psychology degree you have to do more education, if you really don’t want at least 5 more years before you qualify as a psychologist (in whatever field you may choose) then look at the IAPT service, 1 year and you’re qualified. Good pay and if in the future you decide to give clinical psychology a go then you can!
If you still think you do, then DON’T BE DISCOURAGED!!! You will get there in the end but prepare yourself. And remember to get a 2:1 or above at undergraduate, it will really make a difference!
What advice would you give to your younger self, looking back, at the stage when you were choosing your degree/career?
Ignore all the extra experience and stuff whilst doing your degree, just concentrate on getting the highest marks you can!
So you still want to be a clinical psychologist?
Route into clinical psychology
The most usual route to clinical psychology is:
- undergraduate degree (2:1+ and BPS accredited)
- Support worker/healthcare worker
- Assistant Psychologist/Research Assistant (minimum 1 year)
- 2nd or 3rd time of applying to the DClinPsy (doctorate in clinical psychology) you might get on (not everyone does though!)
Although 2 and 3 are not necessary, due to the competitiveness of the application process you are most likely not going to pass the application stage.
What are the processes of applying for the DClinPsy?
You can only apply once a year, usually between September and end of November/beginning of December for the following academic year (starting in September).
- Do stages 1-4 above, making sure your experience is varied as well (it is not necessary for any of the work experience you have to be paid, it can be voluntary).
- Complete an application and submit it to 4 universities through Leeds Clearing House, it’s the same application to all 4. This is £25. You will need an academic reference and then usually work or another academic reference.
- Stage 1 of applications: Applications are then screened and so many taken forward for the initial screening stage. If unsuccessful you get a generic letter of why people don’t get on, they always start with ‘due to unusually high numbers we are unable to provide individual feedback at this stage’. This can take around 2-3 months to find out if you’ve gotten to stage 2 (submit by December, find out around February following year).
- Stage 2: screening stage can vary massively from University to University, they can be anything!. Some examples: verbal and non-verbal reasoning tests, written tasks, multiple choice questions, essay questions, critiquing a journal article. If unsuccessful at this stage then you still get very general feedback (about 2 weeks to find out). By this point it can be end of February or not until March/April time, it varies from university to university (these dates are usually on the Leeds Clearing House for each university).
- Stage 2.5: not every university do this, they ask you to do a presentation on why you should be accepted or on a case study of something you’ve done or a multitude of other topics! If unsuccessful you get more specific feedback, unsure of timescales.
- Stage 3: those with the top scores are taken forward to interviews. Some universities combine a group interview and an individual interview. Some universities make you do role plays at the this point or only do individual interviews. Some may ask you to administer a neuropsychological assessment (e.g. the WAIS-IV). It is very individual to the university you apply to.
- Stage 3.5: some universities split the interview process so stage 3 is the group interview and stage 3.5 is the individual interview.
- Stage 4: if you’ve got through all the stages up til now, they will let you know by the end of May if you have been accepted or not. If unsuccessful you get very specific feedback about how you did in the interviews/tasks. This can however take up to 1 or 2 months for them to do.
If unsuccessful, repeat process, usually takes 2nd or 3rd time of applying to get through, some people still don’t get through! The entire process of creating an application to getting to the final stages of interviews and finding out if you’re successful is about 7 months (November – end of may). In 4 months you start again!
There are loads of topic boards and online forums for you to get information from about the above process, all the questions you have someone has most likely already asked them on a forum somewhere! Also make sure you speak to people who have been through the process at least once (they don’t need to be qualified but it just helps calm your nerves).