Psychologists support individuals of all ages who are experiencing complex mental health issues such as severe depression, bipolar disorder or other personality disorders.
They can also help individuals with behavioural problems, learning difficulties, depression and anxiety. Generally, support takes the form of psychological treatments such as acceptance and commitment therapy, CBT or interpersonal therapy.
With mental health support in growing demand it’s a good time to train in the psychology and therapy sectors.
Most employment opportunities exist within the NHS with the British Psychological Society reporting that 95% of clinical psychologists are working there. Though some find work in private practice. Either way, you can expect to earn over £30,000 once qualified. And anywhere up to £100,000 per year depending on seniority and experience.
But in order to become a clinical psychologist and move into mental health specialisation, you must be qualified and registered. For which you’ll have to meet certain academic requirements and have relevant experience in the field.
Certain titles within psychology are legally protected, with clinical psychologist being one of them. This means they are regulated and protected by law, to ensure the public are treated by registered professionals. You must complete numerous academic steps before you can register with the Health and Care Professions Council (HCPC).
A Levels or Equivalent
To study a psychology degree, you’ll need relevant A Levels or equivalent level 3 qualifications. Some universities are stricter than others in what they accept, so it’s best to check this beforehand.
To cope with the learning at degree level, students must be able to handle specific subject areas. Generally, they need to be comfortable working with scientific concepts, good with numbers and have excellent writing skills.
In this instance, universities usually look for biology, mathematics, English, history, economics or similar arts or social science subjects. A psychology A Level isn’t typically required but provides good insight and gives you a feel for the subject. You’ll also be expected to have GCSEs at grades A, B and in some cases C (4-9 in the new system) to enrol.
There’s been an increase in the number of students applying for psychology degrees. Likely because of the greater focus on mental health issues. This competition means the grades needed to be accepted are getting higher. So expect that some entry requirements may change in line with this demand.
Generally, you need to complete at least a three-year psychology related degree that’s accredited by the British Psychological Society (BPS). Some which pay particular attention to mental health related studies. However, there are also accredited conversion courses available if you’ve already studied something else.
These conversion courses are intense versions of a psychology course which are studied full-time over one year. Upon completion, you’ll be at the same point in the journey to those who studied an approved undergraduate psychology degree.
After which, both types of graduate can apply for Graduate Basis for Chartered Membership (GBC). Which allows you to apply for a place on a Doctorate course. But only if you’ve received a first-class honours degree or at least a 2:2, and have enough relevant work experience.
Post Graduate Degree
In order to work as a clinical psychologist, you’ll need registration with the Health and Care Professions Council (HCPC). This requires you to complete three years of postgraduate training. Which leads to a Doctorate in clinical psychology that’s approved by the HCPC.
Applications for Doctorate programmes are strengthened through relevant masters and PhD qualifications, but they’re not essential.
You generally apply for Doctorate courses through the Clearing House for Postgraduate Courses in Clinical Psychology. Though some universities have their own admissions process. You can apply between September and November and most courses run full-time over three years.
The National Health Service (NHS) funds most of the places on clinical psychology courses. Once you’re accepted you work for them as a trainee clinical psychologist while you study. The starting salary for which falls at the bottom of band 6 at £31,365 per year.
Your training will follow a structured programme of learning. Blending both academic and practical exercises, which encompasses clinical placements and research. On successful completion of your Doctorate, you can apply for registration with the HCPC and chartered status with the BPS.
Before you can get a place on a Doctorate course, you’ll need a certain amount of work experience. This must be in a highly relevant area and for at least 12 months. Course providers will be specific on how they want you to gain this experience, so it’s best to check with them first.
Many undergraduate degrees offer a placement year if taken over four years. Which provides an excellent opportunity to gain this experience.
Often experience gained as an assistant psychologist in clinical psychology departments within the NHS is preferred. Where you’ll work closely with and be supervised by a registered clinical psychologist, though these posts are highly sought after.
Gaining experience in clinically-oriented research is also helpful. This is because it contributes to your understanding of clinical psychology practices. Giving you skills in both academic and clinical areas.
You could also seek paid or voluntary work in other related areas. These could be within care or social work, nursing environments or ideally, mental health services. Giving you valuable experience and allowing you to explore your area of specialism ahead of time. Job titles you might want to look for are graduate psychological wellbeing practitioner, primary care worker, nursing or healthcare assistant.
Overall, any experience gained should be with groups and services directly applicable to clinical psychology. Providing you the opportunity to interact with people with both health and psychological difficulties. Allowing you to become better prepared for this career path and ready to embrace specialisation in mental ill-health.
Once qualified, you’ll be free to specialise and move into the role of a mental health psychologist.
If you’re aiming to become a mental health psychologist but don’t have the A Levels for university, we can help. Our Access to Higher Education Diplomas provide profession-specific education and stand in place of A Level qualifications.
You can study Access to HE Diplomas in psychology, or combined courses in psychology and sociology or psychology and criminology. Allowing you to get the foundational knowledge you need to study psychology related degrees at the undergraduate level.
What’s more, each course is studied online, from home, allowing you to learn with minimal disruption to your schedule.
Find out more about our social science related Access to Higher Education Diplomas by clicking the link below.