Clinical psychologists use psychology, the scientific study of behaviour, to help people with a wide range of mental and physical health issues.
Teaching, research and consultancy are major activities.
Also known as
- Psychologist, Clinical
Video: - Marilyn: Clinical Psychologist
Video: - Claire: Clinical Psychologist
Clients are usually referred to a clinical psychologist from their general practitioner (GP), although there are some mental health teams and psychology services that people can go to directly for help.
Before any treatment can begin, clinical psychologists use psychological knowledge and theory to assess the patient's needs, abilities and behaviour.
Clinical psychologists use their assessments to help identify:
- the nature of the problem
- suitability for treatment
- the type of treatment required.
Assessment usually leads to therapy, counselling or advice.
Clinical psychologists see patients for treatment in a variety of settings, including community facilities and hospital clinics. Sometimes psychologists visit clients in the community, for example, in a children's home, retirement home, remand centre or youth training centre.
Some clinical psychologists take part in the management and planning of health services. This could include training other medical professionals in areas such as psychological diagnosis or stress management, or supervising trainee psychologists.
There are psychologists in academic and research settings, such as universities and medical research units.
Clinical psychologists often work in teams with other professionals - such as doctors, nurses, social workers and occupational therapists, as well as other psychologists - when assessing and providing treatment.
Being able to read, write and speak Welsh may be an advantage when you’re looking for work in Wales.
Personal Qualities and Skills
As a clinical psychologist, you need:
- An investigative mind.
- A strong interest in the way people think and act.
- A logical and methodical approach to problem solving.
- Excellent communication and interpersonal skills.
- A calm, professional approach at all times.
- The ability to express your findings, including in reports.
- Teamworking skills, to work with other professionals.
- Strict respect for your clients' confidentiality.
- The psychological knowledge to understand behaviour in a scientific way.
You should also be:
- A good listener.
- Logical and systematic.
- Patient, non-judgemental and objective.
- Able to relate to people of all ages, from all walks of life.
- Able to build a trusting, constructive relationship with clients.
- Committed to helping people transform their lives in a positive way.
- Resilient and able to avoid becoming burdened by the difficulties you encounter.
Pay and Opportunities
Earnings for qualified Chartered Clinical Psychologists vary depending on their area of specialisation and whether they are employed or in private practice.
The pay rates given below are approximate.
Clinical psychologists earn in the range £25,000 - £30,500, rising to £35,000 - £50,000 with experience. Senior positions can attract a salary in advance of £60,000.
Clinical Psychologists working within the NHS are paid according to NHS salary bands, and will earn in the range £25,528 - £27,625, rising to £65,270 - £80,810 with experience. Senior NHS positions can expect to earn up to £97,478.
Hours of work
Psychologists usually work a basic 37-hour week. Some evening and weekend work may be required. Part-time opportunities are also available.
What's happening in this work area?
It can be difficult to secure a place on a postgraduate training course due to high demand.
The Health Sector relies on public funding. This funding could be be cut over the next few years, and this may affect how many new people are taken on . The full details of these funding cuts are not yet known, and the government has promised to continue supporting front-line services, including the NHS.
Competition for places is expected to be high, as people who have been made redundant consider the NHS as a possible employer.
Where could I work?
Opportunities for clinical psychologists occur throughout the UK.
Most clinical psychologists work for the NHS in local clinics and hospitals. Others work in university teaching and research.
Opportunities occur for a small number of psychologists to work in private practice.
Where are vacancies advertised?Vacancies are advertised in the following places:
- Local/national newspapers.
- NHS jobs website.
- Jobcentre Plus.
- The Universal Jobmatch website.
- The British Psychological Society's Psychologist Appointments website.
Entry Routes and Training
To become a Health and Care Professions Council (HCPC) regulated clinical psychologist, you need to follow a British Psychological Society (BPS) training route.
The BPS's Graduate Basis for Chartered Membership (GBC) is the first step. You can obtain the GBC by completing a BPS-accredited degree in psychology.
If your psychology degree is not accredited or your degree is in a subject other than psychology, you can obtain the GBC by taking an accredited postgraduate conversion course.
It is usual for potential psychologists to spend at least a year gaining relevant work experience, often as an assistant or research psychologist, before being accepted onto a postgraduate course.
After gaining the GBC, you need to complete a three-year accredited postgraduate training course, the Doctorate in Clinical Psychology. This course is available at a number of universities throughout the UK.
The doctorate is funded by the National Health Service (NHS). While on the programme, you are employed by the NHS as a trainee clinical psychologist.
With experience, psychologists can progress to supervisory and management positions.
Previous experience working in a caring environment such as in a care home or in a hospital would be really useful for this career.
Rehabilitation of Offenders Act
Chartered psychologist posts are exempt from the Rehabilitation of Offenders Act 1974. This means that you must supply information to an employer about any spent or unspent convictions, cautions, reprimands or warnings, if they ask you to. This is different from other careers, where you only have to reveal information on unspent convictions if you are asked to.
For entry to an accredited degree course in psychology, the usual requirement is:
- 2/3 A levels
- GCSEs (A to C or 9 to 4) in 2/3 other subjects
- English, Maths and science GCSE subjects are usually preferred, and a science subject at A level is sometimes required.
Psychology at A level is not a requirement.
Other qualifications, such as a BTEC Level 3 qualification or the International Baccalaureate Diploma could also be considered. Entry requirements for degree courses vary; check prospectuses carefully.
Some universities accept the Welsh Baccalaureate as equivalent to 1 A-level.
It is illegal for any organisation to set age limits for entry to employment, education or training, unless they can show there is a real need to have these limits.
If you don't have the qualifications needed to enter your chosen degree course, a college or university Access course (eg, Access to Psychology) could be the way in. No formal qualifications are usually required, but you should check individual course details.
There are accredited conversion courses open to graduates with degrees in subjects other than psychology (and those with non-accredited psychology degrees). You can find out more by looking on the British Psychological Society's (BPS) website.
Part-time degree study is available from a number of universities. However, most part-time degrees are not accredited by the BPS.
Distance or open learning is available from the Open University, which offers a BSc degree in Psychology. This qualification is accredited by the BPS.
Clinical psychologist postgraduate training courses are funded through National Health Service (NHS) Strategic Health Authorities. Funding for other branches of psychology can be available from the Economic and Social Research Council, Medical Research Council and agencies such as the Nuffield Foundation.
The BPS website has a searchable database of funding opportunities. These range from studentships to research grants.
- 22% of psychologists are self-employed.
- 33% work part-time.
- 14% have flexible hours.
- 9% of employees work on a temporary basis.
NHS Wales Careers
Publisher: National Leadership and Innovation Agency for Healthcare
Skills for Health
Skills for the health sector
Address: Goldsmiths House, Broad Plain, Bristol BS2 0JP
Tel: 0117 9221155
Queen's University Belfast
Open University (OU)
Tel: 0845 3006090
Medical Research Council (MRC)
Address: 14th Floor, One Kemble Street, London WC2B 4AN
Tel: 01793 416200
Health and Care Professions Council (HCPC)
Address: Park House, 184 Kennington Park Road, London SE11 4BU
Tel: 0845 3006184
NHS Education for Scotland (NES)
Address: Westport 102, West Port, Edinburgh EH3 9DN
Tel: 0131 6563200
Economic and Social Research Council (ESRC)
Address: Polaris House, North Star Avenue, Swindon SN2 1UJ
Tel: 01793 413000
British Psychological Society (BPS)
Address: St Andrews House, 48 Princess Road East, Leicester LE1 7DR
Tel: 0116 2549568
Getting into Psychology Courses
Author: Maya Waterstone Publisher: Trotman
British Psychological Society
Publisher: British Psychological Society (BPS)
Tel: 01223 378 051
Institute of Psychoanalysis
Address: Byron House, 112A Shirland Road, London W9 2EQ
Tel: 020 7563 5000