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Clinical psychologists work to reduce psychological distress in people with mental or physical health problems.

Clinical psychologists with substantial and appropriate experience may be called upon to act as expert witnesses and write legal reports or documents.

What does a clinical psychologist do? Typical employers | Qualifications and training | Key skills

Clinical psychologists use psychological therapies and procedures to help clients overcome a range of problems including depression, addiction, anxiety, challenging behaviour, neurological disorders, mental ill health and learning disabilities. Typical responsibilities of the job include:

  • assessing clients' behaviour and needs via observation, interviews and psychometric tests
  • developing, administering and monitoring appropriate treatment therapies and strategies
  • undertaking research
  • writing reports
  • providing support and advice to carers
  • meeting, advising and liaising with other NHS professionals
  • helping clients to make positive changes to their lives

Typical employers of clinical psychologists

  • The NHS
  • Psychiatric units
  • Hospitals
  • Mental health services
  • Health centres and local clinics
  • Social services departments
  • Schools
  • Prisons

Vacancies are advertised in newspapers, hospital vacancy bulletins, on the NHS jobs website and on specialist psychology jobs websites.

Qualifications and training required

Entry requirements for psychology degrees vary but you usually need at least 2 or 3 A levels or equivalent qualifications, plus five GSCEs at grade 4 (C) or higher. Science subjects may be preferred. Psychology A level is not required, but may give you an insight into the subject.

You will need an undergraduate psychology degree accredited by the British Psychological Society (BPS) in order to be eligible for graduate membership of the BPS. Alternatively, you could have obtained a BPS-accredited conversion course, sometimes referred to as an accelerated degree. Conversion courses typically take a year to complete, though this can vary, as can entry requirements. After this you will go on to postgraduate study and training, and will need to undertake a three-year doctorate in clinical psychology.

You must then register as a clinical psychologist with the Health and Care Professions Council (HCPC).

Some clinical-related work experience may be required prior to commencing postgraduate training (for example, by working as an assistant psychologist in an NHS clinical psychology department). It may be possible to gain this experience through volunteering. 

Key skills for clinical psychologists

  • Knowledge of psychological theory and practice
  • Interest in how people think and behave
  • Good research skills
  • Ability to relate to and empathise with a range of people
  • Good teamworking skills
  • Excellent communication skills
  • Sensitive listening and questioning skills
  • Ability to cope with emotionally demanding situations
  • Ability to work both on your own and with others

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In Partnership

This content has been written or sourced by AGCAS, the Association of Graduate Careers Advisory Services, and edited by TARGETjobs as part of a content partnership. AGCAS provides impartial information and guidance resources for higher education student career development and graduate employment professionals.

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