People often ask me how to become a Clinical Psychologist so I have put together the following guide which I hope will help. Much of it is my opinion – others may have different opinions so you should check with other sources too. You should also check to see if anything has changed since I wrote the webpage.
To become a Clinical Psychologist you will need to complete a Masters or Doctorate in Clinical Psychology. Most Clinical Psychology courses require that you have obtained a good undergraduate degree in Psychology before they will accept you onto the course. Different countries have different requirements so you may find it helpful to read through the country specific information below.
If you want to work as a Clinical Psychologist and are looking for training courses, you should always check with the university that you will be qualified to work as a clinical psychologist when you finish their course. Many students in Malaysia have made the mistake of taking a course overseas which appears to be a clinical psychology training course but is actually an introductory course which does not teach clinical skills.
Many clinical psychology courses require that you have some work experience before they will accept you onto the course. They don’t want you to start a course and then discover that you don’t actually like speaking to people in psychological distress.
If you manage to gain work experience by working with a Clinical Psychologist that’s great but it’s not usually a requirement. It’s more about having contact with the sort of clients you may work with a Clinical Psychologist and demonstrating that you have the ability to learn from these experiences.
Most courses that I know are also happy, or even prefer, that applicants have some work experience outside of the psychology field. Many people who study Clinical Psychology have had started their careers in another area. So there’s no need to rush into training if you’d like to try out other options first.
An understanding of research methods
Clinical psychologists are trained to be Scientist-Practitioners. Our practice is based on research evidence but we also approach each problem like scientists. We will look at the existing evidence (old records, observations, information gathered in interviews), hypothesise why the problem might be occurring and then test our hypothesis by running an intervention. We then evaluate our intervention and determine if we need to alter our hypothesis. This scientific approach means that many courses will assess your understanding of research methods.
One of the biggest challenges to overcome if you are an international applicant is the cost of attending a clinical psychology training course. I have listed some courses that are open to international applicants on this site (see links below). However, they tend to be expensive. I have yet to find any international funding sources (do let me know in the comments section below if you know of any). Some countries will sponsor their own citizens to go overseas to train as a Clinical Psychologist. If you lack funding the one option that I’m aware of is to apply for PhD courses in the USA because these sometimes come with funding. You may also be able to write a grant proposal for a research project with a professor if you can get them interested (perhaps if you have unique language skills or cultural knowledge that matches something that they wish to research).
Information on Clinical Psychology Training Programmes
For a list of Clinical Psychology Training Programmes open to foreign students please see this page. You can also view the pages for each of the countries below: