The Doctorate in Clinical Psychology (DClinPsy)
To become a Clinical Psychologist in the UK you must complete a Doctorate in Clinical Psychology (DClinPsy) which takes 3 years. In the UK this is the only way you can become a qualified clinical psychologist.
In other countries, such as the USA, taking the right type of PhD will qualify you as a Clinical Psychologist. However, this is not the case in the UK. If you take a PhD, even if it is focussed on topics closely related to clinical psychology, it will not allow you to work as a clinical psychologist.
Similarly, in some countries such as Australia and Malaysia, it is possible to qualify as a clinical psychologist with a Masters Degree. This is not possible in the UK. Unfortunately, there are many Masters courses in the UK with titles such as Masters in Clinical Psychology or Masters in Child Psychology. These courses are introductory courses. You will not be able to practice as a Clinical Psychologist in Malaysia or any other country if you complete one of these courses.
I’ve met quite a few good people who have mistakenly taken one of these courses. It is understandable as the courses often state they are accredited by the BPS and they sound clinical. However, they are accredited for their academic content in the same way as the BPS accredits undergraduate degrees. They are not accredited as clinical training courses. So we recommend that you do not take a Masters of Clinical Psychology in the UK.
Until recently the UK’s National Health Service (the NHS) had paid for all the available doctoral training places. So there were no places available to foreign students. However, British Universities are opening a small number of training places to international students. The entry requirements for international students vary between universities. But in general they will require that you:
- Obtain a bachelor’s degree in Psychology. Candidates need to hold (or hold the equivalent of) a British Psychological Society (BPS) accredited psychology degree with a degree classification of 2:1 or above.
If your degree is not from the UK you can apply to the BPS to determine if your degree is equivalent to a UK degree. You can do that by applying for Graduate Membership with the British Psychological Society on their website.
If your degree is not equivalent you can take an accredited conversion course. These courses are listed on the BPS website here (select conversion course in the ‘Course Type’ Drop down box).
If you’re travelling to the UK to study a conversion Masters the Conversion Masters at Edinburgh University looks interesting because it’s orientated towards people who would like to apply for clinical psychology training. There are also distance learning options so you don’t actually have to study in the UK and there are conversion masters available in Hong Kong.
- If your first language is not English, you will need to demonstrate a good level of proficiency in both written and spoken English.
- Have some experience of the settings and people that Clinical Psychologists may work with.
Gaining Work Experience
You will usually need at least one years work experience in order to apply successfully for the DClinPsy courses. This is because the courses want you to know what being a clinical psychologist actually involves. They want you to have spent time with people who are in need of psychological support because as a clinical psychologist you will spend much of your time working with people who are distressed or finding aspects of life really difficult. It’s best to know that you are comfortable being with people who are in distress before you invest in a DClinPsy.
It is also very helpful if you have had the opportunity to observe a clinical psychologist at work to see what their work involves. Although, this isn’t essential because most of DClinPsy courses will understand that it can be difficult to find work where you get to observe a clinical psychologist.
I’m often asked if it’s necessary to gain work experience in the UK. The answer to that question is ‘no’, it’s perfectly acceptable to gain experience in your home country. Most of the DClinPsy courses recognise that finding work overseas is very challenging, particularly in the UK which currently has a government that is determined to reduce immigration which can make acquiring a work visa challenging.
If you are about to study in the UK or have recently studied in the UK then the visa situation becomes a lot easier. A student visa usually gives you the right to work part time (although it’s important to have at least the equivalent of a 2:1 in your Psychology degree to get onto the DClinPsy courses so avoid spending too much time on gaining work experience). The UK also usually grants a two year working visa to people who have studied undergraduate or postgraduate degrees.
The most popular role to gain experience of clinical psychology is that of ‘Assistant Psychologist’. Unfortunately, there are usually hundreds of applications to Assistant Psychologist posts by local British aspiring Clinical Psychologists and as an overseas applicant you’ll be at a disadvantage. It’s therefore unlikely that you’ll be able to secure an Assistant Psychologist role in the UK. Another popular role to apply for is that of Research Assistant where the research is linked to clinical psychology. These roles are less competitive than the Assistant Psychologist roles but there are still high numbers of applicants.
The roles that are useful for getting onto clinical training and usually have a number of openings are Health Care Support Worker or Health Care Assistant. These are general job titles so not all of the jobs will be relevant. If these roles are in settings such as mental health, learning disabilities, brain injury or dementia then they are usually a great opportunity to gain experience whilst genuinely helping people in need. The downside of these jobs are that they are poorly paid whilst requiring a lot of work. Given the high living costs in the UK you may not be able to save much money by working in these roles.
Once you find a place to gain work experience, try to focus on what you can learn from the experience. Take time to reflect on both the good and bad things that you notice and think through how you would improve things. It’s easy to forge this information and your initial observations can be really useful so you may need to write down or record what you notice. This approach and the knowledge you gain from it will help you once you become a clinical psychologist. It’s also what the DClinPsy courses will be looking for. You won’t gain much credit by having many years of experience and a long list of impressive sounding jobs unless you can also demonstrate what you’ve learnt and gained from the experience.
Who accredits clinical psychology programmes in the UK?
Universities offering doctorate programmes in Clinical Psychology have Health & Care Professional Council approval, and British Psychological Society accreditation:
- HCPC Approval: Each programme is required to meet the standards of education and training required by the Health & Care Professions Council (HCPC). HCPC is the statutory regulator for practitioner psychologists in the UK.
- BPS Accreditation: Each programme is required to obtain accreditation by the British Psychological Society (BPS). Graduates of the programme are able to apply for Chartered Membership and full membership of the Division of Clinical Psychology providing they also have the Graduate Basis for Registration.
Do I need to be licensed or registered to practice as a psychologist in the UK?
In the UK the title of ‘Clinical Psychologist’ is protected by law. You must be registered by the Health & Care Professions Council (HCPC) to use it.
Any UK student who completes the Doctorate in Clinical Psychology (DClinPsy) course in the UK would automatically be eligible for registration with the HCPC and the BPS. Most overseas students taking a DClinPsy should also be automatically be eligible unless the university has decided to give overseas students different types of placement and training. It would be a good idea to check with the university that you would be eligible for HCPC registration.
If you are a registered clinical psychologist in another country you can apply to the HCPC to see if your qualifications are recognised in the UK.
If I train as a Clinical Psychologist in the UK will I be able to practice in my home country?
You should check with the authorities or potential employers in your home country to determine whether a UK qualification will be recognised. The British Clinical Psychology qualification is usually accepted internationally but some countries, for example the USA, may require that you take extra examinations before you can work.
How much will it cost?
The fee for a 3 year Clinical Psychology course in the UK ranges between £20,000 and £35,000 per year. You will also need to be able to afford to live in the UK. The actual cost of living depends on the region in which you live. Universities based in London estimate that you will need £1,000 to £1,200 per month for living costs.
More rural Universities estimate that you will need £800 per month but you may need to access to a car to be able to get to your placements. Further estimates of living costs can be found on the Numbeo website.
It is not possible to work part-time to cover costs in the UK because the course itself is very demanding. Given the high costs involved the courses generally expect that you will have secured funding in your home country perhaps via your government or another funding organisation.
What are the VISA Requirements for the UK?
International students must obtain a Tier-4 student visa to study in the UK. For more information on visa requirements, please visit www.gov.uk/tier-4-general-visa.
Which Universities currently offer places for international students to study clinical psychology?
The ‘Clearing House for Postgraduate Courses in Clinical Psychology’ lists which courses have self-funded places which are open to international students here.
British students cannot apply to most of the self-funded places. The table below was retrieved from the Clearing House website in October 2022. Please check the Clearing House website for the most up-to-date information.
|Course||Fee status required & how to apply|
|University of Birmingham||Overseas fees status only.|
Apply directly to the university.
|University of East Anglia||Overseas fees status only.|
Apply through the Clearing House to course 502.
|University of Exeter||Overseas fees status only.|
Apply through the Clearing House to course 902.
|University of Hertfordshire||Any fees status.|
Apply through the Clearing House to course 1102 or directly to the university.
|Institute of Psychiatry, Psychology and Neuroscience – King’s College London||Overseas fees status only.|
Apply directly to the university.
|University of Manchester||Overseas fees status only.|
Apply through the Clearing House to course 1702.
|North Thames – University College London||Overseas fees status only.|
Apply through the Clearing House to course 1902.
UK trainee clinical psychologists are employed by the UK’s National Health Service. So to apply for an NHS place you need to have the right to work in the UK without restriction. A student visa is not enough for an NHS place on clinical psychology training.
We are not qualified to tell you whether you have the right to work in the UK or not. If you are unsure of your status please:
- check the UK Visas and Immigration website or
- check the information provided by your local British Embassy
What’s it like to study Clinical Psychology in the UK as an international student?
We recommend this website which was written by a group of international trainees who studied or are currently studying Clinical Psychology in the UK. They describe their experiences and give advice about the process of applying to clinical psychology training in the UK.
The website’s URL is: https://www.dclinpsy-international.co.uk/
Job opportunities once you qualify
We’re often asked about the job prospects for clinical psychologists once they qualify. I’ve written an article on ‘the Status of Clinical Psychology in Malaysia‘ which I hope will be helpful if you are planning to work in Malaysia.
If you obtain a qualification in the UK you will have the option of working in the UK. A new Graduate Visa is now being offered. It gives graduates from doctorate degrees permission to work in the UK for three years. As a skilled professional there is also a higher chance that you will be able to get permission to continue working in the UK after the three years. With some experience you may also be able to apply to live and work in other countries.
Any questions or comments about training as a Clinical Psychologist in the UK as an international applicant?
Did you find this article helpful? If you have any questions on training in the UK as a Clinical Psychologist please write them in the comments section at the bottom of this page. We will reply to you as soon as possible.
We would also be happy to receive any comments or opinions you may have on this article.