How to Get Into a Clinical Psychology Doctorate

Want to become a qualified Clinical Psychologist? You’ll need to apply for a Doctorate in Clinical Psychology. This guide contains everything you need to know about what Clinical Psychology is, what the entry requirements for a Doctorate in Clinical Psychology are, and how to get into one of these competitive courses in the UK.

What is Clinical Psychology?

Clinical Psychology is a branch of Psychology that is concerned with the assessment and treatment of mental illness and behavioural problems. It is a heavily scientific and hands-on subject area that typically involves studying a wide range of psychological disorders, mental health issues, and dependence issues (such as alcohol and gambling addiction), and the interventions employed to help people, as well as vocational training.

What are the different types of Clinical Psychology courses?

There are a range of different postgraduate Clinical Psychology courses and it is important to do your research into each before applying, as they each lead to different career options.

Course type Course details Typical entry requirements Career options
MSc Clinical Psychology A Master’s in Clinical Psychology helps you to gain a better understanding of the role of psychology in mental and physical difficulties, and how psychological therapies and approaches can improve the lives of people. Typically, MSc Clinical Psychology applicants will need a 2:1 degree in Psychology. Some universities require this degree to be accredited by the British Psychological Society (BPS), however some do not. Some universities may also accept a 2:2 or a non-Psychology (but scientific) degree, usually if the student has significant work experience. MSc Clinical Psychology courses do not replace or guarantee entry onto accredited Clinical Psychology Doctoral training programmes and so do not in themselves qualify you as Clinical Psychologist. However, MSc Clinical Psychology graduates can go on to study accredited Doctorates and become Clinical Psychologists, and a Master’s may help them to stand out in the application process for this.
Other common careers MSc Clinical Psychology graduates pursue include:

  • Academia (PhD study)
  • Charity sector
  • Public sector (the NHS, Police)
Clinical Psychology Doctorate (DClinPsy) DClinPsy Clinical Psychology courses typically last for 3 years and involve the study of therapeutic models and developments in theory, as well as practical training and placement work. During academic terms, students will send some days on clinical placement and some in scheduled teaching or study/research. Typically, applicants will be required to have a 2:1 undergraduate degree in Psychology that is accredited by the British Psychological Society (BPS). In order to have a realistic chance of being selected, you will also need to have some relevant clinical experience, such as working as an Assistant Psychologist or other paid or voluntary work in a healthcare setting. Accredited Clinical Psychology Doctorates are academic as well as vocational programmes that allow students to qualify as Clinical Psychologists. Thus, the vast majority of DClinPsy graduates go onto work in the NHS or similar healthcare organisations. They may also take up clinical research posts in universities.

5 tips for getting into Clinical Psychology Doctorate

1. Check the entry requirements

In order to be considered for a place on a Clinical Psychology Doctoral programme, it is essential to have a good degree in Psychology (or a degree in another subject area with a Psychology conversion course). You will also need a Graduate Basis for Chartered Membership (GBC) with the British Psychological Society (BPS), achieved through an accredited Psychology degree or a qualifying exam or conversion course.

Although entry requirements are relatively similar across all Doctoral Clinical Psychology courses, there are some differences between universities. See the table below for the entry requirements for DClinPsy courses at some top universities.

University Course Entry requirements
King’s College London (KCL) Doctorate in Clinical Psychology (DClinPsy) Minimum 2:1 undergraduate degree in Psychology, or 2:1 or above in a different subject area alongside a BPS-accredited conversion course which grants GBC.
Candidates without the required minimum degree class must provide evidence of a qualification at Doctoral level, such as a PhD. Although a Master’s qualification is not mandatory, applications are enhanced by evidence of postgraduate study.
UCL Doctorate in Clinical Psychology Minimum good 2:1 degree in Psychology. This degree must be BPS-accredited or you need to have completed a course that allows you to apply for Graduate Basis for Chartered Membership (GBC) from the BPS. You must also have gained some relevant clinical experience before applying for this course.
Oxford Doctorate in Clinical Psychology (DClinPsych) Minimum 2:1 in an undergraduate Psychology degree or an undergraduate degree in another subject, with a Master’s-level conversion course (Merit or Distinction). Applicants must have Graduate Basis for Chartered Membership (GBC) from the British Psychological Society (BPS). You must also have some relevant clinical experience.
Southampton Doctorate Clinical Psychology (DClinPsych) All applicants must have Graduate Basis for Chartered Membership (GBC) from the BPS. Applicants must also hold, or be expected to attain, a minimum 2:1 degree.
You will also need to have at least one year’s (full time equivalent) experience of paid or voluntary work in clinical, community, or clinical/academic settings directly relevant to Clinical Psychology.

Opening/closing dates for applications

Almost all applications to Doctorate Clinical Psychology courses are made through the organisation Clearing House. This includes DClinPsy courses at universities such as UCL, Oxford, Manchester, Southampton, KCL, and most others. You are only allowed to apply to up to four Clinical Psychology Doctorate courses via Clearing House in any one academic year. The application deadline for Clearing House applications is 1:00pm (UK time) on the 16th November 2022. Applications can typically be made between September and the end of November in the year preceding entry to the programme.

The only two universities who do not use Clearing House for applications are the University of Hull and Queen’s University Belfast, which have their own application systems and deadlines. Always make sure to check directly with your chosen university if you are unsure when to submit your application.

2. Secure a range of work experience

Securing work experience in preparation for a Clinical Psychology course is not only an essential entry requirement, but is also incredibly valuable to you as an applicant. It gives you a chance to test out whether work in the field is well-suited to you and your skills. It also ensures that universities know that you are committed to the field and that your application is well-informed.

Some DClinPsy courses require applicants to have 1-2 whole years’ work experience (full-time equivalent), while others don’t specify a particular amount. Either way, we suggest securing a range of clinical work experience and as much of it as possible before applying to study Doctoral-level Clinical Psychology.

‘Clinical work experience’ refers to any work experience in a clinical setting, such as a hospital, healthcare department, outpatient facility, or clinic whose primary purpose is healthcare or mental wellness. This work experience doesn’t have to be paid – voluntary work also counts – but it can still be difficult to find placements, let alone ones that equip you with the knowledge and skills universities are looking for.

Broadly, you should look for experience that gives you:

  • An idea of what Clinical Psychologists do in their day-to-day roles
  • Some direct clinical contact with the sort of clients Psychologists work with
  • An idea of what work with clients really entails
  • A sense of the organisational context in which Clinical Psychology usually operates

Clinical work experience can be found both inside and outside of the NHS, however it is a good idea to work in a context which gives you a general sense of the statutory healthcare system (NHS) to some extent. For example, a stand-alone unit for people with substance abuse services might operate outside the NHS, but have links/referrals to it. Clients using this service would almost certainly have experienced contact with NHS provision, and there would therefore be opportunities to learn about the way in which the NHS operates.

Where can you find work experience?

One of the most common work experience routes is to work as an Assistant Psychologist. Assistant Psychologist posts are advertised in the BPS Bulletin (distributed monthly to all members of the BPS) and in other relevant publications, such as the health section of newspapers like The Guardian. Other work experience can be found via sites such as LinkedIn and Indeed, and on the NHS Jobs website.

3. Write your personal statements carefully

The process of applying for a Clinical Psychology Doctorate typically involves writing multiple personal statements as part of the Clearing House application form. Questions typically follow this format:

  • In what way have your work and/or research experiences made you a better candidate for training in clinical psychology? (3,000 characters)
  • Please give details of any publications/dissemination resulting from your work (1,500 characters)
  • What would you hope to gain from training? (750 characters)
  • Other information about yourself e.g. activities/interests apart from Psychology. (750 characters)

As you can see, each of these sections is allocated a different number of characters. The closest to a ‘personal statement’ in length is the first question, which allows you to write up to 3,000 characters. However, unlike an undergraduate personal statement, all of these characters should be dedicated to specifically answering the question provided by giving examples of times your experiences – not academic, but work-related – have made you an excellent candidate.

The process of writing these shorter statements is likely very different to anything you will have experienced before, so it can feel a little daunting. However, much of what the questions are asking is what you would ordinarily write in a full-length personal statement or statement of academic purpose, just divided into more targeted sections.

Nevertheless, having a Clinical Psychology application expert on-hand can help you stay reassured and submit the best possible application to each of your chosen universities. The Profs specialises in postgraduate level support and can match you with an experienced Clinical Psychology admissions tutor to guide you through the process. Get in touch with our team to find out more.

4. Check what else is required

As well as your personal statements, universities will require a range of documentation that proves your eligibility to study Clinical Psychology. The sections below detail the additional documents/information you may need to submit as part of your application.

GBC Membership

All universities require you to provide one document that confirms your status for Graduate Basis for Chartered Membership (GBC). A document that only mentions the British Psychological Society (BPS) without confirming GBC is not sufficient. Suitable documents include:

  • Letter from the BPS. If you have completed university-level Psychology qualifications, you can have them assessed for GBC by applying for Graduate Membership of the BPS. If you are or have been a Graduate member of the BPS, they usually confirm your GBC status in the email or letter they send you when you first become a member. Please provide a copy of this email/letter in your application.
  • Academic transcript. Some UK and Irish universities state in your academic transcript that your Psychology qualification was accredited for GBC, however many do not. If your transcript includes this then you do not need to provide another document to confirm GBC. However, if the transcript only mentions the BPS and does not confirm GBC, then this is not sufficient and you should provide a different document.
  • Letter from your university. If you completed a GBC-accredited Psychology qualification at a UK or Irish university, you can ask them for a letter to confirm GBC status. This should come from the university department where you studied and must:
    Identify you as the person that successfully completed the qualification
    Confirm that the qualification was accredited for GBC
    Confirm that you successfully completed all the necessary modules for GBC.
    We recommend that you contact your university Psychology department as soon as possible to give them time to send this letter to you so as to ensure your application is completed in time.

Academic transcripts

Some (but not all) university courses will ask you to provide an academic transcript for your university qualifications as part of the Clinical Psychology application process. All academic transcripts should include the following items:

  • A list of the modules you took and the marks you got.
  • Confirmation that you completed the qualification and your overall result (e.g. 2:1).
  • The full qualification title (e.g. BSc in Psychology with Sociology).
  • Information to identify who took the course (e.g. your name, date of birth, etc.).
  • Information to identify the university where you studied (e.g. university name and logo, authorising stamp and signature, etc.).

The transcript should be issued to you by a member of staff at your university (it should not be a printout you create yourself from your student account) and cover all the years and results of your course.

If your university cannot provide you with a transcript for any reason, you will need a letter from them confirming this. If possible, this letter should come from the Central Student Records Department of your university. We suggest that you contact your university as soon as possible to give them time to check their records.

Academic Suitability Statements

The Clearing House admissions process requires all Clinical Psychology applicants to provide two references, known as ‘Academic Suitability Statements’. One of these must be academic-focused (Academic Suitability Statement), and the other should be experience-focused (Experience Suitability Statement).

You will need to nominate one person to write your Academic Suitability Statement and a different person to write your Experience Suitability Statement. Both statements are submitted through the Clearing House website and made available to the courses you are applying to. Some courses have specific requirements for the format of suitability statements and who can provide them, so you will need to check directly on your chosen course page in advance.

The deadline for references/suitability statements is the 2nd December 2022 (for 2023 entry). You should leave yourself plenty of time to get organised with your statements. For more general information on suitability statements, check out Clearing House’s helpful resource.

English language test (IELTS)

If you are applying to a UK Clinical Psychology course from abroad and English is not your first language, you will need to provide evidence of your English language ability in your application. You can do this by taking an English language test called the IELTS (International English Language Testing System).

The score you are required to achieve in the IELTS will differ depending on the university you’re applying for, so it’s important to check this in advance. The table below shows the minimum IELTS score required by a handful of top UK universities.

University Minimum IELTS score required
University of Oxford 7.5 overall. Minimum 7.0 per component.
University of Manchester 7.0 overall and no other element below 6.5.
Royal Holloway 6.5 overall. Writing 7.0. No other subscore lower than 5.5.
LSE 7.0 overall and no other element below 6.5.

For more information about the IELTS, check the IELTS website and Clearing House IELTS page, or get in touch with The Profs’ experienced IELTS tutors. Our experts can help you prepare for the test and reach the increasing minimum scores required by top universities.

Application fees

All candidates applying to a Doctoral Clinical Psychology programme via Clearing House will be required to pay an application fee. If you submit your application and pay by the 19th October 2022, the fee is £30. If you submit your application between the 20th October and the deadline on the 16th November, the fee is £40.

The fee you will pay to Clearing House is fixed no matter how many courses you apply to (i.e. it is the same if you apply to one or if you apply to the maximum of four).

5. Reach out to a Clinical Psychology admissions expert

Applying for a Doctorate in Clinical Psychology can be an unfamiliar, rigorous, and oftentimes overwhelming process. However, that needn’t be the case. The Profs have a network of expert postgraduate admissions tutors and Clinical Psychology specialists that can support you with all aspects of your application. From finding the most suitable course for you to supporting you with writing your personal statements and advising you on how to secure adequate work experience, our experts work closely with you at every stage to maximise your chances of getting into your first choice university and pursuing your dream career. Get in touch with our team today to get started.

FAQs

Do I need a Bachelor’s degree in Psychology to study Clinical Psychology?

Almost all UK universities do require Clinical Psychology applicants to have studied their undergraduate degree in Psychology. Typically, this degree is also required to be recognised by the British Psychological Society (BPS) as providing Graduate Basis for Chartership (GBC). However, it is sometimes possible to apply with a non-Psychology degree if you have completed a BPS-accredited Psychology conversion course and have the appropriate work experience. Always check directly with your chosen university if you are unsure whether you meet the entry requirements.

Do I need to take the GRE/GMAT for Clinical Psychology?

In most cases, you will not be required to take the GRE/GMAT to apply for any postgraduate Clinical Psychology course. However, always check the entry requirements of the specific course/s you are looking to apply for.

What can I do with a Clinical Psychology degree?

What career you can pursue depends on which type of Clinical Psychology degree you have. Accredited doctoral programmes, which typically last for 3 years, combine academic study with practical placements and allow you to become a fully qualified Clinical Psychologist. With this qualification, you will be qualified to work in the NHS or similar healthcare organisations.

Master’s courses (such as MSc Clinical Psychology), on the other hand, do not offer this qualification. You can, however, study a BPS-accredited Master’s degree and then go on to study a Doctorate and qualify as a Clinical Psychologist later on.

How do I become a qualified Clinical Psychologist?

Becoming a qualified Clinical Psychologist is a long and demanding process. To begin training, you’ll normally need Graduate Basis for Chartered Membership (GBC), which is achieved by completing a Psychology degree or conversion course accredited by The British Psychological Society (BPS).

You’ll then need to complete a Doctorate in Clinical Psychology that is accredited by the BPS and approved by the HCPC. You’ll typically need a minimum 2:1 degree to get a place on a Doctorate course. Some providers may accept a 2:2 if you have a relevant Masters (such as MSc Clinical Psychology) or PhD. You’ll also need significant, relevant work experience in a clinical/research field.

Finally, in order to be a fully qualified Clinical Psychologist, you will need to have an enhanced Disclosure and Barring Service (DBS) check.

What is Clearing House?

Clearing House is a non-profit educational charity managed by a board of representatives from both Clinical Psychology course centres and trainees/applicants. They work with 30 Clinical Psychology course centres/universities around the UK to provide a single point of application for postgraduate Clinical Psychology courses. Clearing House does not make decisions about who is successful at each stage of the selection process; this is done by the universities you apply to.