You should gain some relevant clinically-related experience before applying for clinical psychology courses. This helps to establish that you know what you are applying for, what clinical psychologists do, the settings they work in, and the clients they work with. It also gives you the opportunity to work in the field before committing to a career in clinical psychology, and to gain an idea of what work with clients actually involves. Many trainees make good use during their course of the experience they gain at this stage, so it is not "wasted" time.
You do not necessarily need a long list of varied clinical experience: quality of experience is valued alongside quantity. Whatever work you do, courses are primarily interested in what you have learnt from your experiences, both personally and professionally. However, some courses require a minimum length of time for relevant experience (eg 12 months) for your application to be considered. Please see the Courses section for further details of the requirements of individual course centres.
You can get experience before, during or after your first degree and you should plan your time to strengthen your application as much as possible eg undergraduates could find relevant work over the summer.
Relevant experience includes part-time or full-time, voluntary or paid work, involving caring or service roles with a relevant client group, whether in the public, private or charitable sectors. However, courses are likely to value paid work over voluntary work.
Although it is common for applicants to have worked in mental health in the NHS, work in other areas and in other roles is also relevant. As examples, many successful applicants have worked in Social Services, in services for people with disabilities, or in the charitable sector; and they have worked as Support Workers, Health Care Assistants etc. However, some courses may value clinical experience which has been supervised by a qualified clinical psychologist over other types of experience. If possible, you should seek regular supervision or contact from a qualified clinical psychologist. If your job does not involve such contact you may benefit by making contact with local clinical psychologists.
Research experience (in addition to the undergraduate project) in a branch of psychology or a related discipline can also be relevant if it gives some direct involvement in a clinical area eg where it involves direct contact with users of clinical psychology services, or where the results of the research are clinically applicable. This does not mean that you must have held a research post. This sort of experience can often be gained in a clinical post (eg where clinically-related research and service evaluation are undertaken).
The links provided below are suggestions of where to look for relevant work. This is not intended as an exhaustive or definitive list and other websites may also be useful.
It is a good idea to have experience of how services operate in the UK if you are applying for NHS places. (People currently training as clinical psychologists are employed by the NHS. These arrangements may be amended for candidates entering training in 2018, but this is unclear at this stage. Please see the Funding page for more information.) So, for applications for NHS places, experience from other countries should preferably be supplemented by experience in the UK.