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.
Covid-19 may have impacted the experience gained within some roles and shaped the format of the experience available (eg changes in role, shift to remote working, changes in research focus etc). You may wish to reflect on your experience during the ongoing pandemic: in these unprecedented times, what opportunities have you had to apply psychological principles in practice, and what exposure have you had to the role of clinical psychologists during a global health crisis? Whilst it is understood that gaining relevant experience will have presented greater challenges in the current environment, it is still important to trainees (and thus the clients they serve) that they have appropriate pre-training experience to draw from during their training.
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.
When you add your relevant experience to your application, the website will automatically calculate the Full-Time Equivalent in months. The calculation uses 37.5 hours per week as full-time. If you list a job as current, or give an end date beyond November, the calculation uses November as the end date because this is when applications close.
You can get experience before, during or after your undergraduate 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 experience of working in mental health in the NHS is common, work in other areas and in other roles is also relevant, eg work in Social Services, in services for people with disabilities, or in the charitable sector; and work as a Support Worker, Health Care Assistant 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; they do not indicate any endorsement or recommendation by the Clearing House. 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. So, for applications for NHS places, experience from other countries should preferably be supplemented by experience in the UK.