Qualified in psychology abroad and want to work in the UK?

Information about qualifications, experience and the typical career path
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Qualified in psychology abroad and want to work in the UK?

Post by miriam » Sat Apr 07, 2007 1:13 am

The regulator of psychology practitioners is the HCPC. To practise in the UK using any of their regulated terms, including Clinical Psychologist, you have to satisfy them that you meet the criteria and have broadly equivalent skills to CPs who trained in the UK. If your degree wasn't done in the UK then they will want to assess all your qualifications and experience to see what you need to add to reach their standard for a clinical psychologist, or where you would need to join the training path if you moved here. There is information for international applicants here: http://www.hpc-uk.org/apply/international/

The professional body for psychologists in the UK is the BPS. It is not necessary to be a member to practise here, but they have a parallel process for achieving chartered status, which may be of value to some psychologists, eg in academia or if you do not wish to use a regulated title.

The BPS are very tough about what it takes to get "equivalence" to a British qualification. GBC is Graduate Basis for Chartered membership with the British Psychological Society (and is a way of acknowledging your Bachelors degree covers enough psychology in enough depth to be a foundation for further study). It is a standard given to certain degrees in psychology in the UK, and international qualifications can be given this status by the BPS. Without GBC, it is hard to get Assistant Psychologist work and you would not be eligible to apply for Clinical Training.

In the UK the general path to Clinical Psychology (and as others point out there are other ways to practise as other types of psychologist) is as follows:
  • Undergraduate degree - 3 years, needs GBC (it is also much harder to proceed if you do not achieve a good class of degree) or another degree with some psychology content plus an approved conversion course.

    "Relevant experience" which often starts with voluntary work or care work (poorly paid or unpaid, but widely available) and may include work supervised by a Clinical Psychologist, such as research or clinical work as an Assistant Psychologist. Work supervised by a CP in the NHS is generally seen as the best experience to help applications for post-graduate training. Competition for these posts is extremely high - typically 100 applicants per post or more, posts throughout the UK)

    Clinical Doctorate - 3 years of academic, research and clinical training (paid reasonably, very competitive to get a place - typically 20 applicants per post, most with a lot of relevant experience, courses throughout the UK)

    Ability to practise as Clinical Psychologist in the NHS
I hope that helps orient you to the British system :D

My understanding is that to get full clinical equivalence (to be able to get a job in the NHS as a CP) you have to demonstrate all the competencies required to get a doctorate in the UK, experience of all the core client groups (working age adults, older people, children and families, people with learning disabilities) or core competencies, and have a doctoral standard piece of research. If any component is missing, or not verifiable, or the HCPC feel that you don't meet their criteria then you would have to add it within the UK to get equivalence. They may even ask you to sit exams to prove your knowledge, or write up cases, or undertake supervised placements - none of which will be funded (unless you can do some as an assistant or associate psychologist, but these are not very well paid, and are highly competitive posts).

I don't envy you if this is what you decide to do, as I've heard it is very tough and you will require a lot of determination, however I do know people that have managed it (typically people from Europe, Australia and South Africa) so it is possible. I'd think that emailing or writing to or phoning the HCPC and/or BPS might be a good starting point, as I'm sure they do a leaflet or could provide further information to advise you.

Can I work psychologically in the UK at all?

I think it depends a lot on whether your post graduate qualifications have been clinical or research based and whether they would be sufficient for independent practise as a clinical psychologist. In the British system you can't actually do any clinical work (except a limited range under supervision as an assistant psychologist) until you have a clinical doctorate (or equivalent). The places for the clinical doctorate are extremely competitive - as this site will indicate - and the courses will only consider you once the BPS has said you have the equivalent of GBC, and even then you will be expected to show a commitment to working in the NHS for your career, not returning to your country of origin - unless you are self-funding at one of the courses that offer this as an option.

You need a clinical doctorate, approved by the HCPC/BPS, to practise here (although the people who met BPS criteria before the doctorate was developed are still able to practise with a masters). Without the doctorate the only work you could get here that is directly using psychology with clients is as an assistant psychologist. This is relatively poorly paid (around £18-22,000 PA) and you would only be able to limited work, all under the supervision of a fully qualified clinical psychologist, and typically posts of this nature have at least 100 applicants. The supervising CP will oversee all your work, make the treatment decisions, interpret assessments, decide what is suitable work for an assistant, and lend you the cover of their insurance and professional accountability. The range of tasks undertaken vary incredibly, from research, to direct clinical work, to predominantly admin. From very narrow remits to very broad.

If you are not an EU national, you could not apply for any work in the UK at all without a work permit and a visa to live here (and I understand each of these can be quite hard to get). And even if you could work here in principle, in practise there would be huge limitations on the type of psychology you could do, and huge competition for the available posts.

In the UK health psychology and counselling psychology are relatively under-developed professions, but are also regulated under the HCPC. There are beginning to be clearer training paths and posts (which is definitely a positive thing). However, at present there are not funded training paths, or definite employment at the end of training. You could consider doing counselling or psychotherapy as a private practitioner, as these are less restricted professions. However, this would mean that you would have to do everything yourself from advertising to billing clients to providing premises. There may be some limited opportunities for counsellors in certain organisations (eg student counsellors at universities, or for some charitable organisations). However, again, these posts tend to be fairly poorly paid, and competitive to obtain, and as with everything I suspect you'd need visas and work permits before you could even apply.

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Content checked by qualified Clinical Psychologist on 21/05/16
Last modified by Miriam on 21/05/2016

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