Career profile: assistant clinical psychologist

Image of child's brain
Are you interested in a clinical psychology career?
A 2007 psychology graduate from the University of Manchester, currently working as an assistant clinical psychologist for the NHS, provided the case study below about her current role and how she got there.

How did you get your job?

Since leaving university I have held several jobs. My first was working as a sales advisor for an insurance company – completely unrelated to the career that I wanted. In the meantime I joined an assistants group at the university, got involved in writing articles, and worked as a locum support worker for women that had suffered domestic abuse.

Eventually I plucked up the courage and contacted several clinical psychologists and got an honorary research assistant post at the University of Manchester.

I then started a part time Research Psychologist post for UCL which gave me great experience of conducting research. I also started volunteering as a research assistant one day a week on a project looking at obesity and managed to get paid work on an ad hoc basis at the University of Nottingham which eventually resulted in some publications.

What does your role involve?

My current role as an assistant clinical psychologist consists of conducting neuro-psychological assessments on children with queried autism/learning disabilities or a social communication disorder. I score up and interpret performance and write reports. I also visit children within their school environment and carry out direct/video observations. My post has enabled me to sit in on and assist in formulations and intervention/treatment plans. Spending time around clinical psychologists has allowed me to gain a sense and clear understanding of the work that they conduct.

How did your degree help?

If you want to become a clinical psychologist having a degree is essential. My degree gave me a great foundation of knowledge, improved my writing and research skills, and confidence to pursue a career in clinical psychology.

What advice would you give anyone else wanting to get into clinical psychology?

Gaining a place on the Clinical Psychology Doctoral Training is not an easy process. It is important to fully research and understand what Clinical Psychology is.


  • Contact clinical psychologists and ask to talk to them – they tend to have a lot of knowledge that can be helpful for you. Whilst at University this should be easier as you may have clinical psychologists that lecture you.
  • Try and get involved in support work / Nightline / Samaritans / mentoring etc. whilst at university.
  • Join an assistants group (it is not always restricted to assistants).
  • Get any experience you can which you can show is relevant. I was involved in Nightline, worked as an ambassador for the university engaging those from disadvantaged backgrounds, worked in India and Romania with people that had disabilities etc.
  • Offering to work on an honorary basis on a research project during holidays is a good way of getting experience.
  • Opt for a research project (normally in your final year) that is as clinically relevant as you can get.
  • Be willing to seek out experience and to deal with rejection.
  • Do not allow it to consume you – it is only a job at the end of the day.

 Final note from the Careers Service:

For further advice and information about psychology careers see our ‘I want to work in healthcare’ pages. If you missed our ‘Careers in Psychology’ event, don’t forget you can find content on our Careers Downloads page.

[Image: by IsaacMao via creative commons on]

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