In the United Kingdom, there is no direct route to becoming a child psychologist. However, it can be achieved through a combination of doctorate study and specialised work experience. Child psychologists find reasons for behaviours in order to help the children and their parents overcome feelings of depression, anxiety and anger. Child psychologists are in high demand in schools, foster care and child care settings as well as in private practice where they work with children who have emotional problems or learning disabilities.
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Things you need
- Bachelor's degree in Psychology
- Psychology Doctorate
- Health Professional Council registration
You should get an accredited degree. The British Psychological Society evaluates courses to make sure they meet minimum standards and cover a relevant curriculum. If the required standards are met, the degree is accredited. The easiest way to become a child psychologist is to get a Lower Second Class Honors Degree (2:2) or above in either an accredited bachelor's of arts or an accredited bachelor's of science psychology degree. This class of degree is equivalent to a grade point average of 2.5. If your degree is not accredited or if you study a different subject, then you can take a conversion course after graduation. This lasts for one or two years. Once your degree is complete, you are automatically eligible for membership to the British Psychological Society under a category called the Graduate Basis for Chartered Membership.
To become a child psychologist, you need to take a doctorate in clinical, counselling or educational psychology. Once completed, you can register with the Health Professional Council. This is a register of health professionals who meet the British Psychology Society's standards. Most employers request HPS membership. The Clearing House for Postgraduate Training Courses is a register of postgraduate courses in clinical psychology as well as a funding body. Applicants apply for postgraduate courses through the Clearing House. Those who are successful receive funding from the body for the duration of their courses.
If you took the doctorate in clinical or counselling, you need to specialise in working with children. This is achieved through work experience for example, in the paediatrics branches of hospitals, for children's charities or for a private practice. Once you have gained two to three years of experience, you are considered a child psychologist. For those who studied educational psychology, you are now qualified to work with children in an educational setting. However, outside this setting further experience is needed.
Tips and warnings
- If you are interested in taking a clinical psychology doctorate, the National Health Service offers a funding program for study. Successful applications are employed as trainee clinical psychologists as part of the program. Non-European Union applicants are rarely accepted.
- A Criminal Records Bureau Check is normally required to work as a child psychologist. If you have a criminal record, you are unlikely to pass this check. Child psychologists have to counsel people with intense emotional problems on a day-to-day basis, which can be physically and emotionally draining.
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