Since I updated my status to the current university and degree, people have questioned me about my choice. Why another degree? Why this subject?
It does seems like I have been in education forever. At times I have hoped to get a proper full time paid job which offers me stability. Rather than unsociable part-time works coupled with taxing demands of a full time education leaving me with a virtually nonexistent social life. I have watched with jealousy my friends in the finance, law or engineering industry climbed up the career ladder, successfully earning and affording. Well, you’re probably asking, with all these discontentment in mind- Why don’t I just switch career path? That is a question I have asked myself numerous times. Considering my best subjects at high school and college had always been accountancy, economics…basically finance related. Switching into the mental health sector have been a radical and admittedly an experimental decision. Nonetheless, 6 years down the road I have not regretted nor even think about quitting.
Having said that BPS (British Psychological Society) quoted an average of 7 years to be a professional psychologist, 6 years have passed for me and I’m only at the beginning of my qualifying degree which by the way lasts for 3 years ie. a total of 9 years. However, I studied in a Scottish university which means 4 years to get an undergraduate degree, 1 year out for work experience, 1 year for counselling skills training (which is pre-requisite for most if not all doctoral level training programmes albeit it could be a shorter one) and at the 7th year I’m in a doctoral programme. You can see that I haven’t wasted much time considering the work experience you have to obtain too prior to entering the final throw of the HPC (Health Professions Council) system. Therefore, 7 years seems like a very optimistic figure. Also, if that is the average figure, it suggests that most people who achieved chartered status only had this one aim in their further education path!
Let me start with some background info
So what is it about being a professional psychologist that takes such a long time?; counselling psychology not excluded. In the UK, psychological related fields are regulated by BPS (British Psychological Society) and HPC (Health Professions Council). There are 9 possible areas to specialised in to become a chartered psychologist;
- Sport and exercise
- Teacher and Researcher in psychology
For more information on each category please click on the one you’re interested in which will bring you to its official description on BPS’s website. There are other positions that ends with the title psychologists however the list presented above are the only ones that are recognised by the HPC. For the purpose of this post, I will concentrate on counselling psychology.
As you can see, the route to calling yourself a counselling psychologist is to undertake an accredited doctoral training programme or through the independent route (which involves a lot more self regulating). To put it simply, for me the fundamental difference between counselling psychology and other fields like accountancy for example is the location of training. Graduates enter a multinational company (not necessarily, but for simplicity sake) as a graduate trainee/recruit and they are trained on site and depending on performance goes for career advancing exams such as ACCA. This is similar to the principles of clinical psychology training whereby trainees are employed by the NHS (National Health Service). However, counselling psychology is less established than clinical psychology thus receive less funding therefore most if not all courses are self-funded. Also, clinical psychology trainees train (paid) in NHS clinical and community settings exclusively whereas counselling psychologists have the choice to train (unpaid) in NHS settings, charitable or private settings.
You probably wonder then, why not train to be a clinical psychologist since you get paid on training whereas counselling psychologist don’t? I have once aspired to be a clinical psychologist but I concede that it is extremely difficult to get onto the course. The success rate for the year 2010 was 21% ie. 1 in 5 applicants obtained a place. These figures are drawn from Clearing House, the central body responsible for processing applications for clinical psychology. Unfortunately there isn’t a central body for counselling psychology and we make applications to individual universities therefore numbers can’t be obtained. I’m aware that for my current university, the professional tutors reported a total applications of about 80 of which about 40 obtained an interview and 20 were accepted onto the programme ie. 25% chance. Higher probabilities there.
It is also the case that in the UK, they do not accept international applicants as their main aim is to “to train clinical psychologists to work in the UK on a long term basis“. Therefore this has been a very big discouragement for me if not the initial defining criteria for me to opt out of this career path. I have personally clarified this with the Clearing House before and the international applicants they were considering were in the process of applying for permanent residency. There wasn’t any chance of me applying for permanent residency yet even though I intend to stay in the UK as I feel at home here having spent most of my teenage life here. The only option I have was to leave or consider other fields. Counselling came into mind.
End of part 1