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    Here's a first draft of an FAQ on work experience for Psychology. I’ve based it on people wishing to pursue a career as a practitioner Psychologist. Please post any corrections, thoughts, additions and so forth, especially if you are knowledgeable regarding pursuing a research career. If you have any burning questions regarding experience, please ask away

    What is work experience?
    Any type of work, whether full/part time, paid or voluntary, in which you experience new settings and develop personally, professionally, your knowledge or new skills. In terms of Psychology, the learning can be broken down broadly into:
    - Transferable skills – Skills or knowledge that can be used in a variety of settings or careers that are not specific to Psychology. Examples being: report writing, team work and communication. These all go towards making you a ‘better’ person, more employable, more able to do the standard tasks that come with most jobs and better at getting along with others.
    - Professional skills - These are directly related to Psychology, such as: assessment, engagement, care and treatment pathways, knowledge and understanding of different diagnoses or difficulties and importantly, how all of this translates into real-world practice

    Why do you need work experience?
    The post-graduate job market within Psychology (primarily Psychology or Research Assistants) is very competitive, similarly there is a huge number of people studying and wishing to study Psychology. This has created a massive over supply and led to courses and jobs becoming increasingly stringent with their application and acceptance criteria. Qualifications provide the main way of sifting through applications, but more and more people are achieving the desirable criteria (let alone the essential criteria). Therefore work experience can be a method of differentiating between these candidates. It is not essential prior to university, to get into university or for completing a degree (wider reading and evidence of academic achievement is more valuable) – however, everything helps.

    You are looking to gain experience of different settings, different client groups, the different ways of delivering care, delivering Psychology and helping others. Not all experience is going to be directly related to Psychology, shadowing a Psychologist sound great in theory, but in reality you’re not going to do anything or learn anything of value. Work experience does not function in the same way as qualifications, you don’t simply list what you have done and automatically stand head and shoulders above other candidates. This relates more to post-graduate jobs, but employers want to see your understanding: what you have learned, how this has changed you, what your reflections on those experiences were and therefore what you offer to their team. Remember, Psychology is a profession centred around people and they want to know that you can link Psychological theory with Psychological practice. The academic and rote learning nature of A-level and to some extent the degree does little to prepare you for the realities of working within a clinical team with actual service users or patients, your work experience will help build those competencies and make you a much more employable graduate.

    Pre-university
    It can be really tempting to pursue work experience at this stage in order to boost your application, especially for higher rated universities. Currently, wider reading about your subject and demonstrating that you are an academic achiever does more to boost your application and personal statement. Furthermore, it is difficult to gain meaningful work experience at this time. While shadowing a clinician or doing 2 weeks work with a service may sound impressive at first glance, often these experiences will lack substance (over and above the transferable skill learning you would get elsewhere, and perhaps even be less). Standard paid work (e.g. shops or restaurants) will provide a good base for future employability in terms of transferable skills. While you can begin your path on gaining relevant work experience at this point, you will be limited due to being under 18 - but it may get your foot in the door (for developing your role with that organisation in future) or build your awareness of the psychological/caring world, thus giving you an edge when it comes to applying for other roles post 18.

    You could try
    :- Volunteering with youth groups/Scout groups/church groups/village fetes
    .- Volunteering in older age adults homes.
    - Volunteering with special interest groups/events (I.e. music, theatre etc).
    - Any kind of charity work

    The single most important thing that comes out of your GCSE’s and A-Levels are your grades. That is what universities use as the primary tool to select students and should be your main focus. Work experience should complement your studies and fit into your work-life balance. There is absolutely no work experience that will make up for an A turning into a B.

    18+ / University
    In complete contrast, I’m going to recommend going (almost) all out on work experience once you turn 18. The doors open up with respect to obtaining clearance to work with children and vulnerable adults in a professional, individual and meaningful manner. There is also a reality that you do have more free time, unless you study/party all hours, there is plenty of time for working or volunteering. Again, it is not important for the work experience to be directly related to Psychology. Some of the key competencies of a Psychologist are: understanding, communication and empathy. You can learn these in any number of places. You will be incredibly lucky to get any experience that actually teaches you Psychology skills and knowledge that is above what you are learning already, could go and learn yourself or will actually be useful in a proper Psychology role. Those core skills of having someone like you, want to talk to you and engaging with you are the foundations of a therapeutic rapport and on the whole, what an employing Psychologist is looking for. If you don't know the in's and out's of delivering CBT based psycho-educational work, they can teach you that. If you are terrified of the patients, say the wrong things and annoy your colleagues, that is much harder to teach. That general competence in working with other people is what you want to convey. This is purely in terms of what you have gained from your work experiences – your academic ability, research skills, Psychological knowledge and so on are also important, but less linked to what you are aiming to gain from your work experience.

    If you can get on a course that offers a placement, take it. You’ll not get an offer that good ever again, however the quality of these placements can't be guaranteed (by me, at least), but should be more directly related to actual Psychological practice than you'd get outside of a paid Psychology/Research Assistant role. Conversely, if you don’t get on to such a course, don’t fret – it is not the end of the world. There are plenty of other opportunities to get solid experience. Similarly, if you don’t make it into a top flight university, that is not necessarily a big deal. Gaining GBC is the requirement, I have never met a single Psychologist who cared whatsoever where your degree was obtained – linking back to the 'general competence' theme, they want to know that you are capable of doing the work in a safe and effective manner. Once again, the single most important thing that comes out of your degree is the classification, do not compromise your academic achievement for any work experience. 2.1 is your absolute minimum, a first is the target. A 2:2 is, without something extraordinary, a death sentence for your career (as a qualified Psychologist).

    I’d recommend getting paid work if you can, it offers a few advantages
    :- Money
    - There is often a better job structure than with ad-hoc voluntary work
    - You’ll have a defined job description and role (and can assess its suitability better prior to starting)
    - Supervision and personal/professional development
    - The work will often be more defined and consistent (voluntary work could be more hit and miss)

    That isn’t to say that voluntary work is rubbish, just that, on the whole, you’d expect paid work to provide a better overall experience. Charities like Barnardos do get commissioned to do therapy and such, so working with them would be less risky in terms of the quality of the experience. I would absolutely recommend working for the NHS as a bank (or contracted) nursing assistant or support worker. The NHS is very accommodating of people's circumstances and pays well; the training and support will often be much better than in a private company. But any support worker experience is fantastic. Other options:
    - Nightline
    - Befriending
    - Homeless charities
    - Substance misuse charities
    - Youth groups/Scout groups/church groups/village fetes
    - Older age adults homes
    - Youth Offending Service
    - Volunteering in the education sector (could include children with disabilities)

    Research is another key area, it can be really hard to get published unless you end up in a research assistant post (even then, your work may not be published). Take part in studies and get talking to the researchers, talk with your tutor and other lecturers. Essentially, beg them to let you get involved – they may not want you while you are a first or second year – it’s all going to depend on the individuals. Even if it is just typing numbers into a computer, it’s about becoming known and trusted (that's the 'general competency' theme again). Be careful not to be taken advantage of (i.e. doing work without due recognition). This can also open doors when it comes to a masters or PhD.

    Postgraduate
    At this point you're going to be looking for full time work along your chosen career path, but with the intense competition for roles it may be that you're better served looking for relevant work beforehand that will sharpen your skills and enhance your job applications. Essentially, don't rule out jobs just because the word Psychology isn't in the title.

    Some options:
    - Support Time Recovery Workers (if they still exist)
    - Support Worker / Nursing Assistant / Residential Workers
    - Education support / LSA
    - Youth Offending Teams
    - Substance misuse worker
    - Counseling services

    However, it is important to remember that the courses that offer routes to accreditation will be looking at how you have reflected on the experiences you have had and what you have drawn from them. This comes from reflection on your own practice and how you have developed over time and an awareness of how Psychological theories translate into effective therapy, formulation and support. While there are opportunities for some elements of this prior to graduation, it is the roles you take after then that will constitute the bulk of this learning.
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    I think this is great, thanks for writing this

    I would also add (more so for post-grad), that one of the important things you learn/courses are looking for is the link between psychology and practice, and awareness of this. Also, education is good work experience (volunteering in schools etc.)
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    (Original post by *Interrobang*)
    I think this is great, thanks for writing this

    I would also add (more so for post-grad), that one of the important things you learn/courses are looking for is the link between psychology and practice, and awareness of this. Also, education is good work experience (volunteering in schools etc.)
    Thanks very much.

    I've added both in. I am guilty of not always remembering the Educational Psychology route.

    What do you think of the tone/wording? I'm trying to provide some definitive and concrete answers but am also conscious of not weighing in too heavily on what should and shouldn't be done - least I irrevocably ruin someone's life.
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    This covers everything that I find myself repeatedly answering on TSR regarding the do's and don'ts of a practitioner psychologist study pathway. The information and tone are spot on.
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    (Original post by _Sinnie_)
    Thanks very much.

    I've added both in. I am guilty of not always remembering the Educational Psychology route.

    What do you think of the tone/wording? I'm trying to provide some definitive and concrete answers but am also conscious of not weighing in too heavily on what should and shouldn't be done - least I irrevocably ruin someone's life.
    I think it sounds fine i would mention the link between theory and practice more tho, and add school experience in the volunteering bullet points too (I'm thinking when schools arrange weeks of work experience)
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    (Original post by *Interrobang*)
    I think it sounds fine i would mention the link between theory and practice more tho, and add school experience in the volunteering bullet points too (I'm thinking when schools arrange weeks of work experience)
    How does that look? Mainly the last paragraph. If you can think of a better place for it, suggest away.

    PQ Got your sticky tape handy?
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    (Original post by _Sinnie_)
    How does that look? Mainly the last paragraph. If you can think of a better place for it, suggest away.

    PQ Got your sticky tape handy?
    looks good to me
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    I found this thread helpful and insightful, thank you! I even printed it out for myself. Asides from voluntary work, what part-time job experience could you recommend? I haven't had a part-time job before. I have devoted all my time to education (A Levels, BSc) since. I worry that the only thing I can find to start me off involves a supermarket-type role, which I hardly think could contribute to skills that I could elaborate on in a CV to become a psychologist? Most admin, childcare and barista jobs require minimum 1 year experience in those fields. I feel I've hit a brick wall. Please may I have advice?

    Spoiler:
    Show

    A P.S. about my background; Dropped out of year 2/3 of my BSc due to health reasons and wishing to enter Psychology now. I have hardly anything to fill in my work experience section except for work at a psychology center working with children. I will be starting voluntary work soon.
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    (Original post by Glee)
    I found this thread helpful and insightful, thank you! I even printed it out for myself. Asides from voluntary work, what part-time job experience could you recommend? I haven't had a part-time job before. I have devoted all my time to education (A Levels, BSc) since. I worry that the only thing I can find to start me off involves a supermarket-type role, which I hardly think could contribute to skills that I could elaborate on in a CV to become a psychologist? Most admin, childcare and barista jobs require minimum 1 year experience in those fields. I feel I've hit a brick wall. Please may I have advice?

    Spoiler:
    Show


    A P.S. about my background; Dropped out of year 2/3 of my BSc due to health reasons and wishing to enter Psychology now. I have hardly anything to fill in my work experience section except for work at a psychology center working with children. I will be starting voluntary work soon.

    What field of psychology are you hoping to go into when you qualify? Care work with children/learning or physical disabilities/adults with mental health issues are great introductory experience positions that can be worked via bank staff arrangement (stating when you are available and only working agreed shifts). They all provide induction if not a course of training before role commencement and give you a good feel for what it is like working with the client groups. You used to be able to get classroom assistant work in schools, but that is more competitive now and requires specific classroom support qualifications in most cases.
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    Plugging my thread of books worth reading pre-university. Reading is definitely one of the most helpful things for people applying for psychology bsc courses, although afterwards you want to get other types of experiences.

    I definitely wish I spend my holidays getting some work experience. For research, you'll eventually find some work experience if you email enough lecturers and ask to do some work for them (I know this is mentioned). You can sometimes find paid summer research projects if you look close enough, and some universities like Newcastle University offer "summer school" type programs. Some research societies also offer bursaries for students doing summer projects (e.g. https://www.rsb.org.uk/get-involved/...e-studentships). These may not be much but will be good CV boosters.
 
 
 
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