For many aspiring psychologists, Assistant Psychologist posts offer valuable experience in their desired field, providing the opportunity to develop your clinical and research skills, work alongside qualified psychologists and build a realistic idea of what the qualified role entails. Given all these benefits, I’m sure it will come as no surprise that Assistant Psychologist jobs are notoriously tricky to gain, often with over 100 applicants for each advertised job. Hopefully these tips will help increase your application success.
- Start early – building experience before or during your undergraduate degree will likely increase your chances of gaining a paid AP post on graduation. Starting early will give you more experience to reflect on in your applications and also show more commitment than someone who has only started volunteering/working in the last 6 months or after graduation.
- Start small – while you’re building experience, you’re unlikely to be delivering therapies or observing clinical psychologists at work, but that doesn’t been your experience isn’t relevant! Relate every experience back to psychological model/theories e.g. if you’re working with children, consider whether attachment theories and developmental psychology are important in your work.
- Volunteer– this is great way of getting started and once you gain more confidence and experience, you can starting applying for paid work. You might get benefits such as training, travel expenses and a PVG (criminal record check) Volunteer posts also tend to be flexible so you can fit them in around lectures and other commitments.
- Application basics – it sounds obvious but read the information that comes with the job advert, especially the job description. Your application form is likely to be the shortlisters’ first impression of you, so make it a good one! Remember all the basics e.g. don’t send a CV if they ask for an application form, and make sure you send your completed form to the right person. I personally wouldn’t apply for a post if I don’t meet ALL the essential criteria, as many employers will not shortlist applicants who do not meet this.
- Sell yourself – after an interview, I was once given the advice that I didn’t sell myself enough and since then, I’ve always kept this advice in mind. I’m probably not the only person who struggles with this but remember job applications are not the place to be humble! You need to sell your experience and show the shortlisting panel how you meet the essential criteria. Make sure to do this throughout your form and the interview.
- Do your research – although it can be tempting to save time and use the same form for each application, I would advise against this. Instead do some research on the role/service so that you can tailor your application and put in information specific to that particular job. Also, if you are invited to interview, read a few relevant policies as you might get asked about this and it can also provide helpful resources for you to ask the interview panel.
- Put yourself out there – as well as checking all the usual websites such as NHS Jobs, make contact with other students who are working towards the same career goals. They might be able to share information about vacancies that are coming up in their service or you might even meet someone working in a similar field who can share interview tips. ESPAG (East of Scotland Assistants Psychology Group) is a great way to meet other people aspiring to careers in Psychology, and our meetings are an opportunity to share ideas and information.
Cassie Addai, Assistant psychologist, co-chair ESPAG
For more ideas on gaining experience for clinical psychology, check the ideas on the PPLS careers webpages.