How to Become a Child Psychologist UK

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As people are advancing their awareness of mental health, jobs in the fields like child psychology are getting more and more popular. You could also be someone who likes to work with children. But you’re not sure how to advance your career path. Whether you’re in it for a career opportunity or you love working with kids, this blog on “How to become a child psychologist- UK” will help you regardless. We’ll also explore information on child psychology salaries and discover all the career options within the field of child psychology itself. But first, let’s introduce you to the field of child psychology just in case you know very little about this field.

What is a Child Psychologist?

Children, as the word literally suggests, do not interact with the world as adults do. Everything about their mental state- from depression to aggression, is different from adults. This is why child psychology has become a discipline within the realm of psychology itself, as it needs deep understanding to work properly with patients. The more that child specialists from various fields work with child development, the more we understand that children’s minds are more complex than we initially thought, the more our perception changes. Previously, their minds were seen as blank slates that get filled up with experience and emotion as they grow. So we did very little for their mental development as we thought it would progress automatically. The funny thing is, we thought this automatic progression would always be on the positive side. This may have been true in the past days when playgrounds were abundant, families would prefer to live together or at least very near to one another, and we were more connected with our neighbours. However, with the onset of our fast-paced modern world, aggressive industrial expansion, and the increasing number of single-parent families, factors that positively affect children’s development are no longer widely available. It’s no wonder our children are in need of our help more than ever before. But not everyone has the same capacity to understand and help children. Some are very good with kids. But for the rest of us, kids are an enigmatic thing. Their behaviour seems confusing, irrational or sometimes irritating 90% of the time. The population burst is also directly connected with child psychology as well. As the population increases worldwide, children with psychological disorders are going up in numbers as well. UNICEF reports that more than 1 in 7 adolescents worldwide have a diagnosed mental condition. Mental disorders like anxiety or depression aren’t limited to adults.  Most of the time, very little effort is needed to help them resolve their issues, but help is needed regardless. They deserve this much from us, at the very least. The COVID-19 pandemic has made the situation even worse. Children are naturally playful, and keeping them contained within the walls of our homes takes a huge toll on their mental development. The need for more child psychologists is only projected to grow exponentially in the aftermath of the current situation.

So, child psychologists can make a tremendous difference in children’s lives by understanding and overcoming hurdles that may halt their mental development.

Table of Contents

Do you want to be a child psychologist?

If you want to be a child psychologist, you must consider CPD approved courses as that will help you obtain and retain your membership with the ACP (The Association of Child Psychotherapists ). Our Diploma in Child Psychology course is not only designed to help you with that but also with your graduate or higher diploma level studies on your way to becoming a child psychologist.

How to Become a Child Psychologist UK

Child Psychologist vs Psychiatrist

Psychiatrists are doctors. When you train to become a psychiatrist, you will start out training as a medical doctor. After that, you’ll focus on a subspecialty like psychiatry.

However, a psychology degree is different from a medical degree.

If you want to become a psychiatrist, the first step is to get a medical degree like MBBS, MBChB. You’ll need at least three good A-Levels to secure a place at medical school. One or more of these have to be science subjects. Another important thing to note is that chemistry is compulsory at most medical schools. 

However, relevant work experience will also help you get into medical school.

Medical degrees normally take five years, but there are exceptions as well, which we won’t talk about here for brevity’s sake.

But there are people who are interested in working in Mental Health, but they do not want a full-fledged medical degree. These people can easily switch to careers such as psychology and counselling. Look up the following organisations for further information.

If you train to become a psychologist, you’ll still be a specialist, but not a medical doctor.

As a psychologist, your speciality will be in the realm of therapy and counselling. You will help children make decisions and sort through emotions to solve their problems. You cannot prescribe medicine.

If any medicine is necessary for a patient’s treatment, you’ll often work alongside a psychiatrist who can prescribe medication.

How to Become a Child Psychologist UK

What Does a Child Psychologist Do?

Child Psychologists primarily work with children and young people. The mental issues that they work with may range from depression, anxiety, phobias to trauma and such. They also work with behavioural problems like aggression.

To provide support and prescribe appropriate treatment, they observe and analyse patients’ behaviour. This is done keeping the age-appropriate situations in mind.

What are age-appropriate situations? If you’re working with kids, playtime activities will help you connect with them. However, in the case of teenagers, this may not work. Teenagers usually prefer supportive discussions that help them open up and describe the disturbances in their minds.

The psychologists thus try to understand their patients, determine the route of the problem, and come up with solutions. The solution is often figured out respecting the patient’s privacy. So sessions are often one-to-one. However, child psychologists may carry out the sessions where parents or other family members get included if there is a need.

Here’s a list of other responsibilities that a child psychologist may on depending on how experienced they are-

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Types of Child Psychologists

As I mentioned before, child psychology is a very deep discipline that scholars have divided into several parts so students can focus on specialising in one specific area. These fields can include:

1. Educational psychology
2. Clinical child psychology
3. Adolescent psychology
4. School psychology
5. Developmental child psychology
6. Abnormal child psychology

But remember, the list is not limited just to these. As new studies emerge, new disciplines may get added to make the whole thing student-friendly.

Educational Psychologists

The curriculum in the schools is governed by keeping the psychological health of children in mind. The classes follow the same suit. Education child psychologists focus on this specific area, among other things. They focus on improving the teaching and learning processes in schools by suggesting changes to classes and curriculum. The goal here is to appropriately address the needs for the psychological health of children.

Clinical Child Psychologists

Academic and scientific research on the development of children is one of the key areas that clinical child psychologists focus on. But the prominent role of these clinical psychologists is assessing, diagnosing and treating children and adolescents with psychological or developmental disorders.

How to Become a Child Psychologist UK

Adolescent Psychologists

As the name ‘adolescent’ suggests, adolescent psychologists work with pre-teen and teenage patients. They provide psychotherapy by creating a structure of behaviour modifications and therapeutic methods. Often they have to keep in constant contact with the patients’ parents and other relevant people that can help the patient.

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School Psychologists

Since children spend a significant amount of time in schools or educational environments, school psychologists have to be there if someone needs mental health support from a professional. The government sometimes sponsors programs for children, and school psychologists can measure the eligibility of a child for these programmes.

Developmental Child Psychologists

Research is the main field for developmental child psychologists. Their goal is to get a better understanding of children’s behaviour and come up with the most efficient way to address a child’s needs. Their research helps other professionals in various other fields who work with children.

Abnormal Child Psychologists

Because of physical abuse, emotional abuse or some other trauma, a range of psychological disorders may emerge from children. Without a proper understanding of these problems, addressing these problems will be very confusing for anyone. Abnormal child psychologists are specialists in these specific areas. They even often work with young clients into their adulthood. The patients successfully transition to individuals who can support their mental health all by themselves.

They are sometimes called “behavioural health professionals”.

How to Become a Child Psychologist UK

How to Become a Child Psychologist- UK?

Remember how I told you psychiatrists are doctors, and they go through medical schools to become one? Well, psychologists are different. 
They go through a different set of disciplines that are most often offered in the universities. Since working with children and young people is quite complex, the training of Child and Adolescent Psychotherapists (CAPTs) is longer than most psychological professions. It ensures that you know your trade well and can be trusted to handle children responsibly. You will also receive a number of general training like communications skills, organisational skills and so on.

You first go through a pre-clinical study. However, to be eligible for the pre-clinical study, you’ll need an honours degree (or equivalent) and substantial experience in working with children. Of course, your experience doesn’t have to be from your education. It can also be from social care or health care too.

Here, you have to complete a course of observational psychoanalytic studies at postgraduate diploma, Masters or equivalent level. These courses are offered in schools accredited by The Association of Child Psychotherapists (ACP).

Before going into your clinical training, you’ll go through a personal psychoanalysis or psychoanalytic psychotherapy. It will start at least one year before you start clinical training. It’s a continuous process throughout your whole training. Every week, you’ll undergo four to five sessions of personal analysis.

After your pre-clinical studies, you’ll learn theory, technique and clinical practice under supervision. This is a part of the four-year clinical study that’ll usually award you with a Professional Doctorate in Child and Adolescent Psychoanalytic Psychotherapy (DPsych).

Once qualified, you must register as a member of the ACP and appear on the ACP Register of Child Psychotherapists, which is accredited by the Professional Standards Authority.

The National Health Service provides a limited number of clinical training posts that can pair you with paid training and additional support. Usually, these are offered by a small number of NHS trusts or as a partnership between a trust and a training provider. These training sessions are typical for child psychologists. The only difference is that you’ll get a fund for your training. You’ll work with groups and families, run assessments with parents and children on psychoanalytic work (both long and short-term), and you’ll also consult with other professionals gaining valuable insights from them along the way.

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How to Become a Child Psychologist UK

Professional Development

Professional development is an absolute must for a child psychologist because otherwise, you’ll lose your membership of the ACP. However, there is really nothing to worry about as it’s not anything difficult. You just have to undertake continuing professional development (CPD) to keep up to date with clinical and theoretical advances.

One of the easiest would be doing a Child Counselor training course and a Diploma in Child Psychology. Since they’re online courses, you can do them at your own pace. They are great options for professional development as a child psychologist.

Other relevant activities may include:

In addition, you must retain a  minimum of 12 hours of psychotherapeutic contact with children or families every month. It should include individual psychotherapy with three individual cases.

Also, while in service, you also have to carry on receiving individual clinical supervision from a consultant child psychotherapist or other senior members of the profession. The number of hours of your supervision depends on your experience.

How to Become a Child Psychologist UK

Salary of Child Psychologists

Trainee psychotherapists, if they work full time, can earn between  £32,306 to £39,027 (Band 6). 

Once you become a qualified child and adolescent psychotherapist, you can earn in the region of £40,057 to £45,839 (Band 7).

After you move up the ladder to become a principal or lead psychotherapist, your salary will land at Band 8 (NHS pay scale). It starts at £47,126, rising to £90,387 for the senior posts.

Note that the above data is from the NHS, and it is concluded from data that was updated as recently as April 2021. However, the NHS cannot give you data for private practice as there is no standard scale of fees in private practice.

Working Hours

Child psychologists work regular hours that are standard within the NHS. However, meetings or training sessions may require you to invest some extra hours.

Additional private practice activities will depend totally on you and your flexibility or willingness to work more.

Working on evenings or weekends isn’t typical, but you may need to take it on if your organisation needs you to.

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What qualifications do you need to be a child psychologist?

See the section under the heading How to become a child psychologist- UK?

How long does it take to be a child psychologist?

See the section under the heading How to become a child psychologist- UK?

How much does a child psychologist get paid in the UK?

See the section under the heading Salary of child psychologists.

Is Child Psychology a good career?

Definitely. There’s a reason child psychologists are in demand, and their pay is typically satisfactory for a comfortable living.

Can I become a psychologist at 40?

If you have the time and energy to pursue the necessary qualification, then why not?

What is a child psychologist called?

It depends on what you choose to specialise in. See the section under the heading Types of child psychologists.

What is the quickest way to become a psychologist?

There is no quick way. Children are delicate things. To protect them, there are safeguards involved here. You need the proper qualification and training to become a child psychologist.

Who is the most famous child psychologist?

Regardless of our education, many of us have heard the name- Sigmund Freud, perhaps the most well-known psychologist in history. Although Jean Piaget is considered the father of child psychology, Sigmund Freud is famous for his psychoanalytic point of view into child development among other fields of his research.

How can I get child psychology experience?

See the section under the heading How to become a child psychologist- UK?

What is the work environment like?

You’ll be working alongside very talented and qualified people who worked as hard as you to build a career in psychology. You’ll also work with talented medical professionals that the UK produces every year. It’s a career where you’ll have tremendous respect for your colleagues, and you’ll be treated as no less, if not more.


How to become a child psychologist- UK? This is a very common search term for a lot of people on Google. As you can see, there are reasons people are looking to become child psychologists. It’s a good career path for those who like to interact with children and are interested in providing mental health services. Make sure you give this blog a good read, especially the part where we talk about the qualifications needed to become a child psychologist and the section after that where we talk about a child psychologist’s professional development. You may risk losing your membership in professional bodies otherwise.

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