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soundsfishy's avatar

I'm interested in psychiatry, but I don't want to have to do all the many years of medical training. Advice needed!

Asked by soundsfishy (50points) May 19th, 2010

Okay, so basically I’m a GCSE student who’s about to choose her A-Levels (british citizens will understand me!). The main options I’d consider pursuing as future careers would be Scientific research, Writing, Business and Psychology/Psychiatry.

After doing a little research, the latter of the list seems to appeal to me most – but the psychiatry path would include something around seven years of training (excluding the time it would take for a medical degree). However the fundamentals of the career are what I’m interested in – despite the fact that it can pay very, very well.

Would perhaps a degree in psychology fit me better? And would that be very restricting if I finished it then chose another career path (i.e. some form of writing or business)? Or should I go for a solid degree in something like English?

Because of my indecision, I’m trying to keep my options open when I choose my A-Levels….I’ll probably take;

English Language/Literature combined
Chemistry – but I may switch this for Graphic Design (another option I’m attracted to!)

Sorry for being so choosy! But I really do need some advice.
Thankyou for your help :)
Also, please ask if you would like to know more.

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12 Answers

Ponderer983's avatar

Yup…just do psychology. You don’t have to prescribe drugs for that field

Jeruba's avatar

Do you have the option of something like MFT (marriage and family therapist)?—a counselor who works therapeutically with clients but does not have the medical degree required for the practice of psychiatry. You’d need a master’s degree and licensing to practice clinically.

The study of literature can be an excellent foundation, in my opinion, for the insights and understanding it offers into the human psyche. An advanced degree in psychology would probably be of more practical use than a degree in English.

soundsfishy's avatar

Thanks for the quick response (:

@Ponderer983 – Thankyou!
@Jeruba – I don’t think there’s that option…but it does sound interesting! I’ll look into it. However that does sound like more my thing!

lillycoyote's avatar

Or maybe a degree in Psychology then a Masters in Social Work. You could be a psychiatric social worker. You have a lot of options without getting an M.D. Or maybe being an art therapist might suit you if you are interested in both psychiatry and art/graphic design.

reverie's avatar

Hey there, welcome to Fluther :)

Unfortunately I don’t know a whole lot about the other fields you refer to, but I do know quite a lot about the academic study of Psychology and the sorts of courses on offer in the UK (I completed my BSc in Psychology a number of years ago, did a Masters last year, and am currently working on my PhD in clinical psychology).

Psychology definitely shouldn’t be seen as a quick option, particularly if you’re interested in practising clinical psychology (working in the NHS, treating patients with mental health problems, etc.). If you’re interested in actually being a professional psychologist, you need to do an extra three years postgraduate training after you finish your undergraduate course. An undergraduate psychology degree doesn’t qualify you at all to practice professionally or see patients, etc. It isn’t a vocational degree, and the vast majority of people with undergraduate psychology degrees do not go on to work as psychologists.

From what you’ve written, it sounds like you’re thinking about being a clinical psychologist (it’s what most people think of when they think of professional psychologists!). To get onto the DClinPsy (the 3 year graduate training programme for those wishing to be clinical psychologists), it is notoriously competitive. People typically have (at the very least) several years work experience in assistant psychologist positions in the NHS, or jobs that involve a lot of patient contact. Many of the people applying also have Masters degrees or PhDs (I’m currently doing a PhD (research degree) in psychology, and a lot of my fellow PhD colleagues are planning to apply to the DClinPsy once they get their PhDs… just to let you know the kind of standard you’d be up against!). You can see there that the training alone is, at the bare minimum, 6 years (3 year undergraduate course, 3 year DClin). As many people have extra postgraduate qualifications when they apply, that potentially takes you beyond 6 years (although postgraduate qualifications aren’t mandatory for admission to the programme). There would also be several years work experience involved in between your undergraduate degree and your DClinPsy – it’s pretty much unheard of for people to get in straight after they graduate from their undergraduate degree, and most applicants typically apply for several years before successfully gaining a place.

I absolutely don’t want to discourage you if this is your goal, but there’s such a huge amount of misinformation about what a psychology degree is and what is qualifies you to do, that it would be really bad for you to make a decision based on something that wasn’t really true. I’m really happy to talk to you about this in more detail if you’re interested :)

In the mean time, I’d strongly recommend that you have a look at the British Psychological Society website as they have a great deal of information on careers in psychology, and the sorts of training options available. I also recommend the Psychology forum at The Student Room website, as there are many good threads there about getting qualified as a professional clinical psychologist.

janbb's avatar

It seems like if you do two humanities A-Levels and two science ones (Psychology and either Chem or Bio) you will have a nice base for your uni applications. You hahve some time to decide on a specific career path so I would go with something like that and then think about whether you want to become a psychiatric social worker, an art therapist or something else over the next two years.

reverie's avatar

Oh and just to add your A-level choices are absolutely suitable for studying Psychology at any university in the UK. I took Psychology, English Literature and Theatre Studies at A2, and French at AS. Studying Psychology at A-level isn’t a prerequisite for studying it at degree level (although about 80% of undergraduates at my university have done the A-level), because not all sixth forms offer it, and the university study of the subject is fairly different to A-level anyway. Sometimes, the better departments ask for you to have one science subject at A-level (some include psychology, and some don’t). But your choices seem really good for any degree programme, really – a balanced choice! The only other prerequisite some places have is a good grade in your Maths GCSE (I think at my university, the undergraduate course requires a B in GCSE maths, because of the statistics component of the degree programme).

anartist's avatar

Psychology would not be constricting. If at least a masters. In U.S. psychology is very hot. Businesses and government are hiring like crazy. Look at info on American Psychological Association [even if you are a Brit] just to see the career path possibilities. No end of things from business HR jobs to being a psychodrama therapist to working national emergency scenes with trauma patients to profiling for government agencies to marketing research.

soundsfishy's avatar


@lillycoyote – Art therapy sounds very interesting too! Though I wouldn’t say I have much natural talent in art, I’m pretty average.
@janbb – I’m glad you think it’s a good base. And I’ll probably end up doing that, as it feels a little like stumbling around in the dark at the moment. (:
@reverie – Whoaa! Thankyou very much for the detailed reply, and for all the information you’ve given me! I feel a little wiser now.
I agree that there is indeed a lot of misinformation surrounding that career – myself along with others have probably all underestimated the subject. Now I know how much work is involved, I’ll go back and severely review my other options before making any definite decisions. Thankyou for the links, too.
I’m quite relieved that the general response seems to indicate I’ve made a good variety of choices – although I haven’t even applied yet, so nothing’s set in stone.
And I think I’m set to end up with a high maths Grade, so I hope I won’t need to worry too much about that! Again, thankyou very much for your advice!
@anartist – I will be sure to check it out! :) And I’m glad there are lots of options.

perspicacious's avatar

Just get a strong science background and go to medical school. If this is your interest, no need to look for alternatives. Be a doer.

john65pennington's avatar

Volunteer your services for a Call Crisis Center. they will give you basic training on how to handle phone calls from people in need. its a start for you.

roundsquare's avatar

My feeling is that you shouldn’t search for shortcuts. You don’t want to end up doing harm because you skipped some learning you should have had.

Not saying you are looking for shortcuts, but I feel the need to mention this, for you or anyone else who drifts into this thread.

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