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Psychology

How to become a psychologist in Australia

There are various pathways to practicing as a psychologist. Find one that suits you with this step-by-step guide.

By Courtney Edwards Published 06/12/2022

The need for mental health services has increased as a result of the unprecedented pressure the COVID pandemic has put on Australia’s health system. It’s no surprise that psychologists are in high demand across a broad range of industries and occupations. 

While there are various pathways to develop your skills in psychology, the good news is that you’re not limited to studying a Bachelor of Psychology as a starting point. If you’ve already completed a bachelor’s degree in any discipline, you can change or broaden your current expertise with a bridging 10-unit Graduate Diploma in Psychology. After completing the bridging graduate diploma, you can decide to either use these new skills to change or progress your career in industries such as business, technology and education or embark on the path to become a registered psychologist.

What is a psychologist? 

A psychologist is a professional who diagnoses and treats people with mental health disorders like anxiety, depression and disordered eating and helps people work through trauma.  Psychologists also work in research to better understand the mind and human behaviour, conduct experiments, gather data, analyse evidence, prepare findings to educate professionals and share academic literature. Psychologists work in a variety of settings including: 

  • Private practice 
  • Hospitals 
  • Schools 
  • Law enforcement agencies 
  • Jails
  • Non-profit organisations
  • Government agencies
  • Rehabilitation facilities
  • Aged care facilities 
  • Mental health clinics
  • Marketing and advertising agencies
  • Pain clinics

What are the roles and responsibilities of a psychologist? 

The roles and responsibilities of a registered psychologist will largely depend on their chosen specialisation and work setting. Determining what you want your day-to-day to look like at work will help you decide what area of psychology you want to go into. Broadly speaking, the roles and responsibilities for psychologists include: 

  • Performing psychological assessments and evaluations.
  • Diagnosing and treating mental, emotional and behavioural conditions.
  • Developing treatment plans. Providing counselling to clients.
  • Helping clients recognise and change their behaviour.
  • Conducting interviews and observations for research.

How much do psychologists earn in Australia?

According to SEEK, the average salary for a registered psychologist is $90,000 - $100,000.

What is the difference between a registered and clinical psychologist?

To become a registered psychologist, you need to complete the standard level of training and study to practice in the field. This includes 4 years of undergraduate study and a further either two years of training completing an internship or completing a fifth year of study alongside a year-long internship. Clinical psychologists have general registration by completing a Master of Clinical Psychology as well as an area of practice endorsement (AoPE) in clinical psychology. 

6 steps to becoming a psychologist in Australia

1. Decide if psychology is a career you want to pursue

Psychology is a rewarding career where you can make a big impact in people’s lives and also contribute to the research being done to understand how the brain works. It’s a profession that offers plenty of growth opportunities that you can explore throughout your career. It takes a minimum of 6 years to become a registered psychologist, so it’s worth considering if you are willing to commit to the years of study involved. There are 9 types of specialisations prospective psychologists can study. Studying one of these will give you both general registration as a psychologist as well as an area of practice endorsement.  Alternatively, you can obtain general registration as a psychologist without a specialisation. There are multiple pathways to becoming a qualified psychologist. Thinking ahead is important as it will help you understand what courses and supervised practice you may need to complete to reach your career goals. 

Complete an undergraduate degree

Get started on the path to becoming a psychologist by completing an Australian Psychology Accreditation Council (APAC) accredited three-year bachelor’s degree majoring in psychology. You can major in psychology by completing a Bachelor of Psychology or a Bachelor of Arts (Psychology). Alternatively, you can complete a double major with psychology alongside commerce or law. If you chose to study psychology at an undergraduate level only, you will not qualify to work as a psychologist just yet. Career options at this may include social work, counsellor, human resources, forensics, child development and marketing. 

If you have completed an undergraduate degree in a discipline other than psychology, you may be eligible to complete an APAC accredited bridging program like a Graduate Certificate of Psychology or Graduate Diploma of Psychology. 

2. Secure a place and complete an accredited fourth-year psychology program

After completing an undergraduate degree, take the next step to becoming a registered psychologist by completing a fourth-year program — either an APAC accredited Honours degree or Postgraduate Diploma in Psychology. This will be a continuation of the skills and knowledge you learned during your undergraduate or bridging course. These courses take one-year for full-time students or between 16-24 months for part-time students.  At this stage, students are eligible to apply for entry-level job opportunities such as a human sciences researcher or a graduate data analyst.

3.  Apply for provisional registration 

Before officially registering as a psychologist in Australia, you first have to provisionally register with the Psychology Board of Australia through the Australian Health Practitioner Regulation Agency (AHPRA). Choose your pathway for further training and education before you begin the application as the APHRA states you will need to provide details about your education provider and fifth-year program when submitting your provisional registration application. 

4. Commence your chosen pathway to be eligible for general registration

In June 2022, the 4+2 pathway was removed which leaves the higher degree pathway and the 5+1 pathway as the two options that lead to general registration as a psychologist in Australia. 

Pathway 1: Higher degree

The higher degree pathway involves studying a postgraduate course such as a two-year master’s degree or a four-year doctorate. This option gives you a wider range of career prospects compared to the 5+1 pathway as you can apply for general registration alongside one of the nine areas of practice endorsements (AoPE). These include:  Clinical neuropsychology

  • Clinical psychology
  • Community psychology
  • Counselling psychology
  • Education and development psychology
  • Forensic psychology
  • Health psychology
  • Organisational psychology
  • Sport and exercise psychology

 Pathway 2: 5+1 internship 

The 5+1 internship pathway involves:

  • Completing a relevant one-year APAC accredited degree such as a Graduate Diploma of Professional Psychology.
  • Undertaking a year-long internship of supervised practice regulated by the Australian Board of Psychology.
  • Passing the National Psychology Exam. 

Your internship can be completed in a range of settings where registered psychologists work such as a private practice or hospital, as long as your role allows you to demonstrate the competencies required for registration. Your chosen internship must be approved by the Psychology Board of Australia. People who undertake the 5+1 internship pathway will not complete an AoPE specialisation and will be eligible to apply for general registration as a psychologist with the Psychology Board of Australia after they successfully tick off the steps listed above. 

5.  Complete a registrar program if you take the higher degree route 

If you complete a master’s or doctorate, you will need to complete a Psychology Board of Australia registrar program to be eligible for endorsement in your chosen area of specialisation. Registrar programs require general psychologists to complete up to 88 weeks of psychological practice, 80 hours of supervision by a board-approved supervisor and 80 hours of active Continuing Professional Development (CPD).  The registrar program you complete must be the same area of practice as your APAC accredited degree. Once you have completed your registrar program, you can apply for an area of practice endorsement with the Psychology Board of Australia. 

6. Start applying from jobs

The traditional career pathway for registered psychologists is to apply their skills in health organisations or private practice. While this is still a popular choice, psychologists with general registration are just as likely to find themselves in demand from businesses, education institutions, and community organisations, to name just a few.

Health care

Psychologists who choose to work in health organisations will have a range of job opportunities at their fingertips. They may become allied health professionals who help people manage mental health through diagnosis, treatment and rehabilitation. This role may take you into nursing homes, care facilities for people with disabilities or an organisation like Headspace. Some psychologists work alongside general practitioners or in a multi-professional team in the community to give care where it’s needed. Opportunities like these can be found across Australia in metropolitan, regional and rural areas.

Business

In business, one of the key areas for psychologists is human resources and management. While the skills of a psychologist are important when hiring staff, it’s the ability to influence culture and build high-performance teams that create real value for the business. Many organisations are even adding the position of Chief Wellness Officer to their C-Suite to support staff in managing the demands of the modern workplace. Occupational psychology is also needed more than ever in areas exposed to traumatic situations such as the COVID pandemic or a company merger.

Education

Psychology has had a long history in schools and educational environments through the role of the school counsellor. More recently, it’s become common for students to also have the support of a school psychologist for developmental, behavioural, learning and mental health issues. General psychologists are also able to provide much-needed guidance as career counsellors, creating a bridge between educational institutions and the workforce.

Community organisations

Another rewarding role for psychologists is working with a wide variety of organisations that support local communities. You might work with people from a culturally and linguistically diverse background, people experiencing financial difficulties and homelessness, or local government services.

Check out available psychology courses and speak to a Student Enrollment Advisor who can help you get on the path to becoming a psychologist in Australia.

chart of psychology study

 

Chart of psychology professional registration steps

How to become a psychologist

 

Navigating Australian university degree nomenclature

Equivalent level of study

Course name variation

Units of study

Type of study

Year 1-3 of sequence

Graduate Diploma in Psychology

10 units

all coursework

Graduate Diploma of Psychological Science

Graduate Diploma of Psychological Studies

4th year

Graduate Diploma in Psychology

8 units

 4 coursework &  4 research units

Graduate Diploma in Psychology (Advanced)

Graduate Diploma of Professional Psychology

Graduate Diploma of Psychological Science

5th year for general registration

Master of Professional Psychology

8 units

6 coursework & 2 practicum units

Master of Applied Psychology Professional

5-6th year for practice endorsement

Master of Clinical Psychology

16 units

 

Master of Psychology (Clinical)

Master of Applied Psychology Clinical Psychology

Master of Organisational Psychology

Master of Clinical Neuropsychology

Master of Educational and Developmental Psychology

Master of Psychology (Counselling)

Master of Applied Psychology Organisational Psychology

Master of Clinical Psychology (Defense)

Master of Psychology (Health)

Master of Psychology (Organisational & Human Factors)

 

How to find out more

Explore our range of online postgraduate psychology courses to find one that suits you.