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How to Become a Psychologist in Australia

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To pursue a career as a psychologist in Australia, you must be registered with the Psychology Board of Australia. Eligibility for registration is obtained through a 6 year education and training program, and passing marks on the national psychology exam.

This education program has 3 steps:

  1. Complete an accredited 3-year bachelor’s degree in psychology
  2. Complete an accredited 4th year in psychology (honours year)
  3. Complete 2 years of education & training via 
    1. Pathway A (Higher Degree Pathway) or 
    2. Pathway B (5+1 Pathway) and pass the national psychology exam.

After completing Step 1 (bachelors) and Step 2 (honours) over a 4-year period, you are eligible for postgraduate study. Completing your bachelors degree opens up a number of career opportunities, and provides a “jumping off point” if you don’t want to finish a masters degree.

To obtain registration, you may follow Pathway A or B. The Higher Degree Pathway (Pathway A) consists of 2 years of postgraduate study through an accredited 2-year Masters program in psychology. The 5+1 Pathway (Pathway B) only requires 1 additional year of study (such as the 1-year Master of Professional Psychology) after completing your honours, along with an additional 1-year supervised work internship program (such as the Graduate Diploma of Professional Psychology Practice).

Whichever path you choose, it will ultimately take 6 years of education & training to become a fully registered psychologist.

Whichever path you choose, it will ultimately take 6 years of education & training to become a fully registered psychologist.

If you decide to study at ACAP, the recommended pathway to becoming a registered psychologist is the following;

  1. Complete a 3 year Bachelor of Psychological Science
  2. Complete 4th year of Bachelor of Psychological Science (Honours)
  3. Complete a 1 year Master of Professional Psychology AND Complete a 1 year Graduate Diploma of Professional Psychology Practice (our guided program is optional – the internship can also be completed independently), OR:
  4. Complete a 2 year Master of Psychology (Clinical)

This will allow you to become a registered psychologist with 1+ years of experience as fast as possible, and will position you for a successful career in professional psychology.

Master of Psychology Practice (Clinical)

Psychologists are experts in human behaviour who can help people change the way they think, feel, behave and react. They apply their knowledge of “psychology” (the scientific study of the mind and behaviour) to understand, assess, and implement interventions in a wide range of situations with individuals, families, groups, and communities. Psychologists specialise in a number of areas, including forensic psychology, clinical psychology, sports psychology and clinical neuropsychology. They differ slightly from psychiatrists, as a psychologist is not a medical doctor and can’t prescribe medication (whereas a psychiatrist can). Psychologist practice is formally regulated as a health profession, as distinct from counselling and therapy, and its grounding in science and research opens up academic pathways in research and teaching.

Psychologists are experts in human behaviour who can help people change the way they think, feel, behave and react.

As a career path, psychology is an excellent choice for open minded and disciplined students with strong social perceptiveness, active listening, and reading ability. There is a 13.3% expected increase in jobs by 2026, with an average pay of $108,569 per year, and a high workplace satisfaction score among psychologists.
If psychology interests you, schedule a free chat with one of our course coordinators who can help you pick the pathway that best suits your needs.

Bachelor of Psychological Science

What qualifications are needed to become a psychologist?

The qualifications to obtain general registration as a psychologist are;

If you have no university education:

  1. Complete a 3 year Bachelor of Psychological Science
  2. Complete 4th year of Bachelor of Psychological Science (Honours)
  3. Complete a 1 year Master of Professional Psychology AND Complete a 1 year Graduate Diploma of Professional Psychology Practice (our guided program is optional – the internship can also be completed independently), OR
  4. Complete a 2 year Master of Psychology (Clinical)
As a career path, psychology is an excellent choice for open minded and disciplined students with strong social perceptiveness, active listening, and reading ability. There is a 13.3% expected increase in jobs by 2026, with an average pay of $108,569 per year, and a high workplace satisfaction score among psychologists.

If your highest education completed is Year 12 at highschool, the recommended pathway is to complete a Bachelor of Psychological Science(3 years), an Honours Year (1 year), then a Master of Professional Psychology (1 year). This will grant you access to a 1-year internship program (which can be completed through the Graduate Diploma of Professional Psychology Practice), and the ability to take the National Psychology Exam. Successfully passing this exam grants you registration as a psychologist.

If you have a bachelor degree in an unrelated field

  1. Complete a Graduate Certificate of Psychological Science (6 months)
  2. Complete Graduate Diploma of Psychological Science (12 months)
  3. Complete 4th year of Bachelor of Psychological Science (Honours)
  4. Complete a 1 year Master of Professional Psychology AND Complete a 1 year Graduate Diploma of Professional Psychology Practice (our guided program is optional – the internship can also be completed independently), OR:
  5. Complete a 2 year Master of Psychology (Clinical)

If you have a degree in psychology

  1. Complete 4th year Bachelor of Psychological Science (Honours)
  2. Complete a 1 year Master of Professional Psychology AND Complete a 1 year Graduate Diploma of Professional Psychology Practice (our guided program is optional – the internship can also be completed independently), OR:
  3. Complete a 2 year Master of Psychology (Clinical)

If you have an accredited bachelor degree in psychology, the path to becoming a psychologist requires an Honours Year (1 year) and a Master of Professional Psychology (1 year), OR . This will grant you access to a 1-year internship program (which can be completed through the Graduate Diploma of Professional Psychology Practice), and entrance into the National Psychology Exam.

Master of Professional Psychology

How long does it take to become a psychologist?

Becoming a registered psychologist in Australia takes a minimum of six years. This can be achieved through 6 years of study, or 5 years of study and 1 year of practical learning (5+1 Pathway). The most common pathway consists of a 3-year bachelor degree in psychological science (psychology), followed by an honours year, a 1 year Master of Professional Psychology, and a 1 year practical through the Graduate Diploma of Professional Psychology Practice.

Is it hard to become a psychologist?

It is moderately difficult to become a psychologist, but well within the abilities of most applicants. This is evident through the 37,071 Australians currently holding psychology registration in Australia (Psychology Board, 2023). The main factors that contribute to how hard the pathway is include:

  • Academic Rigour: The field requires comprehensive study, including science, research methods, and understanding human behaviour.
  • Length of Study: The educational path is lengthy, typically requiring at least six years, including undergraduate, postgraduate education, and practical training.
  • Practical Experience: Practical training is essential but can be demanding, as it involves applying theoretical knowledge in real-world situations.
  • Registration: Passing exams and meeting registration requirements is mandatory, along with ongoing professional development.
  • Emotional Demands: The profession can be emotionally demanding, dealing often with people in distress.
  • Financial Investment:The path involves significant financial costs due to the length and level of education required.
  • Personal Qualities: Success in the field of psychology requires social perceptiveness, active listening, strong reading comprehension, strong speaking ability, and a genuine desire to help others.

While challenging, the career is also rewarding, offering the chance to make an important contribution to individuals, families, groups, organisations, and communities.

What is a psychologist?

Psychologists are experts in human behaviour who can help people change the way they think, feel, behave and react. They utilise scientific understandings of the mind and human behaviour to assist clients in a broad range of areas, from mental health, to work performance, to health behaviours, to community change.

What is psychology?

Psychology is the scientific study of the mind and behaviour, according to the American Psychological Association. As a discipline, psychology has immense scope crossing boundaries between natural and social sciences.

What is the role of a psychologist?

The role of a psychologist is to undertake assessments that help to understand a client’s issues, develop and implement interventions that address those issues, and monitor the outcomes of those interventions. Psychologists are educated in the science of how people feel, behave and react. They specialise in areas such as clinical, sports, criminal, or child psychology.

Clinical psychologist

The role of a clinical psychologist is to diagnose psychological, emotional or behavioural disorders, according to Alliant International University. One of the biggest differences between a clinical psychologist and a general psychologist is their area of expertise, and the additional training and education that accompanies this. Clinical psychologists undergo a more extended period of training, which includes the same foundational training as general psychologists, but with an additional two years of specialised clinical training. Clinical psychologist salaries range from  $105,000 to $125,000, according to SEEK.

Forensic psychologist

Forensic psychologists, also called criminal psychologists, apply psychological theory to criminal investigation to help understand psychological problems associated with criminal behaviour, and the treatment of those who have committed offences (according to Health Careers). Criminal psychologists make a difference by counselling crime victims, revising policies to improve the effectiveness of the criminal justice system, working on cases that resolve injustices or supporting the rehabilitation of those with criminal tendencies. Forensic psychologist salaries range from  $95,000 to $110,000, according to SEEK. 

Child psychologist

A child psychologist is a mental health professional who uses psychological evaluations and various forms of therapy to help children and adolescents learn to better cope with life and relationship issues and mental health conditions. Child psychologist salaries range from  $95,000 to $110,000, according to SEEK. 

Sports psychologist

The role of a sports psychologist is to help with issues such as performance enhancement and mental skill development, anxiety and stress management, mental focus, team building and leadership, health and wellness, communication and conflict resolution (according to the Australian Psychology Association). Sports psychologist salaries can vary significantly, depending on the employer.

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What is a provisional psychologist?

If you’ve finished a four-year accredited psychology program and want to begin your fifth year of training, you can apply online for provisional registration. Before applying, decide whether you’ll pursue the 5+1 internship or a higher degree. You’ll need to specify your chosen Masters program and training institution in the application.

What is the difference between a psychologist and a psychiatrist?

The main difference between a psychologist and a psychiatrist (according to Healthdirect) is that a psychiatrist has trained as a medical doctor and can prescribe medication. A psychologist is not a medical doctor and can’t prescribe medication.

What is the difference between a psychologist and therapist or psychotherapist?

In Australia, psychologists and therapists or psychotherapists differ primarily in their education, regulation, and scope of practice. Psychologists, who are regulated by the Australian Health Practitioner Regulation Agency, typically have at least six years of university training in psychology and are qualified to diagnose and treat a wide range of mental health disorders.
Psychotherapists, on the other hand, may come from diverse training backgrounds and are not regulated by AHPRA; they focus more on providing therapy for emotional and mental health issues and may not be formally qualified to undertake assessments and interventions in a range of psychosocial domains.
Additionally, psychologists are more likely to be covered by Medicare and private insurance, whereas coverage for psychotherapists can vary. Some psychologists only conduct research rather than providing therapy, whereas all therapists and counsellors provide some type of therapy to their clients (as explained by Healthline).

Is Becoming a Psychologist a Good Career Path?

Australia’s demand for psychologists is strong, with a 13.3 percent projected increase in job opportunities from 2021-2026 (31,500 total jobs), as evidenced by Global Health Education. The average full-time psychologist salary in Australia is $108,569 per year or $55.68 per hour, (reported by Talent). Among other benefits – including the ability to practise in an endorsed area, flexible work and a rewarding vocation – there are numerous reasons to pursue a career as a psychologist. If you are receptive to new ideas, and you enjoy working hard in an organised manner, psychology would likely be a good career path for you.

How much do psychologists earn?

The average full-time psychologist salary in Australia is $108,569 per year or $55.68 per hour, as evidenced by Talent. SEEK estimates the earning bracket for Australian psychologists to be between $95,000 to $110,000, and Indeed puts the estimate at $96,000.
The main differentiator in terms of salary comes down to full-time vs part-time employment. According to Labour Market Insights, 52% of psychologists work full time. This means that a notable proportion of psychologists work part-time, which would naturally reduce total annual salary but could also provide a better work-life balance than other professions.

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What skills are needed for psychology?

According to Labour Market Insights, the top 10 most reported skills utilised by psychologist (in order) are;

  1. Social perceptiveness (73%)
  2. Active listening (68%)
  3. Reading comprehension (68%)
  4. Articulation & speaking ability (63%)
  5. Active learning (59%)
  6. Serving others (59%)
  7. Writing (59%)
  8. Complex problem solving (57%)
  9. Critical thinking (57%)
  10. Monitoring (57%)

Mapping the acquisition of these skill sets onto the Big 5 personality dimensions, it is evident that trait “openness” (receptivity to new ideas) would be highly valuable to aspiring psychologists. This would assist with “social perceptiveness”, “active listening” and “serving others”.

Considering the academic demands and detail-oriented nature of psychology, trait “conscientiousness” (the personality trait of being careful or diligent) would also be a useful innate characteristic to possess. This would assist with “reading comprehension”, “writing”, “complex problem solving” and “monitoring”.

These expected personality dimensions are also confirmed by Career Explorer, listing “openness” as the most common psychologist personality trait. This was followed by “conscientiousness”, then “agreeableness” and “extraversion”.

If you are receptive to new ideas, and you enjoy working hard in an organised manner, psychology would likely be a good career path for you. Given the importance of social perceptiveness, being emotionally intelligent and empathetic would also be a relevant skill set.

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