How To Become A Psychologist In Australia: A Complete Guide

Students want to know how to become a counselling and clinical psychologist in Australia, and how long does it take to earn a good salary.


If you are fascinated and intrigued by human behaviour, a career in psychology is the right choice for you.


While becoming a psychologist takes serious commitment and dedication, it can be highly rewarding for your future. From helping the most vulnerable people in society to working with individuals to unlock success, as a psychologist, you can indulge in a wide variety of roles covering areas such as community services, health, forensics, business, and education.


So if working with people and exploring how they feel, think, and behave appeals to you, read the post below. It contains all the information on how to become a psychologist in Australia, including an overview of the study pathways, registration, experiences required to pursue the exciting and varied career of a psychologist.


1. What Does a Psychologist do?


Psychologists play a significant role in society by helping people overcome challenges and improve their everyday lives. They use scientific methods and study human behaviour associated with how people feel and think. Often they assist and provide treatment to people experiencing mental health disorders or grief.


Furthermore, psychologists offer support, guidance, and advice on a variety of issues, including substance abuse, learning difficulties, relationship problems, and other problematic behaviours. You may find psychologists working in places such as hospitals, schools, prisons, community health services, courts, private practices, and businesses.


2. Major Duties and Tasks of a Psychologist


Here are the most common tasks and duties performed by a psychologist:


  • Provide counselling and conduct therapeutic interviews. 

  • Offer follow-up services to individuals and groups for evaluation and support purposes.

  • Give psychological tests and review the results to find out the cause of problems and determine treatment.

  • Evaluate the results of programs aimed at enhancing organisational and personal effectiveness. 

  • Construct tests to measure performance, as well as predict and access mental and emotional states.

  • Collect client data and assess their behavioural, cognitive, and emotional disorders.

  • Collect student data, analyse their characteristics, and recommend educational programs.

  • Conduct research studies on group performance, motivation in learning, and individual differences in educational performance and mental abilities.

  • Establish job requirements and perform job analyses by observing and interviewing managers and employees.

  • Consult with other professionals and discuss details on cases and treatment plans. 

  • Interpret and administer diagnostic tests and formulate treatment plans.

  • Formulate diagnostic, achievement and predictive tests for use by teachers in planning methods and content of instruction.

  • Administer, develop, and evaluate group and individual treatment programs.

  • Develop psychological tests, interview techniques, and other aids for placement, workplace selection, promotion, and appraisal.



3. How Long Does It Take to Become a Psychologist In Australia?


When considering a career in psychology, you may wonder how long it will take to become a licensed psychologist. The answer to this largely depends on your speciality, the amount of time it takes to complete your education and your career interests.


In most cases, to become eligible for general registration as a psychologist in Australia, a minimum six-year sequence of education and training in psychology is required.



4. Steps to Become a Psychologist in Australia


You need to be registered with the Psychology Board of Australia (PsyBA) to become a psychologist in Australia. Typically, pathways to registration as a psychologist requires you to obtain six years of education and training.


Here is a step-by-step study pathways guide to becoming a psychologist in Australia:



Step 1: Complete an Accredited Three-year Undergraduate Psychology Sequence


This is the first step towards becoming a psychologist in Australia. To achieve the initial three-year undergraduate sequence, you need to complete an accredited bachelor degree in psychology such as Bachelor of Psychological Science or Bachelor of Psychology. This degree must be recognised and accredited by the Australian Psychology Accreditation Council (APAC).


Alternatively, students who have previously completed a Bachelor degree in a different field of study are also eligible to apply for an APAC accredited Graduate Diploma, containing psychology subjects.


Obtaining an undergraduate degree in Psychology will enable students to gain the following skills:


  • Ability to effectively communicate in a variety of settings and formats.

  • Ability to implement, plan, and evaluate research. 

  • Ability to act professionally within an ethical framework. 

  • Ability to apply psychological principles to social, personal, and group issues. 

  • Ability to think both creatively and ethically, and use scientific methods to solve problems.

Furthermore, students who complete their undergraduate degree in Psychology usually continue their studies or find employment in fields such as health services, community services, protective services, business, or education.


If you are interested in one of these fields - in that case, you can also become an affiliate of the Australian Psychological Society (APS), which will help you stay updated with the recent developments and research in psychology.



Step 2: Complete an Accredited Fourth Year Sequence


In order to achieve the fourth-year sequence, you need to complete an APAC accredited Postgraduate Diploma or Honours degree in Psychology. Additionally, candidates must complete an APAC accredited three-year undergraduate sequence to gain entry into one of these courses.


Remember, before you can pursue further pathways and acquire a general registration as a psychologist with PsyBA, you need to complete the fourth-year study sequence successfully.


Fourth-year graduates have access to the same career opportunities as three-year undergraduate students. Additionally, they can also work as research assistants.


If you want to pursue psychology training after completing the fourth-year of study, then gaining work experience as a telephone counsellor or a research assistant can help you improve your awareness and expertise, and strengthen your application.



Step 3: Complete Postgraduate Study or an Internship Program to Obtain General Registration

Fourth-year graduates can further undertake three different pathways to obtain a general registration as a psychologist:



Pathway 1: APAC-accredited Postgraduate Psychology Degree


This pathway requires fourth-year graduates to pursue a minimum of a two-year postgraduate degree (also known as the fifth and sixth year of study) accredited by APAC.


Fourth-year graduates who are admitted into the sixth-year program approved by APAC are qualified to apply for provisional registration with the PsyBA, which allows students to take up the supervised psychological practice.


Once the postgraduate psychology degree is complete, applicants are allowed to apply for general registration as a psychologist through PsyBA.


Current postgraduate degrees accredited by APAC include Masters and Doctorate, which further involves a thesis, coursework, and placements. You can pursue these degrees in the following fields of psychological practice:


  • Clinical Psychology

  • Health Psychology

  • Counselling Psychology

  • Forensic Psychology

  • Organisational Psychology

  • Community Psychology

  • Sport and Exercise Psychology

  • Clinical Neuropsychology

  • Educational and Developmental Psychology


To read more about accredited psychology postgraduate courses, you can visit the APAC website.


Note: It is highly competitive to get entry into postgraduate courses. Therefore, make sure to contact the university you are interested in to get more details about their course and entry requirements.



Pathway 2: A 4+2 Internship Program


The 4+2 internship pathway requires you to complete a PsyBA accredited two-year internship of supervised practice, gain provisional registration with the PsyBA, and pass the National Psychology Exam.


Once you have successfully completed the two-year internship program, you are eligible to apply for general registration as a psychologist through PsyBA.

To get further information about the 4+2 internship program, you can visit the PsyBA website.


Pathway 3: A 5 +1 Internship Program

The 5+1 internship pathway involves gaining provisional registration with the PsyBA, completing an APAC accredited one-year Graduate Diploma of Professional Psychology, passing the National Psychology Exam, and undertaking a one-year internship of supervised practice regulated by PsyBA.


Once the candidates have successfully completed their 5+1 internship program, they can apply for general registration as a psychologist through PsyBA.


For more details about the 5+1 internship program, visit the PsyBA website.


Step 4: Apply for a Registrar Program for Area of Practice Endorsement


After you complete your postgraduate degree, you have the option to undertake a registrar program for area of practice endorsement. This program enables you to practice one of the nine PsyBA-approved areas of practise under supervision.


A registrar program consists of the following requirements for different areas of practice qualification:


  • MPsych: Graduates under this qualification pursue two years of supervised practice, including 80 hours of CPD (Continuing Professional Development).


  • MPsych/PhD: Graduates under this qualification pursue one and a half years of supervised practice, including 60 hours of CPD. 


  • DPsych: Graduates under this qualification pursue one year of supervised practice, including 40 hours of CPD.


Note: You can only apply for the registrar program once you have completed MPsych, DPsych, or MPsych/PhD degree. Furthermore, Doctoral degree applicants can only begin the registrar program and apply for early general registration after they have made progress with their thesis and have completed all coursework requirements for their degree.


5. What are the Skills and Competencies Required to Become a Psychologist in Australia?


In addition to fulfilling licensing and education requirements, individuals also need certain skills to succeed in the field of psychology. Let us check them out!


  • Communication Skills: Psychology professionals whose work generally involves listening and talking to clients must possess both active listening and excellent verbal communication skills.


  • Interpersonal Skills: As the profession of a psychologist is all about helping and studying individuals, you need to have strong interpersonal skills, which means you need to relate well and interact effectively with people.


  • Critical Thinking Skills: A psychologist also needs to have strong critical thinking skills, which helps to establish a proper treatment plan and come up with an accurate diagnosis.


  • Empathy: You must have the ability to recognise and connect with the experiences of another person to help them understand the cause behind their feelings and emotions. 


  • Trustworthiness: As psychologists are expected to keep patient information confidential, they must be trustworthy.


  • Patience: It may take a lot of time to treat a person. So you will need a lot of patience to see the session through to its end.



6. Employment Opportunities for a Psychologist in Australia


Psychology graduates have a demonstrated interest and specialist knowledge in human behaviour, interpersonal relationships, personality, motivation, and learning. Therefore, as a psychology major, you get the advantage to compete for jobs such as youth worker, welfare officer, employment officer, and support worker.

Here are some other careers you can consider in the field of psychology:


  • Clinical Psychologist: Diagnoses, identifies, and assists while treating mental, emotional, and behavioural issues through interviews, observation, and tests.


  • Behavioural Ecologist: Works with animals and analyses behavioural patterns. They may work at zoos, museums, and aquariums. 


  • Training Officer: Watches over an organisation’s professional and learning development obligations.


  • Community Development Officer: Works toward bringing social change in the communities.


  • Disability Support Officer: Offers support to people in the community with physical, intellectual, emotional, and social disabilities.


  • Crime Prevention Officer: Educates young people about the impact of crime, teaches people about crime and methods of crime prevention, and works with victims of crime.


  • Human Resources Manager: Enhances employee relations in an organisation, and plans and implements the programs, policies, and practices of an organisation.


  • Alcohol/Drug Case Worker: Provides support and counselling to families and individuals affected by alcohol or drugs.


  • Counsellor: Works with clients and individuals in a confidential setting, and helps them overcome problems.



To increase your value in the current job market, it is suggested to combine your psychology studies with other subjects like communication and media studies, business, and social work.


7. How Much Do Psychologists Earn in Australia?


A psychologist salary in Australia may vary, depending on their area of expertise and level of experience.


According to PayScale, the average annual salary of a psychologist may range somewhere between AU$67,000 to AU$95,000.


8. Closing Words


Hopefully, this guide on how to become a psychologist in Australia has helped you gain a better understanding of the type of requirements you must fulfil to become registered and start practising in the psychology field.


It is highly recommended to regularly check the Psychology Board website as they keep updating the latest information on requirements.



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