How to Become A Psychologist In Australia

This articles addresses the common ways of becoming a psychologist in Australia, the role of a psychologist in society and the different specialised fields you can enter.


1. What is the role of a psychologist?


Psychologists generally assess, diagnose, and treat any psychological or behavioural problems that relate to social, physical, and mental wellbeing. Their main role is to help facilitate positive thinking, prevent both short-term and long-term illness, promote healthy behaviours, and assist individuals in living a better life.


2. How long does it take to become a psychologist?


In most cases, it takes a minimum of six years of study and training for you to be eligible for general registration as a psychologist. This can differ from person to person, depending on whether you want to specialise in a particular field. This will usually entail further years of study and require additional postgraduate research. In some cases, if you are someone who has already completed a degree in another field, you may need to do an accredited bridging degree, which are typically 12 to 16 months in duration. This 1.5 year degree essentially comprises the first three years of psychological study, which you can then use to pursue fourth-year (or Honours year) studies.

3. What are the steps required to become a registered psychologist in Australia?


This section details various ways you can get into psychology in Australia, whether you are a student fresh out of high school, or someone who already has qualifications in another field of study, but is looking to change careers.

  • HSC Students

If you are a year 12 / HSC student who is starting to think about pursuing psychology, you are most likely in the process of selecting course preferences in preparation for when you receive your HSC marks. Though the majority of universities will be determining your admission into a psychology course based on your Australian Tertiary Admissions Rank (ATAR), some universities may provide you with an early entry offer into the course. If you are unsuccessful, they may also offer you an alternative pathway such as a one-year bridging program, designed to help you gain admission into the courses you want based on the results you achieve during this program.


At this stage, you are going to want to apply for three-year psychology courses, which may also come with the additional year of Honours. You will most likely see courses such as the Bachelor of Psychology (Honours), which indicate four years of psychological study, inclusive of Honours. Note that different universities may name their courses slightly different. Be sure to read through the course highlights thoroughly to ensure you have selected the right course. Honours year is a requirement for any candidate looking to gain provisional registration as a psychologist.


It is important that you apply for courses that are accredited by the Australian Psychology Accreditation Council (APAC). If they are not accredited, you will need to pursue at least another year of study, such as the Graduate Diploma in Psychology, a one and half year bridging sequence that will provide you with a psychology major. Note that depending on which semester or trimester you start, you may be able to fast-track this program to one year.


It is crucial that you apply for courses that are accredited if you are looking to become a registered psychologist. You cannot apply for registration if you do not have degrees that are are accredited by the regulating authority.

  • For those wanting to change careers . . .

If you are someone who has studied and gained experience in another field but is looking to pursue psychology, you can apply for a three-year bridging sequence, such as the Graduate Diploma of Psychology. These are generally a 1.5 year accredited degree that provides you with a psychology major, and covers all the fundamental theory and knowledge required to move on to subsequent psychological studies. Successful completion of a degree like this can allow you to apply for a fourth-year (Honours), such as the Bachelor of Psychological Science (Honours). Honours year is necessary for those seeking to gain provisional registration as a psychologist.


With these 1.5 year degrees, depending on what semester/trimester you start, some universities may offer you the option to fast-track the degree to one year.


It should be noted that for those looking to study psychology, entry into postgraduate degrees such as bridging sequences and Honours years are highly competitive. However, it is not impossible. Most universities considering applications into these degrees will not only examine academic merit, but any experience (such as volunteer work) you have as well.


  • So you have done a four-year degree, or a bridging and Honours degree. What's next?

After you have obtained what is essentially your undergraduate degree(s), you have two common options to choose from.


You can (A) apply for a Masters program, which comprises a masters degree in psychology (one year) AND a year of supervised practice, thus another two years of study and practice combined. This is also known as the 5+1 internship program. Entry into these degrees is also competitive, however there are more spaces available. In Honours year degrees, the entry is competitive due to the fact that spaces are limited, with smaller numbers of supervisors available.

Credit to Dom Fou

Additionally, you can (B) apply for a two-year program of study such as the Masters in Clinical Psychology, or the Masters in Forensic Psychology, which comprise two years of additional study and practice combined. This is also known as the 4+2 registrar program. At the end of a master's program, the successful candidate can apply for general registration as a psychologist.


The main difference between option A and B is that option A offers you the ability to register as a general psychologist. Option B allows you to register as a specialised psychologist, such as a clinical psychologist. Which option you choose greatly depends on your own passions and interests. Both these options, however, will require you to sit the National Psychology Exam before you can apply for registration.


Note: If you happen to come across other articles on entering psychology in Australia that state the option of a 4+2 internship program, (which is essentially four years of undergraduate study and two years of supervised practice) be aware that this option has now been fully phased out as of Jan 2022.

Credit to Edurne Tx

4. Can I specialise in a specific field of psychology?


There are many different specialties in the study of psychology. For example, you can expand your knowledge in a particular field or practice such as educational and developmental psychology, occupational psychology, forensic psychology, clinical neuropsychology, counselling psychology, and sport and exercise psychology. Progressing further into one of these fields will likely require additional years of study, and include the completion of a Masters and/or Doctorate. The duration and workload of study for each speciality differs depending on the pathways you choose to take.


Again, admission into these postgraduate degrees are very competitive, so ensure you contact the universities offering these courses to obtain as much information as you can.


5. How much do psychologists' earn a year in Australia?


According to seek.com.au, the average salary of a psychologist in Australia is anywhere between 80k to 100k, whereas, au.talent.com and au.indeed.com suggest that entry-level salaries can start at approximately 90k, with $103, 536 being the average salary. However, as someone who has worked for years in a private psychology clinic among a variety of general, clinical, forensic, child developmental, and neurological psychologists, the salaries mentioned on these sites are well below average.


Note that the amount you can get paid differs depending on your qualifications, experience, and the state you are residing or practising in.


So there you have it. Although the process of becoming a psychologist is quite tedious and long, it is a rewarding career where you will meet people of all ages and allows you to help individuals live better lives.



This post will be updated if there are any changes or new information that arises concerning the process of becoming a psychologist in Australia.


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