If you’re naturally curious about how the human mind works and want to help others by understanding and treating life, learning and mental health issues, psychology is a rewarding career choice. Psychologists provide support in the forms of counselling, psycho-education and skills training to help individuals manage stressors and stressful life circumstances, as well as maintain wellbeing.
It’s also a brilliant time to pursue psychology as a career. Over the next three years, the Australian Government expects the demand for psychologists to grow exponentially, and with looming automation and artificial intelligence technologies, the human touch will be more critical than ever.
But how do you become a psychologist in Australia? Read on to discover the perfect pathway for you.
What does a psychologist do?
You may imagine psychologists spending their workdays in consultation rooms, helping their clients navigate complex life problems and learn strategies to manage the symptoms of mental health disorders. While this is true for some psychologists, not all psychologists have the same roles and responsibilities.
What you do as a psychologist will depend entirely on what domain you work in. However, your tasks may include some of the following:
Assess and diagnose patients
Conduct psychological assessments and clinical interviews, as well as diagnose mental health conditions based on clinical criteria.
Use evidence-based treatments to help clients, including counselling, Cognitive Behavioural Therapy (CBT) and other treatments according to each psychologist’s specialty.
Create treatment plans
Work with clients to personalise plans to meet their goals and maintain wellbeing.
Refer clients to appropriate healthcare providers or community programs if required.
It’s imperative psychologists document every interaction they have with clients, ensuring client confidentiality and adhering to ethical and regulatory standards. Psychologists are also often tasked with writing letters and reports to referring agents.
Continuous professional development
Psychology as a field of knowledge is constantly evolving, and psychologists must stay current on the latest studies, recommendations and skills to ensure that they are offering evidence based treatment.
The Australian Psychology Society (APS) sets strict ethical and legal guidelines for practising psychology in Australia. Every psychologist must adhere to this code of ethics, standards and legislation to continue in the profession.
What’s the difference between registered psychologists and clinical psychologists?
One key difference between registered and clinical psychologists is their qualifications:
- General registration allows you to use the title “psychologist” and to work in any area of psychology within your scope of practice.
- Registered psychologists practice with general registration and have not undertaken accredited training and tertiary education to specialise in a specific area of practice endorsement. Registered psychologists make up over 60 per cent of Australian psychologists, according to the APS.
- General registration with an Area of Practice Endorsement (AoPE) indicates that a psychologist has completed an approved postgraduate qualification and approved supervised training in a specific area of practice endorsement, and they are endorsed to use a title associated with that specific area of practice.
- Clinical psychologists hold general registration as a psychologist and have also completed additional tertiary study and supervised practice in line with the requirements for Area of Practice Endorsement (AoPE) in Clinical Psychology, and they are thus endorsed to use the title of Clinical Psychologist.
Clinical psychology integrates theory and evidence based clinical practice to understand, prevent or implement interventions for psychological problems or disorders. This means that clinical psychologists are specially trained to assess and support individuals with complex mental health presentations using tailored, evidence-based treatments.
How to become a clinical psychologist in Australia
Clinical psychologists in Australia undertake eight years of training. This typically includes an Australian Psychology Accreditation Council (APAC) accredited four-year sequence of study in psychology (including honours or honours equivalent program of study), followed typically by a two-year APAC-accredited postgraduate degree in clinical psychology.
Finally, there is a two-year registrar program, which involves two years of supervised practice in the area of practice endorsement, under the supervision of a board approved supervisor in clinical psychology.
Whether you want to be a clinical psychologist or a registered psychologist, the initial study pathway is the same.
Let’s explore each step more closely.
Step 1. Choose your study pathway
A career in psychology generally starts with an accredited Level 1 program of study in psychology, which can be completed through a three-year Bachelor of Psychology degree (or alternative degree with an embedded Level 1 program of study).
The second step is an accredited Level 2 program of study, which can be completed in an honours year (or honours equivalent post graduate diploma course).
The third step includes a further two years of training, which can be completed within a two year higher education postgraduate degree (Level 3-4 program of study, which includes tertiary study and clinical internships), or in two year sequence which combines one year higher education post graduate degree (Level 3 program of study) and one year of supervised internships.
But if you’ve already completed a bachelor’s degree in another discipline and want to switch to a psychology career, you can fast-track your career by completing an accredited Graduate Diploma in Psychology.
If your course isn’t accredited by APAC, you won’t be eligible to continue your career pathway to train to become a psychologist. Luckily, UTS has you covered.
Our Graduate Diploma in Psychology course online is a one- to three-year bridging degree which allows you to complete the Level 1 program of study in psychology and start your pathway to becoming a registered psychologist. The UTS Graduate Diploma is accredited with conditions by the Australian Psychology Accreditation Council (APAC), as well as informed by the latest APA Guidelines and the Australian Indigenous Psychology Education Project.
APAC accreditation status gives you peace of mind you’ll have all the necessary qualifications to be eligible to apply for an APAC accredited Level 2 program. After this, you can take on a Level 3 or Level 3-4 master’s degree to train to be a psychologist.
Step 2: Study an accredited Level 2 program of study in psychology
You’ve now completed your Level 1 program of study in psychology, whether by the conventional three-year route or by undertaking the UTS Graduate Diploma in Psychology.
The next step towards becoming a psychologist is the completion of pre-professional competencies through an APAC-accredited Level 2 program of psychology study.
You have options:
- After your three-year undergraduate course in psychology, you can undertake an Honours year, usually with an independent research component and a coursework component, with some universities requiring practical placements or work experience placements.
- Alternatively, if you are eligible, you can apply for a Graduate Diploma in Psychology (Advanced). This degree is equivalent to an honours degree and is designed for professionals who want to complete their Level 2 program of study fully online. You can complete it in as little as 16 months.
To meet the entry criteria for a Graduate Diploma in Psychology (Advanced), you’ll need to have completed a Level 1 program in psychology (or equivalent) with a GPA above 5.0 through an APAC accredited graduate diploma or bachelor’s degree.
Step 3: Choose your pathway to general registration
Students who have completed the UTS Graduate Diploma in Psychology (Advanced), or an equivalent Level 2 program of Study in Psychology, can choose from two pathways to pursue general psychology registration in Australia.
Level 3 APAC Accredited Postgraduate Program of Study and 1 year supervised internship (5 + 1)
Enrol in a one-year APAC-accredited Level 3 postgraduate course and follow it with a one-year supervised internship. Following this, you will also need to pass the National Psychology Exam before you can apply for psychology registration in Australia.
- Master of Professional Psychology (Level 3). If you’ve chosen the 5+1 internship pathway, a one-year accredited course teaches you all you need to know before completing your one year of supervised practice and the National Psychology Exam.
Level 3-4 APAC Accredited Postgraduate Program of Study (Higher Degree)
Here, you will undertake an approved two-year master’s degree or three year professional doctorate in psychology. If you’ve opted for a Level 3-4 higher degree pathway, you don’t have to sit the National Psychology Exam and can apply for general registration immediately after finishing your postgraduate studies.
- Specialist master’s program (Level 3-4). If you’ve chosen the higher degree pathway and want to specialise in an area of practice endorsement like clinical psychology, this course is ideal.
Once you’ve completed the specialist master’s program (Level 3-4), you’ll then complete a two-year registrar program (two years or 3000 hours of supervised practice in your AoPE) before applying for General Registration with an AoPE.
Step 4: Apply for provisional registration
As a Level 3-4 postgraduate psychology student, you must apply for provisional registration, regardless of which pathway you choose to general registration. You can apply online and will need to renew your provisional registration every year until you’re eligible to apply for general registration.
Provisional registration means adhering to AHPRA’s standards, ethics, and guidelines.
Like medicine or law, you must register with the Psychology Board of Australia (PsyBA), part of Australian Health Practitioner Regulation Agency (AHPRA), which legally allows you to call yourself a provisional psychologist.
Step 5: Start applying for jobs
Once you’ve finished your accredited education and training and you’ve registered as a psychologist with AHPRA, it’s time to start looking for work. The good news is there’s a broad range of employment options open to you beyond just private practice, depending on your chosen specialty. You could choose to work in:
You’ll find rewarding career options in public and private hospitals assessing, counselling and supporting patients in areas like rehabilitation, chronic pain or mental health. According to Australian government statistics, over 76 per cent of registered psychologists work in healthcare.
Fifteen per cent of Australian psychologists are employed in schools, from preschool to university, assessing learning and development difficulties, providing counselling and behaviour management therapies and consulting with parents and teachers.
If you’ve undertaken organisational psychology training, there are plenty of opportunities for work counselling and supporting employees to be more productive and facilitating a culture of well-being in the workplace.
Help promote greater wellness in the general community by working for not-for-profit organisations in aged care, disability, indigenous health and charities.
Psychologists are employed at every level of government, including health, aged care, disability, justice, and immigration departments.
Want to advance our knowledge of the mind and human behaviour? Join a tertiary or research institute to conduct studies and undertake research projects in your area of specialisation.
Starting your brilliant career in psychology is easy.