How to become a Psychologist

Psychologists study human behaviour and the processes associated with how people think and feel, conduct research and provide treatment and counselling in order to reduce distress and behavioural and psychological problems. They promote mental health and positive behaviour in individuals and groups. Psychologists work on a broad range of issues with clients, including children, adults, couples, families and organisations.

Personal requirements of a Psychologist

  • Interested in people and human behaviour
  • Able to solve problems
  • An inquisitive mind
  • Emotional maturity and empathy for others
  • Patient and perceptive
  • Good oral and written communication skills

Education & Training for a Psychologist

To become a psychologist you usually have to complete a degree with a major in psychology or a four-year Bachelor of Psychology. This is followed by either an accredited two-year postgraduate qualification (majoring in a specialisation of psychology) or two years of supervised experience with a registered psychologist. Psychology can be studied as a major in an arts, social science or science degree. The fourth year of bachelor degree study, which is needed to satisfy registration requirements, may be undertaken as an honours year in the Bachelor of Psychology degree or as a Graduate Diploma of Psychology. To get into the degree courses you usually need to gain your Senior Secondary Certificate of Education with English. Entry to postgraduate courses usually requires completion of an appropriate bachelor degree. A number of universities in Australia offer degrees in these areas. Universities have different prerequisites and some have flexible entry requirements or offer external study. Contact the institutions you are interested in for more information. For full details, refer to the entries on the website at www.goodcareersguide.com.au or university handbooks.

Duties & Tasks of a Psychologist

Psychologists may perform the following tasks:

  • conduct therapeutic interviews and provide counselling
  • give psychological tests and assess the results to identify the source of problems and determine treatment
  • construct tests to assess and predict mental and emotional states, as well as performance
  • evaluate the results of programs aimed at improving personal and organisational effectiveness
  • research psychological aspects of topics such as study motivation, teaching skills, occupational behaviour, working conditions and organisational structures
  • provide follow-up services to groups and individuals for support and evaluation purposes
  • contribute to government social policy development
  • conduct academic research.

Employment Opportunities for a Psychologist

Psychologists are employed by government and privately run community welfare organisations and by hospitals, industry and the Australian Defence Force. They are also employed in private practices and in private health clinics. Many psychology graduates do not find work as psychology specialists but are employed in positions where they can use the skills learnt through their psychology training. Research skills are especially useful in market research, advertising, management or business consultancy. Other areas that provide employment for psychologists include social welfare, community work, human resource management, training, teaching and lecturing, and clerical and administrative work.

Specialisations:


Clinical Neuropsychologist

A clinical neuropsychologist specialises in the assessment and diagnosis of brain impairment and how this affects thinking skills, emotions, behaviour and personality. They are also involved in the rehabilitation and management of the effects of brain impairment and often work with other health professionals.


Clinical Psychologist

A clinical psychologist is trained in the assessment, diagnosis and treatment of mental illness and psychological problems. Located in hospitals, universities, general medical practices, community health centres and private practice, they often work with general medical practitioners, psychiatrists and other health professionals.


Community Psychologist

A community psychologist works in partnership with the community to provide services that help solve problems and restore individual and collective well-being.


Counselling Psychologist

A counselling psychologist provides assessment, diagnosis and psychological therapy for individuals, couples, families, groups and organisations, and treats a wide range of psychological problems and mental health disorders. They work in counselling agencies, government departments, hospitals, general medical practitioners' divisions, educational institutions and private practice.


Educational and Developmental Psychologist

An educational and developmental psychologist provides assessment, intervention and counselling services related to the developmental and educational issues that occur in life. Specialisations include life span transitions, early intervention, disability, problems of learning and adjustment in schools, career and family development, and ageing.


Forensic Psychologist

A forensic psychologist applies psychological knowledge, theory and skills to matters related to the legal and criminal justice system. They provide expert opinion to the courts in such matters as criminal behaviour, child abuse and family court cases.


Health Psychologist

A health psychologist is concerned with illness prevention and health promotion. They assess and treat the biological, psychological and social factors surrounding health and illness in order to promote positive change and wellbeing.


Organisational Psychologist

An organisational psychologist seeks to understand the complex interrelationships that occur within the workplace in order to improve organisational effectiveness and individual wellbeing. They apply psychological principles and methods to understand and influence work behaviour, worker attitudes, organisational structures and organisational systems.


Sport and Exercise Psychologist

A sport and exercise psychologist helps sportspeople achieve their optimum mental health and wellbeing to improve their sporting performance. They may support athletes who are recovering from injuries, who have not met their performance expectations or who are struggling with the pressure of training and competition.

Additional Information
The Australian Psychology Accreditation Council (APAC) sets the standards for accreditation of Australasian psychology programs, ensuring that the standards of training remain rigorous and consistent across universities. For students to be eligible for registration, they must study a course that is accredited by APAC. Visit their website (www.psychologycouncil.org.au) for an up-to-date list of approved courses of study. Following successful completion of an approved qualification, students who completed a four-year sequence of study followed by a two-year internship will need to pass the National Psychology Exam in order to gain general registration. It is a legal requirement for graduates to be registered with the Psychology Board of Australia before being able to practise as a psychologist in any state or territory in Australia. The Australian Psychological Society (APS) offers membership options to students who are studying an approved course. Visit their website for more information.
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