Psychology is listed separately from the other social and behavioural sciences because it can lead to a specific profession with its own strict rules for admission and practice. It is quite different to courses in counselling, which are often bundled in with the humanities. Contrary to what people might think, the work of a psychologist involves much more than straight counselling. Browse Psychology courses by state
For those who follow the pathway to accreditation, there are broad options available. While the common focus of psychologists was previously on helping individuals to overcome problems — which might range in severity from the common difficulties associated with making life decisions through to mental illness — the field of psychology is now much broader. Today, many graduates work with organisations (in organisational psychology and industrial psychology) or with teams or elite sportspeople (in sports psychology). Others help clients with issues such as addictions (such as smoking and gambling), depression, eating disorders, fears and phobias, career planning, child behavioural problems, sexual problems, sleep disorders and relationships.Accredited psychologists can choose to specialise (usually by undertaking further study) in a variety of areas, the most common being clinical psychology, counselling psychology and organisational psychology.To find out more about careers in psychology, refer to the Australian Psychological Society and Australian Psychology Accreditation Council websites.Other fields of study that may interest you include health services and support, education and training, humanities and social sciences, medicine, nursing, rehabilitation and social work.
VET study in psychologyLike a number of other health-related professional fields (such as medicine, pharmacy or rehabilitation), courses in psychology are largely restricted to the higher education sector and are offered at degree level and higher. The handful of VET courses that are available (such as a diploma or advanced diploma of arts) may lead into bachelor degrees, which may then lead to further study on the pathway towards professional accreditation. See the profiles for humanities and social sciences for details of relevant courses.
Undergraduate study in psychologyCourses and specialisationsThe pathway to becoming a practising psychologist is more complicated than successfully completing a bachelor degree. In order to gain accreditation, it is necessary to first complete a degree majoring in psychology (with honours) or a four-year Bachelor of Psychology. The next step is either to complete an accredited two-year postgraduate qualification (which can be extremely competitive to get into) or two years of supervised experience with a registered psychologist. The bachelor degree and postgraduate courses must be accredited by the Australian Psychology Accreditation Council, so check course guides carefully to ensure that they meet these requirements. With such a long and involved (and often highly competitive) pathway to professional practice, it is easy to see why only a handful of psychology graduates actually go on to become psychologists. For those who do not, there is a vast range of alternative careers: everything from market research, advertising, management and business consultancy to human resource management, teaching and social welfare work. At undergraduate level, you will find programs that specialisation in either psychology or behavioural science. See below for details of specialisations available through postgraduate study. Where to studyThe great news about psychology is that it is widely available and is offered by almost all universities, in addition to a number of private providers (some of which may specialise in the field). You'll find psychology offered on its own or within arts, science, social science or applied science degrees, as well as being offered as an elective option in some business, marketing and human resource management programs. See Degree costs and loans for more information about paying for your degree.To find out how each institution performs in your field of study, see our Ratings section.Career opportunitiesAccording to the national Course Experience Questionnaire survey, most psychology graduates rated their university experience quite highly, especially the generic skills they gained. Unemployment rates are high though, with 53 per cent of 2013 graduates still looking for work four months after graduating. Starting salaries were also below average, falling to $48,639. Among those who did find work, most went into private industry. Because of the nature of the field, a large number (40 per cent) go on to further study.See the Career Search for more information about your career options.
Postgraduate study in psychology Courses and specialisationsCoursework programs in this field fall into three groups:
those designed to allow practising psychologists to learn new specialisations or upgrade their skills
those that allow graduates with first degrees in psychology and related disciplines to become qualified psychologists
those that provide skills to other professionals, mainly those working in the health, welfare and education sectors (note that you will find many more counselling programs within the humanities and social sciences profile).
At postgraduate level, you will come across specialisations such as clinical psychology, forensic psychology, organisational behaviour, mental health psychology and neuropsychology. There are a number of other specialisations available, so it's worth doing some research into what's on offer at the institutions you are considering or how programs can be customised to suit a particular interest you have. Almost one-third of psychology postgraduates are undertaking research degrees. At masters level, research programs are generally clinically focused and are therefore more relevant to those practising. They cover areas ranging from behavioural science and disability studies to clinical psychology and psychoanalysis. If you would like to undertake in-depth study but are reluctant to go with the pure research focus of a masters or PhD, there are a number of professional doctorates that combine coursework with a thesis or project work in the field. Where to studyAs is the case at undergraduate level, postgraduate courses in psychology are widely available — both at universities and private providers. If you are after something quite specific, you may need to shop around for the provider that best suits your needs. If you are interested in a particular area of research, it is a good idea to ensure that your interests correspond with those of the departments or schools you are considering. This will probably also ensure that you wind up with like-minded research students and with access to appropriate resources (in some cases, relevant scholarships).To find out how each institution performs in your field of study, see our Ratings section.Career opportunitiesAccording to the national Course Experience Questionnaire survey, psychology postgraduates were very happy with the skills they gained, but less impressed with their overall experience and the teaching quality of their courses. Job prospects are about average compared with other fields, with 83 per cent of graduates finding employment within four months of graduating. Salaries are also average, at $76,484 per year. See the Career Search for more information about your career options.