Becoming a registered psychologist in Australia takes a minimum of six years, but there are a few different options to get you there.
When people say “I’m a psychologist”, it means they’ve completed a minimum of six years study and work experience, and are registered with the Psychology Board of Australia (PBA). Just like doctors, nurses and lawyers, it’s a legal requirement to register before you can practise as a psychologist.
A six-year investment may seem like a lot, and while it does take serious dedication and commitment to becoming a psychologist, the reward is in your future career. From helping society’s most vulnerable to working with people to unlock success, registered psychologists could enjoy a wide range of roles spanning fields such as mental health, education, business, human resources, forensics and community services.
So how do you become a psychologist?
1. Complete your undergraduate degree
All psychologists must successfully complete an accredited three-year Psychology major that’s recognised by the Australian Psychology Accreditation Council (APAC). You’ll gain a foundation in psychological theory and scientific knowledge, as well as learning the technical research skills you need for postgraduate study.
Ready to start your undergrad degree? Explore our Bachelor of Science in Psychology or our Bachelor of Arts in Psychology.
Already completed an undergraduate in another area of study? Don’t stress, you can complete an accredited graduate diploma that is the equivalent to a three-year major in just one year (full-time). Be careful with terminology though – some graduate diplomas are three-year equivalents; and some serve as a fourth year of study.
2.Complete an accredited fourth year of study
After your undergraduate degree, all budding psychologists who are aiming for registration need to complete a fourth year of study. There are two options for your fourth year: completing an accredited Honours in Psychology degree, or an accredited Graduate Diploma in Psychology, both of which are one year in length.
Honours is a competitive year of study that will give you the best chance of being accepted into a Masters program. To be eligible for this course, aim to achieve at least a distinction average throughout your undergraduate psychology units.
Our Graduate Diploma in Psychology provides you with an alternative option to an Honours year, and is also competitive. Aim to achieve at least a credit average in your undergraduate psychology units to give yourself the best chance. You’ll study a number of units, while completing a research project involving group work, which will strengthen your ability to work in a team and collaborate with future colleagues.
Upon successful completion of an Honours qualification or a Graduate Diploma in Psychology, you will be eligible for provisional registration and continue your training to become a fully registered psychologist.
3. Choose your registration pathwayOnce you’ve completed an Honours program or a Graduate Diploma, you can apply for provisional registration with the Psychology Board of Australia. Provisional registration is necessary for completing your training, and allows you to complete further study and work experience under the supervision of a registered psychologist.
General registrationThere are two pathways that you can choose from to gain general registration as a psychologist. General registration means that you can work as a registered psychologist, but would need to undertake further training or study to specialise in any particular area of psychology.
If gaining experience on the job sounds like the best way for you to learn, you can undertake a two-year supervised internship as a provisionally registered psychologist. The internship must be approved as an accredited pathway, and all requirements for full registration need to be met during training. The PBA has decided to retire the 4+2 internship pathway in the near future, so if this is an option you’re looking into, keep in mind that you’ll need to complete your fourth year program and commence your two year internship by 30 June, 2022. Find out more here.
The 5+1 pathway gives you the best of both worlds – postgraduate level training at university, and on the job training in an internship. After completing your fourth-year program, you need to complete a further year of study, meaning you’ll study for 5 years before moving into a one-year supervised internship. If this sounds ideal to you, explore our Master of Applied Psychology (Professional), where you’ll complete coursework, practical placements and research.
Registration with area of endorsement
If you would like to become a registered psychologist with endorsement in an area of psychology, choose one of the following pathways. This means you have advanced qualifications and supervised practice experience in a particular area. There are nine areas of endorsement in Australia: clinical neuropsychology, clinical psychology, community psychology, counselling psychology, educational and developmental psychology, forensic psychology, health psychology, organisational psychology, and sport and exercise psychology. Find out more here.
Masters in an area of endorsement
Murdoch specialises in clinical psychology, so if this is the area you’d like to specialise in, our Master of Applied Psychology (Clinical) is a two-year course that combines coursework, practical placements and research components. You’ll graduate as a registered psychologist with clinical psychology as your area of endorsement.
Professional DoctorateIf you love research, and are interested in clinical psychology as your area of endorsement, this is the path for you. Our Doctor of Psychology (Clinical Psychology) has all the components of the Masters of Applied Psychology (Clinical) with an added translational research project. The course will take you 3.5 years to complete.
Combined Masters and PhD in Psychology
If you want to become a clinical psychologist as well as obtaining a PhD in Psychology, consider our Master of Applied Psychology + Doctor of Philosophy. The course combines the Masters of Applied Psychology (Clinical) with a full PhD in which you’ll conduct a large research project and submit a thesis over a five-year period.
So whether you’re passionate about research, or prefer more hands-on learning, there’s a pathway towards a career in Psychology that’s right for you.