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How to Become a Psychologist

student Leanne Tander

Broadly related to the study of human behaviour, psychology can be an incredibly rewarding career, and the good news is there's more than one pathway to becoming a psychologist in Australia. However, each approach involves a significant amount of study and training, so no matter what path you choose, it is important to do your research.

To help, we've put together this step-by-step guide on how to become a clinical psychologist. 

1. Know What You’re Signing Up For

Before pursuing a career in psychology, it’s important to understand where a career in this field can take you and the steps involved with undertaking psychology studies. Psychologists are responsible for diagnosing and treating people experiencing mental illness and psychological distress. Improving mental health outcomes for individuals can be extremely demanding, which is why psychologists are required to undertake such extensive training in psychology courses.

People throughout Australia rely on psychologists for treatment and support. Data from the Australian Bureau of Statistics indicates one in five people aged 16 to 85 experience a common form of mental illness (anxiety, mood disorders, and substance use disorders) in any given year. To maintain the standard of psychology services in Australia, the profession is highly regulated by the Psychology Board of Australia (PsyBA).


2. Get Qualified

There are many different pathways and classroom-based and online psychology courses available, although a minimum of six years of tertiary education is usually required.

The six years can be broken down into the following stages:

  1. Three-year undergraduate psychology degree – To develop a solid foundation of knowledge and training, you must complete an undergraduate degree in psychology or a Graduate Diploma in Psychology before furthering your studies.
  2. Fourth-year accredited psychology studies – Involving a combination of study and supervised research, a fourth year of study is required if you wish to take advanced psychology training. Monash Online’s Graduate Diploma of Psychology Advanced includes a fourth year for students wishing to expand their knowledge of psychological theory, research and practice.
  3. Internship pathway* or postgraduate study – This stage is necessary for you to qualify for general registration. It involves gaining provisional registration with the Psychology Board of Australia, completing a PsyBA-accredited two-year internship (supervised practice), and passing the National Psychology Exam. Graduates can only apply for general registration as a psychologist with the PsyBA once they have successfully completed these steps. 

    *Important: Please note this pathway will be phased out by June 2022.

The educational requirements needed to become a psychologist can vary depending on your chosen specialisation and how you plan to use your degree. Even if you decide not to pursue registration after completing an undergraduate degree in psychology, this qualification can still be used in a range of other professions, such as:

  • Marketing and advertising
  • Human resources
  • Social work and community services
  • Teaching
  • Health care

No matter how you decide to apply your psychology degree, it’s sure to be a valuable asset in your career.


3. Choose a Specialisation

The field of psychology covers several specialisations, many of which require further study and training. Some of the most common specialisations include:

Organisational Psychologist

This role involves using psychology in the workplace to improve employee performance and wellbeing. You will likely work with businesses, teams or individual employees to assist with:

  • Recruitment and selection
  • Learning and development
  • Leadership and talent management
  • Coaching, mentoring and career growth
  • Change management
  • Employee and workplace research
  • Performance management.

You will also be responsible for developing programs and policies to better support employee wellbeing, stress management, and work-life balance.

School Psychologist

School psychologists work within the education system and are responsible for supporting children with emotional, social, behavioural and academic issues.

They may work with individual students and groups of students and liaise with teachers and parents to develop techniques to improve behaviour at home or in the classroom.

Mental Health Counsellor

With the goal of helping clients achieve emotional wellness, mental health counsellors work with individuals, groups, and communities to support mental health and wellbeing.

In this role, you will create a safe and supportive environment to encourage clients to explore their thoughts and feelings and find solutions. Issues examined might include:

  • Anxiety
  • Depression
  • Substance abuse
  • Bullying
  • Anger management
  • Relationships.

Sports Psychologist

Sports psychology is used to teach athletes the mental skills required to enhance their performance. As a sports psychologist, you may help an athlete:

  • Deal with performance anxiety/fears
  • Mentally prepare for competitions
  • Return after injuries.

You may also be required to help athletes develop pregame routines to help with their confidence before competitions.

Forensic Psychologist

Forensic psychology is the practice or study of psychology in law. Working with the criminal justice system, some of the responsibilities of a forensic psychologist might include studying the behaviour of criminals and developing criminal profiles based on common psychological traits.

Choosing to focus on a particular area of psychology can help guide your professional aspirations. Rather than picking a specialisation at the outset of your degree, you may find yourself drawn to a specific area of psychology as you further your studies.


4. Consider Your Current Qualifications   

If you are searching for a more fulfilling career, a course in psychology could be exactly what you need to make a career change. The good news is, whether you have an undergraduate degree in psychology or an unrelated discipline, you may be able to use your existing qualifications to become a practising psychologist.

Monash Online’s Graduate Diploma in Psychology is ideal if you’re aiming to transition into psychology from an unrelated field. To meet entry requirements for this qualification, you must have an undergraduate bachelor’s degree or higher university qualification in any discipline.

For students who already hold an undergraduate degree relating to psychology, the Graduate Diploma of Psychology Advanced accepts students with a bachelor's degree majoring in psychology or a graduate diploma in psychology.

Regardless of your existing qualifications or professional history, it’s possible to become a psychologist at any point in your career. As undergraduate degrees are a prerequisite for many postgraduate psychology courses, considering your existing qualifications can help you realise your professional ambitions sooner.


Enrol with Monash

An online psychology degree can help advance you towards your ideal psychology career. Monash Online offers:

  • Graduate Diploma in Psychology – The Graduate Diploma in Psychology provides students with a stepping stone towards becoming a registered psychologist. It teaches the foundational knowledge needed to pursue advanced psychology studies.

  • Graduate Diploma of Psychology Advanced – This fourth-year program is designed to open doors into practising psychology. Upon graduating, you’ll be able to undertake further postgraduate training in your chosen specialisation or an internship via the Psychology Board of Australia in order to become a professional psychologist.

To learn more about how to become a psychologist by studying online psychology courses with Monash Online, please contact us today.