"Psychologist reading her notes"
"Psychologist reading her notes"

How to Become a Psychologist in Australia

Psychology
Career

Becoming a psychologist in Australia is a sure-fire way to make a positive difference in the lives of others. It’s also a job that’s almost guaranteed to be in demand throughout your career.

Currently there are approximately 43,000 registered psychologists around Australia. That’s pretty close to the number of psychologists and psychotherapists we expected to see in 2025 according to the National Skills Commission Employment Projections[1].

Even though we already have more psychologists than we expected to, demand for their services is still much higher than the supply. In fact, many psychologists are unable to take on new patients, while others have waiting lists that are months long[2].

So if you’re thinking about becoming a psychologist in Australia, you’ll be pleased to hear psychologists come from many different backgrounds and stages of life. Whether you’re starting out in the workforce, or considering a career change, there’s a pathway to the psychology profession that will suit you.

But what qualifications do you need to become a psychologist? And how long does it take to become a psychologist? There are many different skills required and a variety of pathways you can take to enter this exciting field. The most important part is choosing a path that works best for you.

Let’s take a closer look at how to become a psychologist in Australia.

Step 1: Build your foundation through study

The qualifications you need to be a psychologist will depend on whether you already have a bachelor’s degree or not. If you don’t have an undergraduate degree, don’t worry ­– you still have options for becoming a psychologist.

The first step is to build your foundation through study, but which first step you take will depend on your individual circumstances.

Here’s a breakdown of the options you can choose from to learn how to become a psychologist in Australia.

Option 1: Bachelor’s degree with a major in psychology

If you’ve recently completed high school, a bachelor’s degree with a major in psychology will be your first step in becoming a psychologist in Australia.

While there are Bachelor of Psychology courses, you might also choose a Bachelor of Science or Arts with a major in psychology. You can also find courses with double majors, such as a Bachelor of Commerce or Laws to capitalise on an understanding of human behaviour in corporate environments.

What a lot of people don’t realise is that many graduates of psychology degrees do not necessarily go on to become psychologists. Remember, this is just the first step on your pathway to the occupation of psychologist.

Option 2: Study a bridging program

If you already have a bachelor’s degree, studying a bridging program will be the fastest of the pathways to becoming a psychologist in Australia.

It doesn’t matter what field your undergraduate degree comes from. Bridging programs are designed to bring you up to speed in much less time than it would take to complete a full bachelor’s degree with a major in psychology.

ECU's 100% online Graduate Diploma of Psychology is a bridging program that establishes foundational knowledge in psychological science. You’ll develop research skills by cultivating a scientific approach to understanding human behaviour, psychological development, and psychological health and wellbeing.

The Graduate Diploma of Psychology also gives you the opportunity to practice self-reflection and develop your understanding of cultural differences in psychological health and wellbeing.

This accelerated and 100% online part-time course can be completed in as little as 16 months. In that short time, you can transform from someone who hasn’t studied psychology before, into a psychology graduate who is ready to take the next step toward becoming a registered psychologist.

Can I become a psychologist without a bachelor’s degree?

The good news is that it’s possible to set out on your pathway to becoming a registered psychologist without a bachelor’s degree.

If you have at least five years’ work experience in a relevant field, you can gain entry to ECU's 100% online Graduate Certificate of Psychology.

The Graduate Certificate of Psychology gives you the option to study four units from the Graduate Diploma of Psychology. This means you can leverage your psychology studies to enhance your current role or to support your move into human-centred professions such as education, human resource management and marketing.

Successful completion of the Graduate Certificate of Psychology also puts you halfway towards the Graduate Diploma of Psychology. All you need to do is study an additional four units to be ready to take the next step toward becoming a registered psychologist.

Step 2: Study a fourth-year program

By this stage, you may have completed a bachelor’s degree with a major in psychology or a bridging degree like the Graduate Diploma of Psychology. You might also take a break after Step 1 to apply your qualification in the workplace before returning to study.

No matter which option you chose for Step 1, all of the pathways to becoming a registered psychologist line up for your fourth year program in Step 2.

ECU's 100% online Graduate Diploma of Psychology (Advanced) is an accelerated part-time course that delivers the equivalent of one year of full-time study in just 16 months.

Across eight units of study, you’ll expand your understanding of psychological science and develop pre-professional skills.

During this step, you can expect a boost to your communication and interviewing skills, grow a deeper connection with contemporary psychological interventions and gain an enhanced ability to develop and conduct research.

Step 3: Apply for provisional registration

All practicing psychologists in Australia are registered with the Psychology Board of Australia through the Australian Health Practitioner Regulation Agency (AHPRA)[3].

Before you can take the next step on your pathway to becoming a registered psychologist, you’ll need to apply for provisional registration.

Provisional registration confirms your commitment to the registration standards, code of ethics and applicable guidelines and policies of the Psychology Board of Australia.

Step 4: Choose your pathway

Once you’ve gained provisional registration, you have the option to choose to become a psychologist with general registration, or a psychologist with an area of endorsement, such as clinical, forensic, or organisational psychology.

Here’s how your choice will determine your further study.

Higher degree pathway

With the higher degree pathway, you have the most potential options for your psychology career[4]. You can choose to specialise in one of nine areas of practice endorsement (AoPE).

While the clinical psychology endorsement is the most popular, you can also choose from forensic psychology, educational and developmental psychology, organisational psychology, counselling psychology, community psychology, health psychology, sport and exercise psychology, or clinical neuropsychology.

You can also choose to apply for general registration.

The higher degree pathway involves one or more years of study after your provisional registration in the form of an accredited postgraduate degree such as a masters or doctorate.

If you wish to practise in your area of endorsement, after completing your postgraduate course, you must complete the PsyBA registrar program[5]. This is a period of supervised psychological practice, followed by continuing professional development (CPD).

The registrar program begins after you’ve completed your qualification, received your academic transcript, and applied for general registration. You’ll then be eligible to find a Psychology Board-approved supervisor, confirm a suitable work role and design a program of practice.

5+1 pathway

If you’re seeking general registration as a psychologist without an AoPE specialisation, the 5+1 pathway is the choice for you[6].

This option begins with a fifth year of accredited postgraduate study, such as a Master of Professional Psychology.

After graduating your five-year sequence of study, you’ll go on to a one-year internship – hence the 5+1 pathway. During the intensive period of supervised practice, you’ll build on your skills developed through the Master of Professional Psychology to develop and demonstrate the eight core competencies of psychologists. You’ll also need to sit and pass the National Psychology Exam during your internship, and submit written case studies to showcase your competencies in psychological assessment and intervention. Once you’ve met all of these requirements, you’ll be ready to apply for general registration.

Begin your journey to becoming a psychologist in Australia with ECU

As you can see, you’ve got more than one pathway to explore as you decide how to become a psychologist in Australia. The important thing to remember is that you can begin your journey at any time and from many different starting points.

Ready to start the pathway to becoming a registered psychologist? Learn more about our 100% online Graduate Diploma of Psychology today.

Sources

[1] Job Outlook: Psychologists and Psychotherapists

[2] The Sydney Morning Herald: One in five psychologists close books to new patients under pandemic strain

[3] Australian Health Practitioner Regulation Agency

[4] Australian Health Practitioner Regulation Agency: Psychology Board, Higher degree

[5] Australian Health Practitioner Regulation Agency: Psychology Board, Registrar Program

[6] Australian Health Practitioner Regulation Agency: Psychology Board, 5+1 Internship Program