Which Psychology Qualification Is Right for Me?


The field of psychology is evolving rapidly, informed by ground-breaking research and integrated with innovative online learning methodologies. There’s never been a more exciting or rewarding time to study psychology

Whether you’re a full-time professional looking to shift careers, enhance your current role with psychological insights or have a passion for understanding the mind and human behaviour, choosing the right psychologist qualification is a decision that requires careful consideration, especially if you aim to practise as a psychologist.  

As a prospective student, you may find yourself at a crossroads, contemplating which of the psychologist qualifications on offer best suits your aspirations and lifestyle. This guide will help you navigate the different pathways available to you and determine which qualification aligns best with your goals and circumstances.

Types of psychology degrees

If you're considering learning more about psychology, you're about to step into a world as diverse as the human mind itself. The field offers a spectrum of degrees, each tailored to different interests, career paths, entry requirements and depths of study. Whether you're just dipping your toes into the vast ocean of psychological knowledge or ready to dive deep into specialised areas, understanding the types of psychology degrees available is your first step towards shaping your future.

So, let's delve into the psychology qualifications you can choose from to discover which aligns with your academic aspirations and professional dreams – from undergraduate basics that lay the foundations for knowledge, to the specialised postgraduate programs that carve your path to becoming a registered psychologist.

Undergraduate study

Starting with an undergraduate degree in psychology gives you a solid foundation in the field. It offers a comprehensive introduction to psychological theories, research methods and the fascinating ways psychology applies to everyday life experience. Typically, it spans three years, covering a wide range of topics from developmental psychology to cognitive processes and social psychology.

Undergraduate study is perfect if you want to gain a broad understanding of psychological principles and open doors to various careers where psychological knowledge is advantageous. It also lays the groundwork for further specialised studies should you decide to pursue a career path as a practising psychologist.

You'll graduate with the ability to apply psychological principles across diverse contexts, plan and conduct research, think critically and creatively and communicate effectively in various settings. These highly adaptable competencies make psychology graduates well-suited for a wide array of career paths.

However, it's essential to note that, alone, an undergraduate degree is insufficient to practise psychology in Australia.

If you want to be a registered psychologist, an undergraduate psychology degree accredited by the Australian Psychology Accreditation Council (APAC) is just the first step. You'll need to follow it up with a fourth-year psychologist qualification like an honours degree or Graduate Diploma in Psychology, followed by a master's degree and a period of supervised practice.

Postgraduate study

Postgraduate studies are essential if you want to become a registered psychologist. These courses are more specialised and intensive, focusing on advanced psychological concepts and practical experience. They're designed for students who've already completed an undergraduate degree in psychology or a related field.

Postgraduate psychology courses in Australia deepen and build on the foundational knowledge gained from an accredited four-year study like the Graduate Diploma of Psychology (Advanced) to develop the competencies and skills required for professional practice. You'll engage in intensive learning in areas such as ethical practice, psychological assessment, intervention strategies and research methods.

Accredited postgraduate courses include a Graduate Diploma of Psychology (Advanced) which can lead into a These courses encompass a blend of coursework, supervised placements, and research, offering a comprehensive educational experience. If students have not studied psychology before but have completed an undergraduate degree, a bridging course such as a Graduate Diploma of Psychology is available.

Furthermore, these degrees cater to a variety of specialised fields, aligning with the nine areas of psychological practice approved by the Psychology Board of Australia (PsyBA). These areas include Clinical Neuropsychology, Clinical Psychology, Community Psychology and several others, each offering a unique focus and career trajectory.

How much does a psychologist earn?

Psychologist qualifications open the door to diverse and satisfying career paths with varying salaries. Psychologists' skills, such as understanding human behaviour, motivation and mental health issues, are valuable in various sectors.

According to Talent.com, your options and salaries can include:

  • Education (for example, an educational psychologist earns an average of $111,399 per year)
  • Marketing (a marketing manager brings home a median salary of $115,113/year)
  • HR (human resource managers make a median salary of $119,500/year)
  • Human Services (for example, a community relations manager makes a median salary of $119,550/year).
  • Healthcare roles, such as health managers, offer median salaries of around $129,984/year.

A typical registered psychology salary in Australia is $108,615 annually, according to Talent.com - although this can vary depending on your experience and chosen specialisation.

How to choose a psychology qualification

Which psychologist qualification you ultimately choose to study will depend on your academic background, career objectives and the time you can commit to your studies. Let's demystify the pathways available, whether you're contemplating a career shift or upscaling your expertise in your current role.

Here are the three things you should consider before deciding which pathway to take:

Your study experience

Your prior learning plays a significant role in which psychology qualification you choose. The good news is that, at ECU Online, you can still study for a postgraduate degree like the Graduate Certificate of Psychology or the Graduate Diploma of Psychology, even if you've never studied psychology before.

These courses lay the groundwork for further psychology education and potential career shifts. The Graduate Certificate of Psychology prepares you to study further, while the Graduate Diploma is equivalent to a three-year undergraduate degree.

For those who've studied psychology as an undergraduate (or completed a Graduate Certificate or Graduate Diploma of Psychology), the Graduate Diploma of Psychology (Advanced) is the ideal next step. Equivalent to a fourth-year honours degree, the 100 per cent online course is designed to deepen your understanding and prepare you for a career as a registered psychologist.

Your goals

If you're not looking to become a registered psychologist but want to integrate psychological knowledge into your current role, then the Graduate Certificate or Graduate Diploma of Psychology or an undergraduate degree might be suitable.

However, if your goal is to become a registered psychologist – whether in private practice, a healthcare setting or in community services – then the Graduate Diploma of Psychology (Advanced) is the pathway for you.

Time investment

How much time you're willing to invest in your studies is another crucial factor in your chosen study pathway. Undergraduate or graduate certificates offer a quicker way to upskill – perfect if you're keen to blend psychology into your existing day-to-day work. 

But they won't equip you for more advanced psychological practice (i.e., practising as a psychologist). For that, you'll need to take a deeper dive into postgraduate study.

Which qualification is right for me?

Navigating psychologist qualifications and pathways can initially feel overwhelming, but finding one that aligns perfectly with your career aspirations and academic background is vital for success.

ECU Online offers a range of tailored pathways to help you reach your goals faster. Let's explore the Graduate Certificate, Graduate Diploma and Advanced Graduate Diploma of Psychology to discover which fits your needs in terms of your prior learning experience, career goals and how much time you can commit to your studies.

Graduate Certificate of Psychology  

The Graduate Certificate of Psychology is designed for professionals seeking foundational knowledge. The course can serve as a stepping stone towards becoming a registered psychologist or enhancing skills in various careers.

  • Duration: 8 months part-time
  • Prerequisites: Australian bachelor's degree in any discipline or five years of relevant professional experience
  • Outcomes: Provides foundational knowledge and skills in psychology and is useful for human-centred careers in education, HR, marketing and human services. You can also continue your psychology studies with a Graduate Diploma of Psychology.

Graduate Diploma of Psychology

The Graduate Diploma of Psychology is designed for students new to psychology or those looking to build foundational knowledge. This course is a pathway to practising as a psychologist or applying psychology skills in various fields.

  • Duration: Minimum 16 months part-time
  • Prerequisites: Australian bachelor's degree in any discipline or relevant professional experience or successful completion of a Graduate Certificate of Psychology.
  • Outcomes: Provides a foundational understanding of psychological science; pathway to becoming a professional psychologist; applicable skills in education, HR, marketing and human services.

Graduate Diploma of Psychology (Advanced)

The Graduate Diploma of Psychology (Advanced) is tailored for those who have completed an APAC-accredited undergraduate psychology degree or equivalent. This course leads towards registration as a provisional psychologist in Australia. Provisional psychologists can begin supervised practice while they pursue a higher degree.

  • Duration: Minimum 16 months part-time
  • Prerequisites: APAC-accredited three-year bachelor's degree with a major in Psychology or an APAC-accredited Graduate Diploma in Psychology; minimum WAM of 70 per cent in one of these course
  • Outcomes: Fulfils the educational requirements for provisional registration as a psychologist with the Psychology Board of Australia; applicable in various human-centred fields like education, HR, marketing, human services and healthcare. Prepares you to continue your postgraduate studies with a higher education degree in Psychology or take the 5+1 pathway to becoming a fully registered psychologist.

Build your knowledge of psychological science

Complete your journey in psychological science with ECU Online's comprehensive psychologist qualifications. Whether you're starting fresh with a Graduate Certificate of Psychology, looking to expand your knowledge with our Graduate Diploma of Psychology, or aiming to become a registered psychologist with our Graduate Diploma of Psychology Advanced, our Australian Psychology Accreditation Council (APAC) accredited pathways will get you on your way faster.

Studying with ECU Online is also a great option if you want to maintain your current job while transitioning into a psychology career or upskilling for your industry. Our dedicated Student Success Advisor can help you balance work, study, and family life for a more flexible and supportive educational experience tailored specifically to your needs.

Take the next step to becoming a registered psychologist.

To find out more, reach out to one of our Student Enrolment Advisors on 1300 707 760, email future.student@studyonline.ecu.edu.au or download a brochure.

All salaries are according to Talent.com and correct as of April 2024.