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 than it once was. Due to the challenges of Covid-19, it’s no surprise that mental health services are in demand now more than ever before.
The role of a psychologist can include:
- the study human behaviour and the processes associated with how people think and feel
- conducting research
- providing treatment and counselling in order to reduce distress and behavioural or psychological problems.
Psychologists promote mental health and positive behaviour in individuals and groups, working on a broad range of issues with clients, including children, adults, couples, families and organisations.
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.
Other fields of study that may be of interest to psychology students include health services and support, education and training, humanities and social sciences, medicine, nursing, rehabilitation and social work.
To find out more about careers in psychology, refer to the Australian Psychological Society and the Australian Psychology Accreditation Council websites.
The benefits of a career in psychology
- The ability to genuinely help people — if you love helping others, you can get a great sense of reward by providing therapy for those who are struggling or those who face mental health issues.
- Flexible working conditions — Job Outlook states that around 52% of psychologists work full-time; however, the profession allows for a lot of flexibility and variation in working hours. There may be the option to set your own hours or devise a strategy to work from home.
- The employment projections are strong and the pay is good — Job Outlook lists psychology as an industry expecting very strong future growth. The median weekly salary — $1,857 — is also well above the Australian average.
- Constant challenges — despite there being a rotation of appointments and meetings, psychologists experience a range of different people in from all walks of life. From prison reform programs to a range of mental health issues, psychologists are unlikely to experience two days the same.
What kinds of people make good psychologists?
A great psychologist will have an interest in people and human behaviour, the ability to listen and problem-solve, an inquisitive mind, emotional maturity and empathy for others, patience and perceptiveness, good oral and written communication skills, a caring and understanding nature and strong logical thinking skills.
How to become a psychologist in Australia
For those who follow the pathway to accreditation, there are several options available.
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.
The pathway to becoming a practising psychologist is more than successfully completing a bachelor degree. In order to gain accreditation, it is necessary to:
- Complete a three-year undergraduate degree majoring in psychology (with honours) or a four-year Bachelor of Psychology – search undergraduate psychology degrees here.
- Complete either an accredited two-year postgraduate qualification or two years of supervised experience with a registered psychologist — search undergraduate psychology degrees here.
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.
What other jobs can a psychology graduate do?
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.