January 8, 2022

How Long is a Psychology Degree in Australia?

Many of us are interested in human behavior. Some of us are interested in how the mind works, while others want to learn more about personality, emotions, and behavior. People who have a professional interest in psychology may be keen to study for a degree that will help them understand why people behave as they do.

This is an interesting area of study, but it can take a considerable length of time to complete a psychology course. So how long does it take to get a degree in psychology?

In previous blog posts, we've covered everything there is to know about becoming a psychologist, including an introduction to the study options, experience, accreditation, and registration needed to pursue this fascinating and varied career. However, in this blog post, you'll discover how long it takes to get a psychology degree in Australia in this post.

A Big Responsibility

A career as a psychologist takes time and effort, but it can be very rewarding. The main concern for candidates who are thinking of becoming psychologists is how long it will take to get a degree in psychology.

To practice as a psychologist, you must first obtain a specific level of education, skill, and training. It's a very regulated industry because it involves undertaking counseling with individuals at critical and vulnerable moments in their lives.

Undergraduate studies in psychology

The first step in becoming a psychologist is to obtain an undergraduate degree. Therefore, a 3-year undergraduate program with an accredited psychology major is required for the beginning of your journey.

However, suppose you have completed an undergraduate degree in a different area or major other than psychology (e.g. Bachelor of Arts) and still wish to pursue a career as a psychologist. In that case, there is an alternative: some institutions provide a bridging course of a duration of 12 to 18 months. These bridging courses are typically known as Graduate Diplomas that fast-track your completion of an undergraduate psychology degree. How do they do this? You only complete major units, meaning you DON’T complete any elective units. This does put increasing pressure though on students to achieve at a high level from the beginning as there is no room for error, if you wish to obtain a place in an Honour program.

Fourth-year study in Psychology (accredited)

The next phase is to finish the fourth year of study in psychology that the accredited body has approved. This may be an Honours program or an Advanced Graduate Diploma of Psychology.

At this stage, you'll have several career options to consider. Once you have successfully completed the fourth year, there are a variety of routes to professional accreditation.

The path you select here will influence the qualification level you obtain. For example, you might want to specialise in general psychology or become a psychologist with a specialty.

Option 1: Master's degree (the ‘2 + 2’) or Doctorate Program (4 years)

Postgraduate studies are popular among psychology students. The majority of them choose to pursue postgraduate education, which will help them to become a specialist in psychology. A Master of Psychology is a postgraduate degree in psychology (Clinical) or Master of Psychology (Organisational) are possible examples of masters degrees available.

If a student wishes to work in a specific area of clinical psychology as a Clinical Psychologist, they should do a 2-year Clinical Masters with 2 years of supervised work experience (2+2). Clinical Psychologists work with a broad range of patients, however there is more expectation that they will work with clients who have more complex conditions to treat such as borderline personality disorder.

Alternatively, students may wish to specialise in a certain area or research, population, or treatment method, by completing a 3 to 4-year doctoral degree as a PhD candidate which requires you to start and run your own study, as well as publishing your findings in respective journals.

Option 2: Professional Masters - the ‘5 + 1’

For those interested in pursuing a career as a registered General Psychologist, the ‘5 + 1' route is an option. Students who follow this path must complete a one-year master's typically known as a Professional Masters. Graduates must then work for one year as interns after graduation in their preferred field with their preferred patient population. This pathway will enable you to work in the field sooner and also requires less 

A common misconception is that General Psychologists who complete a Professional Masters will be limited in their capacity to treat a variety of patients, when compared to their Clinical Masters colleagues. This is not true. You can work in a broad range of areas with different populations. And typically will be paid a similar, if not the same, amount of money for your time. However, patients will be rebated less money through Medicare when using your services as a General Psychologist.

Option 3: the ‘4 + 2’

Unfortunately, within Australia, the 4+2 option no longer exists, meaning people are no longer to become a registered psychologist through this pathway. 

Previously, this program enabled students to finish studying after their 4th year of their study and complete 2 years' work experience under supervision as a provisional psychologist. Like the ‘5 + 1, this pathway leads to a generic registration process as a psychologist.

However, as stated above, this pathway is no longer available as it has been phased out.

The Process of Accreditation: Registration for Start Practicing

Getting your registration completed with the PBA (Psychology Board of Australia), which is part of the APHRA (Australian Health Practitioner Regulation Agency), is the way to guarantee that all psychologists are following the same ethical and technical standards.

  • After your fourth year of study, no matter if you are enrolled at a university (masters or doctorate) or taking the "5+1" option, you must apply for provisional registration. Again, it's necessary to do placements or clinical experience to complete it.

  • Once you complete either the standard route to higher education or one of the alternatives, you must apply for registration as a general psychologist through the PBA website. Again, it's a simple online application procedure.

  • Please keep in mind - if you have completed one of the alternate options (the '5 +1' or the '4+2') you must go for the NPE before applying for the registration with the PBA. If you've completed a master's or doctorate, you do not need to take this exam.

  • To practice as a psychologist in Australia, you must first apply for initial registration. Australian psychologists must comply with the appropriate country's registration standards to practice outside of Australia.

  • To keep their general registration, psychologists must complete continuing professional development (CPD) every year to stay up to date and enhance their understanding of the field. This might include short courses, further study, or supervision by a more experienced expert.

Becoming a psychologist with a specialisation

Students who have completed a master's or doctorate degree may want to pursue a registrar program, a period of extended supervised practice intended to help students develop expertise in their field.

The following are the nine areas of specialization:

  • clinical psychology
  • clinical neuropsychology
  • counselling psychology
  • community psychology
  • health psychology
  • sport and exercise psychology.
  • forensic psychology
  • organisational psychology
  • educational and developmental psychology

Careers in psychology

There's no doubt about psychology degree holders ' bright future with an annual psychologist pay of AUD 75,736 in Australia and a predicted 20% increase in job prospects over the next five years.

Teachers, hospitals, private clinics, community organizations, research institutions, marketing, and business organizations are just a few of the places where psychologists may work.

Depending on the responsibilities, the educational requirements for each role vary. For example, some jobs may require postgraduate education, while other employers may consider relevant experience or vocational training sufficient (with an acknowledgment that particular formal qualifications would be helpful).

Graduates may find full-time employment through their prior field of expertise during education, as this is a typical strategy for obtaining such work. In addition, many students who finish a Master of Professional Psychology program are given internships based on their course performance. Other students get jobs by submitting applications for open positions on the Australian Psychological Society's website or SEEK job boards.

Final Words

The options for anyone looking to obtain a degree in psychology in Australia have never been greater. It's probably not going to be very difficult for you to find an institution with a psychology program that meets your needs, whether online bachelor's degrees or 4-year ones. The best thing you can do is research schools and take time to make the right choice - after all, this isn't something you will regret if done right.

Regarding how long it might take you to complete a psychology degree, several aspects are involved, as covered in the post.

We hope you will find the information helpful in your pursuit of the degree you want.