Are you interested in the human mind and behaviour? This section will provide information on how the profession of psychology operates in Australia and how Cairnmillar can assist you on your journey to becoming a registered psychologist.
Key industry bodies
Four unique organisations govern the accreditation, registration and practice of psychology in Australia. Please click on the names below for more details:
Appointed by the Psychology Board of Australia (PsyBA), APAC is the authority that accredits higher education psychology programs in Australia.
You will see many references to APAC when considering tertiary programs in psychology, as only APAC accredited courses are recognised as providing the quality of training required to gain competencies that meet registration requirements mandated by the PsyBA under the National Law (2009).
For more information about APAC, including a list of APAC accredited programs, visit their website here.
You can also see a list of Frequently Asked Questions and read about the minimum entry requirements for each level of study on the APAC website here.
The PsyBA is responsible for regulating the registration of psychologists in Australia, as well as developing standards, codes and guidelines for the profession.
AHPRA manages the administrative processes related to the registration of health practitioners in Australia. This includes the provisional and general registration of psychologists.
AHPRA is also responsible for implementing and enforcing registration standards, which are defined and managed by the PsyBA.
The APS is a membership organisation for psychologists and psychology students in Australia. The APS advocates for the profession and discipline of psychology, while providing information, resources and professional development opportunities to its members.
The APS also publishes the Code of Ethics, which was formally adopted by the PsyBA in 2010 as the code of ethical conduct and practice which psychologists in Australia must comply with.
The APS also assesses overseas qualifications to determine the equivalent level of APAC accredited psychology training in Australia. See: https://psychology.org.au/about-us/what-we-do/assessing-overseas-qualifications.
How can I become a psychologist?
In Australia the profession of psychology is protected, meaning that to use the title ‘psychologist’, you must first obtain general registration with the PsyBA (see above). The requirements of general registration ensure that a person has a minimum level of training and competency and has been assessed as a suitable person to become a psychologist who will represent the profession.
This journey typically involves six years of full-time study at tertiary level, although different pathways to provisional and general registration do exist.
The pathways and relevant programs that Cairnmillar offers are displayed in the graphic below, but further information on the steps to registration and Area of Practice Endorsement are explained in a bit more detail here:
If you have not studied at tertiary level before, or are a mature-aged prospective student looking to begin a study pathway in a new field, you will typically start your higher education journey with an undergraduate degree.
The Bachelor of Psychology and Counselling is Cairnmillar’s inaugural undergraduate program (APAC level 1, AQF level 7). This course offers students an introduction into both fields and prepares them for their journey into further study and their future careers.
For more information about this course, including entry requirements, how to apply, career opportunities and graduate outcomes, please visit the course page and our Undergraduate page.
If you already hold an undergraduate degree in a field unrelated to psychology, you may be eligible for the Graduate Certificate or Graduate Diploma of Psychological Science. These are pathway programs and completion of the Graduate Diploma will enable graduates to apply for APAC accredited fourth year programs, should they meet minimum entry criteria for the relevant course.
If you already hold an APAC accredited undergraduate major sequence in psychology, your next step will be the completion of a fourth-year program, such as Cairnmillar’s Bachelor of Psychology (Honours) (please note that you must satisfy other entry requirements to apply).
Completion of a fourth-year program does not make you qualified as a psychologist, nor does it automatically grant you provisional registration. For information on provisional and general registration, see the PsyBA website.
Note: If you completed your APAC accredited fourth-year longer than 10 years ago, you will likely be required to refresh your qualifications before applying for further study. At Cairnmillar, we offer the Graduate Certificate in Pre-Professional Psychology to those in this situation.
After successfully completing an APAC accredited fourth year, there are a couple of pathways to obtaining general registration.
Higher Degree Pathway
The higher degree pathway involves undertaking an APAC accredited masters or doctorate program, such as Cairnmillar’s Master of Psychology (Clinical Psychology) or Doctor of Psychology (Clinical Psychology).
More information on the higher degree pathway to general registration can be found on the PsyBA website.
5+1 Internship Pathway
The 5+1 internship pathway is also available to those seeking general registration. As shown in the graphic below, students need to successfully complete a 5th year program, such as the Master of Professional Psychology, that includes a mixture of coursework and placement, before undertaking a PsyBA-approved internship for the 6th year.
It is a requirement of the 5+1 pathway that students sit the National Psychology Exam before applying for general registration. Students of Cairnmillar’s 6th year Master of Professional Psychology Practice are provided with personalised support and preparation workshops leading up to the NPE.
More information on the 5+1 pathway can be found on the PsyBA website.
Please note: The 4+2 internship pathway closed to new applicants on 30 June 2022. For information on the retirement of this pathway, see the PsyBA website.
To gain endorsement and use the title of one of psychology’s nine Areas of Practice, registered psychologists must undertake a PsyBA approved registrar program.
To be eligible, you must have completed an approved qualification at 6th year level or higher in one of the nine areas and successfully satisfy requirements of a registrar program.
The nine Areas of Practice include;
- Clinical psychology
- Clinical neuropsychology
- Educational & Developmental psychology
- Forensic psychology
- Counselling psychology
- Community psychology
- Sports psychology
- Health psychology
- Organisational psychology
Psychologists who already hold endorsement in one of the nine areas may complete an approved bridging qualification and registrar program to gain a subsequent endorsement. While Cairnmillar offers the Master of Clinical Psychology (Post-Registration) bridging course, applicants must subsequently complete a registrar program externally.
Counselling & Psychotherapy
If you are interested in supporting people with a range of personal and interpersonal issues, including relationship, family or career changes, stress, grief and trauma, then counselling may be suited to you.
Counsellors also support their clients in learning self-management skills and the implementation of positive changes to improve their psychological and social functioning.
Counsellors can work with a range of clients and settings, including:
- Aboriginal and/or Torres Strait Islander counselling
- Alcohol and other drugs (AOD) counselling
- Art therapist
- Case Worker
- Career Counselling
- Family and relationships counsellor
- Financial counselling
- Mental health support worker
- Refugee counsellor
- Rehabilitation counsellor
- Sexual assault counsellor
- Student counsellor
- Suicide and grief counsellor
- Youth Work
Please note that in Australia, counselling and psychology are separate disciplines with distinctly different study pathways and governing bodies. Please see our FAQ item 'What is the difference between psychology, counselling and psychotherapy in Australia?' for further information.
Key industry bodies
The ACA is the largest registration body for counsellors and psychotherapists in Australia. You can visit their website here.
The not-for-profit has over 9,000 members and plays an important role in advocating for the profession of counselling and psychotherapy, while connecting its members with professional development, training and employment opportunities.
There are four professional levels and one student level of membership within the ACA. The ACA defines its membership levels against the AQF framework (the AQF level of each course is listed on the individual course pages).
Each level has additional requirements for registration with the ACA (see ACA website for further details).
PACFA is an association that Australian counsellors and psychotherapists can join. Members of PACFA are required to practice within the ethical standards outlined by the association and demonstrate a certain level of training, experience and competence.
To learn more, you can visit the PACFA website here.
The ARCAP is a national register of counsellors and psychotherapists which was established by PACFA.
All clinicians listed in this register demonstrate that they have completed a certain level of professional counselling and/or psychotherapy qualifications, undertake continual professional development, including clinical supervision and abide by the ethical guidelines of the profession.
To learn more, you can visit ARCAP's website here.
The ACCA promotes and supports community wellbeing services. Members of the ACCA can earn clinical supervision experience and access professional development programs.
To learn more, visit the ACCA website here.
How can I become a counsellor or psychotherapist?
In Australia, trained counsellors and psychotherapists have typically spent years studying these disciplines at tertiary or postgraduate level, either at university or an equivalent accredited higher education provider (such as Cairnmillar).
Whilst there is no law in Australia currently that mandates a level of training or experience in order to provide counselling services, being recognised and registered with the two peak accreditation bodies, the ACA and PACFA, brings credibility to your qualifications and future clients can be assured that you have a certain level of training and competency.
In order to obtain professional insurance and maintain the required standards of professional practice, practitioners should join PACFA or the ACA.
At Cairnmillar, we can provide accredited training in counselling and psychotherapy from bachelors (AQF 7) through to masters (AQF 9) level. Please see the graphics below for the pathways Cairnmillar offers.
Graduates of the Bachelor of Psychology and Counselling will be eligible to apply for membership to PACFA*, which in turn enables registration as a counsellor with ARCAP.
*PACFA accreditation is currently being sought for this new course.
Please see the FAQ page for general advice and answers to questions or situations that prospective students often face when considering psychology, counselling and psychotherapy training.
Find the statement that best fits your situation and click to find out more about your options and next steps in your journey with Cairnmillar. If you still have questions or need further advice, please feel free to email us at [email protected].
Acknowledgement of Country
The Cairnmillar Institute acknowledges the Traditional Owners of the land on which we are meeting. We pay our respects to their Elders, past and present, and the Aboriginal Elders of other communities who may be here today.