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Psychology

LMG!

Moderator
Staff Member of the Year 2019
There appear to be three broad reasons why someone visiting MedStudentsOnline might want some information about an alternative undergraduate enrolment option to Medicine. The following is an attempt to address these with specific reference to Psychology.


1. Is Psychology a good option for first year, given I’m planning to re-sit UMAT and am hoping to get into Medicine via the non-standard pathway and not complete my initial undergraduate degree.

Firstly, and above all else, choosing your undergraduate degree on this basis is not a great idea. The vast majority of applicants are not successful in obtaining entry to Medicine via this pathway. The far more likely outcome is that you will complete your undergraduate degree and either attempt to secure employment at the end, or sit GAMSAT and go for the slightly less competitive graduate entry pathway to Medicine.

That said, if you are fortunate enough to secure a non-standard Medicine offer after one (or two) years of undergraduate study, then it literally does not matter to the Universities what that undergraduate course is. You could choose something with medicine-related topics (anatomy, biology, etc) to give yourself something of a head start, but you could also choose Law, or History, or Journalism, if you wanted to.

It would also be beneficial to weigh up your chances of obtaining an adequate GPA over first (and possibly second) year, as it is this, along with your new UMAT score that will determine your competitiveness, not your degree title.


2. Is Psychology a good back up undergraduate degree/major in the short term (ie if you were then to get into Medicine at its completion via the non-standard or graduate entry pathways)?

Despite its course name (in some instances), undergraduate Psychology is not a career degree. As you will see if you continue reading below, completion of an undergraduate degree in Psychology does not make you a Psychologist.

Given you can apply to graduate entry Medicine at the completion of a 3 year degree, you may be (financially) better off considering a pathway that will lead to immediate registration and that will enable you to work in that profession part-time in order to support yourself while you continue your studies.

In addition to this, Psychology is not a career particularly conducive to short term/locum positions due to the inherent need to develop rapport with patients and deliver interventions over time. This would make ‘picking up shifts’ over University holidays, even if you are fully registered (which it’s unlikely you will be), very difficult, if not impossible.

A degree where you can be finished and registered and working flexibly after three years would fit this role more efficiently than Psychology (for example, Nursing). Speech Pathology, Occupational Therapy, Pharmacy, and Physiotherapy are examples of semi-related, four- year undergraduate degree options you may wish to consider.

Obviously, regardless of degree you choose, probably the single most important question to ask yourself I attempt to answer below: Is Psychology a viable back up career, not just degree, because, as previously mentioned, this is what it will boil down to for most students. This question is also relevant for the three and four year degrees referenced above. Can you see yourself doing this in the long term? If the answer, for Psychology specifically, is yes, read on!

(If it is yes for one of the other Allied Health degrees mentioned (or one that has not been mentioned), please comment below so that interest can be gauged regarding provision of additional information in these areas also.)


3. Is Psychology a good back up career to Medicine in the long term (ie. in case of unsuccessful medicine applications)?

YES. It's a great back up career in the long term for a number of reasons, but perhaps not as straightforward as those who have predominantly considered Medicine might believe.

Firstly, there is a considerable amount of study involved. You start with a 4 year bachelor degree (which includes your honours year and can be achieved via BA(Hons), BSci(Hons), BPsych, BBehSci, and no doubt several others). However, at the end of this four-year degree you are not a Psychologist, you cannot register as a Psychologist, and you cannot work as Psychologist. The least complicated method to full registration, as a general Psychologist, is to then enrol in a postgraduate degree: Master (2 years, full time), Doctorate (3-4 years, full time), or PhD (4 years, full time). With enrollment in one of these postgraduate degrees, you are eligible for registration as a provisional Psychologist, and are able to attend placements, and work under the supervision of a fully registered Psychologist. In addition to coursework and a research thesis, all postgraduate pathways involve a substantial placement component, typically done over 3-4-5 placements (postgraduate degree dependent) of approximately 6 months duration. If you are fortunate, you may secure a paid placement for one of these, however most are unpaid.

Some postgraduate degrees are specialty specific. For example, you may choose between Clinical Psychology, Health Psychology, Forensic Psychology, Clinical Neuropsychology and several others. Clinical Psychology is the most ‘popular’ because of its diverse job opportunities and more substantial Medicare rebate options. Different Universities will offer different postgraduate specialty options, and you may need to research around for one that fits your interests if your undergraduate University does not offer what you would like. At the end of your postgraduate degree, you then seek (and generally find, to be honest) employment and register as a general Psychologist. If you have completed a speciality postgraduate degree, you can also secure a supervisor and work towards specialty registration. This typically takes two years. At the completion of these two years of supervised practice, you are then able to call yourself a Clinical Psychologist, or Clinical Neuropsychologist, for example, and be registered as such.

NOTE: At present, postgraduate entry into a Clinical Psychology program is the single most competitive University application in the country (based on annual applicants vs annual offers made). It is more competitive than Medicine. Make of that what you will!

The alternative to a postgraduate degree is, at the end of your four-year undergraduate degree, to secure a fully registered Psychologist willing to supervise you. This supervision commitment is significant. One hour of supervision per day of employment, up to a set number of hours. Completed full time, this will take two years. During this time, and like your postgraduate student counterparts, you are registered as a provisional Psychologist.

At the completion of your two years (minimum) supervised practice, you are eligible for full registration as a general Psychologist. You are not able to work towards a specialty via this method.

NOTE: there is a push to abolish this (4+2) pathway towards registration altogether, and there is no guarantee it will still be available four years from now. There is also some stigma attached to the pathway, given the inconsistent nature of the ‘+2’ part. Unfortunate, but true.

In an attempt to address the potential differences in knowledge base between postgraduate students and 4+2 students, the Psychology Board of Australia has recently introduced a National Psychology Exam that all students, regardless of pathway, must pass in order to transition from provisional to general registration.

If all that sounds a little daunting, here are some things to perk you up!

There is myriad scope for employment as a Psychologist. Like Medicine, it is a ‘helping’ profession that involves plenty of science and maths (particularly statistics) along the way. Psychopharmacology, neuroanatomy, visual perception, cellular biology, neurology with specific reference to sensation and perception, motor planning, speech, reading, memory, intelligence, executive functioning, behaviour, and personality (etc), and neurology with specific reference to brain injury, dementia, schizophrenia, multiple sclerosis, drug and alcohol use, stroke, prematurity, foetal alcohol exposure, and neurosurgery (etc).

Pay rates are officially classified as "above average", unemployment rates as "below average", and sector growth as "moderate" (see reference below in Useful Links). In other words, decent paying job prospects are good. There is no shortage of clients in almost all regions of Australia. Mental ill-health is being more and more recognised as a significant area of healthcare burden in Australia and money is, and will continue to be, pumped into it by the government. It'll never be enough, of course, as is always the way, but there will always be lots of it. Private practice is also available to all registered graduates.

** The Australian Government 'Job Outlook' page quoted above and linked below indicates that a large number of registered Psychologists do not work full time. A portion of this would be explained by the fact that a majority of Psychologists are female, and it is well known that females are less likely to work full time for myriad reasons, including maternity leave and need for flexible work hours due to parenting commitments. The generous pay also makes Psychology a feasible career to do part time, but still have a reasonable standard of living, and makes for excellent work/life balance. This may also have contributed to the statistic.

Typically, employment is found in health (including hospitals), education, law, government, business, recruitment, marketing, media, sports, rehabilitation, community sectors, academia, and post doctoral research.


Summary

Psychology is great in the long term, but requires substantial commitment and may not be ideal in the short term for everyone.
  • Pathway to general registration = 6 years minimum
  • Pathway to specialist registration = 8 years minimum
If there are any questions, comments, or concerns raised by the information contained in this post, please don’t hesitate to reply below. More specific information can be provided on any of the points made above, as well as with regard to points probably missed!


Useful Links











General
Australian Psychological Society : APS Homepage

University Specific
(list unlikely to be complete, check your preferred University if it does not appear below)

NSW
UNSW Psychology
School of Psychology - The University of Sydney
Macquarie University - Department of Psychology
Clinical Psychology | University of Technology Sydney

VIC
School of Psychology | Deakin
School of Psychological Sciences
Department of Psychological Sciences | School of Health Sciences | Swinburne University | Melbourne
Home
Psychology - RMIT University

TAS
Psychology - Faculty of Science, Engineering & Technology - University of Tasmania, Australia

QLD
School of Psychology Home
School of Applied Psychology
Psychology - JCU Australia

WA
School of Psychological Science : School of Psychological Science : The University of Western Australia
Psychology and Speech Pathology - Health Sciences | Curtin University, Perth, Western Australia
School of Psychology and Social Science | Edith Cowan University Research | Research Online

NT
Why Study Psychology - School of Psychology

ADEL
School of Psychology
Flinders University

ACT
Psychology
Psychology

Registration Related
Psychology Board of Australia - Home
Psychology Board of Australia - National Psychology Exam

Employment Related
Psychologists - Job Outlook

Recognised Speciality Related
Clinical: APS Member Groups : APS College of Clinical Psychologists
Clinical Neuro: APS Member Groups : APS College of Clinical Neuropsychologists
Health: APS Member Groups : APS College of Health Psychologists
Organisational: APS Member Groups : APS College of Organisational Psychologists
Sport and Exercise: APS Member Groups : APS College of Sport and Exercise Psychologists
Educational and Developmental: APS Member Groups : APS College of Educational and Developmental Psychologists
Community: APS Member Groups : APS College of Community Psychologists
Counselling: APS Member Groups : APS College of Counselling Psychologists
Forensic: APS Member Groups : APS College of Forensic Psychologists
 
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Mana

there are no stupid questions, only people
Administrator
Nice article! Stickied this for reference.

A few questions for you in particular:

1. Have you supervised any psychologists during your time as a fully registered one? (Hopefully you won't be supervising any more!)

2. For the postgraduate masters - is Honours absolutely necessary to gain entry into these?

3. Re: the 2 year supervision pathway - if they were to supervise you for one hour a day, what do they supervise you doing, and what do you do for the rest of the day? Additionally, hypothetically, if one were to finish doing one of the other specialties as a Masters (say, Forensic Psychology) and then decide that they prefer to practice as a general psychologist, is this possible?

4. Any idea why Clinical Psychology (and perhaps some other psychology specialties) are so oversubscribed at the moment? What is your opinion on universities offering way, way more undergraduate bachelor's psychology degrees than the capability of the profession to train them as psychologists? How difficult was it for you to get into the postgraduate degree and what can psychology graduates do to make themselves more competitive for this (other than scoring a high GPA?)
 
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LMG!

Moderator
Staff Member of the Year 2019
Nice article! Stickied this for reference.

A few questions for you in particular:

1. Have you supervised any psychologists during your time as a fully registered one? (Hopefully you won't be supervising any more!)

2. To clarify re: Clinical Psychology - what is the difference in scope for someone who completed the postgraduate Clinical Psychology degree as compared to someone who gained general registration through being supervised for two years? What can you do that they can't, and is there anything that you can't do that they can (in terms of what you are licenced to practice?) Also for the postgraduate masters - is Honours absolutely necessary to gain entry into these?

3. Re: the 2 year supervision pathway - if they were to supervise you for one hour a day, what do they supervise you doing, and what do you do for the rest of the day?

4. Any idea why Clinical Psychology is so oversubscribed at the moment?
Thank you!

1. No. Supervision of students is taken very seriously, and you have to be fully registered in your specific specialty for two years before you are then eligible to undertake a Supervision of Psychology Students course and become a registered supervisor. I only completed my two years as a Clinical Psychologist in August last year and have not got my butt into gear to do the supervision course. It is also kinda pricey, IIRC. That said, you'd make your money back quite quickly as you can charge for supervision and there are countless students looking for it, particularly in Clinical.

EDITED TO ADD: I have now completed this supervisor training and am registered with AHPRA as qualified to supervise general and clinical psychology registrars (and have done so for several students to date).

2. The main, 'advertised' difference is the capacity to then specialise. This is not possible via the 4+2 route. You are a general Psychologist unless (and until) you then do a postgraduate degree. The other major difference (and this probably answers question 4) is that Medicare rebates for Clinical Psychologists are substantially higher (almost $50 per hour) than for general Psychologists. Personally, however, I feel those two differences pale in comparison to the knowledge base difference. If you consider a postgraduate student will complete all the required coursework across an extremely varied array of topics (and be assessed for competency on them), develop, conduct, and write up a substantial research thesis, and (if doing the MPsych) complete three placements (minimum: 600 'client contact' hours total) over three different settings (paediatric, hospital, and community). If you do the DPsych, the placement commitments rise to 1000 'client contact hours' with an additional area of interest able to be selected (aged care, for example). Placement commitments for the Clinical PhD are the same as for the MPsych, it is only the research that is different/more substantial. In comparison, it is very highly unlikely someone doing the 4+2 will have anywhere near this level of assessment/competency checking, or experience by the time they complete their 2 years. There's only so much the Psychology Exam can test, and you can study for it specifically. It won't (and can't) make up for the rest of it. I think this is the main reason why the 4 + 2 pathway is being phased out (and, to be honest, shunned by some). Is the amount of teaching and training involved in a postgraduate pathway overkill? Possibly a little bit. Is the amount of teaching and training involved in the 4 + 2 pathway woefully inadequate? In my opinion, yes.

The 4 + 2 pathway became popular when mental health diagnoses started to be more widely recognised as a massive, and growing, area of public health concern and there was a very serious shortage of registered Psychologists to cover the demand for services. I think it has served its purpose but is no longer viable.

3. So you largely 'work' alone with clients during the day, you will have your own caseload and develop your own interventions. You will need to set aside 1 hr per day to complete case formulations and discussions, analyse research and intervention techniques, and/or receive feedback from your supervisor. Some of your client sessions will likely be videotaped and you will watch them back with your supervisor. It is very time consuming for supervisors, as you can probably imagine. That said, this is also exactly what happens with postgraduate students on placement. You are not missing this intensive support and feedback by going the University route. Both postgrads and 4 + 2ers have to develop and maintain supervision portfolios and case studies that will be submitted to the Registration Board prior to general registration taking place (authorising of these documents by the Reg Board can take 8-12 weeks, so they are pretty thorough with it).

4. The Medicare Rebate Thing attached to GP(/paediatrician/psychiatrist) initiated Mental Health Care Plans! In fact, when this was announced several years ago Psychologists in other specialties rushed to complete Clinical 'bridging' degrees to allow them double specialty registration so they could access this higher rebate. And these bridging degrees are no half-assed online course either, they're generally 2 years part time, but that's how keen people were. Bridging courses are available for other specialties (if Medicine doesn't happen for me, I will probably end up doing the Neuropsychology one at UWA, or possibly a Grad Cert in Ed and Dev because Paediatric Brainzzz!!! *heart eyes*).

In addition to this, and taking my cohort and then colleagues I have met outside my University year group for anecdotal example, the vast majority of people studying Psychology are drawn to the Clinical side of it. They come for the incredibly fascinating psychiatric diagnoses and they stay for the Big Bucks! My interest, from mid-undergrad on-wards, was definitely Neuropsych., but this was not offered at UTAS. That said, given it was not offered at UTAS, and people tend to not want to move here in their mid-20s when they'd typically be graduating University, I have a job that would probably be filled by a Neuropsychologist on the mainland. Score one for LMG. I was also the ONLY person in my year vaguely interested in cognitive assessment/rehab/brain injury, so the competition was, errr, slim! Haha!

ETA: I should probably also add that Clinical Psychology is by far the most flexible of the specialties. In your training you will cover Ed and Dev, some Neuro, some Health, and a great deal of specific Clinical stuff (diagnosis, case formulation, and learning about and explicitly how to deliver interventions) and will likely be proficient enough in all of these to start working in the Education department or a Hospital, for example, as well as any straight Clinical job. This won't be the case with the Specialty degrees. For example, I went to a Neuropsych Conference once (I was presenting my research) and the key note speaker, flown in from the USA, used his address to talk about this miraculous new technique he'd just learned about, Motivational Interviewing. This intervention technique is bread and butter for a Clin Psych and is gold star for management of substance use and abuse diagnoses. Myself and the other Clin Psychs in the audience were gob-smacked.
 
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LMG!

Moderator
Staff Member of the Year 2019
What is your opinion on universities offering way, way more undergraduate bachelor's psychology degrees than the capability of the profession to train them as psychologists? How difficult was it for you to get into the postgraduate degree and what can psychology graduates do to make themselves more competitive for this (other than scoring a high GPA?)
Just realised I missed this bit.

I think part of the problem creating this bottleneck is that there are so many routes that leave you eligible for postgraduate Psychology degrees, that it's actually quite difficult to keep track of students contemplating postgrad study! At UTAS alone, there is BA, BSci, BPsych, and BBehavScience. I think the answer is to scrap the BA and BSci routes, and cap positions in BPsych and BBehavSci (in a similar way to BPharm or BPhysio) but I'm not sure what can be done about the current situation.

I got a first round offer at my first attempt for postgraduate study, in a cohort of 9 students, so I think I was very fortunate. The selection process at the time considered honours results and performance in a panel interview. I would recommend striving for a first class honours degree result, though it is also possible to obtain a postgraduate place with an upper second class honours result. Between honours and postgrad, I worked full time for a period and traveled extensively, and I strongly suspect both factors heavily influenced my performance in the panel interview. If I'd applied to postgrad straight out of honours (having done nothing but live my middle class suburban life and attend school where I did pretty well without having to put too much effort in) I'd have been found wanting, I suspect! I think 5 of the 9 of us came into postgrad as 'mature aged' students, with only 4 progressing straight from their honours year. Volunteer experience, such as with the Kid's Helpline or Lifeline, can be useful as a talking point, but is not a requirement. Likewise, community support work. That said, I personally feel the honours year is the single most difficult of all the years involved in Psychology study (including postgraduate years). Getting involved with outside organisations such as those I've mentioned (who would probably be reluctant to take you prior to honours) should be balanced with the honours workload itself, because your honours result is definitely the bigger factor.
 

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Sala

Member
Sala, this is the one I mean. Hope it's helpful.
It is really quite helpful, thank you!
Just wanted to ask: do you know if it would be especially hard to achieve a high GPA (I'm talking >6.75) in the 1st/2nd year of a Psychology degree, relative to others (Science/Nursing/Physio/Commerce/etc.)? I am actually quite interested in pursuing a career in Psychology if my med school plans don't work out but I still would be trying to apply non-standard to Med throughout my degree so I do need to take this into consideration.
 

acbard9

Regular Member
In my opinion, you should be able to get a GPA of 6.75+ in Psych/Allied Health/Engineering/Commerce if your heart is in the right place, and that you ensure you are doing everything in your power to do so.

I think, personally, you should primarily focus on what you want to do if you never do Med when choosing your undergrad degree. Don't let perceived difficulty sway you, as you will find, at Uni, that the papers you do well in are the ones you are more interested in, not the papers that are the easiest.
 

Sala

Member
In my opinion, you should be able to get a GPA of 6.75+ in Psych/Allied Health/Engineering/Commerce if your heart is in the right place, and that you ensure you are doing everything in your power to do so.

I think, personally, you should primarily focus on what you want to do if you never do Med when choosing your undergrad degree. Don't let perceived difficulty sway you, as you will find, at Uni, that the papers you do well in are the ones you are more interested in, not the papers that are the easiest.
I'm having so much trouble deciding, there are so many options! If I never get into Med, I would love to do something on the "medical" side of Allied Health (Optometry and Radiography are appealing) but at the same time I am fascinated by Psychology and would like to pursue that as well. I do also quite like Maths (and because of this I'm looking into Engineering or Commerce).
Nothing appeals to me nearly as much as Med, though, so regardless of what I end up studying I do plan on applying non-standard and (if necessary) taking the UMAT/GAMSAT and applying once again with my GPA and full degree.
 

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LMG!

Moderator
Staff Member of the Year 2019
In my opinion, you should be able to get a GPA of 6.75+ in Psych/Allied Health/Engineering/Commerce if your heart is in the right place, and that you ensure you are doing everything in your power to do so.
To be honest, I disagree and I think this line of advice is akin to "you'll definitely get into Med if you want it enough", which we see bandied around all the time here.

For starters, it implies that the person who doesn't succeed at this ridiculously hard thing that most people don't succeed at (Med school or perfect GPA) didn't do so because they didn't try hard enough, which may well be the case, but certainly isn't a blanket assumption that can be made with any degree of confidence. I sailed through undergrad doing the bare minimum and getting excellent grades, while my friend tried and studied and prepared far more than me and still only scraped by. I suspect Med is going to be a rude awakening in many respects, should I land myself a place offer.

Sala, I did undergrad Psych a long time ago so I'm not sure how relevant my info will be re. coursework, and I think you'd be much better off talking to a current student or recent graduate. In my experience, there was a LOT of subjective marking (which was in my favour as I'm naturally (luckily) a good writer/communicator), but this can be quite anxiety provoking for some people, particularly those from strong science/maths backgrounds who are used to 2 + 2 = 4.

Most Med hopefuls would find the content easyish to grasp, I'd think, and probably very interesting. With very rare exceptions, assessments were all essays or lab reports (intro/method/results/discussion style). This suited me perfectly, but may not suit others.

Did you do yr 12 Psychology?

A good option if you're unsure (which is akin to what I did), could be a BSc where Psych is one of your subjects. You could also then do a couple of other units to get an idea what you're keen in (engi, bio, etc). As far as careers go, at the end of a BSc (should non-standard Med not work out), you could do honours in Psych, or various other areas and continue on your way.

I was also undecided in my first year of Uni, so I enrolled in BArts/Law and did first year Psychology, journalism, and law. Things have worked out pretty well for me using this method. I realised I hated law, and that there were no jobs in journalism, but also that I loved Psych.

It's important to realise that you're not locked into anything, and being unsure is pretty common/nothing to panic about. You'll figure it out as you go along! That said, I also understand the confusion and apprehension that comes with too many options!! A good problem to have, but a problem nonetheless!!

Best of luck!
 

Sala

Member
To be honest, I disagree and I think this line of advice is akin to "you'll definitely get into Med if you want it enough", which we see bandied around all the time here.

For starters, it implies that the person who doesn't succeed at this ridiculously hard thing that most people don't succeed at (Med school or perfect GPA) didn't do so because they didn't try hard enough, which may well be the case, but certainly isn't a blanket assumption that can be made with any degree of confidence. I sailed through undergrad doing the bare minimum and getting excellent grades, while my friend tried and studied and prepared far more than me and still only scraped by. I suspect Med is going to be a rude awakening in many respects, should I land myself a place offer.

Sala, I did undergrad Psych a long time ago so I'm not sure how relevant my info will be re. coursework, and I think you'd be much better off talking to a current student or recent graduate. In my experience, there was a LOT of subjective marking (which was in my favour as I'm naturally (luckily) a good writer/communicator), but this can be quite anxiety provoking for some people, particularly those from strong science/maths backgrounds who are used to 2 + 2 = 4.

Most Med hopefuls would find the content easyish to grasp, I'd think, and probably very interesting. With very rare exceptions, assessments were all essays or lab reports (intro/method/results/discussion style). This suited me perfectly, but may not suit others.

Did you do yr 12 Psychology?

A good option if you're unsure (which is akin to what I did), could be a BSc where Psych is one of your subjects. You could also then do a couple of other units to get an idea what you're keen in (engi, bio, etc). As far as careers go, at the end of a BSc (should non-standard Med not work out), you could do honours in Psych, or various other areas and continue on your way.

I was also undecided in my first year of Uni, so I enrolled in BArts/Law and did first year Psychology, journalism, and law. Things have worked out pretty well for me using this method. I realised I hated law, and that there were no jobs in journalism, but also that I loved Psych.

It's important to realise that you're not locked into anything, and being unsure is pretty common/nothing to panic about. You'll figure it out as you go along! That said, I also understand the confusion and apprehension that comes with too many options!! A good problem to have, but a problem nonetheless!!

Best of luck!
I'm in NSW, and Psychology is not a subject option for the HSC, so I did not.

I personally do prefer courses with more objective marking, i.e. science or mathematics, hence the concern with Psych. I have definitely considered studying for a BSc as a possibility, but I have heard that it's ridiculously competitive to get into the Psychology Honours program after completion of the three years. Meanwhile, with the BPsych, it already has a place in the Honours stream. Is the first year of Psychology similar to that of most Science/Allied Health degrees (where it's mainly foundational science) or is it different?
 

LMG!

Moderator
Staff Member of the Year 2019
wow, I found such a great and useful information here. My sister is about to study Psychology so I'll definitely show her this forum!
Thank you for the feedback! If she has more questions tell her to ask! I’ve been working as a Clin Psych for 5 years and am happy to help out newbies!! :D
 

WASGIJ

Member
LMG! I was wondering if as a psychologist you might be able to help me out.

I am a recent Master of Research (Psychology) graduate and in my second year of applying for medicine. Recently I've been considering the reality that I might not ever get into medicine and that I should be continuing with a backup career, possibly clinical/health psychology. While I originally started studying psychology because I enjoyed the subject at the end of my honours degree I was faced with the realisation that the job of a psychologist doesn't align with the everyday activity I desired in my future career. The main draw back to psychology vs medicine for me is the lack of physical activity (using my hands etc). I was wondering if you were aware of any scope within psychology where there is opportunity to perform tasks that are more physical?
 

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LMG!

Moderator
Staff Member of the Year 2019
LMG! I was wondering if as a psychologist you might be able to help me out.

I am a recent Master of Research (Psychology) graduate and in my second year of applying for medicine. Recently I've been considering the reality that I might not ever get into medicine and that I should be continuing with a backup career, possibly clinical/health psychology. While I originally started studying psychology because I enjoyed the subject at the end of my honours degree I was faced with the realisation that the job of a psychologist doesn't align with the everyday activity I desired in my future career. The main draw back to psychology vs medicine for me is the lack of physical activity (using my hands etc). I was wondering if you were aware of any scope within psychology where there is opportunity to perform tasks that are more physical?
I would love to answer this question and chat further about career options in psych, absolutely! I shall get back to you tomorrow probably with a more targeted answer :D

(psych😍)
 

LMG!

Moderator
Staff Member of the Year 2019
LMG! I was wondering if as a psychologist you might be able to help me out.
...
I was wondering if you were aware of any scope within psychology where there is opportunity to perform tasks that are more physical?
Hello! Sorry it took me an extra day to get back to you. I got caught up in an online conference yesterday that was so much better than I was expecting (and I was already expecting pretty good things!) and so was a bit distracted.

Despite that, I have been thinking long and hard about your question. I am a Clinical Psychologist who works in a Health Psychology field and I'd be happy to chat more to you about that specifically if you'd be interested. But, more generally, I started by first trying to understand exactly what you meant by physical activity, and I might need you to give me some more info here on this, so if my response below doesn't quite answer your question, please let me know.

The most 'hands on' things I've done as a Psychologist would be research (which you're obviously well versed in) and then probably anything related to working with children and teenagers. Kids are very 'hands on' and active creatures! If you're not on your hands and knees on the carpet with toys while working with a 4 year old and their family, you're missing out on very big opportunities to model 'play' and positive social interactions. Even formal assessment of kids is a very active and busy process which I have always absolutely loved. More specific specialisations within Child Psychology, such as play therapy, would be even more active, I'd imagine (though I've never formally trained in this myself, I know that it is increasing in popularity). With slightly older kids, I have used art, music, and physical activity to develop rapport or engage them in attending, an example being a ~12 yo boy I used to spend the entire early sessions kicking a footy back and forth with because it was much easier for him to talk to me if he was doing something busy, not sitting in a chair in a consult room, if that makes sense. So, I guess what I'm trying to say is, working with kids can be incredibly active if you want it to be, because the kids themselves will be absolutely down for it in most scenarios!

In the hospital environment, and with adults, I'd have to acknowledge that there seems to be much less standard opportunity*, with psych generally being quite 'hands off' at that stage. There are specific areas of specialisation that I don't know much about personally, such as hypnotherapy and EMDR (and no doubt others) that may be more active, and I know of psychologists working in persistent pain settings that participate in group therapy with physiotherapists, etc.

* though keep in mind my experience in this realm is limited to placements while training and then a one-year stint in an adult ward at a sub-acute hospital where I was mostly doing capacity assessments. Other than that, my experience is heavily skewed towards children and adolescents.

The other thing for you to consider would be continuing on your journey as a research psychologist. While that can be a tricky route to navigate in any field, particularly as far as long term employment security goes, I do know a number of people who've made careers out of research and teaching, including university level teaching and academia.

I hope that helps at least a little bit!
 

WASGIJ

Member
LMG! thank you so much for your insight. Unfortunately I have never shown much interest in child psychology. Looks like I might need to use my other volunteer outlets to do more hands on stuff.

I'm leaning more towards apply for masters of clinical as I'm not quite ready to commit to a PhD right now and the research job market is not looking great in COVID times. My intention with clinical psychology is to take on placements in health psychology, as the advice I've gotten from others in health psych is that a masters of health psychology is too specialised and that most jobs in health psych are targeted at clinical psychologists. Would you agree that clinical psychology is the better route to take?

In terms of health psychology I'm aware theres lots of research in cancer and smoking, but wondering is there much work available that focused on weight loss, as my interest area is body image and obesity?
 

LMG!

Moderator
Staff Member of the Year 2019
I’m guessing (though correct me if I’m wrong) that a research masters doesn’t include any clinical placements? I hated the child psychology teaching component of my honours degree and the masters I started before switching into the doctorate. It was dry and terribly taught and there’s no way I was going to work in any area that involved child psych... until I went on placement!

TLDR: never say never :D

Another option I forgot about for an active career in psychology would be Sportpsych (ironically the pathway I was set on at the end of honours...!).

Re. Health vs Clinical psych, the advice you got is 100% what I would also say. Any Health psych job can be filled by a Clin psych but the reverse isn’t true and the Medicare rebate for Clin psychs is far more generous (~$50 p/hr more) than any other specialty if you’re in private practice.

That said, this also leads to a situation whereby Clin psych masters is the most competitive program to get into in the country (even more so than Med). So it’s not a done deal until you’ve landed a place.

For research options, you’d really need to look into what’s on offer at the unis you’re interested in applying to. And depending on your position, you may get the opportunity to run your own research (I’m just getting started on something in a hospital setting, for example, where I have essentially chosen the topic myself based on relevance to day to day practice, not what research is already being done by other people).

Good luck.
 

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whys

Regular Member™
Hi LMG!, thank you so much for this insightful guide! I'm planning on pursuing psychology if all else fails since psychology is something I've been interested in for quite a while, and I was wondering what the work/life balance and general lifestyle is like for you. Does uni matter too much for psychology (like how for med it doesn't)? Will every applicant get into at least one postgraduate study, even if they don't make it into clinical psych, or is getting into postgraduate study not guaranteed?
 

WASGIJ

Member
whys I can answer a few of your questions. If you are interested in becoming a psychologist you will first need to complete your 3 year bachelors then go on to do an honours year (of you don't make it into honours there is also a graduate diploma pathway but I am less familiar with this) then either a 1 year masters of professional psychology followed by 1 year of supervised practice or a 2 year masters in clinical (or forensic/health/organisational/etc) psychology.

From my understanding the university you go to doesn't matter a huge deal, although you should keep in mind that some universities only let you complete your honours there if you did your undergrad at that university.

In terms of getting into postgraduate study there are lots of students applying for only a small selection of places in the endorsement courses like clinical/forensic/sports/etc. These courses are really competitive and it's important that you get some relevant work experience and preferably a first class honours (although you can still be eligible for places with a 2A). However, the professional psychology course is far easier to get into provided you meet the academic requirement at least a 2A which is equivalent to a Distinction. At the end of the professional psychology degree and your 1 year supervised practice you can be a general psychologist. If you still want to be a clinical psychologist you will need to go back and complete the clinical course.

To give a perspective of numbers from my personal experience we had about 300 people enrolled in psychology at the end of 3rd year. 60 people in the honours cohort. And the clinical/neuro/forensic/etc. have about 20 people in the cohorts.
 

WASGIJ

Member
that a research masters doesn’t include any clinical placements?
Unfortunately no. So far I have had little opportunity through university to gain any sort of placement or work experience. Nor has there been much information about the different areas of psychology available after graduation and what they entail. Made the whole process of choosing which pathway is for me a very confusing process.

Another option I forgot about for an active career in psychology would be Sportpsych (ironically the pathway I was set on at the end of honours...!).
Sports psychology isn't something I thought about doing, I also don't know a huge deal about it, but may be worth investigating. Thanks!
 

LMG!

Moderator
Staff Member of the Year 2019
Hi LMG!, thank you so much for this insightful guide! I'm planning on pursuing psychology if all else fails since psychology is something I've been interested in for quite a while, and I was wondering what the work/life balance and general lifestyle is like for you. Does uni matter too much for psychology (like how for med it doesn't)? Will every applicant get into at least one postgraduate study, even if they don't make it into clinical psych, or is getting into postgraduate study not guaranteed?
re. work/life balance, I commented briefly on this in one of the above posts but, by and large, it’s pretty bloody great. Private practice is very well remunerated and, here in Tas anyway, very easy to get into. I know plenty of people who work, say, 4 days per week, and are still doing very comfortably. I work in the public hospital system where the pay is below private practice but is still well above average. Prior to starting Med, I was working between 8 and 10 days per fortnight at different times and could easily have maintained 8 days per fortnight and done just fine (including managing a mortgage/going on international trips/lots of music gigs, etc).

Writing this out is seriously making me question my life decision-making ;) what am I doing...?

Honestly, the hard part is getting into a post grad program. The 1 year professional masters is offered here in Tas, too, but the downside of it is you have to find your own 1 year placement that follows the 1 year of masters (you’re not a student for the placement year so the uni won’t sort it for you) and, depending on who agrees to take you on, possibly pay for the supervision you’d require (with costs ranging from $100-250 per hour). I’d definitely say go for a full program over a prof psych degree if it comes down to offers for both at the time.

The prof psych is a new option that wasn’t available when I wrote my initial post. I should probably update it at some stage.
 

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