what is a psychologist?

As a psychologist, your role revolves around studying human behaviours. You investigate the reason behind changes in behaviour by analysing a patient's mind, relationships and emotions. You rely on science and interpersonal skills to identify and diagnose clients with mental health issues. The diagnoses are usually based on the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM). You also treat patients with behavioural problems. You use cognitive behaviour therapies to promote emotional stability and help patients cope with mental health challenges.

Psychologists are trained in performing psychological evaluations, which rate and analyse healthy and pathological mental states. Your training also equips you with the tools to treat anxiety, eating disorders and post-traumatic stress disorders (PTSD). As a psychologist, you can work in diverse settings providing treatment to specific groups. Some psychologists work in healthcare facilities helping those with suicidal tendencies and PTSD. Sometimes, you speak with patients with extensive injuries acquired from dangerous occupations like construction or mining.

As a psychologist, you work in schools or community settings and assist students and young adults with anxiety, depression, eating disorders or drug problems. Mental health institutions, rehabilitation centres and prisons rely on psychologists to improve patients’ behavioural issues’ well-being.

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average salary of a psychologist

The typical remuneration package for a psychologist is $73,000 per year in New Zealand. An entry-level/graduate psychologist takes home $56,000, while experts earn $125,000 annually. You earn the lowest salary when you are new in the role due to your limited expertise. Hence, improving your skills and gaining work experience improves your salary prospects.

Aside from expertise, specialising also increases your remuneration package. For instance, clinical psychologists take home an average salary of $106,000 annually, while experts earn over $125,000 annually.

how to increase your salary as a psychologist

The salary expectations of psychologists vary depending on work experience and qualifications. Psychologists with the fewest qualifications and least experience earn a lower salary due to the minimal transferable skills they bring to the role. Hence, improving your qualifications and work experience is likely to increase your remuneration prospects.

Your employer also influences your remuneration package. For instance, working in public healthcare facilities and community centres may lower your salary expectations. Private healthcare facilities and rehabilitation centres are more likely to pay higher salaries, and large private facilities have additional resources and can afford to pay psychologists more.

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types of psychologists

The discipline of psychology is expanding, with many specialisms emerging to cater for various groups of people and behavioural problems. Some of the types of psychologists include:

  • clinical psychologist: as a clinical psychologist, you assess and treat mental and behavioural disorders. You use the science of psychology to treat complex human problems and promote change. You develop behaviour modification programmes and implement them. As a clinical psychologist, you are likely to work in mental health facilities and hospital settings.
  • counselling psychologist: as a counselling psychologist, you focus on helping patients cope with behavioural issues. Counsellors focus on general therapy that may apply psychologists’ research such as prevention, assessment, diagnosis and treatment and ongoing monitoring of clients with mental health disorders such as depression, anxiety and substance abuse. You collaborate with patients to help them identify coping mechanisms.
  • school psychologist: as a school psychologist, you contribute to student well-being in schools by providing specialised psychological assessment, counselling and intervention services. You collaborate with school counsellors and teachers to assist students that may struggle with low self-esteem and poor performance.
  • forensic psychologist: as a forensic psychologist, you use legal and psychological knowledge to help individuals in the criminal justice system. You may also assist government employees and organisations to navigate the legal and criminal justice systems.

working as a psychologist

Working as a psychologist involves helping people deal with various mental health problems. If you are fascinated by human behaviour, discover the specific tasks performed in the role and the job outlook.

Male with glass and red blazer sitting in a green chair looking at a person
Male with glass and red blazer sitting in a green chair looking at a person

psychologist education and skills

A psychologist requires the following educational requirements:

  • bachelor's degree: to become a psychologist, you need a current Annual Practising Certificate. To meet the minimum requirements to register with the board, pursue a bachelor's degree in psychology or psychological science. The degree course takes three years, and you can complete an honours degree or a postgraduate diploma in your fourth year. The courses you undertake must be accredited by the New Zealand Psychologists Board.
  • postgraduate study or internship: fourth-year graduates should complete an accredited postgraduate psychology degree for fifth and sixth-year studies to qualify for registration with the PBA. Alternatively, look for internship opportunities and practice for two years to receive a licence.

skills and competencies

Some of the qualities of a psychologist include:

  • communication skills: your job involves listening and communicating with clients. You require communication and active listening skills to ask the right questions and diagnose behavioural issues from patients' responses.
  • interpersonal skills: you spend most of the day interacting with people and studying patients. You require interpersonal skills to relate well with your patients and build good relationships.
  • critical thinking skills: you require critical thinking and analytical skills to establish proper treatment plans and formulate an accurate diagnosis. Analytical thinking also helps you identify the effectiveness of the treatment plans.
  • patience: you rely on counselling to treat patients, and it often takes time to notice behavioural changes. Patience helps you to see the treatment sessions to their end.

FAQs about working as a psychologist

Here are the most asked questions about working as a psychologist:

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