Psychologists see clients for psychological assessment, psychotherapy and counselling. They work with a broad range of people including individuals, couples, families, and employees in the workplace and business organizations. Psychologists gather information about people’s interests, abilities and behaviour using psychological tests and other methods in order to understand, explain and predict human actions. In doing so they seek to identify the source of problems and to determine treatment.
Psychologists may help individuals to deal with the problems of daily living, provide psychotherapy or conduct behaviour modification programmes in mental clinics and hospitals. They study human behaviour in terms of the environment or individual development.
Psychologists may also move out in the community and act as consultants or be involved in preventative work. This entails guiding people in the development of skills for dealing with problems before they even arise. They train various helpers in the community in skills to be applied in serving that community. In the forensic field the psychologist can play an important role in custody disputes and criminal offences.
There are a number of specialised fields in psychology:
- Clinical psychologists: usually work in hospitals or in private practice where a diagnostic and therapeutic service is provided to clients who are experiencing emotional and/or mental distress.
- Clinical neuro-psychologists: specialise in the assessment and diagnosis of brain impairment and how this affects thinking skills, emotions, behaviour and personality. They are also involved in the rehabilitation and management of the effects of brain impairment and often work with other health professionals.
- Child psychologists: usually work in private practice or child related institutions and diagnostic and therapeutic services to clients under the age of 18, who having emotional problems usually as a result of trauma experienced, such as psychological, physical or sexual abuse.
- Educational and developmental psychologists: provide assessment, intervention and counselling services relevant to the management of developmental and educational issues across the life span. Specialisations include: life span transitions, early intervention, disability, problems of learning and adjustment in schools, career and family development and ageing. They usually work in an educational environment where learners, students, parents and teachers are advised on topics such as school readiness, academic performance and development strategies.
- Counselling psychologists: provide assessment, counselling and therapy to individuals, couples, families, groups and organisations. Their clients are, in general, people trying to cope with everyday stresses and the resulting emotional and social problems. These psychologists are responsible for career counselling, marriage counselling and general guidance.
- Industrial or organisational psychologists: practise in business or industrial settings with the general aim of directly benefiting the economic well-being of the employing organisation. They are concerned with people functioning effectively in relation to their working environments. Their areas of expertise include recruitment and selection, training, appraisal and review, vocational guidance and career development, industrial relations, occupational health and safety, planning technological and organisational change, organisational behaviour, ergonomics, consumer behaviour, job redesign and marketing.
- Sports psychologists: provide psychological assistance to people involved in sport and exercise at all levels seeking to enhance their achievement, enjoyment and social interaction. Sports psychology services focus on performance enhancement, personal development, well-being and adjustment skills.
- Forensic psychologists: apply psychological knowledge to assessment, intervention and research in the context of the legal and criminal justice system. They provide expert opinion to the courts in such matters as criminal behaviour, child abuse and custody disputes.
- Research psychologists: apply skills in statistics, research design, computing and data analysis in an attempt to answer a variety of questions. They may work in government departments, management institutes, market research, media or public opinion research.
- Academic Psychologists: work in tertiary institutions, and conduct research and provide academic training for psychologists. A PhD qualification and a good record in research are almost always necessary to gain employment in this area.
- Community Psychologists: are mainly concerned with community issues and with creating social change to prevent or ease human problems. Some work in areas of social need such as with the homeless, and the socially, intellectually or physically disadvantaged.
How to Enter
Schooling & School Subjects
National Senior Certificate meeting degree requirements for a degree course
Each institution has its own entry requirements. Mathematics is a prerequisite at some institutions.
What to Study
Degree: Training consists of 5 years of academic training at a university, with an internship of 12 months at an accredited institution. The basic minimum qualification for registration as a psychologist is a Masters degree in Research Psychology/Clinical Psychology/ Educational Psychology/Industrial Psychology and Counselling Psychology. Firstly, a B-degree must be obtained with psychology as a major subject - Monash, UJ, NWU, UCT, UNISA, UJ, UFH, US, UFS, UP, UZ, UWC, UV, UKZN, RU and Wits.
After completing this degree the prospective psychologist must apply for selection for a Masters degree in one of the five fields: clinical, counselling, educational, industrial or research psychology. The selection is a very intensive process and only a limited number of students are selected.
Masters degree in Psychology: The duration of this degree is 2 years. The first year is predominantly theoretical but includes supervised practical work. In the second year an internship has to be done under the supervision of a registered psychologist. A short thesis must also be written.
Registration: After complying with all the requirements for the Masters degree and successfully completing the internship, the prospective psychologist has to apply for registration with the Health Professions Council of South Africa in one of the five recognised categories of clinical, counselling, educational, industrial or research psychology.
The Professional Board recently approved the implementation of a revised model for education and training in psychology in South Africa:
Registered Counsellors: Registration as a Registered Counsellor is contingent on completion of:
- An accredited 4 year BPsych or equivalent degree in Psychology and an approved minimum six-month’s internship in the designated practice area.
- The six months practicum included in the BPsych must be done under supervision of a registered Psychologist according to criteria set by the Professional Board. This practicum may occur from the third year of the degree and shall be not less than 2 months. The practicum may also occur after completion of the degree.
Practice areas for Registered Counsellors include:
- career counselling
- employee well-being
- family counselling
- HIV/AIDS counselling
- human resources
- pastoral counselling
- community mental health
- school counselling
- sport counselling
- trauma counselling
Registration with the Health Professions Council of South Africa (HPCSA) is mandatory for this occupation. Consult the HPCSA website for the most up-to-date information relating to accredited qualifications and registration requirements. This information can be found in the relevant sections under the Professional Board for Psychology.
- universities and colleges
- education departments, as educational psychologists
- government departments and SA Defence Force
- business and industries, as industrial psychologists
- HSRC and CSIR
- consulting agencies
- private, public and psychiatric hospitals
- community and rehabilitation clinics and other health care facilities
- correctional institutions
- self-employment, in private practice
Health Professions Council of South Africa (HPCSA)
P O Box 205
Tel: (012) 338-9301 Fax: (012) 328-5120
Psychology Association of SA
P O Box 74119
Lynnwood Ridge, 0040
Tel: (012) 807-1740
Psychological Society of South Africa (PSSA)
P O Box 66083
Tel: (011) 486-3322 Fax: (011) 486-3266/77
- do volunteer work at a community centre, church, welfare organisation, youth organisation
- if possible, arrange to speak to a psychologist about this type of career
Programmes by Study Institutions