Research Psychologist

Psychology is a broad field with several areas of specialisation. In experimental psychology, for example, psychologists carry out research projects to develop theories about learning, motivation, and other aspects of behaviour.

Research psychologists apply skills in statistics, research design, computing and data analysis in an attempt to answer a variety of questions.

They conduct research at centres, universities, corporations, non-profit organisations, or for the government. They look at patterns of behavior in humans or animals to learn about attention span, learning processes, effects of drugs, motivation, genetics, and neurology.

Applied psychologists utilise psychological principles and research to solve real-world problems. Examples include aviation psychologists, engineering psychologists, industrial-organisational psychologists and human factors psychologists.

Developmental psychologists research the growth and change that take place throughout life. They may concentrate on one particular stage of development, such as adolescence or old age. Other specialties include educational psychology, comparative psychology, social psychology and psychometrics.

Lecturers in psychology usually engage in research as well.

How to Enter

Schooling & School Subjects

National Senior Certificate meeting the 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 five 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 master’s 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 - all universities.

Postgraduate: After obtaining a prospective psychologists must do an accredited honours degree in psychology.

After completing this degree the prospective research psychologist must apply for selection for an accredited  master’s degree in the field of research psychology. The selection is a very intensive process and only a limited number of students are selected.

Master’s degree in Psychology: The duration of this degree is two 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 submitted.

Registration: After complying with all the requirements for the master’s 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 four year BPsych or equivalent degree in Psychology and an approved minimum six-month internship in the designated practice area.
  • The six-month internship included in the BPsych has to be done under the supervision of a registered Psychologist according to criteria set by the Professional Board.  This internship may occur from the third year of the degree or after completion of the degree.

Registration with the Health Professions Council of South Africa (HPCSA) is mandatory for this group of  occupations. 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
  • government departments
  • HSRC and CSIR
  • consulting agencies
  • private, public and psychiatric hospitals
  • community and rehabilitation clinics etc.
  • correctional institutions
  • management institutes
  • market research organisations
  • self-employment, in private practice

Further Information

Psychology Association of SA
P O Box 74119
Lynnwood Ridge, 0040
Tel: (012) 807-1740

Psychological Society of South Africa (PSSA)
Oakhurst Office Park, North Wing
Ground Floor
13 St Andrews Road, Parktown, 2193
Tel: (011) 486-3322

Health Professions Council of South Africa (HPCSA) 
(553) of Hamilton and
Madiba Streets,
Arcadia, Pretoria
Tel: (012) 338-9300

Programmes by Study Institutions

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