Health Sciences

Frequently asked questions - postgraduate psychology

Below you will find questions that prospective students often ask about. The questions are grouped into the following headings:

Postgraduate program questions

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In Melbourne, we currently offer the Master of Clinical Psychology and Master of Education and Developmental Psychology (both two years duration), a combined Masters/PhD program (4 years duration), and a Master of Professional Psychology (1 year duration).

In Brisbane, we currently offer the Master of Clinical Psychology (two years duration), a combined Masters/PhD program (4 years duration), and a Master of Professional Psychology (1 year duration). All of these courses lead to professional registration with the Psychology Board of Australia.

A grade of H2A is the minimum requirement. While your grade keeps you in the running, it does not guarantee you a place. Additional academic requirements may depend on the demand for the course in the year that you are applying, which MPsych course you are applying for, and on which campus. In any event, your application will also be rated by examining your referee reports, your personal statement, and whether you have any relevant professional of voluntary experience. We also conduct interviews for shortlisted applicants.

Yes, eligible students may transfer from a Masters program into the combined program at the end of their first year.

No. At present there is no direct pathway from the Master of Professional Psychology into the other professional postgraduate courses.

ACU emphasises excellence in research. The school of Psychology was ranked ‘above world standard’ in the most recent ERA rankings. Students completing postgraduate theses have the opportunity to apply for small grants, and many students go on to publish their research. Students with a particular interest in research may wish to consider a combined 4-year Masters/PhD degree. Eligible students enrolled in the Master of Clinical Psychology or the Master of Education and Developmental Psychology also have the opportunity to transfer into a combined Masters/PhD degree after completing their first year. Read more about research within the school.

The postgraduate courses are structured around principles of evidence based practice. This means that a variety of approaches to treatment are taught, but that there is an emphasis on Cognitive Behavioural Therapy, and third wave therapies including Acceptance and Commitment Therapy (ACT).

Students often tell us that the transition from classroom learning to seeing real clients is the most daunting aspect of postgraduate training. At ACU, before you see your first client, you will participate in a structured Simulation Program where you will complete a series of role plays, and interaction with actors in a simulated clinic space. Soon after your classes begin in semester 1, you will work with a single (fictitious) client from the point of referral to the clinic, through assessment, record keeping, formulation of a treatment plan, and finally to case closure. You will receive feedback as you progress in a highly supportive environment.

The Simulation Program is carefully timed so that you will practice each skill shortly after it has been taught in the classroom, helping you to integrate theoretical and practical principles. The program will give you the practical skills and the confidence needed for your first placement.

ACU has a small group of dedicated close-knit postgraduate staff. You will find that most staff will know your name and will take an interest in your ongoing development. ACU has a commitment to principles of equality and social justice, and you will see this reflected in the way they work with each other and with their students, and the way they interact with the wider community. Most of your classroom teachers are registered psychologists who bring a wealth of practical knowledge and experience to their teaching. Many students comment that the culture at ACU is very different from other universities.

In most years, classes for the Master of Clinical Psychology and the Master of Education and Developmental Psychology are held on Thursdays and Fridays. The simulation program, placements, and thesis work are completed throughout the week around class times.

Classes for the Master of Professional Psychology Program are delivered as 8 hour workshops on Saturdays. Placements are completed on weekdays, and the timing of placements varies according to the needs of the organisation. Placements begin around week 5 in the Master of Professional Psychology. Because this course is intensive and is completed in a year, there is no mid-year break.

Some HECS places are available for the Master of Clinical Psychology and the Master of Education and Developmental Psychology. All places on the Master of Professional Psychology are fee paying. However, Fee HELP loans (which operate like HECS loans) are available for all three courses.

We recognise the importance of relevant experience and take this into consideration when shortlisting applicants for interviews. The minimum entry requirement for the Masters programs (determined by the accreditation body - APAC) upper 2nd class (ie Distinction grade) in the honours year. The only exception to this rule is for candidates who are already registered psychologists via the 4+2 or 5+1 pathways. These candidates are often offered an interview in recognition of their prior learning and experience.

Questions about placements

Yes. You will complete three placements in the Master of Clinical Psychology and Master of Education and Developmental Psychology, and two placements in the Master of Professional Psychology.

Most students will complete their first placement in an ACU Psychology Clinic. ACU Psychology clinics are busy clinics located on campus, which provide psychological services to children and adults from the local community. You will be given a small caseload of clients, and will receive support and weekly one-on-one supervision from an experienced psychologist. You will also participate in weekly group supervision sessions where you will have the opportunity to discuss your cases with a small group of your fellow students. This placement is highly supported and will prepare you for your later placements in the community.

You will complete your later placement/s in an external agency in the community. You will receive regular one-on-one supervision from an experienced psychologist who works in the organisation where you are placed. You will also receive small-group supervision once a week on campus. Students complete their placements in a wide range of settings, including community mental health services, schools, hospitals, prisons, specialist private clinics; almost anywhere that psychologists work.

No. At ACU we have dedicated Placement Co-ordinators for each of our postgraduate courses. They have established connections with many community agencies, but are also happy to hear your ideas about new placements. They will work with you to find and set up placements that match your interests and learning needs.

In Strathfield, all students will do their first placement at The Mary Aikenhead Clinic at the Strathfield campus where they will gain experience working with children, and adolescents. Following their placement in The Mary Aikenhead Clinic, students will need to complete two external placements.

ACU has strong links with several agencies including St John of God hospitals in Burwood and Richmond which are large private psychiatric hospitals and the St Vincent's Health Network. This means that students do not need to find their own placements (although they are more than welcome to do so if they have relevant industry links). Placements offered by are of a high standard in clinically relevant areas of practice.

Questions specifically about the Master of Professional Psychology

The Master of Professional Psychology is an intensive one-year course that teaches the skills and competencies required for the professional practice of psychology. The course is sufficient to prepare graduates for a final year of supervised practice prior to general registration as a Psychologist.

Students who complete the course and then complete a further year of approved supervised practice can ultimately apply for registration as a Generalist Psychologist. Thus, it offers an alternative route to a career as a practicing psychologist to the 2-year Master of Psychology pathway, and to the 2-year supervised practice (4+2) pathway.

While ACU is not directly involved in the 6th year internship, we will provide you with information and advice on how to set up your internship toward the end of the 5th year. We will also introduce you to a group of past graduates who will share their advice and tips. However, once students graduate from the 5th year, they are responsible for securing their internship themselves. Securing an internship is much like winning a job, so success largely depends on the quality of the student’s application. It might be helpful to know that 80-90% of graduated students in Brisbane and 100% of graduated students in Melbourne went onto 6th year internships.

In Melbourne, 100% of graduates have successfully secured internships. In Brisbane, 75-90% have secured internships each year. The majority of graduates have set up their internships within three months of completing the course.

Our graduates complete internships with a wide range of organisations including:

  • Child & Youth Mental Health (government)
  • Disability Services (government)
  • Community Health (government)
  • Headspace
  • Schools (government and private)
  • Employment Service Providers
  • Prisons
  • Forensic support services
  • Employee Assistance Program services
  • Alcohol and Drug services (state government)
  • Telephone counselling services
  • Large private practices

Internship arrangements vary from graduate to graduate but the vast majority of graduates are paid during their 6th year internship. Some graduates have paid for their supervision during their internships, while others have received free supervision as part of their contracts.