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What can be done to solve the shortage of educational and developmental Psychologists in Australia? - Article Image

What can be done to solve the shortage of educational and developmental Psychologists in Australia?

POSTED BY FARAH RIZVI-HAMMOND

Friday, December 10, 2021

 

The cost of graduating as a qualified Developmental and Educational Psychologist is becoming more and more financially prohibitive, and Australian families are suffering.

 

At the time of writing, there are currently 801 Educational and Developmental Psychologists in Australia. There are over 9,000 schools.

 

According to The Age, despite the demand for psychology services, fewer than 1% of psychology Bachelor’s graduates go on to complete a Masters program.

 

HERE’S WHY:

 

It takes a long time

The study required to become a Registered Psychologist is long and arduous. Completing a 3 years Bachelor’s degree in Psychology alone does not qualify you for practice. As of June 2022, it will take 6 years of study and training to become a Registered Psychologist as the 4+ 2 Program will no longer be offered to Undergrads commencing their study. The only program available will be the 5+1 = 5 years of study, and 1 year of supervision with an AHPRA-accredited, Board-approved supervisor. Longer if you want to further pursue a specialisation such as becoming an Educational or Developmental Psychologist. It’s almost like a doctor’s degree!

 

It’s expensive

Not only is the study gruelling, it’s expensive too, so much so that the cost of getting an education is no longer viable for many people (unless you have financial support from family, or want to be saddled with a huge debt when you finish Uni). the average cost for an Australian citizen to undertake a Bachelor of Psychology degree is $9K - $12K / year. To access external supervision privately by a Board Approved Psychologist can cost as much as $16K- $25k per year.

 

And while the study time is similar to that of a doctor, the salary pathway is not. A graduate salary for a Psychologist is around $58K - $65K Base + Super a year. 

 

So you can see why many people don’t continue on from the 3-year Bachelor’s degree – they either run out of money, motivation or they haven’t been invited to a spot in the Honours program and don’t want to go down the pathway that involves Research.

 

It’s hard to find placements

It’s not easy to find an AHPRA-accredited, board-approved Supervisor to help you complete your psychology Supervision. They’re in short supply, and need to be qualified to supervise and oversee a graduate. It takes considerable time and finances to find the right supervisor. We’ve had success with convincing an employer to supply a candidate with a job AND an in-house supervisor, but not everyone has the resources for this.

 

Rebates are low

According to the former chair of the Head of Department and Schools of Psychology Association, “student demand for developmental and educational courses was low because practice in these areas attracted a lower Medicare rebate than clinical psychology.” The government could fix this.

 

Currently, clinical Psychologists attract a Medicare rebate of $129.55 for a 50-minute session, compared with $88.25 for all other Psychologists, including developmental and educational. Not good enough.

 

The work is rewarding but challenging

Educational and developmental Psychologists work in schools, with kids with a variety of issues including disability, ADHD, ASD, learning difficulties, abuse, bullying (from teachers and students), anxiety and depression. This is tricky stuff. To be paid so little just isn’t good enough.

 

WHAT CAN BE DONE TO SOLVE THE SHORTAGE OF EDUCATIONAL AND DEVELOPMENTAL PSYCHOLOGISTS IN AUSTRALIA?

 

This is on the government. With mental health issues predicted to peak in 2025, the Australian Government has 3 years to get this right, starting now.

 

Firstly, study and supervision needs to be made more accessible and less expensive. The government needs to contribute towards this. You can’t expect someone coming out of full time study to work off a 6-year debt on 55k. And let’s not forget the repayments of the fees themselves - The compulsory repayment threshold for StudyAssist program in the 2021-22 income year is $47,014, as per the ATO.

 

Secondly, Psychologists need to be paid what they’re worth. Wages are going up in so many industries. Where is the increase in wage rise and Medicare rebate for Psychologists? We come across companies that will pay $110K - $115K for a Clinical Psychologist role, and think they’re really paying over and above. They’re not! The role is worth far more than that, but compared to what others are offering, this looks good.

 

Lastly, there needs to be a systematic consultation process with industry Subject Matter Experts to figure out where the needs are, what the stats are and how we can build Australia’s capacity for Mental health interventions without burdening the system any further and without having to depend on overseas Psychologists to come and service a market that is very capable.

 

Every government preaches about how committed they are to addressing mental health – it’s time they put that commitment into action and got some best-practice, evidence-based direction from industry experts including Universities, Students, Psychologists at every level, Employers, Recruiters and clients seeking Mental Health Assistance. 

 

Australia is crying out for Registered Psychologists and Clinical Psychologists with a specialty.

 

When it comes to the mental health of families, the Australian government has an opportunity to forward think, and they really need to use it.

 

If you're looking to place a psychologist at your institution get in touch.

1300 903 373 | info@medijobs.com 

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