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PsychologistAlternative titles

Kaimātai Hinengaro

This job is sometimes referred to as:

Clinical Psychologist
Criminal Justice Psychologist
Educational Psychologist
Organisational Psychologist
Health Psychologist

Psychologists investigate, assess and provide treatment and counselling for people's behavioural and mental health issues.

Contact us

Call us on 0800 222 733


Pay for psychologists varies depending on specialisation, experience and employer.

  • Graduate psychologists can expect to earn between $61,000 and $64,000 a year.
  • Those with three to 10 years' experience earn $65,000 to $97,000.
  • Psychologists who progress to senior management or adviser positions can earn up to $120,000.

Rates for psychologists working in private practice range from $60 to $160 an hour.

Source: New Zealand Psychological Society.

What you will do

Psychologists may do some or all of the following:

  • assess the emotional, lifestyle and behavioural problems of clients
  • study clients' medical, social and family histories
  • interview, observe, and explore issues with clients
  • discuss with clients the effect of their early influences and help clients understand themselves, their needs and how to manage their emotions
  • give psychometric and neuropsychological tests to identify problems, and measure clients' skills and abilities
  • discuss treatment with clients
  • develop treatment or work programmes for individuals or groups
  • assist in group therapy on social skills, anger management, or assertiveness, and/or run workshops and courses
  • evaluate the effects of treatment and write reports on clients, including risk assessments
  • take part in dispute resolution, and provide counselling and advice to people or organisations
  • provide expert opinion to courts
  • undergo their own therapy and/or supervise colleagues.

Skills and knowledge

Psychologists need to have knowledge of:

  • human behaviour and thought patterns
  • psychological assessment and treatment methods
  • social and cultural issues that may affect their clients
  • research methods, including statistics 
  • counselling and dispute resolution techniques
  • theories and research related to their specialised field of psychology
  • relevant legal codes, court procedures and professional ethical codes.

Working conditions


  • usually work regular business hours, but those in private practice may have to work evenings and weekends, depending on client availability and deadlines
  • work in locations such as offices, hospitals and health care services, universities, prisons, residential services, and community organisations
  • may work in emotionally draining and stressful circumstances
  • may travel locally or nationally to visit clients, and attend workshops and conferences.

What's the job really like?

Dave Winsborough - Organisational Psychologist

Dave Winsborough
Helping organisations to work as effectively as they can

"Work gives our lives meaning," says Dave Winsborough. "That's why I enjoy this work so much. Being an organisational psychologist means I'm going in and helping the culture of an organisation be the best it can be."

Dave owns his own consultancy business, where he provides advice and information to businesses and organisations around the country.

"If you go for a job you might end up doing some psychometric or psychological assessments. We are the people that will run those assessments for a business and help screen for a candidate that's the right fit for a company.

"We also provide feedback to leaders and managers in organisations. Looking at how a senior management team operates within an organisation, finding what makes a good team – or an ineffective one – and trying to improve that dynamic."

Life experience essential

Getting into organisational psychology can be difficult, Dave warns. "You need a Master's degree in psychology, but you also need experience. A graduate is not going to do so well in a consulting environment until they get some life experience.

"The best thing to do is get out there and live for a while," he advises. "Then if you decide working in organisational psychology is what you want to do, you can go for it."

Hayley discovers what it's like working as an educational psychologist - 8.05 mins. (Video courtesy of Just the Job)

Hayley: I’m Hayley Thompson, I’m 17 years old, and I go to Onehunga High School. I am fascinated by kids and would love to know what makes them tick.

Clinton: So we’re giving Hayley a taste of the work involved in being an educational psychologist. Educational psychologists are predominantly concerned with how students learn and develop and often focus on subgroups such as children and young people with learning or behaviour difficulties. Hayley’s going to spend a couple of days in the company of Sarah McGregor who is a psychologist who works for the Ministry of Education.

Sarah: Hi Hayley, I’m Sarah. Come on in, and I’ll show you around.

A psychologist doesn’t fix an individual. What we do in the case of our work with children is we go in and have a look at the environment around that child and what can we do to manage and support that environment so the child finds it easier.

Sarah: What’s your interest in children?

Hayley: I love to work with kids. They’re a lot of fun to be around. I'm currently a Kea Leader, which is like five and six year olds and that. I do that every week, and they're just so much fun to be with, kind of keep you on your toes a bit, so yeah.

Sarah: Oh cool. Well maybe you’ll learn some tips on how to work with them today.

Hayley: Hopefully!

Clinton: Jake is an 11-year-old boy whose behaviour at school has been giving cause for concern for some time. His case has been referred to Sarah and today Sarah and Hayley will go and see Jake’s mum to find out more about him

Sarah: Part of what we do in our job to get a better understanding of the child is go and speak to the family and if the family invite us, go into the home environment. I find that really beneficial.

(Sarah, Hayley, Jake, and Jake's mum Brenda, say hello to each other at the front door.)

Sarah: Thanks for taking the time to meet us today.

Sarah: Speaking with the parent, you get an idea of what their concerns are, what they believe could be impacting on their child’s behaviour, but also things that you don’t necessarily see like the supports around that child, what sort of resources are at home – whether there’s a regular bedtime routine, what sort of foods they may be eating, different types of parental discipline, and those all sort of play a part in having a look at what’s impacting on that child.

Sarah: So Hayley, from that meeting today you can see the importance of meeting the families and hearing their perspective of what’s happened. The importance of going to the home like that is also so we can start to build up a relationship with the family.

Clinton: The next day Sarah and Hayley make a visit to Jake’s school to observe him at work, and play.

Sarah: What we’re going to do is note the target behaviour, so what we want to do is see him on task, so if the teacher sets a writing task we want to see him writing, and we are going to select him – he’s the target student – and we’ve got another comparison student, which is probably going to be the child next to him.

Hayley: OK.

Jake: Oops. Sorry, I forgot.

Sarah: The difference between working with a child and an adult is they’re lot more open to different experiences. An adult you think about is a lot more set in their ways.

Teacher: Sit down Jake!

Teacher: Jake!

Jake: Whatever…

Sarah: So how did you feel about Jake’s behaviour in the class?

Hayley: I noticed he was on-task, then he’d go off-task quite a bit, and then the teacher would come in and he'd get on-task again.

Sarah: Yep.

Sarah: It’s not always obvious what is the trigger behind what is happening with that child’s behaviour or learning that we’re seeing. So I sort of liken the tools we use as to using your keyboard and your mouse, to get into a computer. To get into how the child is feeling or thinking, we’re using a range of different assessments.

Clinton: Sarah has now gathered enough background material on Jake to call an IEP meeting. At this meeting, Sarah will share her assessment information and facilitate the development of a Behaviour Plan.

Sarah: An IEP is an Individual Education Plan meeting, and the people that attend that are those that are having an immediate sphere of influence on that child and their educational setting. We had the resource teacher of learning behaviour, we had Jake’s teacher, the head mistress, who is also the special needs co-ordinator, we had the parent there. It’s really important for the parent to be there. The purpose of the IEP meeting is for us to share our knowledge of what we’re learnt.

Teacher: He’s often out of his seat, calling out.

Parent: He really struggles to follow anything through.

RTLB Teacher: I found his reading and maths are good.

Sarah: And from there, pool that knowledge, pull out a few key things to work on, and what are our next steps for Jake. What do we need to do to ease the pressure in that classroom environment to make school more of a success for him.

Clinton: Having found out more about his background it’s time to meet up with Jake himself.

Sarah: What do you think is happening with some of the things in class for you that might be a bit difficult?

Jake: Calling out.

Sarah: Yeah, that’s one of the things I noticed. And also another thing I noticed was that you get out of your seat a lot. Does it have needles or pins on the bottom of it?

Clinton: Now Sarah has quite a lot of information on Jake she feels she needs to talk through the case with her supervisor, who is always there to help.

Sarah: Just to confirm we’re not leaping in too soon.

Natasha: Sometimes students come in with really severe and challenging behaviour – or really difficulties with learning, and over a period of time you are putting in an intervention and you are influencing the thinking of educators, of parents of the child, so you do have the capacity to influence change and it’s really rewarding at the end of it to see that, 'Gosh, you know. Change has been made and look at this young person. This person is now achieving, hasn’t been excluded from school'. You are able to make a difference.

Natasha: What I would do is, I would continue with the monitoring and do a few more observations.

Sarah: Being a psychologist is a career you can take anywhere. We’re valued overseas very highly. There’s other organisations and government departments that also value the skills that we bring too, so there’s a lot of scope for practice. There’s a lot you can learn and so many different avenues you can go down to specialise in.

School principal: The ministry psychologists that I work with seem to really enjoy the job and the challenge of actually working with teams of people and getting positive outcomes for students.

Teacher: You would see progress. You’d really see that you’re making a difference.

Sarah: Hayley was great over the last couple of days. She’s enthusiastic, outgoing, and built up a great relationship with Jake. Those are all traits that would stand her in good stead as a psychologist.

Hayley: I’ve discovered that there is a lot more to being an educational psychologist than what I thought. It’s a very varied role and there’s lots of rewards and I definitely think it’s a career for me.

Clinton: To become an educational psychologist you will need a Bachelor's degree in psychology, education or teaching followed by a recognised postgraduate qualification in educational psychology. A one-year post-Masters university qualification in educational psychology – with supervised internship work in a field as approved by the New Zealand Psychologists Board is also necessary. Useful subjects to study at school include English and maths with statistics. Previous experience in teaching, social work, behaviour support or vocational guidance counselling is helpful. Jake’s situation in this programme was staged and Jake and his family were played by actors.


Graduate psychologists usually earn
per year
Psychologists with three to 10 years' experience usually earn
per year
Source: New Zealand Psychological Society.
Bruce Skinner talking with a colleague at his desk

Criminal justice psychologist Bruce Skinner consulting with one of his colleagues

Updated 24 Jan 2014