Psychologists investigate, assess and work with people who have problems affecting their behaviour, thoughts and emotions, and help them to develop their potential. Organisational psychologists focus on recommending ways to improve workplaces.
Trainee psychologists at district health boards usually earn
$51K-$56K per year
Senior psychologists with staff responsibilities usually earn
$94K-$116K per year
Source: Apex 2016-2019, New Zealand Psychological Society, 2016.
Pay for psychologists varies depending on their specialisation, experience and employer.
Psychologists in district health boards
- Interns working for a district health board (DHB) usually earn between $51,000 and $56,000 a year.
- Qualified psychologists working for a DHB usually earn between $65,000 and $91,000.
- Senior psychologists working for DHBs, who may also supervise staff, can earn $94,000 to $116,000.
Psychologists in private practice
Psychologists working in private practice earn from $60 to $160 an hour.
Source: Apex, 'Psychologists Multi-Employer Collective Agreement (MECA) 1 June 2016 - 28 February 2019'; and New Zealand Psychological Society, 2016.
(This information is a guide only. Find out more about the sources of our pay information)
What you will do
Psychologists who work with individual clients may do some or all of the following:
- assess clients' problems and strengths through interviews and observation
- run psychometric and neuropsychological tests (which measure people's mental abilities and style, and how their brains function)
- develop treatments and interventions (other actions designed to bring about change) with individuals to help them develop themselves
- help clients understand themselves, their needs, motivations and resources
- evaluate interventions and write reports on clients, including risk, educational and mental health assessments.
Psychologists who work with groups and for organisations may do some or all of the following:
- assist with or run group therapy, workshops and courses on social skills, anger management or assertiveness
- take part in dispute resolution, and provide counselling and advice to people or organisations
- provide expert opinion to courts
- undergo their own therapy and supervise colleagues.
Skills and knowledge
Psychologists need to have knowledge of:
- human behaviour and thought patterns
- psychological assessment and intervention
- social and cultural issues affecting their clients, families and communities
- research methods and statistics
- counselling and dispute resolution
- theories and research in their specialised field of psychology
- relevant laws, court procedures and professional ethics.
- usually work regular business hours, but may have to work evenings and weekends
- work in a range of places, including offices, hospitals and health care services, schools and universities, prisons, residential and community organisations, and homes
- may work in emotionally draining and stressful circumstances
- may travel locally to visit clients, or nationally to attend workshops or conferences.
What's the job really like?
Psychologist and Behaviour Analyst
What attracted you to the job of psychologist and behaviour analyst?
"I enjoyed working with people and I saw behaviour analysis as an effective way of making a difference in the lives of people who have difficulty with regular learning, or complex problem behaviours.
"It was also a role that allowed me to work with people or move into academia, and the qualifications I have allow me to work overseas."
What do you enjoy?
"I love the variety. I get to teach people how to communicate more effectively, how to be more independent, and how to manage their challenging behaviour – helping them achieve success.
"Whether it's getting into the pool, attending an activity centre, taking medication without challenging behaviour, learning to tell jokes, or walking away when angry – those changes can make such a big difference in a person’s life, and the lives of those that support them.
"I also enjoy working with staff and families, teaching them to support those they work or live with."
The hardest part?
"A qualification in applied behaviour analysis is relatively new in New Zealand, so we are continually educating people about the value of the services we can provide, and the change that can occur as a result."
To become a psychologist you need:
- a Masters or higher degree in psychology
- 1,500 hours of closely supervised practice, approved and evaluated by the New Zealand Psychologists Board
- to be registered with the New Zealand Psychologists Board.
The Vulnerable Children Act 2014 means that if you have certain serious convictions, you can’t be employed in a role where you are responsible for, or work alone with, children.
A tertiary entrance qualification is required to enter further training. Useful subjects include English, maths and science.
Additional requirements for specialist roles:
Board-Certified Behaviour Analyst (BCBA)
To gain the international qualification of Board-Certified Behaviour Analyst from the Behaviour Analyst Certification Board, you need:
- postgraduate qualifications in psychology – usually a Master’s degree, and a Postgraduate Diploma in Applied Behaviour Analysis, available from the Universities of Auckland and Waikato
- to pass the relevant exam to become a board-certified behaviour analyst.
- University of Auckland website - information on applied behaviour analysis
- University of Waikato website - information on behaviour analysis
- Behaviour Analyst Certification Board website - information on certification
To become a clinical psychologist you need a:
- Master's degree in psychology
- Postgraduate Diploma in Clinical Psychology, or a Doctorate in Clinical Psychology.
Criminal Justice Psychologist
Criminal justice psychologists wishing to work at the Department of Corrections need to follow their Master's degree in psychology with some additional training. This could be either:
- the Department of Corrections' supervision to registration programme, which involves 18 months of supervised practice
- a postgraduate diploma or Doctorate in clinical psychology.
To become an educational psychologist you need a:
- Masters in education, psychology, or educational psychology
- Postgraduate Diploma in Educational Psychology, which is available at Massey and Victoria Universities.
Teachers who wish to complete a Masters in Educational Psychology while working may apply for a Special Teaching Needs Study Award from the Ministry of Education.
Psychologists need to be:
- good at observing and relating to a wide variety of people
- respectful of people from different cultures
- able to analyse and evaluate human behaviour
- concerned for the well-being of others
- patient and adaptable
- able to keep information private
- self-aware and non-judgemental but able to influence others
- able to work well under pressure, make decisions and cope with stress
- able to balance professional ethics with commercial realities.
Useful experience for psychologists includes work with:
- community groups and recovering mental health clients living in the community
- criminal offenders
- support agencies such as Samaritans or Youthline.
Other useful background includes employment in:
- social work or probation
- teaching or research in related fields
- talent management or recruitment companies.
Psychologists need to be registered with New Zealand Psychologists Board.
They also need a current Annual Practising Certificate, unless they are only teaching psychology, or doing research.
- New Zealand Psychologists Board website - information on registration and Annual Practising Certificates
Find out more about training
- New Zealand Psychological Society (NZPS)
- (04) 473 4884 - www.psychology.org.nz
- NZ College of Clinical Psychologists (NZCCP)
- (04) 801 6088 - firstname.lastname@example.org - www.nzccp.co.nz
- Institute of Organisational Psychology
Check out related courses
What are the chances of getting a job?
Shortage of psychologists
Demand for psychologists is strong because:
- the number of psychologist trainees is limited and it takes a long time to train – most universities only take in about 10 postgraduate psychology students a year
- the number and range of jobs available in health care and criminal justice services has increased significantly
- the number of referrals to psychologists is rising
- employers in some rural locations are having difficulty recruiting
- global demand for clinical psychologists is high.
Clinical psychologist appears on Immigration New Zealand's long-term skill shortage list. This means the Government is actively encouraging skilled psychologists from overseas to work in New Zealand.
Types of employers varied
Psychologists can work for a range of employers, including:
- district health boards
- government departments such as Department of Corrections, Ministry of Education, Child, Youth and Family, ACC and Defence Force
- iwi organisations
- non-governmental organisations
- addiction, trauma and abuse centres
- universities and polytechnics.
Psychologists can also be self-employed in private psychology consultancies.
- Gibson, K, president, New Zealand Psychological Society, Careers New Zealand interview, February 2016.
- Greig, C, executive director, NZ College of Clinical Psychologists, Careers New Zealand interview, January 2016.
- Hyde, P, executive director, New Zealand Psychological Society, Careers New Zealand interview, February 2016.
- Immigration New Zealand, 'Long Term Skill Shortage List', 19 February 2018, (www.immigration.govt.nz).
- Leadley, S, professional teaching fellow, University of Auckland, Careers New Zealand interview, December 2015.
- New Zealand Psychologists Board, 'Annual Report to the Minister of Health for the Year 1 April 2014 to 31 March 2015', 2015, (www.psychologistsboard.org.nz).
- Osborne, S, chief executive and registrar, New Zealand Psychologists Board, Careers New Zealand interview, January 2016.
- Tonkin, K, committee member, Institute of Organisational Psychology, Careers New Zealand interview, March 2017.
(This information is a guide only. Find out more about the sources of our job opportunities information)
Progression and specialisations
Psychologists can move into research, teaching, policy development, clinical work, advisory, and management roles.
Psychologists usually specialise as a:
- Clinical Psychologist
- Clinical psychologists assess and treat people's behavioural and mental health problems.
- Community Psychologist
- Community psychologists assess and improve the ways people and their communities affect each other.
- Criminal Justice Psychologist
- Criminal justice psychologists work with offenders to help them make life changes, and reduce the risk of reoffending.
- Educational Psychologist
- Educational psychologists work with students, parents, educators and mental health services to develop supportive environments for students with learning difficulties
- Health Psychologist
- Health psychologists assist people to manage diseases they suffer from and to maintain a healthy lifestyle.
- Organisational Psychologist
- Organisational psychologists help organisations to achieve their goals through areas such as staff recruitment and development, safety and wellbeing, conflict resolution and workforce planning.
- Psychologist and Board-Certified Behaviour Analyst (BCBA)
- Psychologist and board-certified behaviour analysts work to reduce challenging behaviours, or to increase skills in order to improve a person’s quality of life.
- Sports Psychologist
- Sports psychologists work with sportspeople to help them succeed in their sport.
Last updated 5 December 2019