While my postgraduate psychology training has equipped me with many skills, much less time was spent on the nuts and bolts of setting myself up as a psychologist. Suddenly I have to get my head round registration, indemnity insurance, Medicare numbers, award levels and figure out whether work opportunities are suited to a very early career psych.
Here’s what I’ve learned in case its of use to anyone else starting out.
It varies on where in the world you are, but chances are that there is a lot of paperwork between you and being able to call yourself a psychologist.
Tip: Presume nothing and ring the registration board about anything on the form you are unsure about. Generally presume it will take at least a few weeks to get processed.
What is it? Legal protection for you as a professional. In Australia its mandatory. Some work places will cover it for you but you’ll generally need your own if you are working in private practice.
Tip: If you are a member of your local psychology organisation, you may be eligible for a discount on professional indemnity insurance. But do shop around.
If you want to provide services under Medicare you need a Medicare Provider number. To get a Medicare Provider number you need to be registered and have a place of work. This can leave you in a bit of a Catch-22 when you are applying for registration, on your first job hunt and therefore without a place of work!
Tip: You need a Medicare Provider number for each place of work. It can take up to six weeks.
If you are going into the public sector in Australia and have a postgraduate degree, the entry level positions in the public sector open to you are at AHP2.
There are many different arrangements in the private sector from independent contractor through to salaried staff member. Private practices often (but not always) advertise positions for people who have previously worked in the field for a couple of years and/or who hold an endorsement in a specialty area.
Tip: Read the fine print. Not all AHP2 jobs are entry level and some private sector jobs are aimed at new grads.
Where to start?
That seems to be the million dollar question, everyone has an opinion and these opinions often conflict. I suspect the only clear answer is “start somewhere.” Having said that, here are some questions that might help you out:
- Is your CV up to date? Do you have three professional referees? What clearances do you have that allow you to work with specific populations?
- Do you want to pursue endorsement in a specialty area? How might that work?
- Is supervision provided? How might you obtain it?
- Do you have any preferences? Rural vs metro; public vs private sector; child vs adult; assessment vs therapy; part-time vs full-time; a specific population you particularly enjoy working with?
- Where are your competencies? Do you have skills in particular techniques, therapy formats (individual vs group) or environments (team vs solo practitioner)?
- And of course, what opportunities are available?
Best of luck, any hints and suggestions welcome!