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Any Counsellors or Psychologists? Am I too late?

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#1 *JAC*

Posted 15 May 2019 - 09:49 PM

I have discovered a bit of a passion for Psychology. I always said that if I had my time again I would get my Psychology degree.

I am 40 this year. We have 3 kids (15, 13 & 10). Both DH and I work fulltime, I am the higher earner.

I am not too happy with my career anymore, I'm finding I have less and less passion for it. Has got me thinking about a career change again - and back to psychology.

Anyone who has done it and is now qualified - how did you do it? How long did it take and how much did it cost you. What is the earning potential?

I think I have left it too late - I'm 40 this year. We also can't afford for me not to be working, so I could only do any study online. Any advice would be great.


#2 just roses

Posted 15 May 2019 - 09:59 PM

I wouldn’t think too late, but it’s not realistic to think you can do it all online. Psychology is six years fulltime and is highly competitive to get into.

#3 Noodlez

Posted 15 May 2019 - 11:01 PM

Do you have a degree? If so I suggest exploring graduate entry opportunities.

#4 Franky82

Posted 16 May 2019 - 04:29 AM

Hi OP.

I definitely don't think that 40 is too old to embark on a career as a psychologist. A colleague of mine completed her registration after completing a four year degree and 2 year internship (called a 4+2) at the age of 62 :)

I have a B. Social Science (Psych) and a Master of Counselling. The cost of my two degrees was about $38k ($10k for a three year undergrad and 28k for the masters).

I'd like to be able to give you good news about earning potential, but to be honest it is very poor. Most counsellors/psychology graduates are employed by an NGO (non government/ not for profit organisation) where wages do not exceed the Social and Community Services award. At the moment, the award rate for a psychologist/ counsellor not in a supervisory role is set at a SACS Level 4 or 5, which is at most about $35 per hour.

I work as a telephone counsellor for a national crisis service. Most of my colleagues have either a Master of Counselling/ Social work degree or are working on/ have completed their Clinical Masters/Doctor of Psychology. However some staff also have the minimum requirement (mandated by many state and federal funding agreements), which is a 3 or 4 year social work/counselling/ psychology degree.

It's also worth noting that many counsellors in the NGO sector don't work a 40 hr week as the demands of many positions would be impossible to handle working full time. For example, in my workplace staff can typically only cope working about 30 hours per week without the job impacting their health.  Which means that unless you work overnight and weekends for the penalty rates you will likely only make about $50-$60k pa.

If you decide to do further study or a 4+2 or 5+1 internship program and gain registration as a psychologist there may be the potential to work privately which can attract a higher hourly rate and a less demanding client load. How much you earn depends on your costs, which would include monthly clinical supervision costs, continuing professional development costs and the costs of renting a room.

If you gain registration as a psychologist there's are also opportunities to work in a hospital or community mental health service, although from memory I think the starting salary for a psychologist is only around $60k pa and the work in this setting is also very demanding.

On a more positive note, I do see colleagues who work part time hours in smaller community based counselling programs who are much less pressured in their roles. While there's still an issue with the same low rates of pay, working face to face with a smaller case load can be much less stressful and provide opportunities to better appreciate those small moments of success in your work. Psychologists, degree qualified counsellors and social workers are all employed in these roles.

Another positive is that if you do qualify as a psychologist, counsellor or social worker and choose to work for an NGO your chances of becoming unemployed are low. There is a constant shortage of experienced counsellors and organisations frequently struggle to fill positions.

#5 Malkin Slinkhard

Posted 16 May 2019 - 06:23 AM

I’m studying online at the moment - there are a quite a few options for online study up to fourth year, and a couple of online options for 5th year. I’ve been picking away at it for the last few years while working full time - generally two subjects per trimester, so 6 a year. There are plenty of people in their 40s and older studying, so I wouldn’t worry about that. Just keep in mind that you need high marks to progress to honours and to masters, it’s competitive. Also make sure you’ve looked into all the requirements for general registration completely - it’s 6 years of study, a national exam and the possibility of doing an unpaid internship and having to pay for supervision to complete the 6th year.

#6 *JAC*

Posted 16 May 2019 - 08:15 AM

Thanks everyone, especially Franky for your detailed reply.
How I wish my 20yo self knew what I know now! I think I have probably missed the boat - my dream was to start my own practice but I just can't see it happening while I have a family to support. I couldn't be a full time student so it will take me a lot longer.

Thanks again x

#7 Soontobegran

Posted 16 May 2019 - 08:28 AM

Not a psychologist but 40 is not too old to embark on a career that you'd love.

I am 24 years older and have recently toyed with going back to study and perhaps even some work that could be managed at my own pace and capabilities.

#8 SeaPrincess

Posted 16 May 2019 - 09:17 AM

A relative of mine gave up his career as a CPA to go back and do psychology. He was close to 40 when he started, did his undergrad and Masters and is in the process of opening his own clinic. He hasn’t got any children though.

I went back part time at the age of 33 and did my undergrad in a completely different field from my first degree and the field in which I was working. Part time, it took me 8 years, but I haven’t had an opportunity to work in that field. I started back again last year doing my Masters, and this time, circumstances are different. I will finish at the end of this year and I do hope to work in this field. I just turned 49.

#9 CallMeFeral

Posted 16 May 2019 - 09:39 AM

You haven't missed the boat - I know people who are qualifying in their 50s, and people practice way beyond retirement, at least it's a profession that is easy to up/down scale to your needs. I'm 42 and just finished at the end of last year.

But it's a long road and would require time, and pretty huge monetary sacrifices. A friend of mine did a graduate option which I THINK covered the undergrad portion in about a year and a half? Unsure of this. That part could be done online. Honours would take a year 'full time' but could also be done remotely. The difficulty is the 2 years after that. You could do a +1/+2 program where you work while qualifying, but they tend to be poorly paid - you'd probably be better off continuing to work in your well paid job and doing a masters, but at some point in the masters you'd have to do placements, which are usually at least 2 days a week, so you'd have to be able to go part time (or quit work for that year). And masters are full on, if you want to complete it in 2 years you could not feasibly work full time, plus they are hard to get into. And mine cost about $60k, you can get FEE help loans but it's still a huge whack, and not deductible if you're not working in the area.

Pay is hard to gauge. Clinical psychs in the public system I believe get over $100k pa, but it's bloody hard to get into the public system in the first place, let alone the clinpsych positions which are very sparse. Qualified psychs I think get maybe $40-$50 an hour in public, but again it's so hard to get, I've applied again and again (albeit for part time) and nary a bite. Private practice is not great pay at the start - if you join a practice you might get to keep say $80 for each face hour you do, and spend another 4 hours per person researching and prepping. I presume that prep time goes down with experience, but there will always be a certain amount of admin such as doctors letters and dealing with Medicare and the rest. So long story short, you probably won't earn as much in psych as you are now - in the future you may, once people make a name for themselves in private practice they often charge through the roof, but on the flipside if you're trying to do that 40 hours a week it's a huge emotional load (although plenty of people do it).
Upside though is that once you make a name for yourself, you can choose your own hours, and you can keep working for years, it has the flexibility to do that if you're in private practice. And it's really satisfying. I've gone from seeing CPD in my old profession as an expensive chore, to looking forward to my CPD and overspending and overshooting my training hours because there is SO much interesting stuff I want to know! It's wonderful being in a profession you find interesting and motivating. Although there are some really hard parts too, but some of those are unique to me and my insecurities so I won't go into it.

Anyway all that said, you're too young to resign yourself to a career you don't love. There's so much of life still to go. My advice would be to start doing it a bit on the side - see if you can track down one of those grad dip programs that covers the undergrad portion, and do it at a pace you can manage. Life is for living, money is for using on what you love, and you'll be learning something you're interested in. You could do it slowly which reduces the financial/time burden, and just see where it takes you. I did this for a while, as I thought I was locked out of the profession, and even that level - studying what I loved without a firm way in - I found energised me in my life because I was working towards something, and I was 'over' my previous career. Just that little bit of working towards something that might turn into something had a big effect on me.

Good luck!

#10 Beancat

Posted 16 May 2019 - 09:59 AM

following :)

I thought about this too as I love psych(I got a little taste when I did a dip ed) but when I looked into it and also the risk that the 4+2 model is going to be removed and the minimum is a 5+1 and you possibly have to do the 1 year unpaid, it seemed too hard.

Like you JAC I'm working full time, am the high income earner, have three kids and have little passion for my career.  Prob is I earn circa $150K a year so its very hard to walk away from.

Have you thought about a portfolio career?  I am thinking now about working in my current career 2 to 3 days a week and undergoing some further education to exploit a strength I  have.  One of my key strengths is professional writing (not that you would know from my hastily typed out posts on EB :) ).  I am thinking of studying a grad dip in writing and editing and then working a couple of days a week for myself from home writing and editing government policy reports.

Another option you may be able to consider - do you have transferable skills that would enable you to work in a pysch type area that doesn't necessarily need formal psych quals?  for example, in my case I could work in learning and development or in policy that focuses on mental health, FV etc.

#11 Sweet.Pea

Posted 16 May 2019 - 10:04 AM

Not a psychologist, but I don't think it's too late. You have life experience and people usually feel more comfortable talking to an older person, even if newly qualified.

#12 Beancat

Posted 16 May 2019 - 10:04 AM

If you go to the APAC website you can find the grad dip courses that are accredited as a three year undergrad sequence.  There are quite a few online eg Monash, Swinburne
I think Deakin uni offers the 4th year online two.  As PP said - the issue is the Masters

#13 #YKG

Posted 16 May 2019 - 11:20 AM

My dad went to uni for the first time in his mid 50’s and did a double degree, graduated at 60 and changed careers, it isn’t too late to study or retrain.

#14 just roses

Posted 16 May 2019 - 12:06 PM

What CMF said about longevity in a psych career is so true. My dad is mid-70s and still working 1-2 days a week. He sold his practice a few years ago and is ‘retired’ but still sees some old, regular clients (mostly his Vietnam vets), just renting a room at his old practice.

#15 teaspoon

Posted 16 May 2019 - 07:42 PM

If you have an undergraduate degree, you could consider doing a 2 year masters in a specialisation like Coaching Psychology (USYD) - and establish a coaching practice.

Or Org Psych, or counselling...

#16 PineappleLump

Posted 16 May 2019 - 08:43 PM

Also following as I’ve been working with a career coach and psych or coaching is something I’m exploring (probably  .org psych rather than clinical). Also 40 so following with interest...

#17 eve13

Posted 16 May 2019 - 08:58 PM

Could you look at something similar, but less time intensive? I knew many people with psychology degrees, but getting into clinical is quite hard.

What about a Masters in Social Work?

#18 *JAC*

Posted 16 May 2019 - 10:51 PM

Wow! Thanks everyone for the information.

I'm just not sure it will be feasible for me to spend so much time and money on something that could very well send us backwards.

I did find a Diploma of Counselling course - it's 12 months full time, but online. Not sure it will get me working in the field straight away though.....

#19 ~TSC~

Posted 17 May 2019 - 05:55 AM

What about something in community services?

#20 José

Posted 17 May 2019 - 06:31 AM

 *JAC*, on 16 May 2019 - 10:51 PM, said:

Wow! Thanks everyone for the information.

I'm just not sure it will be feasible for me to spend so much time and money on something that could very well send us backwards.

I did find a Diploma of Counselling course - it's 12 months full time, but online. Not sure it will get me working in the field straight away though.....

i think thats what it comes down to for you- time and money. it wont be quick and wont be cheap.
i wouldn't say its sending you backwards though. if its taking you to an area of work you want to go in id say its moving you forward.
psychology is a broad field.  is there anything in particular you would want to do eg kids, families, couples, adults, rehab / return to work etc etc etc??
as for counselling.. youre clients wont be eligible for a medicare rebate like they are with a psychologist.
i also always recommend a psychologist or other registered professional over a counsellor. i think working in this field, with potentially vulnerable people, makes registration important.

Edited by José, 17 May 2019 - 06:32 AM.

#21 onetrick

Posted 17 May 2019 - 07:27 AM

If it interests you, I have a graduate certificate in career development? My undergrad was education/ psychology, and to work as a careers advisor a few years ago, we needed a grad dip. One year part time (I worked full time as a teacher that year and coped- it was a struggle, but not as intense as other studies I have completed). A lot of schools employ es (non teaching) staff to do this type of work, so I'm not saying you need to get a dip ed or anything, and some dont even need the certificate anymore. Universities and tafes often have career advisory services too. I'm in vic, so I dont know about other states, but thought it was worth mentioning :) the only issue I can see if once in this job, people dont tend to leave so it's hard to get your foot in the door.

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