How to become a clinical psychologist in South Africa

Published: July 11, 2019 / 95 Comments

Clinical Psychologist

You’ve given it a lot of thought, you’ve mulled over the pros and cons, and you’ve finally come to a decision – you want to be clinical psychologist. But before you can build a career in this fascinating field, you still need to answer one question: how do you get started?

Here we outline the 9 basic steps you’ll have to follow in order to pursue your dream career in clinical psychology.

How to Become a Clinical Psychologist

1. Consider Your Personality

Being a clinical psychologist is not always easy. You may have to deal with patients who have severe mental illnesses, such as schizophrenia or borderline personality disorder, or people undergoing serious difficulties, such as bereavement or divorce. In order to not only cope with the pressures of the job, but also provide the most effective and helpful service, you’ll need a range of personality traits, including self-awareness, empathy and an ability to be unbiased and non-judgmental. Good listening, communication and problem-solving skills will also stand you in stead. Be honest with yourself: Do you really have what it takes to become a psychologist?

2. Learn as Much as You Can About the Field

Clinical psychology is a broad branch of psychology that focuses on diagnosing and treating mental, emotional, and behavioural disorders, including substance abuse, depression, anxiety and eating disorders. While it is an immensely rewarding profession, it is not the only one available to you in the psychological field. Other professional avenues include counselling, research, educational psychology, forensics, neuropsychology and industrial psychology. Only after you have done a thorough analysis of the various careers you can have with a degree in psychology should you decide which one suits you best.

3. Gain Some Experience

All of the work of a clinical psychologist occurs within relationships with people. Therefore, the most crucial skills and experiences to gain are those centred on developing relationships with people. You can gain these skills in a range of areas, including from your own personal relationships, or from volunteering or work experience. It’s important to think about what assists you to develop relationships and helpful ways you have responded when things haven’t gone so well.

4. Choose Your Learning Institution

Sadly, not all psychology-training institutes are created equal. You should be looking for one that is, at the very least, an accredited South African private higher educational provider, and whose Bachelor of Psychology degree is accredited by the Health Professions Council of South Africa (HPCSA). In addition to this, it’s important to choose an institution that provides a mix of rigorous theory, applied skills and experiential fieldwork training. A qualification that includes supervised placements in a diverse range of settings will allow you to get invaluable practical experience under your belt so that you graduate as a confident “work ready” practitioner.

5. Earn Your Degree

Brace yourself! You’re in for the long haul. You will be looking at a minimum of five years’ full-time formal education in psychology. Before you can enter a directed Master’s degree programme, you will need a three-year Bachelor’s degree majoring in psychology (or the equivalent thereof), as well as an Honours degree in psychology.

6. Do Your Masters

Once you’ve obtained your Honours in psychology, you can then go on to study a Master’s programme, which includes theoretical learning, practical training and a research thesis. A word of advice: To get to this you’ll have had to pull out all the stops – only five to 10 students are accepted into each Master’s programme per year!

7. Complete an Internship

You will only be able to apply for registration with the HPCSA as a clinical psychologist in South Africa if you have also successfully completed a full-time approved internship of at least 12 months’ duration. This internship may involve working in a clinic, hospital or even a social-work environment. Your internship is an important part of your education: Not only will it allow you to gain hands-on experience of your chosen field but it can also make it easier to find a job when you eventually qualify.

8. Get Registered

To protect the public and make sure clinical psychologists are highly trained professionals, South Africa requires that you be registered to practice with the HPCSA. Only after successful completion of the National Examination of the Professional Board for Psychology, in the your registration category, will you be able to apply for registration. Once you’ve obtained this, you will, at long last, be legally allowed to practice as a professional clinical psychologist.

9. But Wait! It Doesn’t End There…

After becoming licensed, your training in psychology will be ongoing with yearly courses required for as long as you practice in the field. This is because, in South Africa, all healthcare practitioners are required to earn Continued Professional Development (CPD) points throughout their careers. Essentially, this means a lifelong, yet fulfilling journey of learning.

Widely acknowledged as the country’s leading provider of higher education and training in the field of applied psychology, the South African College of Applied Psychology offers both an HPCSA-accredited four-year Bachelor of Psychology degree and a three-year Bachelor of Applied Social Science degree that can be combined with a Psychology Honours degree as an articulation pathway into a Master’s degree in psychology. SACAP’s unique approach to teaching and learning combines meticulous academic theory with practical skills and experience and, as a result, the College’s graduates are widely respected for their knowledge, high levels of competency and personal maturity. For more information, or to download the relevant application form, click here.

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Your Comments on “How to become a clinical psychologist in South Africa”

  1. Musa Zwane

    Hi im Musa Zwane from Swaziland I have a bachelor of nursing science in community and mental health, I’m currently practising as a psychiatric nurse in Swaziland I was wondering if I do qualify for a masters in Psychology

    Reply
    • Marketing Team

      Hi Musa, it would be best to chat directly to our Admissions team to assess if you meet the minimum entry requirements for our Masters of Social Science in Community Mental Health Promotion. Please kindly complete our online enquiry form here http://bit.ly/sacap_enquiry so that our admissions team may send you more information.

      Reply
  2. Nicolle Letsoalo

    I am currently a registered honours student of psychological counselling at Unisa. After completion,i am interested in pursuing clinical psychologist. I was wondering if I would qualify?

    Reply
    • Marketing Team

      Hi Nicolle, it would be best to look into our BPsych Equivalent Honours Degree which will lead to registration with the HPCSA. Unfortunately we do not offer a Masters in Clinical Psychology. Please follow the link for more information: http://bit.ly/SACAPBPsychEquiv

      Reply
  3. Patrick

    Hi. I am Patrick currently busy with my honours in Counselling Psychology. I was wondering if its possible for me to enrol in your institution for masters. Will I be credited for that and do you guys have any bursaries available for postgraduates.

    Reply
    • Marketing Team

      Hi Patrick, SACAP is a private institution, which means we don’t have funding available to us. Many of our students get financial assistance from student loans or privately arranged bursaries.

      For more information in the programme, the Minimum Entry Requirements and the selection process for our Masters of Social Science in Community Mental Health Promotion, please follow the link: http://bit.ly/SACAPMSocSci

      Reply
  4. Surprise Molefe

    I am holding Honours for general psychology(no specialisation). I would like to study for Masters in Clinical Psychology.I am currently permanently employed,so I would like to study without having to quit my job.Kindly advice.

    Reply
  5. Mojabeng Sophia Sekobolo

    I would like to study to become a clinical physiologist. How do I go about doing that.

    Reply
    • Marketing Team

      Hi Mojabeng, kindly follow the steps provided in the article on your journey to becoming a Clinical Psychologist!

      For a full range of our programmes, please visit our website on: http://bit.ly/sacapcourses

      Reply
  6. SG Psychology

    Interesting perspective.

    Reply
  7. Mapule

    Hi, i have Bsc in Physiology and Psychology and BA Honours in Industrial and Organisational Psychology. Am interested in becoming a Clinical psychologist . Please advice.

    Reply
  8. Lieketseng

    I am an educator. I have a honours degree, majored in Natural Sciences but would like to study clinical psychology. Where do I start

    Reply
    • Marketing Team

      Hi Lieketseng, it would be best to see if you meet the Minimum Entry Requirements at the institution you intend on studying with. These requirements will vary for different institutions. Unfortunately, we do not offer a Masters in Clinical Psychology.

      Reply
  9. Rethabile

    Do you offer masters in psychology?

    Reply
  10. Audrey

    I see that you have a new masters programme for psychology. Does it lead to registration and what kind of jobs can I be looking at applying for after completing this degree. Also can I qualify for going further to phd psychology after completing the course.

    Thank you

    Reply
    • Marketing Team

      Hi Audrey, the programme does not lead to registration with the HPCSA in any professional category of registration.

      As a SACAP MSocSci graduate you will be well suited for employment in an extensive range of public and private sector enterprises including, but not limited to, a variety of NPOs, NGOs and corporate companies focusing on: community/social development, management and leadership, mental health advocacy, mental health promotion, human rights advocacy, policy implementation, monitoring and evaluation and change management. In addition to consulting, research, education and academia, among others.

      Reply
  11. Bushra fatima

    Hi
    I am bushra fatima from pakistan i am clinical psychologist in pakistan i wanna job in sa for clinical psychologist and i i wanna get hpcsa license i am married 32 years old plz reply

    Reply
    • Marketing Team

      Hi Bushra, you might need to do a SAQA conversion before being able to practice in South Africa. Our Admissions team will be able to assist you with more information on the process. Please kindly complete our online enquiry form here http://bit.ly/sacap_enquiry so that our admissions team may send you more information.

      Reply
  12. Monica Fourie

    My daughter wants to study paramedics and add to that a part time career in Horse Riding Therapy (EAT) This means that she should have clinical psychology knowledge but wont be using it in direct consultations other than reporting back on improvement etc to the potential client/patient . Which of the module electives would you advise her to complete? Thank you!

    Reply
    • Marketing Team

      Hi Monica, unfortunately we do not offer modules for non-degree purposes however, it would be best for her to consult with the staff at the institution she wishes to study at and they would be able to advise further on the exact knowledge she would need. You would then be able to make an informed decision on various courses or electives that she could do to gain the necessary skills.

      Reply
  13. Dwayne

    I am a qualified physiotherapist with 13 years experience. I want to become a clinical psychologist, how would I achieve this?

    Reply
    • Marketing Team

      Hi Dwayne, it would be best to see if your current qualifications and experience meet the minimum entry requirements of the institution your intend to study at. Unfortunately we do not offer a Masters in Clinical Psychology but we do offer courses to kickstart your journey on becoming one. For our full range of courses, please follow the link: http://bit.ly/sacapcourses

      Reply
  14. Kim

    As a Clinical Psychologist in South Africa, you will also have to complete a 1 year community service before being registered for independent practice.

    Reply
  15. Nosipho

    Hi My name is Nosipho,originally from Swaziland.I did my matric in south Africa,at that time i was using a different surname,wanting to change citizenship which did not work out due to family conflicts.I passed well with a B in matric,though only got my statement,it has a different surname with my documents.Department of education said there was no problem i will just have to have an affidavit when applying to state they are indeed my results.I have used them and studied fashion and design in a college based here.I would love to study clinical psychology online.What are the requirements,please i would love to start ASAP

    Reply
  16. Lindah Mashishi

    What credentials are needed for applying for psychology course?

    Reply
    • Marketing Team

      Hi Lindah, the Minimum Entry Requirements vary depending on the programme you intend to study. To begin your studies at SACAP, you will need at least a Matric (National Senior Certificate) with 45% in English or equivalent NQF 4 qualification. We’d love to send you some information via email. Can you please provide us with your contact details here: http://bit.ly/sacap_enquiry and the Admissions team will get back to you via email

      Reply
  17. Stelka

    How do i register to be a part time student (clinical psychologist)

    Reply
  18. Thabile Mabele

    May I please be contacted as am doing honours in psychology with unisa. I would like to study at SACAP so to be able to be a psychologist and for my studies to be accredited with the relevant health professional body

    Reply
  19. Thobile

    I would like to study clinical psychology, how do I go about applying

    Reply
    • Marketing Team

      Hi Thobile, in order to become a Clinical Psychologist you would need to complete your Masters Degree. To start your studies in becoming a Clinical Psycholoigist, please follow the link to see our undergraduate degrees available: http://bit.ly/sacapcourses

      Reply
  20. Zandile

    Hi, i hav applied for MA in clinical psychology in about 2 University’s in South Africa anticipating responses, what can i expect from the assessment process like interviews and tests? Thank you.

    Reply
    • Marketing Team

      Hi Zandile, the process varies depending on the institution. It would be best to contact those institutions to find out more on their selection process.

      Reply
  21. Desire Gird

    This is not a question, but a comment. Your article is really informative, but just though to mention that as far as I am aware, to become a clinical psychologist in South Africa, one still needs to do a community service year after your internship before you can register an independent practitioner.

    Reply
  22. Ayanda

    Hey i actually want to be an industrial psychologist,,, where to start?

    Reply
    • Marketing Team

      Hi Ayaynda, have a look at our Bachelor of Applied Social Science Degree in Psychology and Human Resource Management to kickstart your journey to becoming an Industrial Psychologist: http://bit.ly/SACAPHRM

      Reply
  23. Thembi

    Currently practising as a Social worker in health setting and would love to persuade my studies and become a clinical psychologist

    Reply
  24. Sindiswa

    M a nurse by professional in a psychiatrist clinic.. Would love to study clinical psychology.. Part time though.. Wat are the requirements for admission

    Reply
    • Marketing Team

      Hi Sindiswa, you would need to complete your Masters to become a Clinical Psychologist. Kindly follow the link to see our full range of courses available to start you on your way to becoming a registered Psychologist: http://bit.ly/sacapcourses

      Reply
  25. Hellen

    I have done inclusive education and want to do clinical psychology? How can I start?

    Reply
    • Marketing Team

      Hi Hellen, in order to become a registered Psychologist you would need to complete your Masters in Psychology. Please see our full range of courses and the minimum entry requirements needed to continue your studies on your journey to becoming a registered Psychologist: http://bit.ly/sacapcourses

      Reply
  26. Omphile Mothekhe

    Costs involved and institutions offering degree. Can i study part time or only full time. Matric requirements as well pls.

    Reply
    • Marketing Team

      Hi Omphile, the Minimum Entry Requirements vary depending on the programme you intend to study. To begin your studies at SACAP, you will need at least a Matric (National Senior Certificate) with 45% in English or equivalent NQF 4 qualification.

      For a full range of our courses, please follow the link: http://bit.ly/sacapcourses

      To chat to our admissions team for more information, kindly complete our online enquiry form here: http://bit.ly/sacap_enquiry

      Reply
  27. Sivuyile M Qabaka

    I would like lessons on clinical psychology

    Reply
    • Marketing Team

      Hi Siyuvile, in order to become a registered Clinical Psychologist, you would need to complete your Masters in Psychology. Please follow the link to see our full range of courses available to start your studies in becoming a Psychologist: http://bit.ly/sacapcourses

      Reply
  28. KHANAKHANA

    is engineering there?

    Reply
  29. Happiness

    I would like to apply for clinical psychology how or where do I start

    Reply
  30. Yarden Kalif

    Are you guys going to be offering a masters in clinical psych?

    Reply
    • Marketing Team

      Hi Yarden, unfortunately we do not offer a Masters in Clinical Psychology. Please follow the link to find our more about our Masters Programme: http://bit.ly/SACAPMSocSci

      Applications are closing soon.

      Reply
  31. Zanele

    I am a holder of a Bachelor of Science honours in Psychology degree from Midlands State University Zimbabwe and wish to study as a clinical psychologist.What are the requirements ?

    Reply
    • Marketing Team

      Hi Zanele, Thank you for your message. It would be best to chat to our Admissions team directly. Please complete our online enquiry form so that our admissions team can contact you. http://bit.ly/1rE7KKi

      Reply
    • Nonhlahla

      I obtained my bachelor of arts degree at university of the free state, majored with psychology, industrial psychology and tourism Um struggling to find job please help what can I do.

      Reply
      • Marketing Team

        Hi Nonhlahla, we really hope you continue your job search and find some luck soon! You could volunteer in the meantime and still help others in the process.

        Reply
  32. PatrickP Tumalike Nthakomwa Miyamba

    I would like to start lessons for being a clinical psychologist.

    Reply
    • Marketing Team

      Hi Patrick, It would be best to chat to our Admissions team directly. Please complete our online enquiry form so that our admissions team can contact you. http://bit.ly/1rE7KKi

      Reply
  33. Piet

    Hi I have obtain the following qualifications:
    B ed (Psy) 3years
    Msc Clinical Psy
    I beleave that before your are excepted for register AS A QUALIFIED Psy one need a Honours degree. Any advise please

    Reply
    • Marketing Team

      Hi Piet, Thank you for your message!
      It would be best to chat to our Admissions team directly. Please complete our online enquiry form so that our admissions team can contact you. http://bit.ly/1rE7KKi

      Reply
  34. Caylah

    Hi.i already did 2years of my BA Psyc Course at UWC.But now i am working full time and wants to finish my studies part time through another institution.how and where can i make a start?

    Reply
    • Marketing Team

      Hi Caylah, We do offer online learning for the BAppSocSci. It would be best to chat to our Admissions team directly. Please complete our online enquiry form so that our admissions team can contact you. http://bit.ly/1rE7KKi

      Reply
  35. Effie

    I had studied business subjects in high school. Will I qualify to study psychology and is there age limit to qualify?

    Reply
    • Marketing Team

      Hi Effie,
      Minimum Entry Requirements vary depending on the programme you intend to study. To begin your studies, you will need at least a Matric (National Senior Certificate) with 45% in English or equivalent NQF 4 qualification. For example, with our Higher Certificate, Mature students 23 years of age and older who do not meet the above requirements should provide a portfolio of evidence to support admission on the basis of SACAP’s Recognition of Prior Learning (RPL) policy. We’d love to send you some information via email. Can you please provide us with your contact details here: http://bit.ly/1rE7KKi and the Admissions team will get back to you via email

      Reply
  36. Sindi

    What high school subjects with grades do I need to qualify to study clinical psychology?

    Reply
    • Web Project

      Hi Sindi, Minimum Entry Requirements vary depending on the programme you intend to study. To begin your studies, you will need at least a Matric (National Senior Certificate) with 45% in English or equivalent NQF 4 qualification. We’d love to send you some information via email. Can you please provide us with your contact details here: http://bit.ly/1rE7KKi and the Admissions team will get back to you via email

      Reply
  37. Bafana

    can I study Psychology with Diploma(no Phisics and Mathematic)?

    Reply
    • Marketing Team

      Hi Bafana,

      Minimum Entry Requirements vary depending on the programme you intend to study. To begin your studies, you will need at least a Matric (National Senior Certificate) with 45% in English or equivalent NQF 4 qualification. We’d love to send you some information via email. Can you please provide us with your contact details here: http://bit.ly/1rE7KKi and the Admissions team will get back to you via email

      Reply
  38. Samukelisiwe

    Hi
    I’m from Ladysmith KZN. I would love to study clinical psychology. What are the requirements and how much does it costs. And is it possible to apply now to study next semester?

    Reply
    • Marketing Team

      Hi Samukelisiwe, our Minimum Entry Requirements vary depending on the programme you intend to study. To begin your studies, you will need at least a Matric (National Senior Certificate) with 45% in English or equivalent NQF 4 qualification. We’d love to send you some information via email. Can you please provide us with your contact details here: http://bit.ly/1rE7KKi and the Admissions team will get back to you via email

      Reply
      • Mary

        Clinical Psychologists are also required to complete one year of Community Service before they can register with the HPCSA for independent practice.

        Reply
  39. Flora

    I am a social worker by profession and Pschology was my major subjectI am interested to do Masters in Psychology part-time .What can I do.

    Reply
    • Marketing Team

      Hi Flora, we don’t offer a masters yet. It would be best to chat to our Admissions team directly. Please complete our online enquiry form so that our admissions team can contact you. http://bit.ly/1rE7KKi and the Admissions team will get back to you via email

      Reply
  40. Dineo

    I would like to apply for clinical psychologist and what requirements are needed?

    Reply
  41. Nthabiseng

    Hi Nthabiseng,

    I have tried twice now to get into Masters but I have been rejected. How many times can one apply for Master? I am upgrading my marks this year and hopefully next year, 3rd time is a try.

    Reply
  42. counselling psychologist

    You have done a great job by doing the counselling regarding the clinical psychologist. This information helped me out to solve my problems easily and go through it. Thank You!

    Reply
  43. Dumisile Mthiyane

    I am teacher by profession. I would like do educational psychology….to become an educational psychologist….part time though.
    What are the admission requirements…and how much.
    Please provide me with all the info necessary.

    Reply
    • Marketing Team

      Hello Dumisile,
      Unfortunately we don’t offer educational psychology. It would be best to chat to our Admissions team directly. Can you please provide us with your contact details by clicking on the link provided: http://bit.ly/1rE7KKi Alternatively, you’re welcome to request a call from our Admissions team here: http://bit.ly/21RL6uo

      Reply
  44. Gladwin

    What requirements do I need to become a clinical psychologist? because I got myself a diploma in my matric results

    Reply
    • Marketing Team

      Hi Gladwin,

      Our minimum requirements are a National Senior Certificate with 45% in English. This, however, differs from programme to programme. We’d love to send you some information via email. Can you please provide us with your contact details here: http://bit.ly/1rE7KKi Alternatively, you’re welcome to request a call from our Admissions team here: http://bit.ly/21RL6uo

      Reply
  45. Mary

    Is SACAP a distance learning institution? I have a bachelor degree and have majored in Psychology. I want to register for Psychology Honours Degree.

    Reply
    • Marketing Team

      Hi Mary,

      Please be advised that we offer Online Learning at SACAP.
      It would be best to chat to our Admissions team directly. Can you please provide us with your contact details by clicking on the link provided: http://bit.ly/1rE7KKi Alternatively, you’re welcome to request a call from our Admissions team here: http://bit.ly/21RL6uo

      Reply
  46. Samkelisiwe

    I am interested in learning clinical psychology are registration still open and how much does it cost?

    Reply
    • Marketing Team

      Hi Samkelisiwe,

      It would be best to chat to our Admissions team directly. Can you please provide us with your contact details by clicking on the link provided: http://bit.ly/1rE7KKi Alternatively, you’re welcome to request a call from our Admissions team here: http://bit.ly/21RL6uo

      Reply
  47. Siphiwe Pearl Moothai

    Do accept students from foreign countries ie Botswana if yes,what do you require from me??

    Reply
    • Marketing Team

      Hi Siphiwe,

      It would be best to chat to our Admissions team directly. Can you please provide us with your contact details by clicking on the link provided: http://bit.ly/1rE7KKi Alternatively, you’re welcome to request a call from our Admissions team here: http://bit.ly/21RL6uo

      Reply
  48. Keatlegile

    I would like to know when does the second term applications open? And how much will it be for Clinical Psychology?

    Reply
    • Marketing Team

      Hi Keatlegile,

      It would be best to chat to our Admissions team directly. Can you please provide us with your contact details by clicking on the link provided: http://bit.ly/1rE7KKi Alternatively, you’re welcome to request a call from our Admissions team here: http://bit.ly/21RL6uo

      Reply
  49. Nobuntu

    I would like to know if your College offers distance learning or part-time classes please.I’m based in Johannesburg,Orange farm ,so is there any branch close by?

    Reply
    • Marketing Team

      Hi Nobuntu,

      We offer our courses in Cape Town, Johannesburg and Online. We’d love to send you some information via email. Can you please provide us with your contact details here: http://bit.ly/1rE7KKi Alternatively, you’re welcome to request a call from our Admissions team here: http://bit.ly/21RL6uo

      Reply