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Psychology was not quite the 3 year degree I thought it would be

While originally I wanted to be a doctor I’m glad I’ve opted for Psychology. I wasn’t that confident applying for Medicine, and the 6 years of Medicine seemed a bit more daunting than the 3 years (so I thought) for Psychology. There also weren’t any additional entrance exams or assessments to take, Macquarie only required that I have studied Advanced English for my HSC.

So here I am, currently enrolled at Macquarie University, Sydney, in a Bachelor of Psychology (Hons), though there’s two other ways you can study Psychology at Macquarie:

1. My way, with the highest ATAR entry requirement- Bachelor of Psychology (Hons)

2. Bachelor of Arts (Psychology)

3. Bachelor of Science (Psychology)

If you are admitted into the second two, you can still apply to transfer across during your degree, which many people try to do as you can’t do Psychology Masters or Honours from B. Arts or B Science, and you need to do this in order to actually practice Psych.

Why Macquarie?

Macquarie University was my first choice; geographically it worked well, and it also has a really good Psych program:

– It’s quite hands on and you have to do prac in 3rd year (While not direct experience, I worked at Hornsby Council in a  youth program. Your prac is organised through the University- you can put in preferences but they just slot you into pre organised places, so there’s no guarantee.)

– While tutorials are compulsory, everything is online so you don’t actually have to attend lectures.

– Macquarie has its own University hospital with a mental health program, so if you do Masters, you’re able to do your practical on campus.

In addition to the Psych reasons, Macquarie has a new library and collaborative working space which is great. There is coffee everywhere, a food court, a big shopping centre close, and it’s close to the train station. Be warned that parking on campus costs a ridiculous amount, and you will get parking fines all the time- so don’t risk it.

What is the work load like, and how does it change year to year? 

The workload and class structure is basically the same the entire time until you get to Honours. There is always lots of reading, and you always have to do it-it’s all examinable. It’s not all science, there are a few of these subjects, maybe one or two a year, but all are theory based and essay/report writing. Be ready for lots of writing! I think I’ve only had 3 groups projects in the last 5 years, everything else is essays, reports and exams.

1st year is all capstones (compulsory subjects), then in  2nd and 3rd you can pick some electives, but still have capstones to complete. During the undergraduate degree (the first three years) each subject you do is about 2-3 hours contact a week, with Statistics (you’ll have it every year, including 4th year) is 4 hours contact each week. Lectures for all subjects are online, so you can do 1-2 of these hours without going into uni if you want. I did 4 subjects a semester though you can always do less, it will just take you longer to complete your degree. As long as you stay on top of your work, you’ll be fine- during my undergrad degree I was still able to maintain working at my job 20-30 hours a week.

Statistics is a new program completely based on psychology, it’s not the same business version that other students will do. Little pre-disclosure though- it’s really hard! Macquarie offers tutoring for it and a course called Let’s Get Statistical for $400 at end of semester which will take you through it all again before exams. to go through it all before exams to help you. Stats isn’t too hard if you keep on top of it.You just have to get used to how the reports need to be written and structured.

Honours is two subjects a semester and a thesis, and this all takes 1 year. There is no official ‘practical’ work you need to complete, but completing your thesis is very hands on with testing and recruiting people myself. Many supervisors will recommend you don’t work a lot, if at all, during this year, but I’ve still managed to work around 15-20 hours a week.

Does everyone go onto do Honours and Masters?

No not at all! There were about 700 people enrolled in first year psych subjects. Of that, only 90-100 people got the distinction average you need to get into honours, and from that, about 12 people accepted into Macquarie Clinical Masters, about 17 in Organisational Psych Masters, and about the same number for Neuro Clinical Masters.

It can get really competitive. For honours, it used to be a credit average required, but now it is a distinction. This is a degree that you need to be consistent and work hard in from 1st Year, Semester 1. In 3rd year alone you need to get a distinction average for psych subjects, so you cant burn out in 3rd year just because you did well in 1st and 2nd. Have to be consistent.

Not everyone even gets offered a Masters interview, and I’ve heard the interviews are unbelievably tough, with some lasting 4 hours in front of a panel of 10 academics. Macquarie University values experience a lot, as well as marks, though this is why many Macquarie Masters students are a lot older than UNSW and Canberra ones for example. Macquarie ones will often go and get some experience, and then come back and apply. It’s not uncommon to be rejected first go. There’s a 5 + 1 Internship Program run by the Psychology Board of Australia which can act as a pathway into Masters.

I had originally thought I would want to do Clinical Masters but since gaining some work experience in clinical practice, I would rather do Organisational Psych Masters instead. I find the corporate world more interesting- plus there’s more money here! Organisation Psych means working across restructuring companies, merger acquisitions, and recruitment. I had no idea that psych could even go down this route until uni. I would recommend looking into internships in your Honours year, or at the end of Masters in large companies like Deloitte or PWC to help you work out where you want to be and to help get your foot in the door.

While only such a small number actually go onto complete Honours and Masters, teachers are supportive and will help you get there if you put in the work. For Honours, you’re given a supervisor who will work with you on a thesis. They will work with 1-3 students, but it’s always individual work so you will meet with them alone.

What I wish I knew?

1. Work harder. Going into uni everyone told me that ‘Ps get Degrees’, but it’s just not true; and so many only work that out when they get to 3rd year and have already ruined their average and any chance at honours.

2. Make an effort to build contacts and relationships at uni in your early years. I have a great relationship with my supervisor now, which has lead into a job offer to work in a clinical practice as his research assistant, being paid $40 an hour (not bad for a uni job!), and I wouldn’t have had this opportunity if I hadn’t worked on building our relationship.

3. How long Psychology will actually take you. Enrolling I thought it was a 3 year degree, 4 max- thinking honours would be the end. Little did I know, that if you actually want to practice, be registered with Medicare, and earn the better money then you will have to do your Masters. This takes you to a 6 year minimum degree- a far cry from the 3/4 years i was expecting. A lot of people in my course say that if they had known this before starting, they probably would have tried for Medicine or Occupational Therapy instead.

4. Finally, I wish someone, anyone, had given me a heads up about the amount of reading and writing that this degree called for.


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  • Great work on landing a job, the effort was worth it!
    Out of curiosity, how did you manage to work 20-30hrs a week whilst studying full-time?
    I’m doing Psychology (Counselling & Interpersonal Skills) full-time but dropping a subject as it’s been financially taxing. If I took a part-time position (20-30hrs a week), I would not be able to attend practicals, BUT finally pay rent with ease! It’s difficult finding the balance, but I’m hoping I’ll figure it out soon…

  • Hey I just read this post and found it quite insightful. I am a 3rd year Psychology student at Macquarie and am feeling quite defeated due to submitting a 40% essay which wasn’t up to what I think is quality. I’ve been keeping up with marks (79 average in 1st and 2nd year) but I reckon I’ve screwed this essay big time and at the moment I feel that this could define my chances at honours. Any advice cause honestly I don’t know what to do.

  • This is so true. I wished I knew the pathway and expectations before enrolling into psychology. To pass psychology is actually absurdly easy, but to achieve D to HD average consistently, is really challenging. The whole degree is like being placed in a competition that last 6-7 years. Really not what i expected.
    Reading, content, more content, more reading…. I should’ve went on and do meds instead.

  • Just came across this post and entirely relate to what you’ve described. I too heard the consensus of P’s get Degrees and though that was beyond risky, so shot for HDs and took them where I could. Having finished my fourth year and at a crossroads (though leaning into clinical), can I ask what you did for work experience to help your application into Masters? I’m not in the industry currently and finding it impossible to break into without experience, and no doubt that will go against me for any potential MA application. Thanks!

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