Psychology is the scientific study of human behaviour and mental processes. For example, psychology is concerned with the way we behave as individuals as well as in groups; it is concerned with the way we act as well as the way we think; and it is concerned with our interaction with the physical world as well as our interaction with others.

Psychology is both a profession and a science. That is, psychological phenomena are investigated using the scientific method; and the outcomes of these investigations are applied to diverse professional settings (eg. treatment of mental illness, job selection, health promotion, education policy, etc.).

For more information on the program structure and content, view the Science Undergraduate Handbook.

Major outline

First year
You will take 2 junior psychology units which are compulsory for a psychology major, one in each semester. Both units are an introduction to the various sub-disciplines in psychology, such as personality theory, neuroscience, basic statistics and measurement, social psychology, applied psychology, abnormal psychology, cognitive processes, human development, learning and motivation, perception and mental abilities.

Second year
?You will take four compulsory intermediate psychology units for a psychology major. They cover brain and behaviour, statistics and research methods, cognitive, developmental and social psychology, and personality and intelligence.??

Third year
To complete your psychology major, you need to take at least four (five for the Bachelor of Psychology) senior psychology units. The abnormal psychology unit is compulsory for the major, and the advanced statistics for psychology unit is necessary if you wish to apply for honours. You are able to choose your other senior psychology units, depending on pre-requisites.

Example units
Learning and Behaviour
Social Psychology
Personality and Intelligence
Behavioural and Cognitive Neuroscience
Statistics and Research Methods for Psychology

Course accreditation

Accreditation of psychology courses in Australia is overseen by the Australian Psychology Accreditation Council (APAC).

Full registration as a professional psychologist is achieved through the Psychology Board of Australia. The current requirements for registration as a psychologist in Australia are that you complete an ACCREDITED 4-year program in psychology and then either:

a) complete an accredited 2-3 year postgraduate course; or
b) complete an accredited 1 year postgraduate course plus 1 year Board approved internship; or
c) complete a two year Board approved internship.

These conditions may be revised in the future.

At Sydney, while it is possible to study a major in psychology in a large range of courses, only some courses have been accredited.

The courses at The University of Sydney that have APAC accreditation are:
Bachelor of Psychology
Bachelor of Science, Bachelor of Science (Honours)
All degrees that are combined with the Bachelor of Science
Bachelor of Science (Advanced), Bachelor of Science (Advanced) (Honours)
All degrees that are combined with the Bachelor of Science (Advanced)
Bachelor of Arts, Bachelor of Arts (Honours)
Bachelor of Health Sciences (Psychology Major) followed by a Psychology Honours year
Bachelor of Commerce (Liberal Studies), Bachelor of Commerce (Liberal Studies) (Honours)
Bachelor of Liberal Arts and Science, Bachelor of Liberal Arts and Science (Honours) (provisional until students graduate from program)
Graduate Diploma in Psychology (GDP)
Bachelor of Medical Science, Bachelor of Medical Science (Honours) (provisional until students graduate from program)
All degrees that are combined with the Bachelor of Medical Science
Bachelor of Arts (Psychology)*
Bachelor of Arts and Sciences*, Bachelor of Arts and Sciences (Honours)*
Bachelor of Liberal Studies*, Bachelor of Liberal Studies (Honours)*
Bachelor of Economics (Social Science)*, Bachelor of Economics (Social Science) (Honours)*
Bachelor of Science and Technology*, Bachelor of Science and Technology (Honours)*

* Accredited but do not appear on the APAC website as they are being ‘taught out’ (no new enrolments).

Students should be aware that all other courses where a psychology major is possible are NOT accredited.

If you think that you might wish to major in psychology and then (at any time) complete a fourth year (e.g., with the intention of becoming a registered psychologist) and your course is not one of the above then you need to consult an advisor to discuss changing courses.

School advisor: Dr Fiona Hibberd (
Faculty advisors: Please contact your Faculty office

The psychology profession is represented nationally by the Australian Psychological Society (APS) and membership eligibility depends on level of qualifications.

Graduate opportunities

While three years of study in psychology is insufficient for registration as a psychologist, it does open the door to many interesting careers such as advertising, market research, marketing, public relations, science journalism and public policy, plus a range of graduate positions in major industries such as banking, management consulting and telecommunications. The three-year courses also prepare you for entry into graduate programs in coaching psychology. These graduate programs are not designed to lead to registration as a psychologist, but they provide excellent exposure to advanced knowledge and skills needed in the employment market.

As well as achieving the basis for registration, fourth year graduates in psychology have the necessary training to obtain work in areas such as schools, hospitals, prisons, human resources, developmental disabilities and various social policy areas in the private and public sectors. Registered psychologists are in high demand. These qualifications are required for entry into all professional psychology programs, such as postgraduate clinical training programs, which will qualify you to become a clinical psychologist. They also form the ideal base to pursue graduate research programs such as the PhD.

Watch psychology graduate, Amanda Green, talk about her career as a clinical psychologist and how she got there.

Related subject areas


Our courses that offer this major