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12 Oct 2021

How To Be a Psychologist in Malaysia

Have you always been fascinated by psychology theories and how they impact human behaviour? Perhaps helping people as a career has always been something you’re interested in. If so, you’ve probably thought about being a psychologist.

It’s important to know that completing a psychology degree does not immediately make you a psychologist. In fact, you will need further training and pursue a postgraduate qualification. Furthermore, the process can be different for different psychology specialisations.

So how can you get to the finish line and carry the title? Here’s a guide on how you can qualify as a psychologist in Malaysia from SPM.

Psychologist as a profession in Malaysia

Before we go through the pathway on how you can become a psychologist, it’s crucial to first understand the landscape of the psychology profession in Malaysia.

In most countries (e.g. Australia, UK, USA, Singapore) where psychology is a well-established profession, the term “psychologist” is regulated by law. This means that you cannot call yourself a psychologist without having proper qualifications and a practising licence.

In Malaysia, however, the term “psychologist” is not yet regulated, which means anyone with some training in psychology could call themselves a psychologist. Nonetheless, most will only use the term after completing a master’s degree in a specific area of specialisation.

This is not the case for clinical psychology. The Allied Health Professions Act 2016 (AHPA) has made it illegal for anyone to call themselves a “registered clinical psychologist” unless they are registered and have a practising certificate from the Malaysian Allied Health Professions Council.

With this in mind, here are the steps on how you can be a psychologist in Malaysia.

Step #1. Meet the requirements at SPM level

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To study a Degree in Psychology, you must first have at least a credit in Mathematics and Science and a pass in English at SPM level.

Alternatively, you can complete a Diploma in Psychology instead if you have a minimum of 3Cs and pass in Mathematics and Science.

Step #2. Complete a pre-university or foundation programme

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Upon completing SPM with the minimum requirements, you’ll need to take a pre-university course (e.g. A Levels, STPM, etc.) or a foundation programme. Both Foundation in Arts and Foundation in Science are acceptable.

With this qualification together with your SPM, you can proceed to a Degree in Psychology.

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Step #3. Complete a Degree in Psychology

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A Degree in Psychology will provide you with a solid foundation of core psychological principles and expose you to a range of topics in basic and applied psychology. You’ll develop a strong background in science, understand basic research methods, learn how to apply ethical principles and hone your communication and critical thinking skills.

Most psychology degrees will take 3 years.

As a psychology degree graduate, you will be able to pursue a range of careers including human resource, marketing, public relations, advertising and sales.

However, if you want to be a psychologist, further training and study will be required.

Step #4. Complete a postgraduate degree in a specialised field

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To be on your way as a psychologist, you’ll need to complete a master’s degree. This is where you’ll be able to specialise in a psychology field (e.g. clinical psychology, educational psychology, counselling psychology, sports psychology, industrial and organisational psychology, etc.) and graduate with advanced skill and knowledge expertise.

Most master’s degrees in Malaysia take 2 years to complete and generally consist of academic lessons, practicum/internship and a research project.

Important Note: Not all master’s degree entry requirements are the same. Master’s of Clinical Psychology, for instance, requires you to pass an interview on top of having excellent grades. This requirement is not necessary for other specialisations.

If you would like to start your own private practice to provide psychology services to clients or work in research and academia, a PhD in the field is recommended.

Step #5. Get registered

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Once you have your postgraduate qualifications, the next step would be for you to register yourself with the relevant organisations (if available). This lets people know that you are fully qualified to practise as a psychologist.

For clinical psychologists, you will need to register with the Malaysian Allied Health Professions Council and have a practising certificate. Most clinical psychologists in Malaysia also register with the Malaysian Society of Clinical Psychology for additional credibility and endorsement.

For counsellors, you will need to register with the Lembaga Kaunselor Malaysia. This body regulates counsellors that provide counselling services at places such as schools, universities, community centres and corporations.

As for other psychology specialisations, there are no mandatory requirements for you to be registered and licenced yet.

We hope this has given you a little more insight into your pathway to being a psychologist after SPM. Although there will be challenges on the long and windy road, rest assured that these hurdles will equip you with the dedication, resilience and integrity that is required of a psychologist.

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