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Counsellors and Psychologists

Job Prospects

Job Prospects... At a glance

In general, job prospects for psychologists are good, as there are more positions available than there are psychologists to fill them. In particular, there are shortages of educational psychologists and clinical psychologists.

On the other hand, it is hard to get into psychology courses due to high entry requirements, with only a limited number of people being accepted each year.

Job prospects for counsellors are below average. Cuts in public funding have made it harder to find work for new counsellors. Many counsellors only work part-time.

How to become a psychologist

What they do

Psychologists are trained to understand the human mind and behaviour. Most psychologists work with people to help them function more effectively in life – for example, by helping them deal with stress or depression, improve their relationships, or improve their work performance. Psychologists’ clients may include individuals, families, organisations and communities.

Psychologists can work in a range of areas, including schools, health centres and hospitals, community and sports organisations, the workplace, non-governmental organisations, Police and defence services, research institutes, as well as private clinics. A number of psychologists also provide kaupapa Māori psychology services support to individuals and communities.

Counsellors use talking therapies to help people work through their problems and deal with their feelings. Career counsellors help students make decisions about their future careers. Becoming a counsellor does not require the same level of education as it does to become a psychologist, but does require some relevant life experience.

Their tasks may include:

  • working with clients on career, study and employment options by obtaining and examining information relevant to their abilities and needs
  • providing information and resources to assist clients with job-seeking skills
  • assessing client needs in relation to treatment for drug and alcohol abuse
  • conducting counselling interviews with individuals, couples and family groups
  • assisting the understanding and adjustment of attitudes, expectations and behaviour to develop more effective interpersonal and marital relationships
  • presenting alternative approaches and discussing potential for attitude and behaviour change
  • consulting with clients to develop rehabilitation plans taking account of vocational and social needs
  • contributing information, understanding and advice on the learning and behaviour of students, especially those with special needs, and assisting parents and teachers in dealing with these needs
  • collecting data about clients and assessing their cognitive, behavioural and emotional disorders
  • administering and interpreting diagnostic tests and formulating plans for treatment
  • developing, administering and evaluating individual and group treatment programs
  • consulting with other professionals on details of cases and treatment plans
  • conducting research studies of motivation in learning, group performance and individual differences in mental abilities and educational performance
  • collecting data and analysing characteristics of students and recommending educational programs
  • formulating achievement, diagnostic and predictive tests for use by teachers in planning methods and content of instruction
  • developing interview techniques, psychological tests and other aids in workplace selection, placement, appraisal and promotion
  • conducting surveys and research studies on job design, work groups, morale, motivation, supervision and management
  • performing job analyses and establishing job requirements by observing and interviewing employees and managers


Qualifications needed

To practise as a psychologist, you will need:

  • a master’s degree (or higher) in psychology
  • at least 1500 hours of practical training accredited by the New Zealand Psychologists Board (an internship, usually in the form of a postgraduate diploma)
  • to be registered with the Board
  • to have a current Annual Practising Certificate.

There are no formal requirements needed for you to call yourself a counsellor, but most employers and professional bodies require their employees to hold at least a Level 6 diploma in counselling or a degree in psychotherapy. From 2019, the New Zealand Association of Counsellors (NZAC) will require new members to have a bachelor’s degree. 

Career counsellors are usually teachers with special courses in career counselling.

Cost of study

Bachelor's degree majoring in psychologyMaster's degree majoring in psychology
$20,400over three years $17,000 over two years
Postgraduate Diploma in PsychologyDegree in counselling
$24,000 over three years $16,000 over three years

Average costs in 2018 for a domestic student. Costs vary between institutions. First time students may be eligible for fees-free
tertiary education for their first year of study, which will reduce the total cost. For more information about fees-free eligibility, go to Some polytechnics may have a zero-fees scheme. Further costs include materials, textbooks, and accommodation..

Rents vary from place to place. Estimated market rents by region, city and suburb are available on the MBIE Tenancy Services website.

The StudyLink website provides general budget advice for students, and the Sorted website provides help with detailed budget planning.

Tenancy Services:

Where to study

Psychology courses are available at most New Zealand universities, including:

  • University of Auckland
  • Auckland University of Technology (AUT)
  • Massey University
  • Victoria University of Wellington
  • Otago University
  • Canterbury University
  • University of Waikato.

Counselling courses are available from AUT and from several polytechnics and private training establishments.


Practising psychologists need to be registered with the New Zealand Psychologists Board, and have a current annual practising certificate. For more information, see the Board’s website.

Counsellors are usually registered with one of the professional organisations for counsellors: New Zealand Association of Counsellors (NZAC), New Zealand Association of Psychotherapists (NZAP), and New Zealand Christian Counsellors Association (NZCCA).

New Zealand Psychologists Board:

Completed qualifications

The number of students who completed a master’s degree in psychology was 210 in 2017, an increase from 170 in 2011.

Qualification completions chart

 Source: Ministry of Education

Income and employment prospects


The salary of psychologists depends on specialisation, experience and employer. In general, the salary of a psychologist covered by the District Health Board Multi-Employment Collective Agreement ranges from $66,565 to $109,971 (2013) or more if they own their own business.

Graduate psychologists can earn between $61,000 and $64,000 a year, while those with three to 10 years’ experience can earn up to $97,000 a year. Psychologists with senior management or advisory positions can receive up to $120,000 a year.

Source: New Zealand Psychological Society

The hourly rate of those in private practice, depending on their area of specialty and seniority, ranges from $85 to $180.

Counsellors’ incomes are generally lower than that of psychologists, sometimes much lower.

The average annual income for psychologists and counsellors is $53,600.

Estimated Average Income

Source: MBIE estimates based on Statistics NZ Census and Labour Cost Index

Employment and skill shortages

Counsellors and psychologists’ employment

HistoricProjected Growth
2006 2013 2023 2028
5,682 6,507 7,370 7,940
  2.0% 2.1% 1.3%

Source: Statistics NZ Census and MBIE projections. Percentages are compound annual growth rates.
*Growth projections are for the broader category “Social and Welfare Professionals.”

The number of counsellors and psychologists increased by 2.1% yearly from 2006 to 2013. Growth is expected to continue at 1.3% out to 2028.

In 2017, there were 2757 psychologists with annual practising certificates.

Employment chart

Source: Statistics NZ Census and MBIE projections

Demand for psychologists is greater than the current supply, particularly in clinical and educational psychology. These two specialisations appear on Immigration New Zealand's long-term skill shortage list. If a job appears on the list, it means the government is actively encouraging skilled people in these jobs to come and work in New Zealand. A full list is available on the Immigration New Zealand website.

Immigration NZ, skill shortage list:

Where to find job vacancies

The number of online job vacancies for psychologists has been fairly steady for several years. The number of ads was about 100% higher in June 2019 than in June 2013.

Jobs advertised chart

Source: Ministry of Business, Innovation & Employment

Counsellor and psychologist vacancies are advertised through public media such as the Trade Me Jobs, Seek, and Kiwi Health Jobs websites.

Trade Me Jobs:
Kiwi Health Jobs:

Career path

Psychologists can move into, amongst other areas, research, teaching, policy development, clinical work, advisory and management roles. Some psychologists go into private practice after some years in the government sector.

Psychologists usually specialise in an area such as:

Clinical psychology
Clinical psychologists assess and treat people’s behavioural and mental health problems. They may work in primary or secondary health care, in other welfare agencies, or in private practice.

Counselling psychology
Counselling psychologists assess and help children, young persons, adults and their families in areas related to emotional or mental health, or developmental or behavioural problems.

Forensic psychology
Criminal justice psychologists work with offenders to help them make changes in their lives and reduce their risk of reoffending.

Educational psychology
Educational psychologists work with students, parents, educators and mental health services to develop supportive environments for students with difficulties that affect their learning and well-being.

Organisational psychology
Organisational psychologists investigate workplaces and recommend ways to improve workers' effectiveness and efficiency.

Health psychology
Health psychologists work to understand how biological, social and psychological factors influence health and illness. They use psychological theory and research to help patients manage chronic disease, avoid preventable diseases, and maintain healthy lifestyles.

Community psychology
Community psychologists seek to understand the quality of life of individuals, communities and societies through research and action. They may develop, put in place, and evaluate action-oriented, community-based programmes, and help build relationships between individuals and communities.

Child and family psychology
Child and family psychologists work with children and families to diagnose and help resolve issues causing emotional or behavioural problems. They can work in research or policy, or engage in behavioural support work, and provide counselling and therapy.

Counsellors can specialise in different areas of counselling such as grief or abuse. Counsellors often work for public organisations or are self-employed. Many counsellors only work part-time.

Related occupations

The following occupations are related roles or alternative titles. Some of the roles may require a higher level of skill than entry-level counsellors and psychologists.

  • Career Consultant
  • Community Worker
  • Minister of Religion
  • Psychotherapist
  • Social Worker
  • Teacher

Other information


More information on psychologists is available on the Careers New Zealand website, through the "Just the Job" videos, and on the websites of relevant professional organisations.

Careers New Zealand: (Counsellor)
Careers New Zealand: (Psychologist)
New Zealand Psychological
New Zealand College of Clinical Psychologists:
New Zealand Association of Counsellors:
Just the Job video clip: A Career as a Corrections Psychologist and Programme Facilitator
Just the Job video clip: A Career as an Educational Psychologist


The Australian New Zealand Standard Classification of Occupations (ANZSCO) is the official classification of occupations in New Zealand.

The occupation of counsellors and psychologists has been coded to the following ANZSCO codes for the purpose of this report:

2721 – Counsellors
2723 – Psychologists