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How to be a clinical psychologist in Singapore?

Updated: May 27, 2020

This is one of the most common questions that I receive. It often takes me back to the start of my journey, where I tried to find and devour as many resources as possible!

Here are some information that I hope can help those who are exploring a career in psychology in Singapore (2020). Most of it are based on my journey in becoming a clinical psychologist.

How do I know if this is what I want?

Most psychologist job positions in Singapore will advertise for at least a Master's degree, and internship opportunities are few and far in between. So the next best thing for a 'trial run' would be to volunteer as a befriender with a wide range of client populations; After some time, you will naturally know your preferences and inclination.

To start you off, I listed some organisations that you can consider, but they are by no means exhaustive!

Sunlove (Adults with intellectual disability)

Healthserv (Migrant workers)

Pathlight School (Children with special needs)

Institute of Mental Health (Inpatients with psychiatric conditions)

Stroke Support Station (Stroke survivors)

Over the years, I've volunteered with all of them and enjoyed the experiences greatly. I particularly gravitated towards the patients at IMH. After going through the orientation program, I started volunteering on weekday afternoons. Many of the long-stay inpatients were there for 7 years or more, and we were told that they did not often had visits, not even from their own families. Over time, a couple of the inpatients started recognising me and started addressing me by name before sharing about their day. Even so, one particular patient, J, would often pause when the conversation steers towards where he (I was assigned to the male wards) came from and why he was there. Years later, I can still recall the sadness in his unspoken words and how it made me wish I could do more for his pain.

I want to be a clinical psychologist. Tell me how already!

Put your very own couch in the shopping list! Photo of THE couch taken by me at the Freud Museum London, February 2018. #pilgrimage

We now need to talk educational qualifications! While it is not legally required in Singapore to have a psychologist degree in order to practise as a psychologist (yet!), it would be extremely difficult to secure employment and/or clients without the relevant qualifications. Take a quick glance through job advertisements for psychologists in the job search engines and most positions require a minimum educational requirement of a Masters in Clinical Psychology Program. For overseas educational institutions, you will need to check the requirements stated by Singapore Psychological Society. For local institutions, read on!

There are 2 institutions that offers the Masters in Clinical Psychology Program in Singapore: National University of Singapore and James Cook University Singapore.

The structure of the two programs programs are similar; They both consist of coursework, research, and practicum components. Both require 2 years full-time studies to complete. Both are very expensive (NUS: $71,300 vs JCUS: $66,768). Both are 'recognised' by the Singapore Psychological Society and by most employers.

Get ready for essays, essays, and more essays.

The million dollar question: which is better?

I studied psychology at both institutions (undergraduate studies at NUS; postgraduate studies at JCUS) and find both programs to be academically and clinically rigorous. My personal view is that NUS leans towards research/academia, while JCUS is more clinically oriented. Regardless, due to the limited intake (less than 15 students per year per institution)(Caveat alert! This was in 2013, but I don't believe it has changed drastically since), postgraduate clinical psychology positions at both universities are highly competitive, and I recommend that you submit your applications to both institutions to increase your chances! If the application is unsuccessful, you can alway beef up your experience before trying again the next year. Some may choose to pursue their MA overseas (most commonly in Australia) too.

Fast forward through 2 years of blood (I'm kidding), sweat (only half kidding as you run around like a headless chicken to try to juggle all the requirements), tears (not kidding at all).

You've completed the 2 year program, you are now a (legit!) clinical psychologist and can apply for local registration with the Singapore Psychological Society! Hurray!

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