Typically students will follow one of three paths as they embark on the journey towards becoming a psychologist at an undergraduate level – BA Psychology / B Psych / BA Industrial Psychology.

Bachelor’s Degree in Psychology (typically BA).

A B Degree in Psychology provides training for students who want to develop psychological knowledge and people skills for use in people-oriented careers. It also provides the foundation for building a professional qualification in psychology.

A Bachelor of Arts degree should extend over a period of at least 3 years of full-time study. In order to meet the regulations of the South African Qualifications Authority (SAQA) as part of the National Qualifications Framework (NQF), students are required to accumulate 360 credits over the period of 3 years to exit with a recognised Bachelor’s degree with an NQF level 7.

These Psychology Bachelor’s degrees are usually purely academic and do not include any practical aspects such as internships. The different universities around South Africa may focus on different aspects of psychology in their undergraduate programs but generally students will cover some of the following topics;

  • Basic psychology.
  • Personality psychology.
  • Developmental psychology.
  • Social psychology.
  • Health psychology.
  • Community psychology.
  • Abnormal psychology or Psychopathology.
  • Neuropsychology.
  • Organisational psychology.
  • Psychological intervention.
  • Psychological research and research methodology.

At an undergraduate level, students will also be required to take elective modules from areas such as anthropology, criminology, theology, education, social work, etc. The focus of these electives will vary from university to university. It is important to keep in mind that electives can open a student’s mind to other areas of interest that link to psychology. For example; taking electives in criminology can open a door to Forensic Psychology. Be certain to take care when selecting these modules as they can be enlightening and thought provoking.

An undergraduate BA in Psychology does not qualify an individual for any professional registrations in South Africa. You may not practice as a Psychologist, nor may you legally generate an income from consulting clients. According the Health Professions Act No. 56 of 1974, one needs to be a registered member of the HPCSA in order to practice in any health care field in South Africa. Failure to do so constitutes a criminal offence.


As an alternative to the BA in Psychology, some higher education institutions have introduced a degree that allows for professional registration upon completion. The BPsych degree is basically a BA in Psychology, combined with an Honours degree in Psychology, as well as a 6 month practical internship. What this means is that when a student has completed this degree through an HPCSA accredited institution, they are eligible for professional registration as a Registered Counsellor (RC) after successfully passing the board examination.

A Registered Counsellor is able to provide short-term supportive counselling, psycho-education, and psychological assessment in order to promote and protect psychological wellbeing. The scope of practice for Registered Counsellors is different to that of Psychologists but it is governed by the HPCSA; this means that they are able to generate income from consulting and counselling clients. More information about Registered Counsellors can be found here.

A BPsych degree should extend over a period of at least 4 years of full-time study. Students are required to accumulate 480 credits over the period of 4 years to exit with a recognised B Psych degree with an NQF level 8 – equivalent to a Bachelor Honours degree according to the SAQA. The degree also includes a practicum of roughly 720 hours that is completed during the fourth year of study.

This BPsych degree aims to address the bottleneck effect that is currently being faced in South Africa. According to the Department of Higher Education, roughly 20% of individuals with a BA in Psychology will be selected for Honours. Of those that get selected for honours, only one third will be accepted into a coursework Master’s program that leads to a professional registration as a Psychologist. For more information on this subject, please click here.

BA / BCom in Industrial Psychology

Industrial or Organisational Psychology is a branch of Psychology that studies and applies psychological theories to workplace environments, organisations, and employees. The undergraduate BA and BCom degrees aim to train students in organisational practices, preparing them for careers in fields such as Human Resource Management (HRM) and Organisational Development.

These degrees should extend over a period of at least 3 years of full-time study. Students will be required to accumulate 360 credits over the 3 year time period in order to exit university with a recognised Bachelors degree in either the Arts or Commerce.

Students can expect modules in the following areas of focus;

  • Accounting.
  • Economics.
  • Human Resource Management.
  • Industrial psychology.
  • Business management.
  • Labour law.
  • Business communication.
  • General psychology.

This route of studying in the field of psychology is also seen as a foundation for building a professional qualification in psychology. While an undergraduate degree will not allow one to register professionally with an accredited governing body, there are opportunities to further ones education with an honours degree and an accredited internship to register professionally as a psychometrist (HPCSA). Further education at a Masters level and an appropriate internship will allow for registration as an Industrial Psychologist (HPCSA).

There is a second governing body in South Africa for individuals that studied and work in Human Resources called the South African Board for Peoples Practices (SABPP). Like the HPCSA, the SABPP govern the rules, regulations, policies, and procedures in the field of HRM in South Africa.

For more information on the SABPP, please follow this link to their website.