11/30/08: How do I study clinical psychology without an undergraduate degree in psychology?

30 11 2008
Dear Charis & Yvonne,

I came upon your website and I commend on both of your efforts in promoting psychology/counseling in Malaysia.

I currently hold a BSc in Microbiology but I wish to embark on the field of clinical psychology. I understand that in order to become a clinical psychologist, I need to complete my Masters. Unfortunately, it seems that the requirement to enter into Masters in Clinical Psychology requires a Bachelor in Psychology (which I don’t have). Do you have any advice on how I can transition into this field without doing a Bachelor in Psychology from scratch?



Hi Joseph!

I obtained my degree in Law and was working in the legal profession for several years before I decided to do psychology, so I can understand you position! In fact, when I was doing my research for graduate school, most of the psychology/counseling graduate schools in UK and USA required a bachelor in psychology or a related field. Finally, I decided to go to HELP to do my second undergraduate degree in Psychology. With that, I was able to apply to do my graduate studies in Counseling Psychology in USA.

So, what you have stated is basically true, Joseph. if you want to gain entrance to a graduate-level psychology program, you would need a bachelor’s degree in psychology. Since you already have a bachelor’s degree, you can proceed to get your second degree in Psychology (just like me!) by doing the chore psychology courses. In HELP, I took 12 psychology courses (36 credits all in) to get my degree in Psychology. It took me two years of part-time studies and 6 hours of classes per week (continuous) to complete my degree. If you do this full time, it would take you about 1 1/2 years.

Some psychology schools, however may allow you entry into their clinical psychology program without a bachelor’s degree in psychology if you to do the core psychology undergraduate courses to meet their requirements for applying to graduate school. You may want to research on this and to find out whether this is a shorter path compared to getting your second degree in psychology. How many credits of undergraduate psychology courses, and, what psychology courses you need to take, would depend on the respective graduate schools.

Finally, Joseph, you will need to consider where you want to further your studies in psychology. Masters-level clinical psychology programs are getting less and less popular in the Western countries. In US, most clinical psychology programs are now doctoral-level programs. This is because to be a clinical psychologist in US, you need to have a PhD in clinical psychology. The same does not apply in Malaysia. Having said that, if you are a clinical psychologist in Malaysia with a “Dr” title in front of your name, it would definitely lend you more credibility. If you go to our page “For the Public” and click on “Where to find services”, you will find that the psychologists listed under the category, psychological assessments either have a Masters or a PhD in psychology.

The local universities in Malaysia may still offer Masters-level clinical psychology programs. I think UKM offers a Masters in Clinical Psychology, but I am not able to find information on this from their website.

On the other hand, the same does not apply for a person without a background in psychology to pursue a Masters in Counseling. As long as you have a bachelors degree in any field, you would be able to apply to do graduate studies in Counseling. Don’t get confused, however, between “Counseling” and “Counseling Psychology”. Both Counseling Psychology and Clinical Psychology require a Bachelors in Psychology, or at least, a minimum amount of credits in chore undergraduate Psychology courses.

I hope that you find this information helpful, Joseph! It will be a long journey for you, but it would definitely be worthwhile if this is what you are interested in! I hope to do my PhD in Clinical Psychology one day, so who knows, we may meet someday 😉


Related Q & A:



9 responses

4 01 2009
Joseph Wong Kam Chye

Dear Charis & Yvonne,

I visited your website by “accident” when searching for more information on “Counseling & Pyschology in Malaysia” as I am interested in Psychology Counseling.

It really glad to have people like both of you. Your effort definately have and will benefit a lot people. They is a saying “It is better to give than to receive”. Continue with your good work.

I am having s similar case like the other “joseph” (posted 11/30/08) and found that the road is very long ahead to be a registered counselor. Even with my MBA and 20 years of working experience in the Banking Industry, UMS Sabah still required me to do undergraduate work (but didnot specify credit hours) before considering me for their Master In Pyschology Counseling, that can be done partime at Kota Kinabalu, Sabah. (May be I can gain entry to Master of Pyschology in Industry and Organization more easier)

I decided to start from scartch by enroling into the Bachelor of Pyschology of which was just newly be offered by Open University of Malaysia (Starting Jan 09) but it will take 5 years to complete and in the same time doing a Certificate in Christian Counseling from Sabah Theology Seminary in Kota Kinabalu, Sabah (This certificate will lead to B.Theo and M.Div in Counseling).

It will be a good and long 7 to 10 years before I can practice or pursue to Phd level. By then, I will be retiring from the Banking Sector and “Rewired” myself by starting Psychology Counseling Services. (Sometimes, the negative part of me is saying “you are too old to do this and to start a Couseling Services as “retirement work” does not make sense. Is it worth while???). Can I have your view on this???

In the same time, do you have any idea where can I do “practical” work while getting qualified? At least I will some exposure by then.

That all for now and maybe we will meet someday in some of the Psychology courses/seminars.

Wish both of you all the best and Happy New Year 2009.



5 01 2009

Hi Joseph Wong!

I’m glad to hear from you! It’s interesting hearing about your career goal and educational plans. Yes, I’ve recently written to the Open Unversity with questions about their psychology program. The reason why we all had to go back and complete our Bachelors degree in Psychology is simply because Psychology is a science, and so, like any other field of science, we need to have a science background before pursuing a graduate-level program.

I’m wondering how a Certificate in Christian Counseling from STM would lead you to a M.Div in Counseling? Are you referring to a Graduate-level certificate? As a precaution, I’d suggest that you check with the licensing board whether a M.Div in Counseling would meet the prerequisite for licensing the same way a M.A or a M.S in Counseling/Psychology would, especially since your counseling program is only a certificate. If they are willing to regard the M.Div in Counseling on the parrelel level as a regular Masters in Counseling, then you wouldn’t even need a Bachelors degree in Psychology! I say this with caution, because the licensing board can be sticky with the M.Div in Counseling, especially since this is in essense obtained from a Certificate in Christian Counseling at a Christian Education Center. Sadly, the licensing board does come under the Ministry of Woman and Family Affairs (what’s their new name?) and politics may play a role in influencing which degree program from education centers are recognized and which are not. I’ve heard of an applicant with a Masters in Counseling degree from the famous De Lasalle University in Philipphines that was rejected, although this may be due to his lackof documentation for his direct client contact hours.

If your goal is to obtain your license in counseling, then you don’t actually have to get a degree in Psychology. Many people are interesting in being a counselor but are not keen on doing psychological assessments or research in psychology. You should be able to get into many Masters in Counseling (and not Counseling Psychology) programs. Try University of Malaya Masters in Counseling Education, for example. This would be a problem if you are residing in East Malaysia, where your options are limited. Many foreign universities do not require Psychology core papers to gain admission into their Masters in Counseling program. Again, Wesley Institute in Australia is an example of one of many.

From your M.Ed. (Counseling) you can proceed to your Ph.D (Ed) and become Dr. Wong! This may not lead you to being a psychologist, but you still get your PhD. If your goal is really to be a psychologist, it may be possible to get into a PhD. in Educational Psychology program. Of course, counseling and clinical psychology look down at this “backdoor way” of becoming a psychologist, but hey, at the end of the day, the public really doesn’t care when seeking services.

Yes, it is easier to get into the Master of Psychology in I & O, but that degree may not meet the requirements for licensure as a Counselor. Again, you’d have to check with the licensing board.

Practical experience at a non-graduate level will not count towards being a licensed counselor. It is hard to do actual “counseling” if you do not have any graduate-level training in counseling. However, such experience is useful in helping you ascertain whether this is something that you really want to do. I know of some places where you can do some volunteer work here in KL, but unfortunately, I do not know of any such places in Sabah. Maybe you could speak to your local parish and consider setting up a support group for people who need support through prayer and sharing. Such groups are quite common in the larger churches in Texas where I am currently residing. Members who are going through a difficult period of their lives for whatever reason join these groups. If you do consider this option, I’d strongly recommend that you read up on group counseling, because group counseling is very different from individual counseling. I can give you some bibliography if you like.

Keep in touch, Joseph Wong!


14 05 2009
Alvin Ng

This is a pretty late reply to the question above but better late than never hey?

Just to let you know that there’s the Postgraduate Diploma in Health Psychology offered by UKM KL Campus – Health Psychology Unit, Faculty of Allied Health Sciences that’s a 1-yr full time program for whoever without a psychology degree looking for a bridge into any applied psychology program at a Masters level. However, given the conferment of the PDGip in Health Psych – there’s no guarantee of entrance into Masters. Just a value-added certificate.

With regards to clinical psychology degree in Malaysia, currently UKM and HELP University College offer the Master of Clinical Psychology degree – a 2 yr full time programme. IIUM is currently revamping their program if I’m not mistaken.

Kind regards,
Alvin Ng

p/s: Keep up the good work, Charis and Yvonne!

3 10 2009
S. Plaicd

Dear Alvin Ng,

Since my daughter is considering applying to UKM for a Master degree in Clinical Psychology, would you be able to tell me if the medium of instruction is English. I have visited their website but have not been able to get this info. I have noted the requirement for taking (I think 2 units) Malaya language. I have also read that it is the university to adopt the national language as the medium of instruction. I do not know if this applies to postgraduate studies.

Thank you in advance. Regards,

6 10 2009

Dear Silvia,

You are right about the information that you have learned about UKM. However, I understand that the medium of instruction for the Clinical Psychology program is in English. Students may have the option of using Malay in their exams or assignments, although you have to check with Dr Ng about this. That was the way it was at the Faculty of Law at UM.


17 05 2009

Thanks, Dr Ng for dropping by! We appreciate your input/comments 🙂

10 10 2009
S. Plaicd

Dear Charis,

Thank you very much for your message. I will wait to hear from Dr. Ng too.

Many thanks once again.

25 11 2009

hai sir,

Thank you very much for your guidance throughout.I appreciate your sincerity in helping people in dark.May Glod bless you.I have a question to ask.I am currently pursueing my studies in Psychology at UKM.I am keen to pick up clinical psycology in the same university or any other university locally.But i am alarmed by some people that entry pointer into Masters in Clinically Psychology programme is 3.8 and above.I am afraid my pointer is currently lower than that(3.3 ).But my dying desire is to be Clinical Psychologist .Pls help me.

25 11 2009

There are only two universities in Malaysia that is currently offering a Masters in Clinical Psychology program, one at UKM and the other at HELP University College. You want want to contact the Program Director of both programs to discuss ways to increase your chances of being accepted into the program, as both are quite competitive and have limited placements.

One possibility would be for you to do the one year post-graduate diploma in Health Psychology at UKM to try to boost up your CGPA. With a higher CGPA, you would have a better chance of getting into the Clinical Psychology program. Most program admission committees would tend to place more weight on the CGPA for a later graduate program than the CGPA for a bachelors program.

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