Specialist Award in Psychology

Professional development course for anyone working with people. An opportunity to develop specialised knowledge and applied learning in an aspect of psychology you are less familiar with.

Course Code: VPS001
Fee Code: PA
Duration (approx) Duration (approx) 500 hours
Qualification Specialist Award
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What is Psychology?

Despite their interest in the subject, students of psychology often find it difficult to answer this basic question in a clear, concise and specific manner. Some might say that psychology is a study of "human behaviour"; some might say it is a study of the "mind or brain"; others might say that it is a study of personality and “what motivates people to do what they do".

All are partly correct, but each of these answers is emphasising a different aspect of psychology.

Firstly, psychology is a science.

Every science has an "object of analysis"; for example, a nuclear scientist studies the structure and dynamics of nuclear energy; or a chemical scientist studies the structure, behaviour and interaction of chemicals.

In the discipline of psychology, scientists often disagree upon what the object of their study is.

A broad definition of psychology however would be "the study of human behaviour".

Course Content

This is awarded on completion of:

  1. Introduction to Psychology plus any two of our other psychology courses (must include passes in the examination for each course).
  2. A workplace project or work experience (approved by a tutor and equal to 200 hours duration)


This is the final requirement that you must satisfy before receiving your award.

Here are two options available to you to satisfy this requirement:

Alternative 1.

If you work in the industry that you have been studying; you may submit a reference from your employer, in an effort to satisfy this industry (i.e. workplace project) requirement; on the basis of RPL (i.e. recognition for prior learning), achieved through your current and past work experience.

The reference must indicate that you have skills and an awareness of your industry, which is sufficient for you to work in a position of responsibility.

Alternative 2.

If you do not work in the relevant industry, you need to undertake a project as follows.

Procedure for a Workplace Project

This project is a major part of the course involving the number of hours relevant to the course (see above). Although the course does not contain mandatory work requirements, work experience is seen as highly desirable.

This project is based on applications in the work place and specifically aims to provide the student with the opportunity to apply and integrate skills and knowledge developed through various areas of formal study.

Students will design this project in consultation with a tutor to involve industry based activities in the area of specialized study which they select to follow in the course. The project outcomes may take the form of a written report, folio, visuals or a mixture of forms. Participants with relevant, current or past work experience will be given exemption from this project if they can provide suitable references from employers that show they have already fulfilled the requirements of this project.

For courses that involve more than 100 hours, more than one workplace project topic may be selected. For example, 200 hours may be split into two projects each of 100 hours. This will offer the student better scope to fulfill the needs of their course and to meet the number of hours required. Alternatively, the student may wish to do one large project with a duration of 200 hours.

Students will be assessed on how well they achieve the goals and outcomes they originally set as part of their negotiations with their tutor. During each 100 hours of the project, the students will present three short progress reports. These progress reports will be taken into account when evaluating the final submission. The tutor must be satisfied that the work submitted is original.

If the student wishes to do one large 200 hour report, then only three progressive reports will be needed (however the length of each report will be longer).

Other Options

We offer a wide range of psychology courses, so why not have a look at some of these below -

Adolescent Psychology https://www.acs.edu.au/courses/Adolescent-Psychology-451.aspx

Child Psychology https://www.acs.edu.au/courses/Child-Psychology-291.aspx

Developmental Psychology https://www.acs.edu.au/courses/Developmental-Psychology-372.aspx

Educational Psychology https://www.acs.edu.au/courses/Educational-Psychology-308.aspx

Sports Psychology https://www.acs.edu.au/courses/Sports-Psychology-292.aspx

Certificate in Applied Developmental Psychology https://www.acs.edu.au/courses/Certificate-In-Applied-Developmental-Psychology-398.aspx

Or if you are not sure if psychology is for you, why not try our Introduction to Psychology - https://www.acs.edu.au/courses/product.aspx?id=359

If you would like to see our range of psychology books, please visit - http://www.acsbookshop.com/books_productcategory.aspx?id=14

For more information on the range of careers available in psychology, have a look at - http://www.thecareersguide.com/articles.aspx?category=14

We have some interesting articles on psychology and counseling at - https://www.acs.edu.au/psychol/

Who This Course Is Designed For?

This course is ideal for people who have industry experience and want to amalgamate that experience into a qualification. It is also suited to people who have access to a workplace but limited qualifications and who want to earn a qualification whilst working. Students can use this course of study to enhance their current skills and knowledge through personal development or use it to reinforce areas they are familiar with.  The focus here is on psychology and related skills.    

This course is most likely to appeal to people working in the following fields:

  • Psychology

  • Counselling

  • Caring roles

  • Alternative therapy

  • Aged care

  • Nursing

  • Health professions


As well as using non-verbal cues to make sense of others, we also draw on our knowledge and understanding of social cues and we make assumptions. All this information is then used to derive an impression of someone. So, if we want to see behind the mask, we need to understand what is influencing our perception of another person.


Asch (1946), in his implicit personality theory, found that if we observe a particular trait in a person, we are likely to use that information to infer the existence of other traits i.e. some traits cluster together. However, he also found that some traits were more important indicators, and therefore more central to our perception of others. For instance ‘warm’ and ‘cold’ were found to be very important.


This is an important means of classification which we do based on a superficial characteristic e.g. hair colour, gender etc. Unlike implicit personality theory which begins by using some information and expanding upon it, stereotyping involves classifying someone with little regard to their personality.


Rosenthal and Jacobsen (1968) investigated the self-fulfilling prophecy in an experiment whereby they gave a supposedly new form of IQ test to children at an American school and gathered information about the children’s success at school. Teachers were allowed to ‘accidentally overhear’ the researchers predictions about which children they anticipated would be late achievers and make considerable academic gains in the years to come. These children were selected randomly and included those with no previous school success.

A year later, those children the researchers had ‘privately’ identified had all shown dramatic improvements in their academic records and had higher IQ scores, regardless of the child’s age. This suggested that the teachers had changed their attitudes towards those children and so gave them more encouragement. The study has important implications for teachers who may not expect a child from a deprived background to do well and so tend to stereotype or label them. Similarly, if we treat a client who we think is going to be of a certain level of intelligence or hold particular views we may miss important things about them.


Kelly (1955) demonstrated that people tend to construct their own theories about others based upon their own experiences in the world. The constructs one person might use can be entirely different to those used by the next person. 


This implies that whatever was the more recent information we received about someone, this information is more likely to influence our opinion than information which was received earlier. For example, if you were on the jury at the trial of a homicide, the evidence of the defence is likely to hold more sway with you if it was delivered after that of the prosecution.


Somewhat similar to the primacy effect, the halo effect can be observed when we attribute greater value to an individual because we associate them with positive experiences or events, or because of positive past actions. We tend to play down their failings and perhaps view their actions as being superior to the equivalent actions of someone else.


This refers to a means by which we make generalisations from stored information about our knowledge and experiences. Schemas are a cognitive framework constructed from experiences which we use to guide and inform our behaviour. They can also result in self-fulfilling prophecies because since our expectations may guide us, they can simply re-affirm what we expected. So, for instance, if we consider a certain individual to be devious and untrustworthy, we will tend to notice elements of their behaviour which confirm this view and ignore other aspects which might contradict our schema about that individual.


These are a type of schema but they also include action strategies which can be applied when called upon. They are sometimes known as ‘event schemas.’ Scripts can also affect what we recall about an event to the extent that different scripts applied to the same event can determine what is remembered.

We have scripts for many different life events. For instance, when we go to a restaurant there is a specific order in which we expect things to happen i.e. entree, main course, dessert, and then coffee.

Other Schemas

Baron and Byrne (1984) also identified ‘role schemas’ where we apply our expectations to people in specific social roles (e.g. doctor, policeman), social groups, or categories. They also referred to ‘person schema’ to mean those ideas and predictions we hold about certain individuals based upon what we already know about them.

We may also have ‘self-schemas’ which are inferences based upon our own observations of ourselves. These may help us to understand what we would do in certain circumstances.


Unlike schemas which are concerned with an individual’s knowledge, attributions are concerned with the application of that knowledge. Heider (1958) outlined five levels of responsibility which relate to how much an individual intended an outcome to actually happen. Building on this theory, Jones and Davis (1965) produced their ‘correspondent inference theory’ which uses three of Heider’s basic concepts.

Firstly, in making sense of our world we seek stable rather than unstable causes. Secondly, we distinguish between intentional and unintentional behaviour in order to decide if someone can be responsible for their actions. Thirdly, we discern between ‘dispositional attributions’ (an individual is responsible due to their actions, abilities etc) and ‘situational attributions’ (where we judge the situation or external forces to have made the person act the way they did).

According to Jones and Davis, we tend to favour dispositional attributions over situational ones. That is, we assume the individual has acted deliberately and not accidentally unless we know otherwise. Having confirmed intentionality we then look for a characteristic or trait which might produce the intentionality – which is the ‘correspondent inference.’

Fundamental Attribution Error

This refers to our tendency to see our own actions as evolving from situational factors but the actions of others as coming from dispositional cues. Many research experiments have replicated this finding, but it is also observed in real-life situations. For example, Gilbert and Mulkay (1984) interviewed scientists and found that they were more likely to explain their own research in terms of situational factors (physical evidence) and that of others by dispositional factors (e.g. personality).

Some evidence e.g. Guimond, Begin and Palmer (1989; 1990) has shown that the way we make attributions may be influenced by social factors. For instance they found that unemployed people are more likely to make dispositional attributions about poverty whereas students were more likely to make situational attributions.    

Self-Serving Bias

The self-serving bias refers to how we tend to make attributions about ourselves which put us in a favourable light. This is most noticeable when we offer explanations about why we may have succeeded or failed at something. Miller and Ross (1975) found that we view failures as due to situational factors and successes as due to dispositional ones.

The self-serving bias would seem to happen because we like to present a favourable image of ourselves to others. By explaining success in terms of our abilities we look good to others, and by contrast, if we explain our failures as being due to external factors then we avoid looking stupid.

McFarland and Ross (1982) proffered that the self-serving bias was a means of protecting one’s self-esteem. They found that research participants who attributed failure on difficult tasks to lack of ability also tended to score low on self-esteem. However, this does not demonstrate that we change attributions to preserve self-esteem, but only that there appears to be a correlation between self-esteem and attributions.

Locus of Control

Rotter (1966) suggested that there were definite attribution styles and he classified people as ‘internal’ or ‘external’ according to the types of attributions they ordinarily make. This led to his ‘locus of control’ which basically is a measure of where a person views control to come from – internal (from within) and external (from without). Internals tend to view things as being under their control, whereas externals believe they have little influence. More recently it is thought that internal attributions are not always able to be controlled and so ‘controllability’ has been extrapolated as a separate dimension, along with others such as causality. 

Kelley (1967; 1973) produced a covariance theory based upon whether individuals consider events to be under internal or external control. Accordingly, ‘consistency’ was used to determine how a person had acted previously; ‘consensus’ for how a person might act in a similar situation, and ‘distinctiveness’ to indicate whether the person only acts in a given way to a particular target. The pattern of covariance determines whether the individual will attribute an event to internal or external sources.  So, a behaviour which has low distinctiveness (it occurs towards other kinds of target), low consistency (does not always happen), and high consensus (many others act in the same way) would more likely be attributed to situational factors (external) – and one with high distinctiveness, high consistency, and low consensus to dispositional factors (internal).

Lalljee (1981) argued that you can’t overlook people’s pre-existing knowledge when dissecting their explanations – they don’t simply apply a formula. To this end, Lalljee proposed that in addition to the attribution process we must consider the social context (which he broke down into four areas of social knowledge).


Dissatisfied with the rationality inherent in information processing models of attribution, Kruglanski, Baldwin and Towson (1983) emphasised the motivational side of attributions. They argued that attributions have both rational and motivational influences. The rational aspect emerges because people need to logically deduce them; and the motivational aspect, because we need to structure them and derive conclusions and validity from them.

So, you see there are many reasons why we might not be able to see behind the mask. If we were to go further then we could start to consider the many social representation theories which explain behaviour in terms of how we are influenced broadly by society, and more narrowly by the social group we belong to and our social identity – but we’ll leave that for another time. 

ACS is an Organisational Member of the Association for Coaching (UK).
ACS is an Organisational Member of the Association for Coaching (UK).
ACS is a Member of the Complementary Medicine Association.
ACS is a Member of the Complementary Medicine Association.
Member of Study Gold Coast Education Network.
Member of Study Gold Coast Education Network.
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ACS Global Partner - Affiliated with colleges in seven countries around the world.
Since 1999 ACS has been a recognised member of IARC (International Approval and Registration Centre). A non-profit quality management organisation servicing education.
Since 1999 ACS has been a recognised member of IARC (International Approval and Registration Centre). A non-profit quality management organisation servicing education.
 Principal John Mason is a member of the ANZMH. ACS Students are invited to join
Principal John Mason is a member of the ANZMH. ACS Students are invited to join

How can I start this course?

You can enrol at anytime and start the course when you are ready. Enrolments are accepted all year - students can commence study at any time. All study is self paced and ACS does not set assignment deadlines.

Please note that if a student is being assisted by someone else (e.g. an employer or government subsidy), the body offering the assistance may set deadlines. Students in such situations are advised to check with their sponsor prior to enrolling. The nominal duration of a course is approximately how long a course takes to complete. A course with a nominal duration of 100 hours is expected to take roughly 100 hours of study time to complete. However, this will vary from student to student. Short courses (eg. 100 hrs duration) should be completed within 12 months of enrolment. Certificates, Advanced Certificates and Awards (eg. over 500 hours duration) would normally be completed within 3 -5 years of enrolment. Additional fees may apply if a student requires an extended period to complete.
If a student cannot submit their assignments for 6 months to ACS, they should advise the school to avoid cancellation of their student
registration. Recommencement fees may apply.

Simply click on the ENROL OPTIONS button at the top of this screen and follow the prompts.

You can see the course price at the top of this page. Click 'enrolment options' to see any payment options available.

You can pay by Credit Card, PayPal, Afterpay or bank transfer.

Yes! We have payment plans for most courses. Click 'enrolment options' to see the available payment plans.
We also have Afterpay that will allow you to pay for your course or payment plans in four instalments (if you are in Australia).

What do I need to know before I enrol?

There are no entry requirements that you need to meet to enrol in our courses, our courses are for everyone.
If you are under 18, we need written permission from your parent/ guardian for your enrolment to continue, we can arrange that after you have enrolled.

You don’t need to purchase any additional resources to complete our courses.

We aim to teach you the essentials without you having to purchase any specific computer program.
We recommend that you have access to a word processing program, such as Microsoft Word or Google Docs, so that you can easily complete and submit your assignments.

You sure can. We are here to help you learn whatever your abilities.

Yes, if you are enrolling in a Certificate or Advanced Certificate, you might be eligible for credits if you have evidence of your previous studies or relevant experience. More information is here.

We recommend that you are able to browse websites, send emails and conduct online research. You will need to be able to type and submit your assignments.
If you have limited computer skills, we can make special arrangements for you.

This is possible, it depends on the institution. We recommend that if you would like to use our courses that you contact the institution first. Our Course Handbook is a good resource for this.

Our courses are written in English and we only have English speaking academic staff. If you can read and complete your assignments in English, our courses are ideal for you.

Our courses are designed to build knowledge, hands on skills and industry connections to help prepare you to work in the area, running your own business, professional development or as a base for further study.

This course is aimed at providing you with a solid understanding in your selected discipline. It has been designed to take 600 hours, which includes your course reading, assignment work, research, practical tasks, watching videos and more. When you complete the course, will have a good understanding of the area/ industry you want to work in.

It’s up to you. The study hours listed in the course are a rough guide, however if you were to study a short course (100 hours) at 10 hours per week, you could finish the course in 10 weeks (just an example). Our courses are self-paced, so you can work through the courses in your own time. We recommend that you wait for your tutor to mark and return your assignment before your start your next one, so you get the benefits of their feedback.

The course consists of course notes, videos, set tasks for your practical work, online quizzes, an assignment for each lesson (that you receive feedback from your tutor from) and ends in an exam (which is optional, if would like to receive the formal award at the end), using our custom built Learning Management System - Login.Training.

Our courses are designed for adults to gain professional development and skills to further their careers and start businesses.

Our custom online learning portal allows you to conduct your learning online. There may be practical tasks that you can do offline. You have the option of downloading your course notes or print them to read later.

There is also the option to pay an additional fee for printed course notes and or USB (availability limited to location and deliverability).

Yes, if you don’t have access to the internet, you can receive the course as paper notes or on a USB stick for an additional fee. We can also make alternative arrangements for you to send your assignments to us.

We offer printed notes for an additional fee. Also, you can request your course notes on a USB stick for an additional fee.

Yes, your tutor is here to help you. Simply post any questions you have in your login.training portal or contact the office and we can pass on a message to your tutor.

We are more learning focussed, rather than assessment focussed. You have online quizzes to test your learning, written assignments and can complete an exam at the end of the course (if you want to receive your certificate). You will not receive a pass/ fail on your course work. If you need to add more details on your assignment, we will ask you to resubmit and direct you where you need to focus. If you need help, you can ask your tutor for advice in the student room.

Each module (short course) is completed with one exam.

Exams are optional, however you must sit an exam if you would like to receive a formal award. You will need to find someone who can supervise that you are sitting the exams under exams conditions. There is an additional cost of $60 incl. GST for each exam.
More information is here

There are practical components built into the course that have been designed to be achieved by anyone, anywhere. If you are unable to complete a task for any reason, you can ask your tutor for an alternative.

When you complete the course work and the exams (6 exams) and you will be able receive your course certificate- a Certificate. Otherwise, you can receive a Letter of Completion.

You can bundle the short courses to create your own customised learning bundle, Certificates or Advanced Certificates. More information is on this page.

Yes, our courses are built to be applicable for people living anywhere in any situation. We provide the fundamentals, and each student can apply their own unique flair for their own interests, region and circumstances with the one-on-one guidance of a tutor. There is also a bit of student directed research involved.

Employers value candidates with industry skills, knowledge, practical skills and formal learning. Our courses arm you with all of these things to help prepare you for a job or start your own business. The longer you study the more you will learn.

ACS has an arrangement with OAMPS (formerly AMP) who can arrange Professional Indemnity from Australian and New Zealand graduates across all disciplines. Ph: 1800 222 012 or email acs@oamps.com.au.

Who are ACS Distance Education?

ACS Distance Education have been educating people for over 40 years.

We are established and safe- we have been in education for over 40 years.
We are focused on developing innovative courses that are relevant to you now and what you will need to know in the future.
We are focused on helping you learn and make the most of your experience.
You can enrol at any time, you can work on your course when it suits you and at your own pace.
We are connected to many industry bodies and our staff participate in continuous improvement and learning activities to ensure that we are ahead of what learning is needed for the future.

Our courses are not accredited by the Australian Government. However many of our courses are recognised and held in high regard by many industry bodies.

Our courses are written by our staff, who all have many years experience and have qualifications in their speciality area. We have lots of academic staff who write and update our courses regularly.

How do I enrol my staff/ sponsored students?

Yes, you can do a request for a bulk enrolment and request an invoice on our Invoice Request Form

We can prepare an invoice, quote or proforma invoice. Simply complete your details on our Invoice Request form

We can arrange bulk discounts for your course enrolment, please get in touch with us to discuss your needs.

Yes, we have many students who are in locked facilities, such as prisons or hospitals. We can cater by also offering paper notes at an additional cost.

What if I have any more questions or need more information?

We can assist you to find the right course for your needs. Get in touch with us via email (admin@acs.edu.au) call on +61 7 5562 1088 or complete our course advice form.

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Please get in touch with studentservices@acs.edu.au if you would like to be removed from our mail list.

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Course Contributors

The following academics were involved in the development and/or updating of this course.

Tracey Jones (Psychologist)

B.Sc. (Psych), M.Soc.Sc., Dip.Social Work, P.G.Dip Learning Disability, Cert Editing, Cert Creative Writing, PGCE.
Member British Psychological Society, Member Assoc. for Coaching, Member British Learning Assoc.
25 years industry experience in writing, editing, education, psychology, and business. Tracey has several books and hundreds of articles published; in both fiction and non fiction.

Jacinda Cole (Psychologist)

Psychologist, Educator, Author, Psychotherapist.
B.Sc., Psych.Cert., M. Psych. Cert.Garden Design, MACA
Jacinda has over 25 years of experience in psychology, in both Australia and England. She holds a BSc (Hons) in Psychology and a Masters in Psychology (Clinical) and also trained in psychoanalytic psychotherapy at the London Centre for Psychotherapy. She has co-authored several psychology text books and many courses including diploma and degree level courses in psychology and counselling. Jacinda has worked for ACS for over 10 years.

Lyn Quirk

M.Prof.Ed.; Adv.Dip.Compl.Med (Naturopathy); Adv.Dip.Sports Therapy
Over 30 years as Health Club Manager, Fitness Professional, Teacher, Coach and Business manager in health, fitness and leisure industries. As business owner and former department head for TAFE, she brings a wealth of skills and experience to her role as a tutor for ACS.


Meet some of the tutors that guide the students through this course.

Gareth Pearce

Gareth has over 25 years of experience in teaching and research in agriculture, veterinary medicine, wildlife ecology and conservation in a variety of colleges and universities in the UK, Australia and New Zealand. He qualified as a veterinary surgeon at the Universities of Melbourne and Bristol, having previously graduated in Agricultural Science and gained a PhD in Livestock Behaviour and Production. He also has post-graduate qualifications in Education, Wildlife Conservation Medicine, Aquatic Veterinary Studies and Wildlife Biology & Conservation.

Tracey Jones

Tracey has over 20 years experience within the psychology and social work field, particularly working with people with learning disabilities. She is also qualified as a teacher and now teaches psychology and social work related subjects.

She is a book reviewer for the British Journal of Social Work. Tracey has also written a text book on Psychology and has had several short stories published.

Lyn Quirk

Lyn has 35 years of experience in the Fitness, Health and Leisure Industries. She has a string of qualifications that are far too long to list here; being qualified and registered to teach, coach or instruct a wide range of different sports and other skills.

Lyn established and managed Health clubs at three major five star resorts on Australia's Gold Coast, including The Marriott. She was a department head for a large government vocational college (TAFE), and has conducted her own aquafitness business for many years. Lyn has among her other commitments worked as a tutor for ACS for almost 10 years, and over that time, participated in the development or upgrading of most courses in her fields of expertise.

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