Child psychologist | Youth Central

Jordana, 32

After three years of studying anxiety and depression in small children, Jordana is about to finish a book on the subject - her PhD thesis. Then she hopes to put what she has learned into practice, helping to prevent mental health problems later in life.

Fact file

Job description: Conducts research into how to design effective programs for young people at risk of developing mental health problems.

Subjects studied: Physics, Chemistry, Biology, Mathematics and French.

Further training: Jordana has an Honours Degree in Psychology from Adelaide University (four years); a Master of Clinical Psychology from Flinders University in South Australia (two years); and is currently studying for her PhD in Child Psychology at the University of Melbourne (three years, in progress).

Salary: As a PhD student, between $15,000 and $20,000 a year; as a clinical child psychologist, between $35,000 and $55,000 a year.


Jordana Bayer is a child psychologist who believes she can make a difference to the level of mental disturbance in our society. And she has spent 10 years at university educating herself for the job, the past three doing research for a nearly-completed PhD.

During that time, Jordana has been studying pre-school children for early signs of emotional distress, anxiety or depression and looking at how families may be involved in the development of those problems. She hopes that by identifying troubled kids early in life, preventive measures may be taken to stop them developing anxiety and depression disorders as they grow older.

"To look for signs of emotional problems as early as the pre-school years is a new development in the child psychology research world. Even prevention work starting in middle childhood is a new approach to working with mental health in the field."

She loves the intellectual challenge of her work and the contact with young children and families. In the end, she believes her research will assist in the design of programs aimed at reducing anxiety and depression for young people in the community. She hopes her research will contribute to health policy in Australia. And already she has been talking about her ideas at an international conference in Beijing.

Progress of a PhD

At the start of her research, Jordana observed two-year-old children playing with their parents. She re-visited those children two years later, noting any changes.

During the course of her work, Jordana gathered loads of information in the form of surveys, notes and hours and hours of videotape. When the pile represented enough data for a PhD, she began the task of making sense of it all. And meanwhile, she had to keep up with the latest research, reading many scientific papers each year.

Jordana is now in the writing up stage, turning her original findings into a sizeable volume. Once that's done, she can start producing the all-important scientific papers that are the 'currency' of scientific research.

Where next?

Before she started her PhD, Jordana worked as a child psychologist in South Australia. Now that she is nearing the end of her study, she is considering where to work next. She will continue work in clinical psychology and ideally she wants to find a position that combines clinical work with research on early intervention with children and families.

Job specs

  Psychologists study human behaviour, conduct research and apply research findings in order to reduce distress and behavioural and psychological problems, and to promote mental health and rational behaviour in individuals and groups. Psychologists work on a broad range of issues with clientele including children, adults, couples, families and organisations.


Psychologists may perform the following tasks: 

  • Conduct therapeutic interviews and provide counselling
  • Give psychological tests and assess the results to identify the source of problems and determine treatment
  • Research psychological aspects of topics such as study motivation, teaching skills, occupational behaviour, working conditions and organisational structures
  • Provide follow-up services to groups and individuals for support and evaluation purposes
  • Evaluate the results of programs aimed at improving personal and organisational effectiveness
  • Construct tests to assess and predict mental and emotional states, as well as performance
  • Conduct academic research

Personal requirements

  • Interested in people and human behaviour 
  • Able to solve problems
  • An inquisitive mind
  • Patience and perceptiveness
  • Good oral and written communication skills

Getting started

Find out more about a career in psychology:

The Australian Psychological Society Ltd
PO Box 38 Flinders Lane Post Office Melbourne, VIC 8009
Tel: (03) 8662 3300
Fax: (03) 9663 6177

Find out more about this career path at (Note: free registration is required to access the myfuture site).