New psychology students will pay 113 per cent more for their courses while clinical psychology masters students will have their fees slashed under university reforms, a move which industry advocates say is short-sighted.
Australian Association of Psychologists executive director Tegan Carrison said it was disappointing that only one area of psychology was being promoted in the Job-ready Graduates Package.
"There are actually nine different areas of endorsement in Australia, so that includes things like counselling psychology, forensic psychology, clinical neuropsychology, education and development, sport and exercise psychology," she said.
"There are all of these different layers to psychology and it's really baffling to us why the government would single out just clinical psychology which only makes up 30 per cent of registered psychologists in Australia."
Linda Bruce, a registered psychologist at The Help Centre in Queanbeyan, said it was short-sighted and disruptive for the profession.
"It's really disruptive because it divides the psychology profession at a time when we're all trying to work together," she said.
"At present we are just inundated, especially with COVID-19 and the physical isolation. People are extremely anxious."
Ms Bruce said clinical psychologists were not the only practitioners who dealt with clients with mental health conditions.
When asked why clinical psychology was singled out for fee discounts, Education Minister Dan Tehan said health care was projected to make the largest contribution to employment growth over the next five years.
Australian Clinical Psychology Association President Associate Professor Vida Bliokas said it was good to see the government supporting the growth of the mental health workforce by lowering clinical psychology fees by 46 per cent, but it was concerning that undergraduate students would face a 113 per cent increase as it was considered to be a behavioural science.
"It's frustrating that psychology hasn't been seen among the hard sciences because really science itself, STEM courses, haven't been cut in the same way."
Universities are also facing a significant funding shortfall for clinical psychology courses.
The current combined student and commonwealth funding is $20,351 per student. This would be reduced by $3151 to $17,200 per student under the reforms.
"They are intensive courses to run at the best of times and often they're being subsidised by fees that have come from undergraduates," Associate Professor Bliokas said.
"There's a lot of observation and practice of skills at this level and that by definition requires slightly smaller cohorts that you teach because there has to be a way of observing."
She said some prospective students might be deterred from taking up an undergraduate psychology degree, which could cost up to $43,500 over three years if all subjects came from social studies, political science and behavioural science disciplines.
"My advice of course would be you have to go with your passion and if you're interested in this type of work, it's very rewarding. It's not easy but it's very rewarding."