FAQ – Accreditation & the Study of Professional Psychology
Only doctoral and internship training programmes can become accredited by the CPA. Individuals, on the other hand, do not become accredited – instead, they become licensed or registered to practice psychology.
When a programme becomes accredited, this means that they meet a certain level of standards in the training that they provide to students.
When an individual psychologist becomes licensed or registered, this means that they have completed the necessary academic and practical requirements to legally provide psychological services to the public.
Accreditation is important for numerous reasons. 4 key reasons are:
- Accreditation is like a ‘stamp of approval’ from the larger psychology community that says a particular programme meets the standards that are considered important for professional psychology training.
- Graduating from an accredited programme facilitates the licensure/registration process.
- Many internship programmes will only accept applicants from an accredited doctoral programme.
- Many employers prefer individuals who have graduated from an accredited doctoral and internship programme.
Often due to a variety of personal factors, individuals cannot attend an accredited programme. In this situation, it is important at the outset of your studies to be in contact with the provincial/territorial regulatory body of the province where you would eventually hope to live and work. This way, you can confirm whether your planned training will indeed meet the requirements to become licensed/registered.
A list of the provincial and territorial psychology regulatory bodies, along with their registration requirements, can be found at: cpa.ca/accreditation/PTlicensingrequirements
The CPA only accredits doctoral level programmes in professional psychology, so no Master's programmes receive accreditation. An up-to-date list of all the CPA accredited programmes can be found at: cpa.ca/accreditation/CPAaccreditedprograms
When considering a Master’s, it is important to be aware that the requirements for licensing (e.g., Master's vs. Ph.D.) do vary among provinces/territories. A basic list of these differences can be found at: cpa.ca/accreditation/PTlicensingrequirements
The American Psychological Association (APA) also only accredits doctoral level programmes in professional psychology. You can find a list of all the APA accredited programmes at: www.apa.org/ed/accreditation/programs/index.aspx.
Note that graduation from an accredited programme is not currently a requirement for licensure in any Canadian jurisdiction but may be in US jurisdictions. In some US states, the requirement for graduation from an accredited programme may mean APA or CPA accreditation. In both Canada and the US, graduation from an accredited programme can facilitate the licensing process even if it isn’t a requirement. Before deciding on which programme to attend, accredited or not, it is a good idea to get in touch with the regulatory body of the province or state in which you intend to practice to find out about their requirements. The contact information for all provincial and state regulatory bodies can be found at: http://www.asppb.net/?page=BdContactNewPG.
There are some online programmes available, primarily at the Master’s level. However, the CPA does not currently accredit any online psychology training programmes. As well, the CPA only accredits Doctoral level programmes, so no Master’s programmes receive accreditation.
An up-to-date list of all of the CPA accredited programmes can be found at: cpa.ca/accreditation/CPAaccreditedprograms
Most importantly, if you are considering an online degree, it is key to check ahead of time with the relevant provincial/territorial psychology regulatory body, as each body may have differing views about the acceptability of online training. You can find a list of the regulatory bodies at: cpa.ca/public/whatisapsychologist/regulatorybodies
Please note that some regulatory bodies specifically state that they do NOT accept applicants with degrees earned online. As well, some doctoral programmes do NOT accept applicants with degrees earned online. Thus, please research your options carefully if considering an online degree.
The next most important factor is whether you will be able to find work. Just as different regulatory bodies and doctoral programmes may have differing views on online training, different employers may as well. In fact, many employers prefer applicants who have attended an accredited programme. If there is an employer you are interested in working for, it can be helpful to start looking now at any job postings and their requirements. You might even want to contact an employer directly to find out if they accept applicants with degrees earned online.
Note that the CPA only accredits Canadian professional psychology training programmes, so no programmes in other countries receive accreditation through the CPA.
What is most important if you are planning to train abroad and then later come back to Canada to work as a psychologist, is whether your training meets the Canadian requirements to become licensed. This is regulated separately by each province or territory, and your foreign credentials would need to be assessed for equivalence. A list of each of the provincial/territorial regulatory bodies and their requirements is available at: cpa.ca/accreditation/PTlicensingrequirements
You can also check out this international credentialing website for more information about studying abroad: http://www.cicic.ca/860/Study/index.canada
It is a good idea at the outset to contact the relevant provincial/territorial regulatory body of the province in which you would later expect to live and work, in order to confirm with them whether your planned training abroad might meet their requirements for registration. While the regulatory body cannot guarantee anything, at least you can inform yourself of their key requirements and work towards meeting these as best you can.
In order to apply for graduate study in psychology in Canada, you will need to demonstrate that any foreign education you have already taken is equivalent to a Canadian degree. Each university you apply to will have their own requirements, but you can start by checking out this website for more information about studying in Canada: http://www.cicic.ca/857/Study/index.Canada
As for your selection of university programme, a list of all of the CPA accredited professional psychology (graduate level) training programmes can be found at: cpa.ca/accreditation/CPAaccreditedprograms
At the undergraduate level, a list of Canadian universities offering psychology programmes can be found at: cpa.ca/students/resources/canadianuniversities
Note that the admission requirements, deadlines, and fees differ from one programme to another so it is best to check out the websites for each programme that interests you, and/or contact them directly.
Note that the CPA does not regulate the practice of psychology in Canada – this is done separately by each province or territory. Thus, to work as a professional psychologist in Canada, you must become registered with the relevant provincial or territorial licensing body. The requirements to be able to be licensed (e.g. Master’s degree or Ph.D.) also vary from one province/territory to another, so it is best to start by contacting the regulatory body for the province where you plan to live and work. You can find a list of all of the provincial and territorial bodies and their basic registration requirements at: cpa.ca/accreditation/PTlicensingrequirements
As part of the registration process, you will also need to get your foreign education credentials assessed for equivalence, and the regulatory body can tell you what information they need. Another potentially useful resource is the CICIC: http://www.cicic.ca/858/Work.canada
It is possible that some US states or employers will require that psychologists practicing in their jurisdictions have graduated from APA accredited programmes. Many view CPA accreditation as equivalent to APA accreditation but some may not. Consquently, it is a good idea to get in touch with the regulatory body of the province or state in which you intend to practice to find out about their requirements. The contact information for all provincial and state regulatory bodies can be found at: http://www.asppb.net/?page=BdContactNewPG.
Students may be additionally reassured by two key pieces of information:
- It has long been the position of the Association of State and Provincial Psychology Boards (ASPPB) that the North American licensing bodies they represent treat APA and CPA accreditation equivalently. Here is a link to the statement to that effect on the ASPPB website: http://www.asppb.net/?page=CPAAccredited
- In 2012 the APA and the CPA signed an agreement on mutual recognition in which each association formally recognizes the equivalence of the other’s accreditation activities. You can read more about this agreement at: cpa.ca/accreditation/accreditationthroughoutnorthamerica/
The CPA has produced a general guide to assist students who are applying for internship, and within this guide there is a section specific to applying to programmes in the US: cpa.ca/documents/Internship_workbook.pdf
**Important note re visa requirements: While the internship document indicates the use of a J1 visa, the process has become less straightforward in recent years. Please feel free to contact the CPA Accreditation Office at firstname.lastname@example.org or CCPPP via their website at ccppp.ca for further assistance.
FAQ – Programme Accreditation Process
The CPA Accreditation Panel is happy to consult with programmes considering an application for accreditation. Please just contact the Accreditation Office at email@example.com with any questions or to arrange a meeting. A pdf version of the CPA Accreditation Manual is available at: cpa.ca/accreditation/resources/
Another excellent resource is the Canadian Council of Professional Psychology programmes (CCPPP). The CCPPP maintains a list of experienced professional psychology training directors, who are also happy to provide mentoring to new programmes. See the CCPPP website for more information: ccppp.ca
Some programmes also choose to have an objective outsider review their accreditation application, before officially submitting it for the Accreditation Panel’s review. If needed, the CPA Accreditation Office can provide names and contact information of experienced site visitors to conduct an initial review of a programme. Please note that the programme is responsible for making all arrangements and negotiating suitable payment to the consultant.
While a programme is undergoing the initial accreditation process, it is important to be clear in all public documents (i.e., website, brochure) that although the programme may be hopeful to receive accreditation, there is no guarantee of this outcome, or the timeline. The Panel kindly requests that any new/non-accredited programmes refrain from using statements such as "not yet accredited", "undergoing accreditation", "awaiting accreditation", etc., as such wording can inadvertently imply to students an expectation of accreditation.
Self-study forms can be found at: cpa.ca/accreditation/resources/
The completed self-study form (including written responses, statistical information requested in the tables, and all relevant appendices) can be submitted to the CPA Accreditation Office, either via email to firstname.lastname@example.org or via the file upload system.
There are no deadlines for submission of an initial self-study application. For programmes undergoing re-accreditation, your self-study should be submitted during the last academic year of your programme’s term of accreditation. Ideally, doctoral programmes are encouraged to submit in the summer (prior to the academic year due) or fall, and internship programmes are encouraged to submit within these same periods, with the addition of early winter as a final deadline.
For either an initial or re-accreditation submission, it is helpful to keep the timelines of the accreditation process in mind – think about when during the year your programme would hope to hold your site visit, and then work backwards by a minimum of 3, preferably 4 or more months. Submitting the self-study with this much lead time allows for the application to be reviewed by a Panel member, any additional clarifying information to be obtained, the site visit to be authorized, the site visit team to be selected, travel arrangements to be made, and the site visitors to have 4 to 6 weeks to review your programme’s materials.
Normally within two months of our office receiving an application, we are able to inform programmes whether or not a site visit has been authorized.
For new programmes, please also keep in mind that the full process, as described below, from submission of self-study to authorization of a site visit to completion of the site visit report, response, and final decision by the Panel at one of the bi-annual meetings normally takes at least one full year, and often one and a half years. Particularly for internship programmes, this can have an impact on advertising in the APPIC match. Thus, it is advisable to submit a new self-study application as soon as possible during an academic year, even if a site visit may be desired much later in the year.
After the site visit, the site visit team has one month to prepare their report. This is then sent by our office to your programme, and then you have one month to submit a response to the site visitors report. Then all of this information is reviewed by 2 Panel members, in preparation for discussion and voting by the full Panel at the next scheduled Panel meeting. Panel meetings take place twice per year, once in the spring and once in the fall. Ideally we need at least 3 months (or more) between a site visit and the Panel meeting. Thus, programmes which schedule a site visit during July or August may at times need to wait until the subsequent spring Panel meeting to be reviewed.
It is helpful to note that regardless of when the accreditation decision is made, provided the decision is to award accreditation, the term is always backdated to the date of your site visit.
Terms of accreditation span from 3 to 7 years, based on the relative strengths and weaknesses of a programme. Usually it is only well-established programmes that receive a 6 or 7 year term, and it is very normal for a new programme to receive a shorter term of accreditation.
Each year of the accredited term, programmes are expected to submit an annual report, and pay the annual fee. Every spring accredited programmes are sent a reminder to complete and submit their annual report by the September 1st reporting deadline.
Programmes due for re-accreditation in the following year are also sent a reminder in the spring. The re-accreditation process occurs in the last year of a programme’s accredited term (overlapping terms), in order to ensure continuity of accredited status for a programme’s students. Consequently, it is important for programmes to work on their re-accreditation self-study prior to the last year of their term, and submit the self-study with enough lead time for the site visit to occur before the end of the academic year. The re-accreditation process otherwise proceeds in the same manner as the initial accreditation process.
The full accreditation fee schedule can be found at: cpa.ca/accreditation/resources/
Note that the initial application fee (applicable to new programmes only) can be submitted along with your application, or your programme can be invoiced for the amount if required. Site visitor fees are charged only after completion of the site visit. Annual fees are due for each accredited year. Because the term of accreditation is back dated to the date of the site visit, note that the annual fee for the first year of a new programme’s accredited term will often apply to the previous academic year (thus two year's worth of annual fees may be due at once).