Becoming a Psychologist

What Degrees Do I Need?

To become a psychologist, after obtaining a bachelor’s degree in psychology, one must attend graduate school and obtaining a master’s degree and/or doctoral degree.

At the master’s degree level, one can obtain a master of arts (M.A.) or a master of science (M.Sc.). Traditionally, in a master’s program, students are required to take courses (of which one must be in research methods and another in statistics), complete a major project (e.g. research thesis or a major literature review/critique) and write-up and defend the project either in a poster-setting or in front of a committee. Master’s degrees prepare individuals for entry into doctoral programs of study.

A master’s degree provides training for a variety of applied settings such as in schools, business and industry, mental health, and government. For example, such individuals may work as child welfare workers, school counsellors or administrators, testing and assessment psychologists, or therapists. Individuals with a M.Sc. may also serve as researchers or research associates working for the government, or in service agencies or universities as research consultants and research administrators.

At the Ph.D. level, one can obtain a Ph.D. in clinical or experimental psychology, or a Psy.D. In a Ph.D. program, students normally take courses, pass comprehensive examinations, conduct original research, and write and defend their dissertation. For those wishing to provide psychological services to clients, they also have to spend at least one additional year interning and receiving supervision. Thus, a Ph.D. program in clinical psychology requires research and practitioner expertise. Ph.D. programs in experimental psychology to do not require an additional internship year. In a Psy.D. program, often referred to as a "professional school" program, there is greater emphasis on training and professional practice.  

How Long Does it Take to Become a Psychologist?

Overall, it takes approximately five to eight years after receiving a bachelor’s degree to obtain a Ph.D. in psychology. A master’s degree usually takes two to three years to complete, followed by an additional four to six years for a doctoral (Ph.D., Psy.D.) degree. Some schools permit students to enter a doctoral program directly from receipt of a bachelor’s degree. If you complete your master’s and Ph.D. at the same university, universities will not generally require students to take additional research methods and statistics courses.

What Marks Do I Need to Get in to Graduate School?

The requirements for admission into graduate programs in psychology vary among institutions. The usual requirements are an undergraduate degree in psychology, a grade point average of at least 3.5 (on a 4-point scale), and strong letters of reference (usually from psychology professors). Many graduate programs also require students to take the Graduate Record Examination (GRE) and receive high scores as an admission requirement.

What Do I Need to Do to Become a Clinical Psychologist?

In Canada, a doctoral degree (Ph.D.) is considered the basic degree for a profession in psychology. The CPA endorses the doctoral degree as providing the best preparation for professional work and the maximization of employment opportunities. However, there are employment opportunities available at the master’s level of preparation (e.g., M.Sc., M.A., M.Ed). For example, in some provinces in Canada (e.g., Alberta, Saskatchewan), individuals can become chartered psychologists and college professors with a master’s degree.

The requirements for being registered, licensed, certified or chartered as a psychologist providing psychological services varies from province-to-province in Canada. Having a master’s or doctoral degree does not guarantee eligibility to practice. The normal requirements are (a) possessing the required graduate degree, (b) having received supervised experience, and (c) passing written and oral exams on practice and ethical issues. It is a student’s responsibility to learn about the licensing, certification, or chartering requirements of the jurisdictions in which they wish to practice and the quality of the graduate programs in which they are considering training.