What degrees do I need?
To become a psychologist requires obtaining an advanced degree after completing a bachelor's degree in psychology, i.e., attending graduate school and obtaining a master's degree and/or doctoral degree.
In general, 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, forensic psychologists, personnel psychologists, 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. In a traditional master's program, students take courses, do a major project (e.g., research thesis, a major literature review/critique), and write and defend the project. Of course, master's degrees prepare individuals for entry into doctoral programs of study.
A doctoral degree is especially important if an individual wishes to provide psychological services (e.g., as a clinical psychologist) or become a university professor. Typically, such individuals choose between a Ph.D. and Psy.D. program. 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 requires research and practitioner expertise. In a Psy.D. program, often referred to as a "professional school" program, there is greater emphasis on training and professional practice. Therefore, students usually take a more structured series of courses and receive considerable practical experience. At the present time, there are no Psy.D. graduate programs in Canada.
How long does it take?
A master's degree usually takes two to three years to complete, followed by an additional two to four 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. Nevertheless, to become a Ph.D. clinical psychologist or a university professor takes approximately five to seven years after receiving a bachelor's degree in psychology.
What marks do I need to get in?
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 require students to take the Graduate Record Examination (GRE) and receive high scores as an admission requirement.
What about a clinical psychologist?
In the Canada and the United States, a doctoral degree (Ph.D., Psy.D., Ed.D.1) is considered as the basic degree for a profession in psychology. Both the Canadian Psychological Association and American Psychological Association endorse the doctoral degree as providing the best preparation for professional work and the maximization of employment opportunities. On the other hand, there are employment opportunities available at the master's level of preparation (e.g., M.Sc., M.A., M.Ed.2). For example, in some provinces in Canada (e.g., Alberta, Saskatchewan, Quebec), individuals can become chartered psychologists and college professors with a master's degree.
Being licensed, certified or chartered as a psychologist providing psychological services varies from province-to-province in Canada and state-to-state in the United States. That is, different jurisdictions have different laws, examination procedures, and criteria for approval for practice. 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 the responsibility of students to become knowledgeable about the licensing, certification, or chartering requirements of the jurisdictions in which they wish to practice and the quality of the graduate programs offering training.