- Working in Psychology in Canada
- Before You Come to Canada
- Preparing to work in Psychology
- Finding a Job in Canada
- Additional Resources
Psychology is important to the health and well-being of Canadian society. It is a diverse field with various areas of specialties and interests, including neuroscience, health science and social science. A psychologist studies how individuals think, feel and behave from a scientific viewpoint and applies this knowledge to help people understand, explain and change their behaviour.
Like other regulated professions, psychologists who practise are licensed by the province or territory. Depending on the province or territory in which you want to practise, you will need a master’s or doctoral degree in psychology in order to be eligible for licensure.
Psychologists work in various settings, including schools, private practices, businesses, hospitals and clinics, jails or correctional facilities, courts, social welfare agencies and rehabilitation centres. Those who work as researchers usually do so at universities where they also teach or within other governmental or non-governmental organizations.
Psychologist practitioners typically focus their work on assessing and diagnosing mental health disorders and using a range of psychotherapies to help people resolve or cope with their disorders and problems. Psychologists are not medical doctors and do not prescribe medications.
Some areas in which psychologists focus their research and practice are:
- mental health problems such as depression, anxiety, phobias
- neurological, psychological and social determinants of behaviour
- brain injury, degenerative brain diseases
- the perception and management of pain
- psychological factors and problems associated with physical conditions and disease (e.g., diabetes, heart disease, stroke)
- developmental problems like autism and attention deficit disorders
- cognitive functions such as learning, memory, problem solving, intellectual ability and performance
Because of the diverse nature of the psychology field, you will be expected to have the following skills: the ability to analyse problems and think critically; the ability to interpret and evaluate research, including statistics; understanding of genetic, biological and social influences on behaviour; and sensitivity and awareness of interpersonal, developmental and cultural differences.
To acquire a better understanding of the kinds of employment opportunities available in psychology, please visit the website of the Canadian Psychological Association (CPA).
There are many important things that you can do to improve your chances of success before you come to Canada.
The FCRO provides you with helpful resources such as the Planning to Work in Canada? workbook. Use these resources to collect important information and to develop your job-search plan.
Language skills are important for a successful career in Canada. You will need to prove your skills in English or French. This may require that you be assessed. If you need to improve your language skills, start before you come to Canada.
Note that the work of a psychologist, particularly one who is licensed and works with patients, relies heavily on communication so that problems and disorders can be evaluated and treated through psychotherapies. Accordingly, work as a psychologist requires a very high level of proficiency in English or French.
After you arrive in Canada, find immigrant services in your area including language training, job-search help and, in some cases, job placements.
Your official education, work and identity documents are also important. It is much easier for you to gather your documents while still in your home country.
If your documents are neither in English nor in French, you will need to have them translated. Verify which documents and translation services are required for your occupation.
In Canada, regulated occupations such as psychology require a professional licence. Regulated professionals are expected to complete several years of university or college education, acquire practical experience in their chosen profession and have successfully completed a licensure.
Each province or territory is typically responsible for setting the requirements for regulated occupations.
You should verify the regulatory requirements with the province or territory in which you plan to live. The CPA website lists the names and contact information of all the provincial and territorial regulatory bodies for psychology. Contact the regulatory body in the province or territory in which you intend to work to find out which steps you need to take to get your licence.
To work as a psychologist in Canada, you need to have a master’s or a doctoral degree in psychology. A master’s degree requires up to six years of university study whereas a doctoral degree will require up to 10 years of university study. Psychologists who focus on research are typically employed by universities, for which a doctoral degree is required.
In addition to educational requirements, you will likely have to have supervised clinical experience and to have passed written and oral examinations on practice and ethical issues to obtain your licence.
Although psychologists can obtain a general licence, they are required to declare their areas of competency or specialization to the regulatory body and to practise within the bounds of their competence. Typically, your course concentration, research and training experiences in graduate school will have prepared you for working within a particular specialty area. Licensed psychologists will have completed their graduate university training in clinical psychology, counselling psychology, clinical neuropsychology or educational/school psychology. For more information on specific skill requirements for your specialization, refer to the CPA’s handbook Planning a Career in Psychology on the CPA website.
Once in practice, psychologists are required to complete a number of continuing education courses each year to update their skills and maintain certification. The requirements for continuing education are determined by each individual regulatory authority and may differ between provinces or territories.
You should take time to research job requirements and develop a plan for finding work. It is also important to understand the psychology labour market. The Working in Canada tool provides you with the latest information on the psychology labour market environment across Canada.
You will find the CPA website a valuable resource in your search for career opportunities in Canada. You can view job postings and apply for available jobs in psychology.
You will also find many psychology positions listed on the Government of Canada job site.
The CPA website provides a number of networks for psychologists with special interests. Membership in a section allows you to share and expand your knowledge within the context of the CPA’s objectives and will help you along your career development path.