How to Become a Psychologist in Canada (With Duties)

By Indeed Editorial Team

Updated February 2, 2023

Published May 17, 2021

The Indeed Editorial Team comprises a diverse and talented team of writers, researchers and subject matter experts equipped with Indeed's data and insights to deliver useful tips to help guide your career journey.

Psychologists work to diagnose and treat cognitive, emotional and behavioural disorders while applying theories related to psychology. Individuals interested in this career are required to complete advanced education up to the doctoral degree level. If you are interested in helping people with their mental health, you'll have to complete your education and become certified. In this article, we discuss what a psychologist does, explain how to become one and answer some frequently asked questions.

What does a psychologist do?

Psychologists are healthcare professionals who provide patient care related to their mental health. They assess the psychosocial patterns, cognitive abilities and emotional state of both children and adults. The day-to-day duties of a psychologist may vary from writing reports on a patient's mental status and conducting interviews with family and friends to administering treatments depending on the institution they are working in. Psychologist duties and responsibilities may include:

  • assessing patient behaviour, diagnosing the patient and providing therapy

  • using standard psychological testing to assess patients

  • reviewing patient medical history to collect case history

  • conducting patient interviews

  • writing reports on patient assessment

  • attending clinical conferences

  • providing consultation services


  • What Does a Cognitive Psychologist Do? And How to Become One

  • How to Become an Educational Psychologist in 8 Steps

Psychologist salary expectations

Wondering how much a psychologist makes? Well, in most cases, psychologists are paid an annual salary of over $100,000. However, freelance psychologists may decide to work part-time and charge hourly rates. Salaries can vary depending on location, level of education, experience and certifications. According to Indeed salaries, the average salary of a psychologist in Canada is $141,091 per year.

How to become a psychologist

To become a psychologist, interested individuals have to undergo various levels of education including undergraduate studies, a master's degree and finally a PhD. Additionally, they may require professional certifications and practice licensing. Here are the steps to becoming a psychologist:

  1. Research psychology subfields

  2. Complete undergraduate studies in psychology

  3. Complete a master's degree

  4. Consider working to gain experience

  5. Complete a doctoral degree

  6. Consider completing a supervised experience

  7. Pass oral and written exams

Related: What to Do With an Organizational Psychology Master's Degree

1. Research psychology subfields

Take your time to research the available subfields in psychology before joining college to meet all the requirements. Here is a list of some of the most popular subfields in Canada:

  • school psychology

  • forensic psychology

  • social psychology

  • industrial psychology

  • sports psychology

  • counseling psychology

  • neuropsychological research and experimental research

  • health psychology

  • developmental psychology

  • education psychology

  • clinical psychology

Related: How To Become an Engineering Psychologist (With Salary)

2. Complete undergraduate studies in psychology

An undergraduate degree is the educational foundation for starting a career in psychology. In most cases, students pursue a bachelor's degree in psychology in their undergraduate studies to learn the basics of psychological theories and methodology. Other students may choose related fields such as criminal justice studies if they have an interest in pursuing forensic psychology. Additionally, those who wish to become school psychologists may choose an education-related undergraduate study.

Social sciences programs and hard sciences may provide a foundation in understanding scientific research methods and behavioral theory that are all essential in pursuing a career in psychology. It is important to note that admission requirements to enroll for undergraduate studies may vary depending on the university. Therefore, take your time to research to ensure you meet admission requirements for your university of choice.

3. Complete a master's degree

Anyone who wants to be a psychologist must obtain a master's degree. This typically takes between one and three years to complete depending on the depth of the coursework. Students at this level will be well prepared for their doctoral studies. Every student should complete a research thesis or a rigorous literature review to pass their master's studies. Additionally, they are required to defend their work in a final examination.

Masters degree level training prepares professionals to work in different settings such as mental health institutions, schools and government healthcare centres. For example, master graduates may work as school counsellors, assessment psychologists, or child welfare workers. These individuals may also work as research administrators or consultants in service agencies and government institutions.

4. Consider working to gain experience

It is a good idea to gain some work experience after completing your master's degree. Working gives you exposure to psychology work and can help you to decide which field to specialize in. Being able to determine the subfield you want to work in through experience will not only allow you to hone your professional skills but will also help you gather professional experience to secure future employment. Additionally, it provides an opportunity to meet like-minded professionals or, better yet, meet a mentor who may help you develop your career.

Related: 7 Steps for Creating a Resume as a Student

5. Complete a doctoral degree

Students can either pursue a PhD in experimental psychology or a PhD in clinal psychology. In general, a professional pursuing a PhD is required to complete courses and comprehension exams. Additionally, learning is focused on conducting initial research before defending their final report. Individuals who are interested in providing psychological services require at least one year of internship. For example, those pursuing a PhD program in clinical psychology will have to do a one-year internship but those who pursue a research PhD in psychology don't need to.

PhD programs are often highly competitive to ensure students benefit from comprehensive programs. Therefore, students can increase their chances of being selected by completing internship programs, volunteering in institutions and completing their masters with high grades.

Related: What Is PsyD vs. PhD in Psychology? (With Key Differences)

6. Consider completing a supervised experience

Clinically supervised experience varies depending on the jurisdiction you wish you practice. To find more information on the number of hours you have to complete, visit the board of psychologists in your jurisdiction. It is important to perform additional training in your area of specialization, for example, performing more clinical training in age care if you wish to work with older adults.

7. Pass oral and written exams

Providing psychological services in Canada as a registered, chartered or qualified psychologist varies depending on the province. Obtaining a doctoral and master's degree does not necessarily mean you can practise. In addition to completing a master's, doctoral degree and supervised work experience, you will need to pass oral and written exams with your local psychologist licensing organization to be licensed.

Related: Psychology Certifications: Definitions and Tips to Succeed

Becoming a psychologist FAQs

Here are some frequently asked questions about becoming a psychologist:

Do I need a doctoral degree to become a psychologist?

In most cases, a doctoral degree is considered the basic degree in Canada to pursue a psychologist career because of its ability to provide the best preparation for practice. However, this requirement may vary depending on the province. For example, in Alberta and Saskatchewan, you can qualify to be a chartered psychologist after obtaining a master's degree.

How long does it take to become a psychologist?

It takes approximately five to eight years after completing undergraduate studies to become a psychologist in Canada. Again, the number of years varies depending on the institution and the subfield of specialization. Additionally, some universities may allow transition from undergraduate studies direct to PhD, without the need to complete a master's degree.

What is the minimum grade requirement for graduate school for psychology?

While admission requirements may vary depending on universities, in most cases they include:

  • Strong recommendation letters from your psychology professor

  • GPA of 3.5 out of 4.0

  • Undergraduate studies in psychology or a related field

Some institutions may conduct Graduate Record Examinations and may require an applicant to obtain high scores.

What skills do I require as a psychologist?

Psychologists require a range of skills to help patients with a range of problems such as neurological disorders, anxiety, depression, learning abilities, behavioural challenges and mental illness. As a psychologist, you will require the following skill-set:

  • Assessing a patient's state of mind and diagnosing mental illness

  • Ability to create experimental designs and hypothesis, literature reviews and research papers in psychology

  • Applying psychological theory and principle to provide therapy

  • Counselling patients and their family members on achieving social and personal development

  • Interpreting test results and providing consultancy services

  • Administering medication

  • Assessing patients through standard psychological tests

  • Conducting research and delivering presentations in conferences and workshops

Observational skills, good listening skills, a keen eye for detail, comprehension ability and good communication skills are important skills for any successful psychologist. Additionally, as a psychologist, you must possess problem-solving skills to be able to assess patients and provide them with the appropriate treatment plan.

Related: Interpersonal Skills: Definitions and Examples

Now that we have reviewed all of the education requirements and duties you can chart the path of how to become a psychologist in Canada.

Salary figures reflect data listed on the quoted websites at time of writing. Salaries may vary depending on the hiring organization and a candidate’s experience, academic background and location.

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