Psychology is the scientific study of behaviour, that is, how we think, feel, and act. Psychologists study both normal and abnormal behaviour to understand it. Psychologists also try to use what we learn from that study to help people change aspects of their behaviour that they want to change.
Careers in Psychology offer varied opportunities. Employment opportunities for capable psychologists are expected to be slightly better than average over the next several years. However, if you’re interested in a career in Psychology, you should know that the training program to become a psychologist is a long one. There is also stiff competition for places in graduate training programs in Psychology.
Some psychologists work in the health care field. They practice in hospitals, rehabilitation facilities, and both public and private clinics. They may work individually or in teams with other health care professionals such as physicians, nurses, social workers, and so forth. Psychologists in health care provide assessment and treatment services to persons with mental and emotional disorder. Because of the growing body of scientific knowledge about the role of psychological factors in physical health and disease, psychologists also play a role in the management of various physical disorders, such as heart disease, neurological illnesses and injuries, gastrointestinal disorders, pulmonary disorders, chronic pain, and diabetes. Psychologists in health care may teach, do research, and consult to other health care professionals on how psychological factors affect health and disease. Health psychologists are also involved in evaluating the effectiveness of treatment methods and programs for health care.
Psychologists also work in the school system where they provide assessment and treatment to kids with learning difficulties. They may also work with children who have various emotional disorders. School psychologists may be involved in the assessment of children’s mental abilities and emotional skills and in the design of learning programs in the school and at home. School psychologists may do research on psychological factors related to child development and learning.
Industrial/organizational psychologists work in businesses to help organizations and the people who work for them function better. They may use psychological methods to help in employee selection and improving productivity within the organization. Human factors psychologists may use psychological methods to design better workplaces in which people can work more comfortably and effectively.
Psychologists may teach and do research in university settings. Their research may extend all the way from intricate studies of fundamental abilities such as visual perception and the behaviour of single cells in the brain to complex studies of the behaviour of large groups of people.
People who want to become psychologists usually start by completing a university Honour’s degree in Psychology. The Honour’s degree program will provide a basic background in the body of scientific and clinical knowledge in Psychology. As well, students will get some opportunity to see what applied practice in Psychology will actually look like by taking courses and seminars in areas of special interest.
Following the undergraduate degree, a two year program of graduate studies in Psychology in a university will lead the student to a Master’s degree. Part of that two-year program will usually involve completing a research project in Psychology. Some provinces allow persons with a Master’s degree in Psychology to be registered as a psychologist. However, many people, particularly those who want to practice in a specialty area of Psychology, will go on to complete their doctoral degree in Psychology before becoming registered or licensed to practice. This will take another three to four years of study on average. As part of the doctoral program, students will complete a more complex research project in Psychology that will serve as their doctoral thesis. They will also complete an intensive one-year internship program outside the university that will prepare them with the clinical skills they need to practice Psychology following completion of their degree.
Each Canadian province and every state in the United States has laws in place that direct who may practice psychology or who may call themselves a psychologist. These laws differ from province to province and state to state. However, they essentially say what the educational requirements for practice as a psychologist are and what experience a person has to have to be registered or licensed as a psychologist. All provinces and states also require applicants to pass examinations before being registered or licensed to practice.
In Alberta, at this time, a person may be registered as a Chartered Psychologist if he or she has:
Psychologists are also required to understand and adhere to a specific Code of Ethics that governs their practice as a psychologist. Psychologists who breach this Code or who break other laws or regulations related to their practice may have their registration suspended or revoked. Being allowed to practice Psychology is a privilege that Psychologists earn by their professional behaviour.
For more information about Psychology, careers in Psychology, or how to become a psychologist, check any of the following links to Psychology organizations in Canada and the United States:
For more information visit our Predoctoral Residency Program in Clinical Psychology.