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Athabasca University

How to Become a Psychologist

by Julia McDonald, AU Counsellor

In This Section


The minimum educational requirement to become a psychologist in Alberta is a master's degree in psychology or educational psychology; however, many positions require a doctoral (PhD) degree, which is the minimum education requirement in most other provinces. Psychologists must be registered/licensed with their Canadian provincial regulatory body or American state psychology board. Typically, it will take four years to complete an undergraduate degree in psychology, one to two years for a master’s degree and, if required, another three to four years for a PhD.   In most provinces/territories, you must pass a written Examination for Professional Practice in Psychology plus, in some instances, successfully complete oral examinations and/or board interviews. Also you will need to complete a period of supervised practical experience. If you wish to specialize in a specific area of psychology, you may need additional training and experience.   You will need to first complete a four year undergraduate degree in psychology followed by graduate studies. Most university graduate programs require a four year undergraduate degree as an entrance requirement. Here is AU's program information on our BA with a major in psychology (four years). 

The next step would be to enter a graduate program in psychology. According to the Canadian Psychological Association Study of Psychology the most common graduate programs are in Industrial-Organizational Psychology, Experimental Psychology, Clinical Psychology, Counselling Psychology, Neuropsychology, Forensic or Correctional Psychology, Developmental or Child Psychology.

Athabasca University offers a Master of Counselling degree with a specialization in Counselling Psychology. This stream is designed to provide you with the graduate coursework that you will need to apply to register as a psychologist in Alberta. For more information on this program see Graduate Centre for Applied Psychology plus visit the Athabasca University Graduate Student Calendar.

Additional resources can also be found in our article Exploring Career Paths in Psychology.

*NOTE: Information in this tip sheet is general in nature. Admission requirements to the various graduate programs in psychology differ from university to university. It is your responsibility to ensure that the courses or degree you take at AU will be accepted at the university you wish to attend. The Canadian Psychological Association's Graduate Guide lists most of the graduate programs in psychology in Canada.  Also, it is your responsibility to inquire about the licensing requirements in your province and make sure you have all the necessary prerequisites in both your undergraduate degree and graduate degree. You may need certain undergraduate and graduate courses to qualify for licensing.

Next Steps

1. Research career information on psychologist

You need to decide what type of psychologist you would like to become because there are several subfields in psychology, including

  • clinical psychologist
  • counselling psychologist
  • developmental psychologist
  • educational psychologist
  • forensic psychologist
  • health psychologist
  • industrial/organizational psychologist
  • neuropsychologist research and experimental psychologist
  • school psychologist
  • social psychologist
  • sports psychologist  

The following links contain useful information on duties, working conditions, skills, education, salary, employment prospects, and opportunities plus a whole lot more:  

A Guide to Psychology and its Practice 

Alberta Learning Information Service (ALIS)

American Psychological Association

Canadian Psychological Association: A Career in Psychology

Career Options for a BA: Psychology major

Working in Canada

Marky Lloyd’s Careers in Psychology Page

Psychologists’ Association of Alberta: Careers in Psychology

Psychology Career Centre

Portland State University: What Can I do With a Major in Psychology?

University of Lethbridge: What Can I Do With a Major in Psychology?

2. Contact your provincial or national psychology boards for registration requirements.

To become a practicing psychologist in Canada, you usually need to be registered or chartered. The educational requirements for registration may vary from province to province. A doctoral degree in psychology is required in Prince Edward Island, Nova Scotia, Ontario, Manitoba, Saskatchewan and British Columbia. A master's degree in psychology is required in Newfoundland, New Brunswick, Quebec, Alberta and the Northwest Territories.  

For Alberta: College of Alberta Psychologists

For those elsewhere: Provincial/Territorial Licensing Requirements For Psychologists 

Association of State and Provincial Psychology Boards

3. Contact the post secondary institutions you plan to attend for graduate studies.  

Request a course calendar and ask about admission requirements. For information about graduate degrees in psychology:  

Athabasca University: Graduate Centre for Applied Psychology

Alberta Learning Information Service

CPA Graduate Guide: Description of Graduate Psychology Programmes in Canadian Universities

4. Contact an AU Counsellor

A counsellor can provide you with more information on this particular career path and make sure the program you choose meets your goals. You can contact a counsellor by e-mail at, book a telephone appointment by calling 1-800-788-9041 ext. 6723 or use the online appointment form.

5.  Contact an AU student advisor

An advisor can help you select courses and develop a program plan for studies at Athabasca University. (For courses or programs at another institution, you must contact that institution directly for further assistance.) You can e-mail an advisor at, call 1-800-788-9041 or visit their web site.

6.  Become an AU Student

If you have further questions regarding this career path or wish to book a telephone appointment to speak with a counsellor, please contact us.


Alberta Learning Information Services (2005). Alberta Occupational Profiles. Retrieved July 25, 2005 from

Canadian Psychological Association (2011): Study of Psychology. Retrieved March 3, 2011 from

Psychologists' Association of Alberta: Career Information

Updated February 04 2014 by Student & Academic Services

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