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QUESTIONS ABOUT THE FIELD OF PSYCHOLOGY

Submitted by darmstro on Fri, 09/16/2016 - 10:37am

What are the job prospects for someone with a Psychology bachelor's degree?

There is no simple answer to this question, in part because jobs for psychology bachelor's graduates depend on the overall state of the economy and job opportunities within it. In addition, because of structural changes in the Canadian economy, new types of jobs are emerging and some traditional ones are disappearing.

The first thing to recognize is that you will not be hired as a Psychologist with only a bachelor's degree (B.A. or B.Sc.). You don't have enough training; you need at least a master's degree (M.A. or M.Sc.) and in many jurisdictions a Ph.D. (a doctoral degree) to practice as a psychologist. If you wish to work as a psychologist you should plan on going to graduate school and you should start preparing for that now.

A bachelor's degree in psychology is relevant to many different careers. Psychology students, through their diverse training, acquire a number of valuable skills throughout their degree program. These include the ability to analyze problems and to think critically; the ability to interpret and evaluate research, including statistics; an understanding of the genetic, biological, and social influences on behavior; and a sensitivity and awareness of interpersonal, developmental, and cultural differences. We and others who have surveyed psychology alumni have found that many graduates are working at jobs seemingly quite unrelated to psychology's supposed content. Yet the training, we argue, is still beneficial in instilling the "learning to learn" skills, the attitudes, abilities, and work habits, that will benefit you regardless of your career.

Many undergraduates study psychology as a first step toward a professional career, and it is a fact that a degree in psychology is excellent preparation for a variety of professional programs, including law, medicine, management, social work, speech pathology, audiology, counselling, and education.

One more important point. A university is not merely a "job training" facility. Employment is certainly a major reason to attend university, but there are other reasons too. A university is dedicated to the pursuit of "knowledge for knowledge's sake", and you will enjoy university a lot more while you're here and get a lot more out of it if you remember that. So, don't think about university and psychology as simply a means to an end. They are also ends in themselves.

More information can also be found in the Careers section of this website or by visiting the University of Calgary Career Services website.

How do I become a Clinical Psychologist?

In most provinces and states, professional clinical psychologists are required by law to have completed a doctoral degree (Ph.D.), a full-time one-year internship, and to be certified by a local Board of Examiners. Therefore, to become a clinical psychologist, you will need to be admitted to a graduate program in clinical psychology, and then complete both a master's and a Ph.D. degree. (In some provinces professionals with master's degrees in clinical psychology can practice as clinical psychologists, but it is anticipated that the doctoral degree will become the standard qualification in the future.)

You should note that acceptance into graduate programs in clinical psychology is very competitive and only students with the highest GPAs are admitted. As is true for all forms of graduate study in psychology, you will require courses in all of the core areas, possibly with a special emphasis on courses in the areas of personality, abnormal, developmental, and clinical psychology. It will also be to your advantage to take an Honours Program when completing your undergraduate degree (or to obtain equivalent academic and research experience).

Additional information about how to prepare for a career in clinical psychology is presented in Insider's Guide to Graduate Programs in Clinical and Counseling by Tracy J. Mayne, John C. Norcross, and Michael A. Sayette (2000/01: Guilford Press, New York), and an excellent set of materials on "How to Get into Graduate School in Clinical Psychology" can be found in the appendix to Introduction to Clinical Psychology by M. Neitzel, D. Bernstein and R. Milch (1991: Englewood Cliffs, New Jersey: Prentice-Hall). Also, take a look at Careers on this site.

What is the difference between a Clinical Psychologist and a Counsellor?

Both clinical and counselling psychology focus on helping people in distress, and some of the interventions used by clinical and counselling psychologists are similar. A major difference, however, is that whereas clinical psychologists deal with individuals suffering from mental and physical disorders, where the focus is on assessing, diagnosing, and alleviating the disorder and restoring normal functioning, counselling sychologists tend to work with less severe problems, including adjustment difficulties, marital disorders, and so on. Further, counselling psychologists are more likely than clinical psychologists to be involved in helping people, without any particular problem, achieve goals they have set (e.g., career counselling, personal development). Clinical psychology programs are typically found in departments of psychology, and counselling psychology programs are typically offered through departments of educational psychology, and some have an educational focus.

Please visit the Faculty of Education’s Counselling Psychology website for more information on their graduate program in counselling psychology.

What is the difference between a Clinical Psychologist and a Psychiatrist?

Clinical psychologists obtain their training in psychology, including the theory and practice of both normal and abnormal functioning. Clinical psychologists are trained as researchers, they know how to interpret the research literature, and many conduct research themselves. Clinical psychologists are experts in psychological theories, assessment, and treatments.

Psychiatrists are first trained as physicians. Following medical school, they then specialize in psychiatry, doing a 3 or 4 year psychiatric residency program. Psychiatrists are trained in the diagnosis and treatment of abnormal behavior, mostly from the perspective of biologically oriented models. Psychiatrists can prescribe medications for psychological problems, or do other medically oriented treatments, such as electro-convulsive therapy. For more information on Psychiatry, please contact UCalgary’s Faculty of Medicine.

What is Experiential Learning?

Experiential learning refers to practical learning within and beyond the normal instructional setting. It leads to broader, more enduring learning outcomes. An essential component of experiential learning is that the student is guided toward reflective observation so that the relevance of the experience can be assessed and placed into context. Experiential learning activities are often open-ended in the sense that neither the student nor the instructor has prior knowledge of all the results.

Within the B.A. and the B.Sc. programs, experiential learning opportunities include:

  • in-class demonstrations of psychological phenomena;
  • laboratory components in some senior courses;
  • conference courses allowing students to prusue independent research projects;
  • honours thesis; and
  • participation in psychological research as research participants.

Outside of the normal instructional setting, students may be involved in research in various laboratories and research settings within the department. Sometimes they work for pay, sometimes they are supported through a summer student fellowship that is awarded on a competitive basis by a major funding body, and sometimes they work on a volunteer basis.