Career planning

Useful links for career planning

Career considerations

It is OK if you don’t know what you want to do, but you should start to think about what you like about psychology and what you might want to do... or what you do not want to do!

Things to consider

  • Is there a particular population you are interested in? Working with children? Teens? Working with older adults? Applied research so you don’t have to work directly with people?
  • Are you willing to get additional degrees or certificates?
    • College programs/certificates = 1-2 years
    • Master's = 2-3 years
    • PhD = 4-6 years
  • Where do you want to work? School, hospital, or university? Government agency? Business? Running your own business? What province/country do you want to work in?
  • Do you prefer doing the same thing over and over or do you want more variability? Do you want someone to tell you what to do or do you want to decide yourself?
  • Think about how much money you need to be happy. Money does not equal happiness, but poverty does not equal happiness either! Different careers are associated with different pay scales. Also consider how important job stability is to you.

Try to get some experience through:

  • Volunteering — helps build skills and knowledge and you can focus on populations of interest
  • Job shadowing
  • Research — independent studies, honours, volunteer or paid research assistant
  • Academic — teaching assistant or tutoring

There are a lot of paths to get to where you want to go. For example, alternatives to clinical psychology include counselling psychology, school psychology, social work, youth care worker, drug counsellor.


Course selection for careers in psychology

A degree in psychology can prepare you for a wide range of careers. To help you sort through some of the many possible careers and assist in career planning, we have created the following resources. Listed here are a variety of careers and recommended psychology courses.

The career options listed here are some of the more popular choices for psychology students; there are many other careers for which a background in psychology is highly beneficial. Also, please note that the list of course suggestions is not comprehensive and is in addition to other courses needed to meet degree requirements.

For some of these career options it would be best if you were a psychology major or minor, for others even a few psychology courses can help you prepare for your career and further training.

More extensive guidance is available in the department. You should also note that for most careers a strong background in research methods, design, & analysis (e.g. Psyc 2001, 2011, & 3001) is invaluable. In addition, we have contacted former MtA psychology students to ask them what it is like to work in their field.

Career possibilities

Mental health services/child care services/community residences/human resources

These would include a variety of “helping” careers that do not necessarily require professional training beyond the undergraduate degree.

Recommended psychology courses:

Psyc 2121 (Behaviour Modification)
Psyc 2431 (Child & Adolescent Development)
Psyc 2601 (Abnormal Behaviour)
Psyc 2611 (Health Psychology)
Psyc 3151 (Drugs & Behavior)

Psyc 3301 (Interpersonal Relations)
Psyc 3331 (Death & Dying)
Psyc 3421 (Adulthood & Aging)
Psyc 3601 (Introduction to Clinical Psychology)
Psyc 3821 (Child Psychopathology)

Alumni interview: clinical psychologist

Jamie — Clinical Psychologist

1. Please tell us a bit about where you currently work.

I am a registered clinical psychologist in Toronto, ON. Clinical psychologists are trained to conduct and disseminate research as well as assess, diagnose, and treat psychiatric disorders.

I have worked in two different settings within my five years in the workforce. Initially, I spent four years employed at the Toronto General Hospital in the Eating Disorders Program. As a member of a large multidisciplinary team (that included psychiatrists, social workers, nurses, occupational therapists, psychological associates, dieticians, and other psychologists), I primarily assessed, diagnosed, and delivered psychotherapy to patients with high severity eating disorders in a day-hospital and inpatient program while also collaborating on research projects and supervising trainees.

For the past three years,I have owned and operated a private practice in downtown Toronto, initially part-time, and full-time for the past year since leaving my hospital position. In my practice, I treat adult clientele experiencing eating disorders, body dysmorphic disorder, anxiety disorders (e.g., panic disorder, obsessive-compulsive disorder, generalized anxiety disorder) and depression. I also facilitate skills groups at a support centre for eating disorders and provide workshops on evidence-based treatments for eating disorders to healthcare providers.

2. What education and/or training was necessary for your job?

The road to becoming a registered clinical psychologist is long (typically 11+ years). It starts with a four-year bachelor’s degree that includes a research component, typically an honours thesis in psychology. Next, you complete two standardized exams, the GRE and the Psych-GRE. Your GPA and GRE-scores must be stellar in order to be competitive for graduate school as the admission rate is typically 2 to 5%.

In graduate school, you first complete a two-years master’s degree involving a research thesis and coursework in research and clinical topics. Then, you complete a four-year doctoral degree involving a multi-study dissertation and additional coursework. During your graduate training, you are expected to apply and attain research fellowships from provincial or national funding agencies (e.g., CIHR, SSHRC). You are also expected to publish your research in academic journals and present your research at national and international conferences.

Throughout your graduate training, you must complete two to three clinical placements at hospitals or clinics. In the fourth year of your doctoral degree, you are matched with a hospital or clinic in North America to complete a full-time one-year pre-doctoral internship/residency.

After graduating, you apply for provincial registration to be granted the right to use the title ‘clinical psychologist’ and legally perform the associated responsibilities. Some provinces, such as Ontario, require applicants to complete an additional year of clinical supervision, in addition to exams and interviews, prior to granting autonomous registration.

After grad school, some psychologists complete one to two years of additional research, known as post-doc, typically at a university or institute other than where they attained their doctoral degree. In terms of my specific journey, I followed the aforementioned sequence of education, receiving: a Bachelor of Arts (BA) with Distinction, First Class Honours in Psychology, from Mount Allison University; and Master of Arts (MA) and Doctorate of Philosophy (PhD) in Clinical Psychology from Concordia University. I completed my clinical placements at the McGill Comprehensive Health Improvement Program, and the Eating Disorder Program of the Douglas Mental Health Institute, and completed my pre-doctoral internship at the Centre for Addiction and Mental Health (CAMH).

3. What is/was a typical work day like for you? Can you give us a bit of insight into what it is like to work as a clinical psychologist?

In my private practice, my responsibilities include:

  • 60% direct client services (primarily psychotherapy sessions)
  • 20% indirect client services (e.g. record keeping, treatment planning, scheduling and e-mails)
  • 10% business activities (e.g., accounting, marketing)
  • 10% trainings and consultations (e.g., reading research and treatment articles/manuals, attending or delivering trainings/conferences, consulting with other healthcare providers)

When I was in my hospital position, my responsibilities included:

  • 50% diagnostic consultations/assessments and report writing
  • 20% group or individual psychotherapy
  • 20% research activities
  • 10% clinical rounds and supervision of trainees

4. What do you like best about your profession? What do you like least? Is there anything about working in this profession you think people should be aware of before seeking employment in this area?

What I like best:

  • My training as a scientist-practitioner. It provided me with the choice to select a career path that either emphasized my training as a scientist or my training as a practitioner, depending upon aptitude, opportunity,and interest.
  • Monitoring my client’s treatment response and observing objective changes in affective, behavioural, physiological and/or cognitive symptoms.
  • Flexibility when operating a private practice. I pick my hours, the number of clients in my caseload, when I take vacation, etc.

What I like least:

  • Although each case is inherently different, the work can, at time, be monotonous. I battle the routine by planning specific professional challenges and investing in personal interests.
  • Private practice can be demanding and isolating. To address this, I set reasonable work limits (e.g., the number of high-severity clients in my caseload, not responding to e-mail or phone calls outside of business hours) and attend regular meetings with other psychologists for mutual professional support.
  • The risks and realities of self-employment (e.g., no pension plan, no paid sick days or vacation, no guaranteed salary).

5. Would you recommend this profession to others? What type of person would be best suited to pursing this profession?

Yes, I would recommend clinical psychology; at the same time, there are also similar professions to consider (see response to Question 7). Someone would be suited for clinical psychology if they:

  • demonstrate high aptitude in mathematics as well as written and verbal communication
  • are self-motivated with effective time management skills and the ability to multitask or ‘wear many hats’
  • are a critical thinker with cognitive flexibility
  • are empathic, warm and caring with the capacity to set limits and follow strict ethical guidelines.

A real hodgepodge of skills!

6. In your opinion what are the job prospects like for someone starting out in this profession?

Clinical psychologists primarily work in three settings:

  • hospitals (often teaching-research hospitals)
  • universities
  • private practice

Salaries vary by province. In Ontario, full-time hospital and university salaries start at approximately $100,000 per annum. There tends to be more contract positions than permanent positions in hospitals, particularly in major cities like Toronto.

Tenure-track faculty positions at universities are highly competitive. In Ontario, full-time private practice income ranges between $100,000 and $200,000 per annum, depending on factors such as overhead costs and number of clients in your caseload.

Psychologists often start small when opening a private practice and let the business grow with time or opt to keep it as a side income to supplement a hospital or university position. Some psychologists may choose to work for another psychologist’s practice rather than operate their own.

Psychologists are not trained in business management, so it is wise to seek mentorship or education in the basics of business when self-employed.

7. Do you have any advice for current undergraduate students who are considering a career such as yours?

Remember, clinical psychologists are trained as scientist-practitioners. If you want to deliver therapy, but do not like producing, reading, or disseminating research consider an alternative education and profession.

Have a back-up plan. Clinical psychology programs are competitive. It may take a couple of years to secure an offer to a program, and it is also possible it may never happen for you. Examine the differences between similar professions (e.g., experimental psychology, medicine, social work, counselling psychology, educational psychology, occupational therapy) and determine if there is another way to achieve your professional goals.

Getting an offer to study clinical psychology at graduate school may feel like winning the lottery but do not forget to interview your research supervisor and students from your potential graduate program to determine the quality of fit prior to accepting an offer.

Did I mention the road to becoming a registered clinical psychologist is long (typically 11+ years)? I think it is worth mentioning again. Although I questioned my choice at times, all concerns dissipated once I became a fully autonomous professional. I am grateful to work in the rewarding field of clinical psychology.

Alumni interview: youth care worker

Lindsay – Youth Care Worker

1. Please tell us a bit about where you work.

My official job title is “Youth Care Worker,” however this is a broad term as youth care work is performed in so many different settings (i.e.: group homes, community centres, treatment centre, hospitals, etc...)

The branch of youth care that I chose to pursue is the assessment and treatment of youth presenting with a wide range of mental health and behavioural issues, typically due to severe attachment disorders and intellectual impairments. I work in a provincial treatment centre called the Pierre Caissie Centre where we perform a comprehensive assessment of these youth using the trauma informed care approach, and then work with a team of clinicians to diagnose any underlying issues and develop and implement a treatment plan to promote the success of the child in the community.

Our centre has an on-site psychologist, social worker, and education specialist, as well as a team of youth care workers, trained specifically in the trauma-informed care model of treating youth with attachment disorders. I have worked with youth who have autism, ADHD, schizophrenia, psychosis, addictions issues, sexualized issues, mood disorders, intellectual disabilities, etc..

Many of the youth we work with suffered from either neglect or abuse by their caregivers at a very early age and developed severe attachment difficulties as a result. We aim to meet them at their developmental level and begin treatment from there, focusing on their competencies, role-modelling appropriate behaviour, and implementing programming and therapy to work through these issues and foster success in their communities.

2.What education and/ or training was necessary for your job?

There are a few different paths you can take to becoming a youth care worker and some of the choices you make must be based on which branch of the field you want to work in. One way is to take a child and youth care diploma course in college (for example, at Oulton’s and Eastern College in New Brunswick).

Some colleges, such as NBCC, offer a similar course called “human services” which qualifies someone to work in the field, but they would might have a broader spectrum of careers to choose from as they could work with adults or work in human resources and similar positions.

Corrections and/ or criminology diplomas are also accepted as long as the individual is willing to learn more about a therapeutic approach, since the correctional centres are very different from group homes or treatment centres.

Certain university degrees are also accepted but it has to be something relevant to youth care work. Bachelor’s degrees in psychology, sociology, and criminology are ones that are typically accepted. In my case, I had a BSc in psychology and a lot of extracurricular involvement with both people with mental health issues and/or youth. This type of involvement is a crucial qualification in this line of work for so many reasons. Involvement in these types of activities helps so much since your main purpose is to build relationships with the youth. These relationships are what set the foundation for development and treatment to take place.

The company I work for (Youth Impact Jeunesse) provides a lot of ongoing training for employees, such as first aid/CPR, physical intervention tactics, verbal deescalation, suicide intervention, etc. The costs are covered by the company and we get paid for the hours we spend in training. Furthermore, each employee has a training budget per fiscal year which they can use to attend credible trainings of their choice.

3. What is a typical work day like for you? Can you give us a bit of insight into what it is like to work as a youth care worker?

In an assessment/ treatment centre, our youth begin their day by doing “day programming”, which consists of a variety of activities that help the workers learn about the youth and help the youth develop skills in area where they may be struggling. These programs are created and implement by the youth care workers based on thoroughly researched theories and methods. 

For example, we offer a program on social skills, emotional intelligence, choice theory, aggression replacement therapy, cognitive behaviour therapy, dialectical behavioural therapy, drugs and alcohol awareness, positive sexual education, drumming circles, anti-bullying, cyber-safety, etc.

After 3 p.m., the day becomes more about relationship and competency building through activities. The workers make a schedule every day to provide structure and consistency for the youth and you may see things such as playing pool or ping pong, playing cards, going for walks, painting or drawing, helping to prepare meals,  playing board games, watching movies or television and discussing the material, etc.

With that being said, you have many responsibilities as a staff member. We implement the programs and engage in the connecting activities, but we also do all the cooking and preparation of snacks, some cleaning, and write detailed observation logs regarding everything a youth does throughout the day. These logs are used by us to write our observation reports about the youth, but are also used by the professionals as support for their assessment and treatments plans. In these logs, we describe any situation in which a child struggled and how we intervened or supported them through it. This is how we work together to prepare a treatment plan that could help the child integrate into the community.

Because we work with this population, we sometimes also encounter aggressive or violent behaviour. We are trained to manage these behaviours using verbal de-escalation, but sometimes have to implement physical restraints for the safety of the staff and youth.

Finally, a large part of our role is counselling the youth during times of struggle or any time when what we call a “learning moment” occurs. With all that being said, there are certainly some difficult moments that come with the job, but it is very rewarding to work with this population. You learn to value any small connection you can build and any bit of progress that they make. And I don’t think I’ll ever get tired of being able to play cards, go swimming, and play board games for a living :)

4. What do you like best about your profession? What do you like least? Is there anything about working as a youth care worker that you think people should be aware of before seeking employment in this area?

Working in a treatment centre is very rewarding and the connections we get to make with these youth often make a profound difference in their lives. I love working from a psychological perspective of trauma-informed care to treat these youth. It is so easy for people to get caught up with a youth’s behaviours and see things in a light of reward and punishment, but research tells us that this is not conducive to the learning and development of youth who have attachment issues or have been through a traumatic experience.

I love that the approach I take to my job on a daily basis is backed up by psychological research of what is the best practice to help these youth. I would have to say that this is what makes me feel the most happy about my job. I also love any moment when I can connect with a youth, make them laugh, and show them how important relationships are to their development.

My least favourite part of my work is reading their files. Because of the nature of our work, we need to know a youth’s complete history. I very much enjoy seeing how events and experiences from their past can influence how their brain develops and the effect this has on their behaviours and perceptions.

Unfortunately, much of the information we learn relates to parental neglect, abuse, substance abuse issues, sexual abuse, etc. Some of the things I read are disturbing to say the least and this can take a toll on your mental health as a worker. I became more used to it over time and the value of knowing this information (because of how crucial it is to treatment) outweighs the negative feelings that can occur.

5. Would you recommend this profession to others? What type of person would be best suited for this profession?

I would absolutely recommend this profession to others, but I think there are certain types of people who are more suited for the role. To be a youth care worker you have to be very empathetic and caring. You have to be at least a bit social and outgoing to connect with these youth and make them see value in developing relationships. Emotional regulation is of utmost importance because you will face situations where a youth is trying everything to push your buttons. Youth care workers have to be able to deal with some highly difficult behaviours from the clients and must be able to remain calm in stressful and/or violent situations. These are skills that can be developed over time and through experience, but certainly some things to keep in mind when considering entering the field.

6. In your opinion, what are the job prospects for someone starting out in this profession?

I can really only speak in terms of what is available in New Brunswick, but the job prospects are actually quite good here. There are several different agencies operating many different homes and centres and the number of services offered continues to go up. I have heard that in other provinces, such as Ontario, there are also many opportunities and the pay scale is often quite a bit higher than what we have here.

There is a great need for more services in isolated communities and I have seen job opportunities in places such as Nunavut and the NWT, which would likely be an incredible experience.

In terms of salary, it is a bit lower than what I thought I would make after completing a university education, but pretty reasonable for New Brunswick and definitely adequate for a good lifestyle. The company I work for has a policy to pay one and a half times the minimum wage, so that is typically where one would start. The company typically gives a bonus and raise every year and also has a level system where you can work your way up the ladder through further learning and personal development. There are also health benefits, an employee assistance plan, fitness allowance, and pension plan.

7. Do you have any advice for current undergraduate students who are considering a career such as yours?

I would tell them to make sure they involve themselves in volunteer/extracurricular programs involving leadership, youth, mental health, etc. Any experience related to the field is a big bonus for the resume, but also helps you develop the skills you will need on a daily basis in this type of role. I would recommend doing a lot of research about different settings where you could be employed to figure out what best suits your needs and interests.

Finally, I would like to stress the importance of self-care and your own coping skills. Youth care work is very rewarding and often fun but there will always be struggles due to the nature of the job. Be sure to learn how to take care of yourself while taking care of others. It is crucial if this is something you want to do for the long-term.

Teaching and instruction

Careers involving instructing children, adolescents, or adults.

Recommended psychology courses:

Psyc 2431 (Child & Adolescent Development)
Psyc 3021 (Psychological Measurement)

Psyc 3221 (Psychology of Language)
Psyc 3411 (Cognitive Development)
Psyc 3801 (Educational Psychology)

Alumni interview: teacher

Chris – Teacher

1. Please tell us a bit about where you currently work.

I'm employed as a Grade 4 teacher in Whitby, ON. I'm currently in my ninth year of teaching, and since I began I've taught a variety of grades and subjects between Grades 4 and 8. I also spent two years teaching a Learning Strategies class, which was a special education class for students with significant learning disabilities.

2. What education and/or training was necessary for your job?

A Bachelor's degree and a BEd are necessary in Ontario, but more qualifications do carry certain benefits (more employable, increased salary). Most BEd programs are two years and include varying amounts of practice teaching.

Provincial requirements vary, but in Ontario, there are three divisions that you can be qualified to teach: primary-junior (K-6), junior-intermediate (4-9), and intermediate-senior (7-12). If you are teaching intermediates, you will need a certain number of credits in a "teachable" subject, (e.g. English, sciences, history, geography). If you are going for a senior qualification, you will likely need two teachables.

Different faculties of education may recognize psychology as a [senior] teachable. I personally needed a year to build enough credits for a history teachable as I hadn't originally planned on teaching and so I didn't focus on taking teachable electives.

3. What is a typical work day like for you? Can you give us a bit of insight into what it is like to work as a teacher today?

Planning and marking take up the bulk of my non-instructional time. There's some flexibility in when my coworkers arrive and leave at the end of the day, because a lot of the work you do can be done at home. I currently get about four hours of prep time per week; high school teachers get a bit more.

In addition to the teaching side of things, there is a lot of modification to curriculum that goes on for students with special needs. For example, in my current classroom, I have some students reading at a Grade 8 level and some reading at a mid-kindergarten level, so (especially for students on the lower end), I have to make the curriculum accessible to a wide variety of learners.

Elementary school teachers have to teach a wide range of topics. This year, I teach math, language, social studies, health, media literacy, technology, and visual art. High school teachers get to be a bit more specialized and may only teach, for example, Grade 11 and 12 biology to multiple classes.

In addition to building a bond and rapport with your students, there are quite a few stakeholders that need to be contacted on a regular basis: parents, administration, colleagues, board trustees, etc. A collaborative nature is really important to create a strong and positive atmosphere for the kids.

4. What do you like best about your profession? What do you like least? Is there anything about working as a teacher that you think people should be aware of before seeking employment in this area?

Getting nine-year-olds to get on task is difficult, but when you see kids understanding, generating, and refining ideas, it's really rewarding. I love seeing academic and social growth in my students and we try to celebrate it as much as we can. When you have a lesson that just goes perfectly, or when you have an activity that the kids love, it's great. Occasionally, you'll meet a kid that will just be absolutely brilliant and will amaze you. Those are the best things about the job.

The worst things about teaching:

  • lots of school-/board-/ministry-level initiatives (generally implemented to raise standardized testing scores, and often contradictory to initiatives implemented two years prior) that can easily derail you from your main objective of teaching
  • it's politically charged — parents can sometimes be very demanding; lots of the time there's no accountability for the kids; lots of stress related to systemic/governmental changes
  • lots of paperwork
  • having to call Children's Aid Society when abuse is suspected (emotionally taxing)

5. Would you recommend this profession to others? What type of person would be best suited to pursing this profession?

I really enjoy teaching and think that people should consider it, but should also recognize that "being good with kids" is different when there's 25-30 of them, many of whom display a range of emotional and mental maturity. I think it's quite a bit tougher and more draining than a lot of people might expect.

I think a good teacher has to be caring and empathetic, especially in elementary school; willing to be creative but also willing to accept help from others; friendly. Having a sense of humour about oneself goes a long way (I get about two dozen hair-loss jokes per day!)

6. In your opinion what are the job prospects like for someone starting out in this profession?

Job prospects are not good. Depending on where you are, they are downright bad. There is an abundance of teachers due to the number of faculties of education and the graduates they churn out. If you go down the teaching career path, expect to go years without a permanent position unless something significant changes or you have a really good contact in a position to hire.

Generally, what will happen is you will spend several years on the supply list, during which time you may pick up long-term occasional postings (e.g., for mat leaves; lengthy illness, etc.) Eventually you will build seniority and become eligible for a permanent position, but as I've said, it will take most people at least six years to get to that point.

Many provinces have a grid system that relates to payment and is based on years of experience and qualifications. In my board, it's an 11-year grid with four subcategories based on qualifications. As I have an MA, I started my career in the top subcategory and each year I get a predictable pay increase. The gap between the categories is relatively small for the first few years but widens significantly by the 11th year.

7. Do you have any advice for current undergraduate students who are considering a career such as yours?

Be ready to wait a very long time, or move very far away, to get a permanent position. It can be really demoralizing. I know many people that have been supplying for eight years and have still not made it to the point where they can interview for a full-time position.

There are sometimes positions in some pockets of Canada (e.g., Nunavut, fly-in communities) but your seniority will evaporate if you make the switch from one board to another.

If you feel really strongly about teaching and you're not afraid to go through a loooooong period of uncertainty and instability, then go for it. It's a great career that can be a lot of fun, but getting there takes time. Good luck!

Medicine/dentistry/optometry/nursing

For these biologically-oriented careers a BSc is highly recommended.

Recommended psychology courses:

Psyc 2101 (Biopsychology)
Psyc 2431 (Child & Adolescent Development)
Psyc 2611 (Health Psychology)
Psyc 2601 (Abnormal Behavior)
Psyc 3101 (Human Neuropsychology)

Psyc 3151 (Drugs & Behavior)
Psyc 3201 (Memory)
Psyc 3211 (Sensation & Perception)
Psyc 3331 (Death & Dying)
Psyc 3421 (Adulthood & Aging)

Alumni interview: clinical orthoptist


Steph — Clinical Orthoptist

1. Please tell us a bit about where you currently work. 

For the past two years, I have been employed as a clinical orthoptist at The Hospital for Sick Children in Toronto, commonly known as 'SickKids'. An orthoptist is an allied health professional who specializes in the diagnosis and non-surgical treatment of eye movement disorders.

2. What education and/or training was necessary for your job?

In Canada, applicants require an undergraduate degree before entering a two-year clinical training program. There are currently three orthoptic programs in Canada (Halifax, Saskatoon, and Vancouver).

Once training is complete, students must pass all three Canadian Orthoptic Council National Certification Exams (written, oral, and practical) to certify and work as an orthoptist.

Due to the collaborative ties with Dalhousie University, the Halifax program provides the unique opportunity to complete a Master of Science degree in Clinical Vision Science through the completion of an original research project. If students choose not to undertake a graduate thesis, they will graduate with a concurrent diploma in orthoptics and ophthalmic medical technology.

3. What is/was a typical work day like for you? Can you give us a bit of insight into what it is like to work as an orthoptist?

At SickKids, I see patients during regular work hours Monday to Friday and get assigned to various sub-specialties each day,including strabismus, neurophthalmology, glaucoma, retina, ocular genetics, oculoplastics, and retinoblastoma.

If assigned to strabismus ("crossed/lazy eye"), for example, I measure the amount of eye deviation and perform binocularity assessments, or an evaluation of how well the patient can use their eyes together (e.g. depth perception). Whereas in neurophthalmology, I assess optic nerve function (e.g. color vision,contrast, and visual field testing) and diagnosecranial nerve palsies (cranial nerves 3, 4, and 6 control eye movements).

Psychology students may recall learning about specific visual field defects in an intro course: an orthoptist is trained to detect and map, for example, a homonymous hemianopia, among other defects.

4. What do you like best about your profession? What do you like least? Is there anything about working as an orthoptist that you think people should be aware of before seeking employment in this area?

What I like most about my profession is that I am highly specialized in a unique field that often tests my analytical and problem solving skills, and at SickKids, I have the opportunity to see and diagnose extremely rare disorders. Additionally, working with children and educating patients/families makes for a very rewarding work day. 

What I like least about my profession is the lack of awareness of the profession, and the associated lack of jobs. I, myself, am from Atlantic Canada originally and had to choose between job offers in Toronto, Edmonton, and Boston. Students considering a career in orthoptics need to be aware that relocation may be inevitable.

5. Would you recommend this profession to others? What type of person would be best suited to pursing this profession?

A person who enjoys significant patient/family interaction will be best suited for this profession. Patience and creativity are useful working in pediatrics. I would recommend this profession to those with an interest in healthcare, specifically ophthalmology, neuropsychology or sensation and perception, and to those with no reservations about relocating. Some students eventually go on to do optometry or med school.

6. In your opinion what are the job prospects like for someone starting out in this profession?

Job prospects are high if you’re willing to relocate. There are only 6-10 graduates nationwide in Canada per year and many graduates have job offers before graduation. The typical starting salary for an orthoptist is $65,000-$70,000 with senior level orthoptists making up to $90,000 annually.

7. Do you have any advice for current undergraduate students who are considering a career such as yours?

My advice to current students considering a career in orthoptics is to do your research. Look into the different programs, shadow an orthoptist, and do job searches for current demand. The Halifax program currently offers the highest level of networking opportunities nationwide as it is the largest program in Canada. 

Alumni interview: podiatrist


Erica — Podiatry

1. Please tell us a bit about where you currently work.

I currently work at East Coast Podiatry Inc., which is located in Riverview, NB. I started my own incorporation and my clinic once I completed my podiatry degree in 2014. East Coast Podiatry Inc. was established in May 2014 and my first day with patients was in July 2014.

Podiatry is a branch of medicine that is devoted to the study, diagnosis, and medical/surgical treatment of disorders of the foot, ankle, and lower extremity.

2. What education and/or training was necessary for your job?

To become a podiatrist, it takes seven years of post-secondary education. You must first complete a Bachelor degree in either Science or Kinesiology. Following completion of your undergraduate degree, you can then begin the Chiropody (Podiatry) Program at the Michener Institute of Applied Health Sciences, in Toronto, ON. The program used to be a four-year program; however, they condensed the program into three years, consisting of seven semesters. The Chiropody program is the only one in Canada and accepts 32 students per year, with over 600 applicants yearly.

I graduated with a Bachelor of Science with a major in psychology and a minor in biology from MtA in 2011. The only course MtA did not provide that I needed to independently complete was a human anatomy and physiology course offered through The Michener Institute. Passing human anatomy and physiology is a pre-requisite to be eligible to apply into the Chiropody program. I then had to fly to Toronto to go through a three-hour interview, consisting of multiple mini interview stations. I was thankful to be accepted and was able start the program in September 2011 and graduate in April 2014.

Despite finishing and passing the Chiropody program, upon graduation one is required to write provincial entrance examinations in order to be eligible to work in the province of your choice. Depending on the province, the examination may consist of OSCE stations (situation rooms with eight minutes to complete the task or questions), written examinations, interviews, and even questions from a panel of examiners.

3. What is a typical work day like for you? Can you give us a bit of insight into what it is like to work as a podiatrist?

As a podiatrist, every day is different as no two people have the same feet or medical issue. I work Mondays to Thursdays from 8:30a.m.-5 p.m.and Fridays 8:30a.m.-4 p.m., which is a great schedule! I occasionally work an evening if there is an emergency or my wait list is becoming too long as I hate to make someone wait for foot care.

I treat almost anything to do with the foot and ankle. What I see in a typical week may consist of nail care, callus and corn debridement, wart treatments, custom-made prescription orthotics, ulcers/wounds, sports injuries, arthritic joints, and ingrown nail surgeries. I occasionally do cortisone injections when needed and podiatrists are trained to do soft tissue surgeries of the foot and ankle.

Most days I will see on average 12 patients; however, there have been days that I have had 20 patients or more. My patients range from 4 to 95 years of age, allowing for a great diversity of issues to treat and individuals to speak to.

4. What do you like best about your profession? What do you like least? Is there anything about working in this field that you think people should be aware of before seeking employment in this area?

I love my profession. I find it extremely rewarding as patients will come in with a lot of pain and leave the clinic with no pain because I am able to help treat their issue.

What I love about my job:

  • Providing instant pain relief or finding a solution to aid in chronic pain
  • Developing a professional relationship with my patients as I see a majority of them every 2-8 weeks
  • Owning my own clinic and being my own boss
  • One day is never the same as the next
  • Never a dull moment since everyone has different feet that require different treatment techniques

Anyone considering working in this field they should be aware of the following:

  • There is a lot of paperwork that has to be completed every day
  • Some days can be very busy with only a 15-minute break for lunch
  • You must oversee staff and run a business while treating patients every day
  • Sometimes you have to provide bad news to individuals regarding their health and well-being
  • You must be prepared to deal with multiple personalities and reactions

5. Would you recommend this profession to others? What type of person would be best suited to pursing this profession?

I would defiantly recommend this profession to others. It is very rewarding and you can never be bored. The only issue with this profession is that it is covered under private health insurance not the government, which requires one to advertise their clinic and meet with doctors/health clinics to increase your networking circle.

Additionally, you must see how many podiatrists are located in your community as it can be very difficult to sustain a good practice if it is saturated with podiatrists.

The type of person that is best suited for this profession is someone who is:

  • patient
  • hard-working
  • a problem solver
  • able to communicate with all ages
  • able to leave work at work and not take stressful situations home with you
  • most importantly you can’t be squeamish since you will be working with feet all day and every day!

6. In your opinion what are the job prospects like for someone starting out in this profession?

This profession is a very good one to have; however, it really all depends on the location you would like to practice in. It is can be very difficult to open a practice alone if there are a number of established podiatrists in the area.

Also, in some areas that are saturated, a podiatrist may have to travel and work within a number of clinics to sustain a full caseload. However, if you are the only one in the area you will grow your practice very quickly.

I have been told that it takes five years to be quite steady and 10 years to be constantly busy with a waiting list. After three years of practice, I can agree that this seems to be an accurate time line.

You must be ready for an occasional slow week due to snow storms and school/work vacations, but for the most part you will see an increase in patient numbers each year. My first year had its ups and downs but that happens to any new business and clinic as you need to get your name out into the community.

7. Do you have any advice for current undergraduate students who are considering a career such as yours?

My advice for any current undergraduate student is to keep up with their school work so that their GPA is high enough for consideration as these types of programs are very competitive.

In addition, check what pre-requisites are required for acceptance as you may need to take a course outside of MtA such as the human anatomy and physiology. My most important piece of advice is to volunteer with someone in the field that you are interested in. I am thankful to have volunteered all through my undergrad with a podiatrist, which allowed me to really see what it truly was like to work as a podiatrist. I have had many friends volunteer in other fields that came to find out they truly did not like it after all. It is thus very important to volunteer and do your research in order to really find out if the profession is the right fit for you!

Alumni interview: nurse

Randy — Nurse

1. Please tell us a bit about where you currently work.

I am currently a registered nurse with the Mental Health and Addictions program in Halifax, NS. I have been working for the last two years on the Mental Health Short Stay Unit at the Abbie J. Lane Hospital, which is a five patient unit that works with individuals in crisis. It is a small unit with only five patients admitted at a time.

The crisis they may be having can range from the breakup of a relationship, the death of a loved one, to losing their housing and not being able to pay their bills. Stays on this unit vary from three to five days. A large proportion of the patients I work with have suicidal thoughts, have attempted suicide, are engaging in self-harming behaviours or have a personality disorder diagnosis.

On occasion we also work with individuals with schizophrenia, drug induced psychosis, and bipolar disorder. These individuals tend to require a longer stay so are usually transferred from my unit to an acute psychiatric unit as soon as possible.

2. What education and/or training was necessary for your job?

To work as a registered nurse you need to complete either a Bachelor of Science in Nursing (BScN) or a Bachelor of Nursing (BN) degree and then write the NCLEX licensing exam. Further training is provided when you start working in a particular field within nursing. When you work in mental health you receive additional training on interviewing techniques, crisis interventions, de-escalation techniques, etc.

3. What is a typical work day like for you? Can you give us a bit of insight into what it is like to work as a nurse?

My day usually begins with me gathering information on my patients. This is achieved by getting report from the nurse who was working the shift before mine, reading the patient’s chart, and by speaking with the patient.

The bulk of my day is spent in meetings with my patients. I work as part of an interdisciplinary team composed of nurses,psychiatrists and social workers. The meetings with the patients have a representative from each discipline present who are assigned to work with that patient and last about an hour each. I am usually assigned three patients and I will be involved in their care throughout their entire stay on the unit.

When the meetings are over the team discusses the care plan for the patient, including possible medications and community treatment options, and informs the patient what the plan will be moving forward. The rest of my day is spent following up on things I need to complete from the meetings, working on safety and coping plans with my patients, and ensuring my patients receive their medications on time.

A lot of my patients are in a crisis and feel that their only way out of it is to kill themselves. My patients can be quite emotionally dysregulated so a lot of time is spent sitting with them, listening to them and helping them come up with a way to self-soothe. The role of the psychiatric nurse is to work with them on safety planning and coping strategies they can use so that suicide and self-harm is not the first thought they have. Mental health nurses tend to focus more on communication and educating our patients more so than doing traditional nursing skills such as inserting catheters or IVs.

4. What do you like best about your profession? What do you like least? Is there anything about working as a nurse you think people should be aware of before seeking employment in this area?

The thing I like best about my profession is that I am able to help so many people in their time of crisis. You are meeting people in one of the worst moments of their lives and you are able to help them realize that they do have something to live for and that there is a way out of their crisis. It is very rewarding seeing someone be discharged from hospital with a new sense of hope.

The thing that some people may not like about nursing is that you are required to work shift work, which in many cases involves working nights. However, there are opportunities to work in areas that would not require you to work shift work, such as community clinics.

5. Would you recommend this profession to others? What type of person would be best suited to pursing this profession?

I would recommend nursing to others. There are many opportunities and different areas you can work in as a registered nurse. Just within mental health there are many areas to work in including mobile services, community clinics, and emergency services. It is a career that allows you to keep learning and allows you the opportunity to keep working in different areas while still using your degree.

6. In your opinion what are the job prospects like for someone starting out in this profession?

Job prospects and salary vary depending on the part of the country you want to work in. In Nova Scotia the starting salary for a registered nurse is approximately $70,000. Nurses who work in hospitals can make more by working overtime and with shift premiums for working evening, nights, and weekends. In the Halifax area there appear to be many opportunities for employment as a registered nurse.

7. Do you have any advice for current undergraduate students who are considering a career such as yours?

My psychology degree from Mount Allison helped me a lot in my current career. Entering nursing with a background in psychology provided me a lot of useful information for a career in mental health that a degree in nursing alone would not have provided me. In fact, many nurses I work with did their nursing degrees after completing a psychology degree, so the two degrees work very well together!

Alumni interview: occupational therapist


Sara — Occupational Therapist

1. Please tell us a bit about where you currently work.

As an occupational therapist I have worked in a variety of practice areas over the past six years. I spent the first five years of my career living in St. John’s, NL where I began working in the home and community care program.

My next position was in the mental health program, where I provided occupational therapy services to inpatients in psych rehab, forensic services, and acute mental health. For the last three years of my time in St. John’s, I provided occupational therapy services in the acute care surgery program, seeing clients following orthopedic surgeries.

I recently moved to Ottawa, ON and am currently providing occupational therapy services in a community setting and have recently taken on a role as care co-ordinator for clients in the hospital.

2. What education and/or training was necessary for your job?

Following my degree at Mount Allison in psychology, I went to Queen’s University to complete the occupational therapy program, which is a two-year full-time master's program.

3. What is a typical work day like for you? Can you give us a bit of insight into what it is like to work as an OT?

A typical day as an OT varies quite a bit. As an occupational therapist in the hospital inpatient setting, the focus is on discharge planning and determining the client’s needs for a safe return home. Assessments of day-to-day activities, mobility, seating, and
wheelchair assessments are also completed. 

In my current role in the community program, I complete a number of visits throughout the day, travelling to client’s homes. My role in the community setting includes completing home and bathroom safety assessments, addressing home accessibility, completing seating and wheelchair assessments. I also provide recommendations to facilitate completion of day-to-day activities.

As a care co-ordinator in the hospital, I am also involved in discharge planning however the focus is on determining eligibility for services available while taking into consideration the client’s needs at home.

4. What do you like best about your profession? What do you like least? Is there anything about working as an OT you think people should be aware of before seeking employment in this area?

As an OT, I have enjoyed working with clients to meet their goals. I have enjoyed being able to apply my assessment skills in a variety of settings and figuring out what motivates someone to complete their goals. My degree in psychology has provided me with an appreciation of the study of human behaviors and I have been able to incorporate this to facilitate realistic goal planning with my clients. 

5. Would you recommend this profession to others? What type of person would be best suited to pursing this profession?

I believe that this profession is well-suited for someone who enjoys working with others. I would recommend this career to others. As an OT I am able to incorporate some creativity within the workplace by engaging clients in the therapeutic process and by thinking of ways to assist clients in meeting their goals. This profession is also well suited for someone who is adaptable to the changing needs of the clients and who is able to work well with other interdisciplinary team members.

6. In your opinion what are the job prospects like for someone starting out in this profession?

In my experience, as a new grad from the OT program, I looked for work for six months before relocating to Newfoundland. In the five years I was there, I was able to gain valuable experience in a variety of settings. Since moving to Ottawa, with five years of occupational therapy experience, I have been able to successfully find employment as an occupational therapist.

Alumni interview: physician

Sean Rasmussen— Physician

1. Please tell us a bit about where you currently work.

I am currently in residency at Dalhousie University in the specialty of anatomic pathology. I just started here in June, having completed my MD/PhD degree in neuroscience at McMaster University.

Anatomic pathology mainly deals with the microscopic assessment of tissue from patients for the purpose of diagnosis. This involves everything from small polyps removed during colonoscopy to large tumours or entire organs removed due to various diseases.

2. What education and/or training was necessary for your job?

Medical school is necessary, obviously, but having a strong research background is a huge asset in a field like anatomic pathology, which deals more with the laboratory side of medicine. I have found that the specific area of research is not as important as having a strong understanding of experimental design and a willingness to learn about new topics.

3. What is a typical work day like for you? Can you give us a bit of insight into what it is like to work as a physician?

As a resident, I spend time working with different specialties in both lab medicine and clinical medicine. Responsibilities vary widely between these rotations. Sometimes you are spending all your time conducting autopsies, and sometimes you are looking after children admitted to hospital. It’s challenging, but exciting.

4. What do you like best about your profession? What do you like least? Is there anything about working in this profession you think people should be aware of before seeking employment in this area?

Medicine is a popular choice among science students, but be aware that it is a long and challenging road. The bright side is that there are many, many specialties to choose from, so most people can find something they enjoy!

5. Would you recommend this profession to others? What type of person would be best suited to pursing this profession?

You must have a passion for learning to enjoy the day-to-day work. You will constantly be presented with new problems, and you really have to get satisfaction from figuring out the solutions to these problems, or it will be a nightmare.

6. In your opinion what are the job prospects like for someone starting out in this profession?

Job prospects vary by specialty. Anatomic pathology seems to have a fair number of job openings, but many of the competitive specialties have very few spots available for residents or staff.

7. Do you have any advice for current undergraduate students who are considering a career such as yours?

Getting into medical school is the first major challenge. Try to get involved in extracurricular activities, do some research, and work hard to impress everyone you work with.

The law and enforcement

Careers involving the judicial system, the penal system, or the police system.

Recommended psychology courses:

Psyc 2201 (Cognitive Processes)
Psyc 2301 (Social Psychology)
Psyc 2601 (Abnormal Behavior)

Psyc 3241 (Forensic Psychology)
Psyc 3301 (Interpersonal Relations)

Note: a variety of political science and sociology courses would also be beneficial

Alumni interview: lawyer


Carla — Lawyer

1. Please tell us a bit about where you currently work/your current job.

I currently work at Cox & Palmer, one of the top three law firms in Atlantic Canada. I work as an associate lawyer at the St. John’s, NL office. I was called to the bar in 2016, and I am now in my second year of practice. I maintain a general practice with a particular interest in the areas of insurance litigation (defence), health law, and labour and employment law.

2. What education and/or training was necessary for your job? How long did it take to get that training?

The road to becoming a lawyer is a journey that takes about seven to nine years. It took me eight years because I pursued my joint JD/MBA degree (which I would highly recommend — law and business go hand-in-hand) following my psychology honours degree at Mount Allison.

I’ve outlined the requirements for becoming a lawyer below:

  1. Get your undergraduate degree — Step one: get your degree. What you major in really doesn’t matter when it comes to getting accepted into law school. However, I find my psychology degree very helpful in day-to-day practice. My suggestion would be to pursue a degree you’re legitimately interested in and get the best grades you can.
  2. Write the Law School Admission Test (LSAT) — During your last year of your undergrad degree (or before if you’re adventurous), you’ll have to write the LSAT exam, ~3-hour standardized test. It’s a bit tough given that you’ll probably be busy with undergrad exams while preparing, but it’s a necessary step in the process.
  3. Apply/get accepted for law school — Depending on the timing of your LSAT, writing the test and applying often occur around the same time. Most law schools will require a personal statement, copies of transcripts, and your LSAT score. Take a close look at each school’s requirements, including deadlines and how they weigh the LSAT and your GPA.
  4. Go to law school — Pretty essential step, which is three years in duration, unless you pursue the joint JD/MBA, then you’re looking at four years. Enjoy every minute of student life.
  5. Prior to completion of law school, secure an articling position — This is a year-long clerkship in which you get exposure to just about every area of law. The articling year provides you with a solid foundation for your first years of practice. I secured articles at Cox & Palmer and haven’t looked back! Everyone at our office has been extremely supportive and understanding through my junior lawyer growing pains.
  6. Write the bar exam(s) — In Newfoundland and Labrador, our Law Society offers a mandatory Bar Admissions Course prior to writing a bar exam in six areas of practice, in addition to an ethics exam (family, criminal, corporate/commercial, real estate/wills, civil procedure, and administrative). Our course features excellent instructors from all areas of practice, year after year. I’ve heard that NL has the most effective program in Canada, but I could be biased.
  7. Call to the bar! The law school end-game... the day you become a lawyer. Cox & Palmer in St. John’s makes your call to the bar a really special event, complete with a champagne reception at the firm for you and your family. Bar call is a milestone event that marks the end of clerkship and the beginning of your legal career.

3. What is a typical work day like for you? Can you give us a bit of insight into what it is like to be a lawyer? 

A typical work day for me starts with checking my work e-mail shortly after I wake up. Fortunately, the nature of my practice usually allows me to plan my days, but sometimes issues arise overnight or in the early hours of the morning, depending on where my clients are located. 

Depending on the day, I may have meetings, conference calls, or court appearances; every day is different. Something may come up during the day in my practice or that of a senior lawyer and I inevitably must rearrange my day as a result; this dynamic keeps my job interesting.

All that being said, however, my work day rarely ends before 7 p.m. and can go much later than this, depending on the matters I am handling at any given time.

4. What do you like best about your profession/job? What do you like least?

The most enjoyable aspect of my profession is the interaction with clients and the ability to help these clients. In many cases, individuals seek out legal advice in the least ideal of times — for example, perhaps they have been in a car accident, someone has passed away, or they are experiencing issues with their business. Being able to set these individuals at ease with my advice and expertise is wonderfully rewarding.

The least enjoyable aspect of my job is the imposition of deadlines that are often out of my control. Typically, these deadlines are imposed by the court (e.g. limitation periods), and we must adhere to said deadlines to protect our clients’ interests.

5. Would you recommend this profession to others? What type of person would be best suited to pursing this profession? In your opinion what are the job prospects like for someone starting out in this profession?

I believe this profession is well suited to array of individuals, depending on the area of law you intend to pursue. That being said, what you intend to practice at the beginning of school versus what you actually enjoy practicing tend to be different for many.

I had been told multiple times during law school that the courses we study are completely different from practice.This couldn’t have been more accurate. While law school courses laid the foundation for my legal career, by building on legal concepts, my most valuable learning has been done on my feet, in practice.

If you are a quick study, quick to adapt to your surroundings, and work well in a fast-paced environment, this career is for you. Compassion, integrity, and humility are key in maintaining a respectable legal practice in any practice area.

The job prospects for someone starting out in this profession are few and far between in the Atlantic Provinces. The struggle for many is to find articles. Once you have completed your articles, opportunities tend to be more plentiful for junior lawyers.

6. Do you have any advice for current undergraduate students who are considering a career such as yours?

Remain steadfast if you are considering this career path. Pursuing this career can be tough, and may come with setbacks.You may also breeze through law school and find articles effortlessly — or you may fall somewhere in between the two extremes. Either way, don’t forget why you wanted to go to law school or why you wanted to become a lawyer. The long hours and difficult issues can be trying — don’t forget to take care of yourself. As is true with any career, maintaining your mental and physical health is paramount to your success.

If you would like more information, please contact: Carla Saunders, JD/MBACox & Palmer, (709) 570-5506.

Speech/language therapist

These careers involve providing counseling and therapy for speech and language problems.

Recommended psychology courses:

Psyc 2101 (Biopsychology)
Psyc 2201 (Cognitive Psychology)
Psych 2431 (Child & Adolescent Development)

Psyc 3101 (Human Neuropsychology)
Psyc 3221 (Psychology of Language)

Note: Linguistic courses (e.g. Ling 2001, 3001, 3011) are also recommended.

Alumni interview: speech language pathologist

Molly — Speech Language Pathologist

1. Please tell us a bit about where you currently work.

I am a speech language pathologist (SLP) at the Charlotte County Hospital in St. Stephen, NB. My caseload involves inpatient and outpatient services, with adults and preschool children. I have been working as an SLP since 2009 and I have been in my current position for the past four-and-a-half years.

2. What education and/or training was necessary for your job?

I graduated from Mount Allison University in 2005 with a Bachelor of Science, honours in psychology and minor in biology. I took a year off to teach English in Japan and then completed a three-year Master in Human Communication Disorders at Dalhousie University. I am registered both nationally and provincially as a speech language pathologist.  

3. What is a typical work day like for you? Can you give us a bit of insight into what it is like to work as an SLP?

I work a typical Monday to Friday, 37.5 hours a week. I have an office and therapy room in the hospital where I see my pediatric and adult outpatients. I also complete communication and/or swallowing assessments with inpatients in their hospital rooms.

A typical day would include the assessment, diagnosis, and therapy for speech, language, voice, fluency, and swallowing disorders. I work with a variety of clients including those with Down’s syndrome, autism, hearing impairments, cerebral palsy, cleft palate, spina bifida, stroke, traumatic brain injury, cancer, Parkinson's, Alzheimer's, amyotrophic lateral sclerosis, etc.

4. What do you like best about your profession? What do you like least? Is there anything about working as an SLP that you think people should be aware of before seeking employment in this area?

I get to see a variety of patients with a variety of diagnoses so I like that every day is different. I like making an impact and seeing positive results with children and adults. It is rewarding to work with patients and their families. I also like working in a hospital setting and working as part of a team with physicians, nurses, dietitians, occupational therapists, physiotherapists, and respiratory therapists. It is a profession where you continue to learn and grow. 

Although there are not a lot of negative things I can say about my job, I do dislike the amount of paperwork. There is a lot of documentation in terms of charting and reports. It is necessary and valuable,but can be tedious.

5. Would you recommend this profession to others? What type of person would be best suited to pursing this profession?

I think being a speech language pathologist is an ideal job for someone who is patient, empathetic, and likes working with others. I think it is a great job for someone who wants to continue to learn and enjoys a challenge. I think there needs to be a certain level of determination too, since grad school is no cakewalk.

6. In your opinion what are the job prospects like for someone starting out in this profession?

I am not sure about the rest of Canada, but currently in Atlantic Canada it is hard to start your career with a permanent full-time job. However, speech language pathology is a female-dominated profession and with that comes a lot of maternity leave positions. Bilingualism would be a huge asset, especially in New Brunswick. I think if you are flexible and willing to move around, there are employment opportunities out there.

The salary for a SLP varies depending on province and setting. Currently, an SLP within the healthcare system in NB starts at an annual salary of $66,900 and goes up to $84,300 depending on seniority.

7. Do you have any advice for current undergraduate students who are considering a career such as yours?

First, research the profession. SLPs work in a variety of environments (hospitals, clinics, schools, private practice, nursing homes, universities) with a variety of populations (for example, children with autism spectrum disorder, children with developmental delays, adults with neurodegenerative disease, adults that have had a stroke, etc.), with a variety of speech, language, or swallowing disorders. There is a huge range of options within the profession depending on your interests. 

Second, take a variety of coursework related to child and adult development, language development, linguistics, neuropsychology, and biology. Keep your grades high as the programs are competitive. Volunteer with a variety of populations in a variety of settings and find out whether you enjoy this type of work and the challenges that come with it.

Third, go for it!  I love my job. Being a speech language pathologist is a fun, challenging, and highly rewarding career!

Counselling/social work/ministry

Some additional training beyond your undergraduate degree would be required for these careers.

Recommended psychology courses:

Psyc 2201 (Cognitive Processes)
Psyc 2431 (Child & Adolescent Development)
Psyc 2601 (Abnormal Psychology)
Psyc 3021 (Psychological Measurement)
Psyc 3301 (Interpersonal Relations)
Psyc 3311 (Human Sexuality)

Psyc 3511 (Psychology of Gender)
Psyc 3601 (Introduction to Clinical Psychology)
Psyc 3421 (Adulthood & Aging)
Psyc 3821 (Child Psychopathology)
Psyc 3901 (History of Psychology)

Alumni interview: clinical psychologist

Jamie — Clinical Psychologist

1. Please tell us a bit about where you currently work.

I am a registered clinical psychologist in Toronto, ON. Clinical psychologists are trained to conduct and disseminate research as well as assess, diagnose, and treat psychiatric disorders.

I have worked in two different settings within my five years in the workforce. Initially, I spent four years employed at the Toronto General Hospital in the Eating Disorders Program. As a member of a large multidisciplinary team (that included psychiatrists, social workers, nurses, occupational therapists, psychological associates, dieticians, and other psychologists), I primarily assessed, diagnosed, and delivered psychotherapy to patients with high severity eating disorders in a day-hospital and inpatient program while also collaborating on research projects and supervising trainees.

For the past three years,I have owned and operated a private practice in downtown Toronto, initially part-time, and full-time for the past year since leaving my hospital position. In my practice, I treat adult clientele experiencing eating disorders, body dysmorphic disorder, anxiety disorders (e.g., panic disorder, obsessive-compulsive disorder, generalized anxiety disorder) and depression. I also facilitate skills groups at a support centre for eating disorders and provide workshops on evidence-based treatments for eating disorders to healthcare providers.

2. What education and/or training was necessary for your job?

The road to becoming a registered clinical psychologist is long (typically 11+ years). It starts with a four-year bachelor’s degree that includes a research component, typically an honours thesis in psychology. Next, you complete two standardized exams, the GRE and the Psych-GRE. Your GPA and GRE-scores must be stellar in order to be competitive for graduate school as the admission rate is typically 2 to 5%.

In graduate school, you first complete a two-years master’s degree involving a research thesis and coursework in research and clinical topics. Then, you complete a four-year doctoral degree involving a multi-study dissertation and additional coursework. During your graduate training, you are expected to apply and attain research fellowships from provincial or national funding agencies (e.g., CIHR, SSHRC). You are also expected to publish your research in academic journals and present your research at national and international conferences.

Throughout your graduate training, you must complete two to three clinical placements at hospitals or clinics. In the fourth year of your doctoral degree, you are matched with a hospital or clinic in North America to complete a full-time one-year pre-doctoral internship/residency.

After graduating, you apply for provincial registration to be granted the right to use the title ‘clinical psychologist’ and legally perform the associated responsibilities. Some provinces, such as Ontario, require applicants to complete an additional year of clinical supervision, in addition to exams and interviews, prior to granting autonomous registration.

After grad school, some psychologists complete one to two years of additional research, known as post-doc, typically at a university or institute other than where they attained their doctoral degree. In terms of my specific journey, I followed the aforementioned sequence of education, receiving: a Bachelor of Arts (BA) with Distinction, First Class Honours in Psychology, from Mount Allison University; and Master of Arts (MA) and Doctorate of Philosophy (PhD) in Clinical Psychology from Concordia University. I completed my clinical placements at the McGill Comprehensive Health Improvement Program, and the Eating Disorder Program of the Douglas Mental Health Institute, and completed my pre-doctoral internship at the Centre for Addiction and Mental Health (CAMH).

3. What is/was a typical work day like for you? Can you give us a bit of insight into what it is like to work as a clinical psychologist?

In my private practice, my responsibilities include:

  • 60% direct client services (primarily psychotherapy sessions)
  • 20% indirect client services (e.g. record keeping, treatment planning, scheduling and e-mails)
  • 10% business activities (e.g., accounting, marketing)
  • 10% trainings and consultations (e.g., reading research and treatment articles/manuals, attending or delivering trainings/conferences, consulting with other healthcare providers)

When I was in my hospital position, my responsibilities included:

  • 50% diagnostic consultations/assessments and report writing
  • 20% group or individual psychotherapy
  • 20% research activities
  • 10% clinical rounds and supervision of trainees

4. What do you like best about your profession? What do you like least? Is there anything about working in this profession you think people should be aware of before seeking employment in this area?

What I like best:

  • My training as a scientist-practitioner. It provided me with the choice to select a career path that either emphasized my training as a scientist or my training as a practitioner, depending upon aptitude, opportunity,and interest.
  • Monitoring my client’s treatment response and observing objective changes in affective, behavioural, physiological and/or cognitive symptoms.
  • Flexibility when operating a private practice. I pick my hours, the number of clients in my caseload, when I take vacation, etc.

What I like least:

  • Although each case is inherently different, the work can, at time, be monotonous. I battle the routine by planning specific professional challenges and investing in personal interests.
  • Private practice can be demanding and isolating. To address this, I set reasonable work limits (e.g., the number of high-severity clients in my caseload, not responding to e-mail or phone calls outside of business hours) and attend regular meetings with other psychologists for mutual professional support.
  • The risks and realities of self-employment (e.g., no pension plan, no paid sick days or vacation, no guaranteed salary).

5. Would you recommend this profession to others? What type of person would be best suited to pursing this profession?

Yes, I would recommend clinical psychology; at the same time, there are also similar professions to consider (see response to Question 7). Someone would be suited for clinical psychology if they:

  • demonstrate high aptitude in mathematics as well as written and verbal communication
  • are self-motivated with effective time management skills and the ability to multitask or ‘wear many hats’
  • are a critical thinker with cognitive flexibility
  • are empathic, warm and caring with the capacity to set limits and follow strict ethical guidelines.

A real hodgepodge of skills!

6. In your opinion what are the job prospects like for someone starting out in this profession?

Clinical psychologists primarily work in three settings:

  • hospitals (often teaching-research hospitals)
  • universities
  • private practice

Salaries vary by province. In Ontario, full-time hospital and university salaries start at approximately $100,000 per annum. There tends to be more contract positions than permanent positions in hospitals, particularly in major cities like Toronto.

Tenure-track faculty positions at universities are highly competitive. In Ontario, full-time private practice income ranges between $100,000 and $200,000 per annum, depending on factors such as overhead costs and number of clients in your caseload.

Psychologists often start small when opening a private practice and let the business grow with time or opt to keep it as a side income to supplement a hospital or university position. Some psychologists may choose to work for another psychologist’s practice rather than operate their own.

Psychologists are not trained in business management, so it is wise to seek mentorship or education in the basics of business when self-employed.

7. Do you have any advice for current undergraduate students who are considering a career such as yours?

Remember, clinical psychologists are trained as scientist-practitioners. If you want to deliver therapy, but do not like producing, reading, or disseminating research consider an alternative education and profession.

Have a back-up plan. Clinical psychology programs are competitive. It may take a couple of years to secure an offer to a program, and it is also possible it may never happen for you. Examine the differences between similar professions (e.g., experimental psychology, medicine, social work, counselling psychology, educational psychology, occupational therapy) and determine if there is another way to achieve your professional goals.

Getting an offer to study clinical psychology at graduate school may feel like winning the lottery but do not forget to interview your research supervisor and students from your potential graduate program to determine the quality of fit prior to accepting an offer.

Did I mention the road to becoming a registered clinical psychologist is long (typically 11+ years)? I think it is worth mentioning again. Although I questioned my choice at times, all concerns dissipated once I became a fully autonomous professional. I am grateful to work in the rewarding field of clinical psychology.

Alumni interview: social worker/clinical therapist

Thomas — Social Worker and Clinical Therapist

1. Please tell us a bit about where you currently work.

I am a social worker who is employed as a clinical therapist with a private company based out of Halifax, NS. I provide assessments, therapy, and referrals to people accessing our services, with the majority of my work being one-on-one counselling with clients. Although our agency’s mandate is to provide support and treatment to individuals with different types of addictions (e.g., nicotine, gambling) many service-users live with concurrent disorders (meaning co-morbid substance use and mental illness) so sessions are often addressing more than one issue at a time.

2. What education and/or training was necessary for your job?

I have an MSW (Master of Social Work). Most clinical therapy roles require at least a master’s degree, with many job postings asking for one in either social work, psychology, or counselling. All of these programs have their own requirements, but I will focus on the social work option as that is my area of expertise.

There are a few different ways to obtain a MSW in Canada, which can take from five to eight years total of post-secondary education. The most common route is to first complete a BSW (Bachelor of Social Work) degree. Some BSW programs allow direct entry from high school, while others require some prior university credits or even an undergraduate degree. The length of these programs vary, but if doing a BSW as a second degree they tend to take 1.5 to two years. Having a BSW allows one to apply to advanced standing or accelerated MSW programs which typically take 8–12 months to complete. Some schools also offer a two-year MSW option, which is open to people holding an undergrad in something other than social work (with psychology being a common option).

In terms of my personal journey, I completed my BA, honours in psychology at Mount Allison (four years), worked for a year, and then went on to do a BSW at Dalhousie (two years) and MSW at Waterloo (one year), making for seven years total of university education.

Academically, I think that social work is a great complement to psychology and allows one to view the same issues from different perspectives. While I did not find all of the coursework in my social work degrees to be particularly engaging, I did complete two wonderful practicums (700 hours at addictions services and 462 hours at a community health clinic), which afforded me lots of clinical experience working with individuals, groups, and communities. When it comes to working with people I believe that experience is the best teacher, and so practicums and working part time throughout my education have been invaluable for preparing me for my current role.

Some positions, including my current one, require you to register with your provincial governing body in order to practice. It is worth noting that the registration process for social workers differs significantly between provinces, with some requiring written exams and others simply needing an application. Currently, Nova Scotia is the only province in Canada that requires new social workers to complete a candidacy period where they meet regularly with a supervisor over a set period of time (~16 months of full-time employment) before they can use the designation “registered social worker/RSW”.

3. What is a typical work day like for you? Can you give us a bit of insight into what it is like to work as a clinical therapist?

My role is pretty unique in that it is a work-from-home position. This means that all of my clinical work is done either over the phone or through online chat. I have a regular schedule of 8:30–4:30 Monday through Friday, plus one evening shift a week to better accommodate clients who work during the day.

Depending on the day, I might have four to eight clients scheduled for one-hour sessions. The majority of my work is done using cognitive behavioural therapy (CBT) and motivational interviewing (MI) techniques. This helps provide a loose structure to the counselling sessions, but ultimately we are a client-centered service and deviate from these models when appropriate.

I also field “walk-in”(call-in) appointments as needed, typically to do initial intake and assessment, but sometimes to provide additional support during times of crisis. When I am not working with clients I am either finishing up documentation, reviewing notes for upcoming sessions, consulting with colleagues, or engaging in professional development opportunities. I also have monthly meetings with my supervisor and with the rest of the mental health and addictions team.

4. What do you like best about your profession? What do you like least? Is there anything about working in this profession you think people should be aware of before seeking employment in this area?

My favourite thing about this profession is that every day is different — some are on the slow side, and others are packed pretty tight. Though there are certainly commonalities among clients, each individual is unique and so no two counselling sessions are alike.

Another perk for someone who genuinely enjoyed school is that I am provided with lots of further education through my work. This lifelong learning also translates into better therapy for clients,so it’s a win-win situation.

Perhaps the biggest frustration in this field is that we are working within a system that is broken and not designed with difference in mind. Therapy can be empowering on an individual basis, but often higher-level changes are also needed (e.g., for many people who use substances to cope with stress derived from insecure housing and lack of access to food, creating adequate and humane social assistance programs would serve them better than teaching them relaxation techniques).

There is also some stigma associated with this profession, some of which stems from the common misconception that “social work” equals “child protection”. While that is an extremely important and challenging type of work, it was never my area of interest and one that I admittedly do not know much about. Be prepared for a lot of “that must be hard” and “I could never do that” reactions when you tell people what you do for work!

5. Would you recommend this profession to others? What type of person would be best suited to pursuing this profession?

I would wholeheartedly recommend this profession to people who are compassionate and able to find and provide comfort in uncomfortable situations.

Other key skills such as active listening, patience, creativity, and a sense of humour go a long way. When you’re spending everyday hearing the intimate and often traumatic details of peoples’ lives it can be easy to “take work home with you”, especially when home is where you work, so being able to set healthy boundaries for yourself and avoid becoming all things to all people will be a benefit to your personal and professional life.

Finally, having a support system that includes friends or colleagues who you can vent to makes a huge difference as well.

6. In your opinion what are the job prospects like for someone starting out in this profession?

For better or worse, health and social issues are not going away any time soon, and the demand for mental health services has been growing in recent years. Generally speaking, if one is willing to relocate they will have an easier time finding a job that aligns with their interests.

When it comes to a broad field such as social work, there are a range of salaries depending on the setting (non-profit, government) and type of work (case management, policy, advocacy, clinical) that one does. All-in-all, it is not a very effective get-rich-quick scheme, but one can live comfortably. Speaking specifically of clinical therapists, those working in the provincial healthcare system in Nova Scotia start at ~$65,000 annually, while some private companies start higher than that. There is also a growing trend of social workers operating in private practice which can be quite lucrative depending on your overhead costs, number of clients, and types of services offered.

A degree in social work is versatile and gives one the option to move away from frontline work or therapy if they decide they do not want to do that sort of work long-term.

7. Do you have any advice for current undergraduate students who are considering a career such as yours?

My advice is threefold.

1) Volunteer. If you have the time and means to do so, I highly recommend getting involved in your community. Apart from being rewarding in and of itself, volunteering allows you to sample different areas of practice that you might be interested in. From a practical standpoint, it can also open doors, as my honours thesis, three previous jobs, and one of my social work placements all came about due to volunteering.

2) Be political. Even if your role explicitly focuses on creating change within individuals, it is important to keep the bigger (societal) picture in mind. You don’t need to attend a protest every week (though the occasional one certainly wouldn’t hurt), but strive to regularly use your voice and amplify the voices of those around you to create a more inclusive world. A clinical social worker once told my class, “I could not look my clients in the eyes if I wasn’t also out there fighting for change,” and I think that is a good philosophy for everyone engaged in this line of work.

3) Get to know and take care of yourself. Being goal-oriented is not a bad thing, but it can be easy to get involved in a million things, put yourself on autopilot, and neglect learning about yourself. I remember getting into some MA/PhD programs during my fourth year at Mount A and feeling more dread than excitement because, although I had positive experiences with research during my undergrad, I did not want to dedicate the next 5+ years (or the rest of my life) to it.

I ended up deferring and later declining these offers, and spent my unexpected gap year working alongside social workers in the Wellness Centre and travelling. These experiences helped me better understand what I wanted to get out of life and I am so grateful for that. Remember that it is okay to say “no”, or “I don’t know”, and you can always change your mind!

Journalism

For careers involving the reporting of scientific news and discoveries.

Recommended psychology courses:

Psyc 2001, 2011, & 3001 (Research Design &Analysis)
Psyc 2101 (Biopsychology)
Psyc 2201 (Cognitive Processes)

Psyc 2301 (Social Psychology)
Psyc 3101(Human Neuropsychology)
Psyc 3901 (History of Psychology)

Note: a wide variety of other science courses and English literature courses would be beneficial.

Business/government/commerce/advertising

Recommended psychology courses:

Psyc 2201 (Cognitive Processes)
Psyc 2301 (Social Psychology)
Psyc 3301 (Interpersonal Relations)

 

Note: a variety of courses offered by the Commerce department are also recommended.

Alumni interview: talent consultant/recruiter

Justine — Sales, Recruitment

1. Please tell us a bit about where you currently work.

I work in a sales role in the recruitment industry and have been doing so for about 11 months now. My job title is a talent consultant and in layman’s terms I help candidates find their dream job and on the other end of the spectrum I also help clients find strong candidates to hire. Working both the candidate and client side is referred to as 360 recruitment. Ideally what you want to do is find your own clients and then find candidates to fill those roles.

2. What education and/or training was necessary for your job?

No education or training is necessary, but having secondary education is always a bonus.

3. What is a typical work day like for you?

A typical work day to be completely honest is quite long. My shift is 8:15-5:45, but most days I even work past then. It may seem long, but time flies by — there aren't enough hours in a day as there is always something to be done!

Recruiters are known for working hard and long hours, but perhaps my hours aren’t a good comparison as I do live in London and the working culture is a bit more intense over here in the U.K.

A good majority of my day will be spent on the phones trying to headhunt the best candidates or trying to sell our services to clients, so with that in mind every call you make is essentially a sales call! When I’m not on the phones I will be searching on LinkedIn or job boards. You are also encouraged as much as possible to get out of the office and go on client meetings.

4. What do you like best about your profession? What do you like least? Is there anything about working in this profession you think people should be aware of before seeking employment in this area?

What I like most is the challenge. Every day is something new and there is always something you can improve on. There is a lot of flexibility given on how you can find your leads and how you sell, so I like the creative aspect of my job. And being a people person I love that I get to talk with all kinds of people from CEOs to marketing directors to sales executives to grads all over the world — it keeps my day interesting and it is also fun to build up your network (LinkedIn will become your life).

One director once pointed out that it is somewhat like being the CEO of your own desk as you are responsible for setting up and planning your day and deciding how you want to spend your time. You get as much out of the work as you put in.

What I like least would definitely be the long hours. It can make work/life balance a bit tricky. Like I said there is always something that you could be working on, so you really need to learn how to self-discipline yourself and know when to call it a night.

Since it is a sales role and is commission-based, it can be pretty stressful at times as there are weekly KPIs that you need to hit and as well quarterly revenue targets. It can be hard as well when deals fall through or candidates go off the market. You need to be very resilient in recruitment as you will without a doubt have bad days, it is very much a roller coaster ride. Having a positive attitude will get you far, if something doesn’t go right just move on and look for your next opportunity!

5. Would you recommend this profession to others? What type of person would be best suited to pursing this profession?

It is probably the hardest job I have ever had, but at the end of the day I have learned so much, not only about the industry but about myself as well. A year ago I never would have thought I would be able to pick up the phone and cold call a CEO of a company trying to sell a candidate!

This role definitely isn’t for everyone as I have seen a fair share of people come and go but if you are naturally a competitive person and interested in getting into sales I would absolutely recommend starting out in recruitment. It is a very broad industry in the sense that you can find a recruitment company that specialize in particular areas. My company for example works in the IT/digital sector so I get to learn and work with a lot of cool innovative tech start-up companies.

Recruitment is also a good way to learn a lot of useful transferable skills. Anything from cold calling, writing a proper e-mail, new business/ account management, generating leads, negotiation when closing deals, they are all excellent skills to add to a resume.

The best-suited person for this would be someone who likes a challenge. It is a very people-oriented job, so if you enjoy socializing and helping others this would be a good fit. It can be a very rewarding role when you find someone their dream role and can also be a role where you can make a lot of money if successful!

6. In your opinion what are the job prospects like for someone starting out in this profession?

Working in recruitment gives you a great insight into the job market. I think I learned a great deal when it comes to writing a proper CV, what to say in an interview, how to properly close at the end and write a strong follow up e-mail, and even negotiate salary, which I think everyone can agree is a useful thing to master!

And if you are indecisive of what you want to do for a career, recruitment exposes you to many different types of roles where you will learn about their responsibilities and requirements. In general I believe having some form of sales experience under your belt will open some caree ropportunities later down the road.

7. Do you have any advice for current undergraduate students who are considering a career such as yours?

After graduation I wasn’t sure what I wanted to do. Everyone else was applying to grad school so I felt pressured to do the same. I was torn between counselling, industrial organizational, and environmental psychology so I applied to all three. I was accepted to a few of them but wasn’t overly ecstatic about it. I wanted to make sure I was 100 per cent decided on my next educational advancement before pursuing more schooling, so I did some travelling and moved to Italy for three months and worked as an au pair. This was my first introduction to living abroad versus just vacationing somewhere for two weeks. This was probably one of the best decisions I ever made, I completely fell in love with the experience. Since I only went over as a “tourist” (you can stay most places for 90 days without legal papers) I had to head home without a visa.

When I went home I worked in a standard office job for an insurance company. It wasn't long before I knew that I wanted to get back out in the world, so long story short, I saved some money and moved to London! So I guess what I am trying to say is that if you are unsure about grad school or maybe want to take some time off to travel, I would 100 per cent support you on this. I know I will do a master's someday, but until I know exactly what I want to study I am happy moving around the world and seeing where life takes me!

Graduate training in psychology/research/applied psychology

Recommended courses for those interested in attending graduate school in psychology:

Psyc 4990 (Honours Thesis)
Psyc 4950/4951 (Directed Studies)
Psyc 3001 (Advanced Design & Analysis)
Psyc 3901 (History of Psychology)

In addition to the courses listed here, it is recommended that you also look into the topics covered each year in:

Psyc 3991 (Special Topics)
Psyc 4991 (Special Topics)

There are many areas of specialization in psychology and the recommended courses depends on the area(s) in which you are interested, but remember to take a variety of psychology courses during your undergraduate career.

Areas of specialization

Biopsychology, neuropsychology, or animal learning

Psyc 2101 (Biopsychology)
Psyc 2121 (Behavior Modification)
Psyc 2201 (Cognitive Processes)
Psyc 3101 (Human Neuropsychology)
Psyc 3111 (Conditioning)
Psyc 3151 (Drugs & Behavior)
Psyc 3211 (Sensation & Perception)
Psyc 4101 (Advanced Topics in Behavioral Neuroscience)
Psyc 4111 (Advanced Topics in Conditioning)

Cognitive psychology

Psyc 2101 (Biopsychology)
Psyc 2201 (Cognitive Processes)
Psyc 3101 (Human Neuropsychology)
Psyc 3201 (Memory)
Psyc 3211 (Sensation & Perception)
Psyc 4201 (Advanced Topics in Cognition)

Educational psychology and school psychology

Psyc 2431 (Child & Adolescent Development)
Psyc 3801 (Educational Psychology)
Psyc 2201 (Cognitive Processes)
Psyc 2601 (Abnormal Psychology)

Social psychology

Psyc 2301 (Social Psychology)
Psyc 3301 (Interpersonal Relations)
Psyc 4301 (Advanced Topics in Social Psychology)

Clinical or counselling psychology

Psyc 2601 (Abnormal Behavior)
Psyc 3021 (Psychological Measurement)
Psyc 3301 (Interpersonal Relations)
Psyc 3601 (Introduction to Clinical Psychology)
Psyc 3821 (Child Psycopathology)
Psyc 4601 (Advanced Topics in Psychopathology)

Developmental psychology

Psyc 2431 (Child & Adolescent Development)
Psyc 3331 (Death & Dying)
Psyc 3411 (Cognitive Development)
Psyc 3421 (Adulthood & Aging)
Psyc 4401 (Advanced Topics in Development)
Psyc 4411 (Advanced Topics in Adulthood & Aging)

Measurement

Psyc 2001 (Research Design & Analysis I)
Psyc 2011 (Research Design & Analysis II)
Psyc 3001 (Advanced Design & Analysis)
Psyc 3021 (Psychological Measurement)

Personality psychology

Psyc 2701 (Personality)
Psyc 3021 (Psychological Measurement)
Psyc 3301 (Interpersonal Relations)
Psyc 4701 (Advanced Topics in Personality)

Alumni interview: researcher

 


Sacha — Knowledge Translation Co-ordinator

1. Please tell us a bit about where you currently work.

For the past two years, I’ve worked as the co-ordinator of the Knowledge Translation and Exchange (KTE) Program of the Canadian Consortium on Neurodegeneration in Aging (CCNA).

The CCNA was launched in 2014 as a national hub for research on neurodegenerative diseases that affect cognition in aging (dementias, like Alzheimer’s). The KTE Program has a mandate to develop and implement knowledge-translation strategies to make research evidence from the CCNA available and accessible to healthcare practitioners, policy and decision-makers, persons with lived experience, other researchers, and the general public. It is a cross-Canada initiative supported by the Canadian Institutes of Health Research and several partner organizations, and is a key component of the Government of Canada’s International Collaborative Research Strategy for Alzheimer's Disease (learn more about the CCNA at www.ccna-ccnv.ca).

2. What education and/or training was necessary for your job?

Most people I’ve met in the field of knowledge brokering/mobilizing have an eclectic mix of education and training. Generally, it involves familiarity with the healthcare system, skills in plain language communication and critical analysis, and soft skills in relationship-building.

After completing my BA in psychology (honours) at MtA, I pursued an MA in Family Studies and Gerontology at Mount Saint Vincent University. Throughout my master’s degree, I held several research positions at the Nova Scotia Centre on Aging, and then pursued certification in scientist knowledge translation.

I am also bilingual, which is very helpful for interacting with various groups and individuals across Canada. In terms of the background content necessary for me to perform in my role, I required a grasp of:

  • the health care system/policy landscape for seniors
  • basic aging theory/concepts
  • an understanding of dementia, services, and impact on family/community/population
  • trends/gaps in research and an understanding of research processes

3. What is a typical work day like for you? Can you give us a bit of insight into what it is like to work as a knowledge translation co-ordinator?

My average day varies tremendously. Generally, it includes communication with several players (particularly researchers and partner organizations, who influence the work that our program takes on). This takes place primarily via e-mail and teleconference (where we are pan-Canadian) and in-person when possible (i.e. frequent conference attendance).

As the point person for the program, an average day sees me sifting through a lot of information to “triage” i.e. figuring out what to act on, who to inform etc. This requires a lot of multi-tasking and switching gears (highly reactive timelines — grants, projects, consultations with teams, event planning, conference planning, and web content).

4. What do you like best about your profession? What do you like least? Is there anything about your area of work that you think people should be aware of before seeking employment in this area? Would you recommend this profession to others? What type of person would be best suited to pursuing this profession?

After two degrees/two theses, I quickly realised my favourite part of the research process is sharing outcomes in interesting ways with the people that benefit from knowing about it in their daily lives. My role is great because I get to learn a bit about a lot in a field that fascinates me and that I am really passionate about. It allows me to be both technical and creative — to see the forest and the trees of this complex research initiative.

Both a pro and a con is that it is a fast-paced role with a lot of multi-tasking and switching gears between multiple teams/projects. This role requires a social person that is comfortable communicating with a wide range of stakeholders.

In terms of major skills, knowledge of research processes and project management are key to managing my workload. Other important ones include:

  • resourcefulness
  • writing (technical and persuasive)
  • event planning
  • meeting planning/facilitation
  • artistic skills (even basic ones to convey to contracted designer)
  • web development and social media skills
  • relationship-building in order to connect people with people and with ideas

5. In your opinion what are the job prospects like for someone starting out in this profession?

While these are generally grant-based positions, knowledge translation specialists can assume self-made roles as consultants or be in roles similar to mine within governmental organizations/agencies. That said, knowledge translation has made a ‘big buzz’ in health science research. Most grant opportunities require a KT component, and large pan-Canadian initiatives generally have a “KT arm or focus” — a person or team focused on translating scientific outputs into lay summaries, tools, articles, best practice guidelines, policies etc. If anything, the need will only continue to grow.

6. Do you have any advice for current undergraduate students who are considering a career such as yours?

This role is great for a graduate that is unsure about pursuing a PhD, but likes research/academia, and wants to continue learning to keep a pulse on a particular field.

 

Alumni interview: project scientist

Sarah — PhD Project Scientist

1. Please tell us a bit about where you currently work.

I am a project scientist at the Centre for Addiction and Mental Health, which is Ontario’s largest mental health and addictions hospital (although I am currently on maternity leave). My main role is to manage the Ontario portion of a national research network on substance misuse (think cannabis legalization, the opioid epidemic). The network is made up of scientists, service providers, and people with lived experience. I have worked in this position for 1.5 years.

2. What education and/or training was necessary for your job?

My particular position requires a PhD ideally in something like criminology or public health. My PhD is in cognitive psychology, but I was able to get the position because of previous relevant work experience. A research co-ordinator is a similar but more junior position that generally requires a master’s degree and a research assistant generally requires a bachelor’s (although I know a number of people hired as research assistants whohad a master’s).

3. What is/was a typical work day like for you? Can you give us a bit of insight into what it is like to work as a project scientist?

I spend almost all day at my desk with one or two phone meetings and one or two in-person meetings as week. Depending on the task at hand, I may work closely with a co-worker and meet with them daily. I don’t have many firm deadlines but I am expected to move research projects and various documents along relatively quickly. I have one main research project I am currently working on, which is to conduct focus groups and questionnaires among youth who use drugs in seven remote communities across northern Ontario. I lead the design of the questionnaires and focus groups as well as plan the logistics of hiring staff, travel, connecting with agencies in the communities, etc. I also write journal articles, create content for the network website, communicate with other nodes of the network, help with grant proposals, and do other miscellaneous tasks as they come up.

4. What do you like best about your profession? What do you like least? Is there anything about working in this profession you think people should be aware of before seeking employment in this area?

Being a project scientist (or a research co-ordinator or assistant) in a health-related field offers the opportunity to work on really important research that answers questions that are often very relevant to our everyday lives. I really like the feeling that the outcome of the research could be used to improve the healthcare system and the services thatare offered to some of the more vulnerable people in society.

As a project scientist, I am a research support staff. This is in contrast to a scientist, who is often also a professor. I am not the one who is responsible for securing grant funding and I do not have nearly as much pressure to publish journal articles as a scientist. In my mind, it is great to be able to be involved in research without the pressure and very long hours experienced by a scientist at a major research institution. However, one disadvantage is that research support positions are almost always contract positions because they are grant funded. That means very little job security — in my experience, contracts are generally one year-long but can sometimes be month to month.

5. Would you recommend this profession to others? What type of person would be best suited to pursing this profession?

This is a great position for someone who enjoys the research process, reading and writing scientific documents, works well independently and with a fair amount of precision and care. If you want to spend most of your day interacting with people, this might not be the job for you.

6. In your opinion what are the job prospects like for someone starting out in this profession?

Research assistant/co-ordinator/project scientist jobs are relatively commonin cities with large universities and research hospitals. Entry-level research assistant positions require relevant research experience and at least a bachelor’s degree, although my impression is that a master’s would be helpful even for this position.

My best guess is that aresearch assistant makes about $20-25/hour, a research co-ordinator makes about $25-35/hour and a project scientist makes about $35-45/hour.

7.  Do you have any advice for current undergraduate students who are considering a career such as yours?

Research experience is key for getting research support jobs. Think about whether you are most interested in qualitative research (focus groups, interviews) or quantitative research (questionnaires, experiments, clinical trials, etc.) as the skill sets are slightly different. Health research is somewhat unique because the grants tend to be large enough to hire researchsupport staff. Grants in other fields (some types of psychology) are smaller and tend not to hire full-time research support staff.

Alumni interview: research methodologist

Patty — Research Methodologist

1. Please tell us a bit about where you currently work.

I began working at Numeris about 11 months ago, immediately after leaving graduate school. Numerisis a not-for-profit research company focused onbroadcast measurement and consumer behavior data which we provide to our members — media broadcasters and advertising agencies. I work as a research methodologist responsible for the design and testing of new methodologies, and for data analysis and presentation.

2. What education and/or training was necessary for your job?

I have a MA in cognitive psychology with a specialization in neuroscience. There are two methodologists at Numeris, my counterparthas a PhD. My position requires a sound understanding of statistics (quantitative and qualitative), statistical software, research design, and other software (like Excel). I have found that psychology is a valued background in the private research world, and in particular in marketing research. Postgraduate training is required for my position, but the research department at Numeris has a variety of positions with varioustraining levels.

3. What is a typical work day like for you? Can you give us a bit of insight into what it is like to work as a research methodologist?

What I enjoy about my work is that each day is different! Some of my more common tasks include developing new methods to attract more respondents for our surveys, keeping up to date with new media technologies and developments (this involves following research releases, media releases, and attendance at conferences), participating in research technical committees alongside research representatives from broadcasters and advertising agencies, analysis of television and radio tuning data and qualitative profiles, survey question design, and e-mails, e-mails, e-mails!

4. What do you like best about your profession? What do you like least? Is there anything about working in this profession you think people should be aware of before seeking employment in this area?

I like that my position challenges me. There are always new developments in the media landscape to consider, and new software and statistical techniques to learn. I am in a constant state of learning. When you enter the private world you will see that research becomes less "pure". Business has a bottom line and research decisions need to be made with that in mind. Research for the sake of knowledge is not necessarily always a priority. Before entering this profession, or one like it, be sure you are comfortable with high pressure deadlines and long hours at a desk.

5. Would you recommend this profession to others? What type of person would be best suited to pursing this profession?

I would definitely recommend this position to others. In my short time here, I have really enjoyed the work that I have done, and the driven, intelligent people that I have been exposed to. This position is best suited to someone who is detail oriented, yet results driven. You need to be precise, but efficient. If you enjoy both methodical work and multi-tasking this would be a good fit.

6. In your opinion what are the job prospects like for someone starting out in this profession?

Methodologist or research manager positions are more than likely only going to be found in larger cities. There is a fair amount of competition and the hiring process involves some statistical testing, but research positions are now a standard at most companies, so there are plenty of opportunities. Research positions pay above the average salary, but you won't be banking bills like a scientist/professor at the beginning of your career.

7. Do you have any advice for current undergraduate students who are considering a career such as yours?

It would be worthwhile to become very familiar with software programs like Excel and Access, and statistical software like R and SPSS. If you want to really be ahead of the game, programming language skills like Python and C++ will land you the sweetest of gigs as a data scientist (along with some graduate schooling of course). Nowadays, data science skills are highly sought after, as is Big Data knowledge or experience. Data organization and cleaning are often neglected skills in school, but very important in the private sector because of the large size of data sets. I am working with data sets of 60,000 individuals in some cases.

Alumni interview: school psychologist

Ann — School Psychologist

1. Please tell us a bit about where you currently work.

I am a registered psychologist specializing in school psychology. I work at a non-profit organization in Calgary, AB that operates a community services department and an independent school (Grades 3-12) for students with learning disabilities (many also have co-morbid conditions such as ADHD, anxiety, depression, developmental co-ordination disorder, and high-functioning autism spectrum disorder).

My work in community services primarily involves working with private clients, as well as clients who have been referred through a government contract. I have also done work through contracts with rural and First Nation school boards. We also provide consultations and presentations to the school program of our organization. I have worked with clients ages 2-54.

2. What education and/or training was necessary for your job?

I completed my Bachelor of Arts with honours in psychology at Mount Allison University in 2005. I then worked for a year before starting my Master of Science in School and Applied Child Psychology at the University of Calgary.

At the time, the program was a three-year program involving two years of coursework (including three practicum courses), a thesis, and a 1,200-hour internship in the final year. Currently, U of C offers a two-year on campus MSc option, which includes a thesis but no internship, or an online three-year Master of Education option, which does not involve a thesis but does include the internship.

Following grad school, I became a registered provisional psychologist with the College of Alberta Psychologists, which is the necessary step before becoming a registered psychologist. As a provisional psychologist, you are supervised for a minimum of 1,600 hours and you write one multiple choice exam called the Examination for Professional Practice in Psychology (EPPP) and do an oral exam based on ethics and legislation. The EPPP is a common requirement across North America, whereas oral/jurisprudence exams vary by province and state. Many provinces require a PhD to register as a psychologist, but you may be able to practice as a psych associate with a master's degree.

3. What is a typical work day like for you? Can you give us a bit of insight into what it is like to work as a school psychologist?

The focus of my program was in assessment, which seems to continue to be the primary role for school psychologists in Alberta. In some places, Response to Intervention (RTI) is the focus.

My days vary such that some days I am seeing clients all day and other days, I sit at my desk and write reports the entire time. Sometimes it's a combination of everything. Much of my time is spent conducting psycho-educational assessments which include cognitive, academic, and social-emotional tests, behavioral observations, interviews, and questionnaires, as well as a review of school and third party (e.g., previous psycho-ed, speech-language, and occupational therapy reports) documents.

Once all of the information is gathered, I write a report summarizing pertinent background information; describing and interpreting the results; explaining areas of strength and need, as well as any applicable diagnoses; and detailing recommendations for any areas of need.

In our practice, our reports are usually 15-30 pages long, with 18-25 being closer to average. The results are then shared in a meeting with the client (or his or her parents). I also provide consultations to parents (e.g., interpreting a report done by another psychologist who is unavailable for additional interpretation, helping parents plan for a school meeting) and teachers (e.g., about testing accommodations, implementing behavior modification systems, how the assessment results inform a student's classroom performance), as well as presentations to parents, teachers, and students.

Within the last two years, I have started supervising pre-master's interns and a provisional psychologist as well, so I meet with each supervisee for at least one hour per week. The psych team also meets for a weekly meeting where we discuss cases, research articles, and watch professional development webinars. In the past, I was responsible for facilitating social skills intervention groups.

4. What do you like best about your profession? What do you like least? Is there anything about working as a school psychologist that you think people should be aware of before seeking employment in this area?

I really like the variety. I see people of varying ages, with varying concerns. Some cases are more straight forward (e.g., a clear cut learning disability and/or ADHD), some are more complex (e.g., what might look like oppositional defiant disorder is actually a trauma-and stressor-related disorder, or a referral for ADHD might turn out to be an adjustment-related disorder or an anxiety disorder).

Typical diagnoses include:

  • specific learning disorder
  • ADHD
  • intellectual disabilities
  • developmental co-ordination disorder
  • oppositional defiant disorder
  • conduct disorder

Sometimes we are able to confidently diagnose anxiety disorders, mood disorders, communication disorders, autism spectrum disorder, trauma-and stressor-related disorder, adjustment disorders, etc. but sometimes it's outside the scope of our assessment, so we refer on.

There are other disorders that we aren't equipped to even consider diagnosing, like psychotic disorders, personality disorders, dissociative disorders, feeding and eating Disorders, etc. The thing I like least is that there is often no follow-up, so I rarely find out how my clients are doing after I have made my recommendations.

Sometimes the education system or a lack of service options can be frustrating too because you know that a client may not have their full needs met. Also, writing lengthy reports can be tedious at times, but other days I welcome the quiet, self-paced work.

I think it's important to be aware that school psychologists can work in a variety of settings, despite having the word school in our title: school boards, private schools, private practices, community agencies, hospitals, etc. The work setting may dictate the kind of activities you do. For example, in some school boards, it can feel like a revolving door of WISCs and WIATs (i.e., IQ tests and academic achievement tests), which I would find repetitive and I would have a lot of unanswered questions if I was limited to that.

Also, the need for school psychologists outweighs the number of school psychologist positions available so there can be hefty caseloads and/or long wait lists of clients. In Calgary,
the Calgary Board of Education usually has a few openings every year and there is always the option of working privately.

5. Would you recommend this profession to others? What type of person would be best suited to pursing this profession?

I would recommend this profession as I like my job, not every single day, but certainly most. For the amount of education and additional training, it's not the most lucrative job, but you'll earn a comfortable living. I would recommend this job for someone who is compassionate, analytical, personable, detail-oriented, and likes structure. If you're a strong writer, all the better.

Although you can work with adults, it really helps if you like kids as they will likely make up the majority of your clientele. If you like stats like me, you'll love all the numbers involved, though most of my coworkers hate stats so it's not a requirement (you just have to be able to pass it).

6. Do you have any advice for current undergraduate students who are considering a career such as yours?

It's important to keep your grades up and take opportunities for practical experience where you can, as grad school is competitive, and be prepared for a long road before you're fully registered — although the provisional process can be completed in a year, it often takes people longer.

I recommend taking courses in cognitive psychology, biopsychology/neuropsychology, abnormal psychology, developmental psychology, and educational psychology. However, I think all my coursework has contributed to my work as the issues are so variable and often multi-faceted. Also, I never took educational psychology and learned what I needed through grad school.