Psychologists (NOC 4151)

High opportunity occupation

About this job

Psychologists support people’s mental, emotional, cognitive and behavioural health. They assess clients, diagnose disorders and provide treatment to help patients adjust and grow in their personal and working lives.

Watch the video below to see what a day in the life of a clinical psychologist is like.

Common job titles
  • biopsychologist
  • neuropsychologist
  • psychologist
  • psychologist / therapist, behavioural
  • psychologist, chartered / registered
  • psychologist, child / school

Duties

In general, psychologists:

  • Take a science-based approach to addressing disorders related to how people act, feel and think
  • Use standard psychological testing
  • Tailor treatment programs to clients’ needs
  • Provide psychotherapy, also called talk therapy
  • Carry out research and publish papers and articles
  • Provide expertise in court cases 
  • Give presentations at conferences and workshops
  • Teach in classrooms and supervise the clinical training of students
  • Consult with government and other organizations

They treat people with a broad range of issues including:

  • Mental health problems, such as anxiety and depression
  • Neurological conditions, such as brain injury and dementia
  • Cognitive issues with learning, memory, problem solving, intellectual ability and performance
  • Psychological issues brought by physical illness
  • Marital and family problems
  • Stress and anger management
  • Addiction and substance use

Psychologists usually focus their practice in a specific area such as clinical, counselling, forensic, health, rehabilitation or school psychology.

Work environment

Most psychologists work in private practice. Some work for businesses, governments, social welfare agencies or private research firms. Others work in institutions, including clinics, prisons, hospitals, courts, mental health facilities, schools and universities. Many psychologists work in a combination of settings. For example, they may work part time in a health facility and part time in private practice.

Psychologists work closely with individuals, couples, groups and families. They also often work in teams with other health-care professionals.

Psychologists deal with complex and stressful situations. They work with people with mental health problems and other issues. They are bound by a strict code of ethics and they must keep information confidential while making judgment calls on potential risks to their clients or others. Psychologists may also face the pressure of research and publication deadlines.

Psychologists working in private practice usually work in offices. They may meet with clients outside of regular office hours. Many enjoy the flexibility of being able to set their own hours. Psychologists who work in institutions – like hospitals – keep regular daytime hours, but may also work some evenings and weekends. Psychologists in colleges and universities also tend to work regular hours, dividing their time between teaching, research and administrative tasks. Overtime is required in some specialties.

The use of technology is increasing in the workplace. The COVID-19 pandemic created a rapid transition to virtual care. Psychologists must be comfortable with digital record keeping and video conferencing.

Psychologists sometimes travel to attend workshops or conferences or to do research.

Insights from industry

Demand for psychologists is highest for graduates who focus on neuropsychology and forensic psychology.

While most job openings come from retirements, new positions are also emerging as the demand for health care increases. These jobs are usually in rehab centres and schools, and in programs that combat drug use, family violence, crime and mental health issues.

Opportunities for psychologists in private practice are growing as counselling and testing for children becomes more common and as more insurance companies cover psychological treatment. Businesses are also hiring more organizational consulting psychologists. In addition, companies that provide therapy to employees are fuelling the demand for counselling psychologists.

Opportunities remain strong in general for those with an applied focus in areas such as clinical, counselling, health and educational psychology. Research jobs are also available in schools, universities, government and in private companies involved in data collection and analysis.

Career paths and resources

Career paths

New psychologists usually focus on either research or clinical practice.

A combination of self-employment, teaching and part-time contracted employment in public institutions continues to be a popular work option, particularly for new graduates.

With experience, psychologists may enter private practice or set up a private research or consulting firm. Experienced psychologists may also move into management or administrative positions. Some teach psychology at the post-secondary level. Others choose to transfer their skills and knowledge to other careers in health care.

Workers with a bachelor's degree can assist psychologists and other mental health professionals in clinical settings or in data collection and analysis. Or they may work in related fields, such as marketing research.

Additional resources