Evaluation of Academic Credentials
The first step you take to getting registered is having your credentials reviewed. This means that CAP looks at your undergraduate and graduate courses and degrees to make sure you meet the academic requirements to be a psychologist. What does this mean?
- Your degrees have to come from accredited schools.
- You have to have a certain number of credits in psychology.
- You have to have taken certain “Core Area” courses in your grad studies (e.g., ethics, research methods, assessment, and intervention). There are specific requirements to ensure that the courses you took truly fulfill CAP’s requirements, particularly in terms of the content covered in the courses. There is very detailed information about this in CAP’s Criteria for Evaluating Academic Credentials document (if you completed your studies after 2013)
- You have to have taken certain “Substantive Content Area” courses as well. Many people fulfill these at the undergraduate level, but grad courses can count as well. The substantive course area is where people seem to run into the most trouble and confusion, so we’ll spend a bit more time on this. First, you need a course in each of the 4 required areas, and you need it to be at the 300 or 400 (or graduate) level. The four areas are:
- Biological Bases of Behaviour – These courses focus on “biological influences on behavior, affect, cognition and development” (p. 7) and CAP outlines 5 different content focuses that fall in this category (e.g., psychopharmacology). Your course must cover at least one of those 5 areas and they explain what that might include.
- Cognitive/Affective Bases of Behaviour – These courses focus on “cognitive and affective influences on each other, on behaviour and on development” (p. 7). Again, CAP provides 6 options for what a course in this area must include (e.g., theories of emotions, or cognitive science, etc.).
- Social Bases of Behaviour – These courses focus on “social influences on behaviour, affect, cognition and development” (p. 8) and CAP outlines 5 content options (e.g., environmental psychology). Your course must cover at least one of the 5 and should correspond closely with the details provided.
- Psychology of the Individual – These courses focus on “the range and diversity of normal and abnormal human functioning and development” (p. 8) and there are 8 different options for what a course must include (e.g., theories of development).
Since people seem to struggle with this step, here are some tips (with no guarantees):
- Your course syllabus really should outline content that matches up quite well with the content CAP outlines. Cross reference with your syllabus and read each content area very closely.
- Sometimes it is hard to tell the substantive areas apart (Biological vs Cognitive/Affective Bases). For example, people will falsely attribute a cognitive science course that focuses on different brain functions as fulfilling the Biological category, when really it seems to fit better in the Cognitive area. Again, read all of the substantive course area details and they will get easier to tell apart.
- It doesn’t usually seem to be enough to find key words in an area (e.g., “gender” or “family systems”) and think your course is therefore going to work in that category. Don’t forget about the main content focus of each area, as outlined above in bold.
- CAP offers good FAQ documents, and the one specific to credential reviews is here.
How does this credential review actually work (at the time of this writing!)?
- You fill out an application (you can find it on their website (cap.ab.ca; under “Register as a Psychologist” and then the “Application for Evaluation of Academic Credentials” tab)
- You’ll need to read through the document we just briefly reviewed in order to fill out the application properly.
- This credential review costs $250.00 (if you went to a Canadian Institution).
- After you send in the application, you wait! The specific committee (comprised of volunteers!) that evaluates credentials meets 8 times a year and CAP tells you when these meetings are. The turn around time varies on hearing back about your credentials being approved. (Some people say a week, others say a month. It depends.)
- If your credentials get approved, you are ready to move on to the next step: Finding a supervisor.
- If your credentials do not get approved, something was likely missing. You might need to take another course, or sometimes a degree altogether doesn’t qualify. It will all depend on the feedback you get. And, yes, there is a process for you to appeal a decision and maybe get a course approved that wasn’t initially.
*As always, we won’t tell you absolutely everything you need to know about each step, so always refer to CAP’s official documents.