Planning Your Future Psychiatry, Clinical, Counselling and School Psychology Careers

Psychiatry, Clinical, Counselling & School Psychology Careers

The following information is based on years at UofT, students' ideas and input, info from various people, info from those who are pursuing and applying to Psychiatry, Clinical, Counselling or School Psych.

What is Psychiatry vs. Clinical Psychology vs. Counselling vs. School Psychology?

Basically all aim to help people directly who fall within the realm of being abnormal (not fitting to the norms of the population).

Psychiatry is the most well-known of the group, followed by Clinical. When you've mentioned that you are taking psych, at least one person has likely asked if you are going to be psychologist in the therapy sense. However there are few courses beyond Abnormal psychology and Psychotherapy that cover this area (at least at St. George Campus at U of T there is no Clinical Faculty on the 4th floor), just some that come in to teach from CAMH. Counselling psych receives little undergrad attention, and School Psychology even less. Below are brief descriptions of each, a mere taste to start.


A discipline within medicine. Just as some doctors decide to be surgeons, others decide to be psychiatrist.

Compared to the other three areas:

they recieve less formal training on therapy rather most of it is learned during mentorship. In practice there is a focus on drug treatments as psychiastrists can prescribe drugs unlike the other areas, and their patients tend to be the most severe cases.


Pre-med, Medicine (MD) with the selection of psychiatry for specialization (~9 years)

Clinical Psychology

A career with a focus on both therapy and research.

Compared to the other three areas:

They complete a research Doctoral Dissertation usually focusing on abnormal disorders or treatment, and complete more psychology theory training. Their patients are treatable by therapy (sometimes with prescriptions from family doctors or psychiatrists) but are still often cases with major problems.


Graduate school (masters and doctoral combined program) with classes, research, and practicum (~7 years)


A career focused on treatment through therapy of individuals with mild to moderate problems.

Compared to the other three areas:

They receive less formal training, less research and less classes, with the training received focusing more on practical skills/therapy techniques.


usually a Terminal Masters (masters not intended as simply a step to a PhD), (~2 years)

School Psychology

A career working within schools to identify through testing students who need special help, and provide the neccessary diagnosis and suggest treatment.

Compared to the other three areas:

The focus is on helping students within the school system. In practice most of their job consists of diagnosis and suggesting programs for special education etc.


Graduate school, usually terminal Masters (~2 years) or PhD (~4-5 years)


Government/Public within schools, private (tutoring centres, private schools), consulting

Getting a Taste

Your best options are:

Some Q & A:

Planning Your Future
Where to start?
Before you Apply
Variety of Careers
13 Steps for Applying
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