If you are interested in studying forensic psychology, either as a graduate or post-graduate student, this resource will be perfect for you! This article was written by the former EAPL-S president: Dr. Julia Shaw.
Canada is the academic birthplace of some of the biggest names and best university programs in forensic psychology. In a country known for it’s friendly people, dramatic nature, modern cities and open-minded attitude, how could you go wrong?
There are three main Canadian universities that offer degrees in forensic psychology: The University of British Columbia (Okanagan campus), Simon Fraser University (Vancouver campus), and Carleton university (Ottawa). UBC currently offers a research based MA/PhD program in forensic psychology, and will offer a clinical graduate program as of fall 2012. SFU is the largest forensic program in Canada and has the most options regarding degrees, as they offer a research and a clinical MA/PhD program, as well as a joint PhD/LLB program. Both UBC and SFU are in British Columbia, which is known for it’s beautiful landscapes, comfortable weather and high quality of life. Carlton University is in Canada’s capital city on the other side of the country, the part of Canada that teems with culture and history. Carleton offers a research MA/PhD program in forensic psychology.
But who are Canada’s forensic researchers? Who could you work with?
Who’s who in Canada:
Many internationally renown psychology and law experts are educated in Canada and teach at Canadian universities. Here is a breakdown of some of the big names in the field with their university affiliations:
- Dr. Dutton (Violence)
- Dr. Hare (Psychopathy)
- Dr. Porter (Deception Detection)
- Dr. Walsh (Addictions and Adolescent Psychopathy)
- Dr. Woodworth (Psychopathy)
- Dr. Yuille (Eyewitness Testimony)
- Dr. Connolly (Children and the law)
- Dr. Douglas (Psychopathy)
- Dr. Hart (Risk Assessment)
- Dr. Read (False memories)
- Dr. Roesch (Competency to stand trial)
- Dr. Rose (Psychology of Law)
- Dr. Viljoen (Adolescent offending)
- Dr. Bennell (Police and interrogations)
- Dr. Brown (Female risk assessment)
- Dr. Forth (Psychopathy)
- Dr. Maeder (Legal decision-making)
- Dr. Nunes (Sex offenders)
- Dr. Pozzulo (Child eyewitness memory)
- Dr. Serin (Offender treatment and recidivism)
Applying to Canadian universities:
When and how to apply
Most Canadian universities admit graduate students once a year, for the Fall semester (September). Students seeking admission to graduate programs must submit their application and all supporting documents by the dates specified by the university they are interested in. This date is usually in December or January before the program start date (so 9-10 months in advance). As a rule, incomplete applications are not processed, so make sure you know everything the department requires.
For most schools, if applying with a Bachelor’s degree, your application must be submitted to MA programs. If you already have an MA/MSc you need to check whether they will accept your international degree (it will depend on where you obtained it), and then either apply to MA or PhD programs accordingly.
Canadian students will typically need to have an honors degree in Psychology (which involves a thesis and extra credits, as well as high grades) in order to gain admission to graduate studies, and international students are typically required to have similar qualifications (a four-year BA/BSc degree with a thesis).
Canadian programs will ask you to specify which of their faculty members you are interested in working with – you are normally required to specify anywhere between 1 and 3 potential supervisors – especially if you are entering a PhD program. This is an important step and make sure that you a) know what their research is on and make sure that it fits your interests, and b) know whether the people you are listing are actually accepting students (email them).
Grades (Cumulative GPA) and transcripts
The higher your GPA (grade point average) the better. Universitys typically require a minimum undergraduate CGPA of 3.0 for consideration for admission to any graduate program. Students with CGPAs under 3.25 are unlikely to be accepted, and average CGPAs for those accepted are typically between 3.7 and 4.33 (in the A/A+ range).
You will need to order official transcripts from your university. These indicate the courses you have taken with their respective grades, are signed at the bottom of the document, and are submitted in sealed envelopes with an official university stamp/sticker/signature on the seal of the envelope.
If you have a non-Canadian transcript, you will need to obtain an official translation and make sure that grades are translated either into percentages or the standardized 4.0 or 4.33 scale. Below is an example scale (from here):
- 90%: 4.33
- 80%: 3.7
- 70%: 2.8
- 60%: 2.0
- 50%: 1.0
TOEFL or IELTS
You will also need to demonstrate that you are sufficiently proficient in English. If your primary language is not English, or if your previous education has been conducted in another language, you must provide scores on a standardized English test that includes a writing component. The university minimum scores for admission consideration are typically: TOEFL: 570 & TWE 5 (paper-based), 230 (computer-based), 88 with minimum 20 in each category (internet-based); or IELTS overall band score: 7.0. more on the TOEFL here.
Graduate Record Exam
Applicants to Canadian programs will need to write the general GRE, and clinical applicants need to write the GRE subject test in psychology. Results are most likely to be received by the application deadline if you complete your examinations by October the year before you intend to begin your program. The subject GRE is only conducted four times a year, so make sure you familiarize yourself with the due dates early. Early registration is suggested as the scheduled exams often fill up. While sometimes GRE scores can be submitted after the official deadline, this is not always the case. If possible, try to organize for your scores to be received by the deadline. Most students either take a preparation course for the GRE or buy preparation books – this is highly recommended as it can greatly increase your score. More on the GRE here.
You will need between two and three academic references for your grad school application. These can be your undergraduate professors (from courses that you did well in) or research supervisors. Be sure to ask them “Will you give me a good reference?”. Also make sure that you ask for these in advance because academics are notorious for doing things last minute! I like to give the professors I work with artificial deadlines that are at least a week or two before the actual deadline. Be sure to read any guidelines provided by the school you are applying to (they often provide reference letter forms), and make sure your references place the letters in sealed envelopes that are signed across the seal. Reference letters that are not signed on the envelope will not be counted and may disqualify you from the admissions competition.
Other stuff to know:
Hundreds of students apply to Canadian psychology programs every year, and only very few are accepted. UBC, SFU and Carleton University all have between 50-200 applicants per year (with numbers steadily increasing), with each program only accepting between 3-5 new students. This means that it is highly recommended for you to apply to multiple universities, and to work on making yourself an excellent candidate. If you want to make it to a Canadian graduate program, perseverance is key. Professors are always impressed by students who are willing to go the extra mile to make it into grad school and show persistence.
Coming from someone who has studied at SFU, UBC and in Europe, I highly recommend studying forensic psychology at any of the Canadian universities. Not only can you receive a great education, but it is incredibly beautiful and friendly out here!
If you have any questions about Canadian programs in forensic psychology, feel free to email us at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Best wishes from Canada!
– Julia Shaw