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The Licensure Issue
in Industrial-Organizational
Psychology:
Recent Ongoings Within Canada

International Practice 
Forum

Lynda Zugec
Chair, Canadian Society for Industrial and Organizational Psychology (CSIOP)/
The Workforce Consultants

and 

John L. Michela
University of Waterloo

home

The registration/licensure of industrial-organizational psychology is a topic that is discussed globally. Typically, the details are conferred within the context of a particular country, as the practice of industrial-organizational psychology is usually guided by specific jurisdictions which differ depending on geographic region.

The issue of registration/licensure as it is currently being deliberated in North America is one that is near and dear to many of us involved with industrial-organizational psychology in Canada. The consequences of any potential regulatory changes could be profound and Canadian regulatory authorities, like any others, may be cued by other jurisdictions, including those within the United States concerning standards and requirements.

Of particular concern to the Industrial-Organizational Psychology community in Canada has been the possibility that recent developments could lead to mandatory licensure. Accordingly, a discussion which took place at the 2016 Canadian Psychological Association (CPA) conference during an industrial-organizational (I-O) psychology roundtable, coordinated by Blake Jelley on the registration/licensure of I-O psychology, highlighted our need to poll the Canadian Society for Industrial and Organizational Psychology (CSIOP) membership to obtain their perspective. The results of the CSIOP membership poll indicate that over 89% of respondents are against mandatory licensure.

Of the past CSIOP Chairs, 21 out of 22 are against mandatory licensing.

Once receiving this feedback from our membership, the CSIOP executive committee asked Past CPA President Kevin Kelloway to put forth the following motion for consideration to the CPA Board of Directors:

 

With respect to the practice of I-O psychology, individuals possessing the appropriate educational and experiential qualification (as determined by the regulatory authority/licensing board in their jurisdiction) should be eligible for voluntary registration/licensure. Such boards should consult with the I-O community to determine appropriate standards for registration/licensing. There should, however, be no requirement that I-O practitioners be required to register or be licensed in order to practice their profession.

The above motion was approved by the CPA Board of Directors in November 2016. This motion is also consistent with SIOP’s current and formal stance with regard to licensure.

The CSIOP executive committee also recognized that not all I-O psychology academics and practitioners who work primarily in Canada are members of CSIOP. Thus, in an effort to reach out to all I-O psychology colleagues across Canada who are not members of CSIOP, the CSIOP executive committee conducted a second poll. We reached out to I-O psychology related organizations, academics and practitioners alike, to allow them to provide their perspective on the issue. The results indicate that over 96% of respondents are against mandatory licensing.

Subsequently, the CSIOP executive also invited formal statements from I-O psychology faculty, individuals, and groups concerning the registration/licensing of I-O psychology. The statement from the I-O psychology faculty group at the University of Waterloo is reproduced here as a way of summarizing some key points that have been salient to the CSIOP executive and, perhaps, a majority of the polled members with regard to registration/licensure.

Our six-member faculty in I-O psychology unanimously recommends against a licensing requirement for everyone who claims to be engaging in I-O psychology practice. Voluntary licensing may have value to some service providers or their clients. Mandatory licensing, however, is unnecessary and most likely would impose very significant costs to service providers, business clients, and members of society overall, including as taxpayers.

 

With respect to necessity, it is unnecessary because the clients for I-O psychology services are fundamentally different from the individual members of the public who need the protections afforded by licensing or other certification of physicians, dentists, psychotherapists, and other such professionals who serve unsophisticated individuals. Businesses, in contrast, can reasonably be left with the responsibility to choose service providers—whatever they may call their services—competently.

 

With respect to costs, the costs to service providers would have to be passed on at least to some degree to business clients, which creates an economic cost to society overall. Further economic and social costs would accrue as the skill sets of I-O psychology became less utilized, and thus the economic and social value of this utilization became less realized. We predict less utilization because some students will choose less onerous training and practice in “human resource management” instead of “I-O psychology.” In HRM programs, students do not learn the same skills and thus ultimately are not able to provide all of the same services—some quite specialized—that are provided after I-O psychology training.

 

Taxpayers support universities in all Canadian provinces and in all of the 50 states of the US. It seems inescapable that mandatory licensing for I-O psychology that mirrors licensing for clinical psychology will lead to imposition of training requirements in universities’ I-O psychology graduate programs. The resulting costs are very high in clinical psychology, so significant cost increases for I-O psychology programs are predictable as well. These costs will be borne at least in part by taxpayers. Given that the supposed beneficiaries of licensing—businesses—actually will not benefit but, instead, will incur pointless cost—taxpayers, too, will incur pointless cost.

Considered in conjunction, the survey findings indicate that there is a clear sentiment against mandatory registration/licensure of I-O psychology in Canada.

What are the perspectives on the registration/licensure of I-O psychology in your country or region? What has been happening in your jurisdiction? Are you in agreement or disagreement with recent developments regarding registration/licensure? Provide us with your input so that we can share your thoughts!

WE ARE LOOKING FOR YOU AND YOUR INPUT! We are calling upon you, the global I-O psychology community, to reach out and submit topic ideas for future columns. Give us your insights from lessons learned in your practice. We are always seeking global contributors!

To provide any feedback or insights on the International Practice Forum, please send an email to the following address: Lynda.Zugec@TheWorkforceConsultants.com