How to Become a School Psychologist

How to Become a School Psychologist

School psychologists make positive, lasting difference in children’s lives. They are a vital part of the effort to unlock each child’s potential for success. They are part of a team of professionals dedicated to ensuring that every child has the opportunity to succeed in life. School psychology is an ideal career for individuals that are interested in:

  • Work directly with children and adolescents
  • Support students with mental health needs and provide counseling
  • Provide skill instruction and skill building and create learning and support plans 
  • Assess and evaluate individual differences to identify intervention strategies
  • Work with parents and teachers to support children’s success
  • Change school or classroom practices and policies to improve school outcomes
  • Engage in challenging and diverse activities that change from day to day
  • Use research to inform practices
  • Develop strong team member and leadership skills
  • Promote appreciation and support for human diversity
  • Adhere to the highest standards of ethical and professional conduct
  • Enable students to be successful at home, in school, and in life

What Do School Psychologists Do?

School psychologists use their educations, knowledge and experience in mental health, learning, and behavior to help children and youth succeed in school, socially, and emotionally.

School Psychologists provide a range of services to support students including assessment, intervention and support services. They partner with families, teachers and other professionals to create safe and supportive learning environments.

They also work with school administrators to improve school-wide policies and collaborate with community providers to coordinate services for students.

Where Do School Psychologists Work?

School psychologists generally work in public schools at the in K–12 level. They help students with learning and emotional problems. School psychologists also work with teachers and parents to help students succeed in school. They also provide services in a variety of other settings, including:

  • Private Schools
  • Charter Schools
  • Preschools and Early Childhood Settings
  • District Administration Offices
  • Colleges and Universities
  • Mental Health Centers
  • Community Clinics and Hospitals
  • Juvenile Justice Programs
  • Independent Private Practice

Why Do Children Need a School Psychologists?

All children and youth can have difficulties with learning; socializing; making decisions; or identifying, accepting working emotions such as feeling depressed, anxious, worried, or isolated.

School psychologists work with students, families, educators, and members of the community to help them understand and resolve both chronic long-term problems and short-term issues that students may face. They have the skills and experience necessary to help ensure that all children and youth thrive in school, at home, and in life.

What Education Is Required to Become a School Psychologist?

Most states require that you have a graduate degree as well as some supervised experience in school psychology before you are able to work as a school psychologist.

Specific admission requirements vary depending on the graduate program for school psychology, however they often include having a Bachelor’s degree with a major in psychology, child development, sociology, or education.

To become a school psychologist, you will need to complete a graduate degree in psychology and have experience in school settings. You will also need to be supervised by a licensed psychologist.

School psychologists typically complete a specialist level degree program of least 60 graduate semester hours or a doctoral degree of at least 90 graduate semester. Both degrees culminate in a minimum of 1,200- to 1,500-hour supervised internship.

The specialist-level degree is the national standard for entry into the field and allows for comprehensive practice and career advancement in schools.

With a doctoral-level degree you can practice as a school psychologists and work in academia teaching or research.

What Training Do School Psychologists Receive?

School psychologists typically have advanced degrees in psychology with a focus on education and child development. They often take coursework and have experiences related to both psychology and education.

School psychologists receive training in a variety of skills, including education, counseling, and research.

Graduate preparation develops skill, knowledge and experience in:

  • Data Collection and Analysis
  • Needs Assessment
  • Progress Monitoring
  • School or District-wide Practices to Promote Learning
  • Academic and Learning Interventions
  • Mental Health and Behavioral Interventions
  • Classroom and Instructional Support
  • Special Education Services and Support
  • Child-Family-School Collaboration
  • Research and Program Evaluation
  • Ethics, State Law, and Systems

Differences Between School Psychology Degrees

Masters-Level M.A. (Master of Arts)

Degree Titles
(Examples)
M.A. (Master of Arts)
• M.S. (Master of Science)
• MEd (Master of Education)
• EdS (Education Specialist)
• MA (Master of Arts)
• MS (Master of Science)
Credit HoursTypically about 36 hours; Less than 60 graduate semester hours
Time to GraduationGenerally requires about 2-years of full-time study at the graduate level
Internship RequiredNone
Career Options in School PsychologyMay qualify for related credentials such as educational diagnostician, psychometrist or a school psychology credential in one or two states.
School Psychology Program AccreditationNo accreditation is granted for Masters-level school psychology programs
Eligibility for the Nationally Certified School Psychologist (NCSP) CredentialNo
Standards for
graduate preparation
There are no general or national models for Masters-level study in school psychology

Specialist-Level EdS (Education Specialist)

Degree Titles
(Examples)
EdS (Education Specialist)
• MA (Master of Arts)
• MS (Master of Science)
• CAS (Certificate of Advanced Study) or
CAGS (Certificate of Advanced Graduate
Study), often awarded in conjunction with
a Master’s degree
• PsyS (Specialist in Psychology)
Credit HoursRequires a minimum of 60 graduate semester hours or 90 quarter hours.
Time to GraduationGenerally a minimum of 3 years of full-time study at the graduate level is needed along with an internship
Internship Required1,200 hour full-time internship completed on a full-time basis during one year. Or, 1,200 hours over two consecutive years. A minimum of 600 hours of the internship must be completed in a school setting.1
Career Options in
School Psychology
There is no state that requires more than a specialist-level degree for school psychologists. A specialist-level degree is generally accepted in order to be certified or licensed to provide full professional practice within schools or related educational settings. May qualify for private or independent practice opportunities in some states. You may be able to work in a private or independent practice in some states.
School Psychology
Program Approval
or Accreditation
Specialist-level programs are eligible for NASP Approval/Accreditation
Eligibility for the Nationally Certified School Psychologist
(NCSP) Credential
Yes
Standards for graduate
preparation
The school psychology program ensures that all candidates demonstrate basic professional competencies, including both knowledge and skills, in the 10 domains of school psychology contained within the National Association of School Psychologist’s (NCSP) Practice Model. The 10 domains include:

• Data-Based Decision Making and Accountability
• Consultation and Collaboration
• Interventions and Instructional Support to Develop Academic Skills
• Interventions and Mental Health Services to Develop Social and Life Skills
• School-Wide Practices to Promote Learning
• Preventive and Responsive Services
• Family–School Collaboration Services
• Diversity in Development and Learning
• Research and Program Evaluation
• Legal, Ethical, and Professional Practice

Doctoral-Level PhD (Doctor of Philosophy)

Degree Titles
(Examples)
PhD (Doctor of Philosophy)
• PsyD (Doctor of Psychology)
• EdD (Doctor of Education)
Credit HoursA minimum of 90 graduate semester hours
Time to GraduationTypically 5 to 6 years of full-time study at the graduate level along with an internship
Internship RequiredTypically a 1200-1500 hour full-time internship completed on a full-time basis over one year or at least a half-time basis over two consecutive years. At least 600 hours of the internship must be completed in a school setting.2 Some doctoral internships in school psychology provide up to 2000 hours.
Career Options in School PsychologyThe doctoral degree gives you more career options in schools, private or independent practice, clinics, hospitals, or research/academia. With a doctoral degree, you may also be eligible for more credentials.
School Psychology Program Approval or AccreditationDoctoral-level programs are eligible for NASP Approval/Accreditation and APA Accreditation.
Eligibility for the Nationally Certified School Psychologist (NCSP) CredentialYes
Standards for graduate
preparation
The school psychology program requires that all candidates demonstrate basic professional competencies, both in terms of knowledge and skills, within the 10 domains of school psychology which are set out in the National Association of School Psychologist’s Practice Model including:

• Data-Based Decision Making and Accountability
• Consultation and Collaboration
• Interventions and Instructional Support to Develop Academic Skills
• Interventions and Mental Health Services to Develop Social and Life Skills
• School-Wide Practices to Promote Learning
• Preventive and Responsive Services
• Family–School Collaboration Services
• Diversity in Development and Learning
• Research and Program Evaluation
• Legal, Ethical, and Professional Practice
Source: NASP

What to Consider When Selecting School Psychology Program?

Apply to programs that are specifically titled as School Psychology. In the United States, there are over 300 such programs accredited by the National Association of School Psychologists (NASP). Some factors to consider include:

  • Doctoral Program Offered
  • Program Approval /Accreditation
  • Faculty Experience an Education
  • Number of Students and Alumni
  • Local Practicum and Internships
  • Research Opportunities
  • Financial Support
  • High Graduation Rates
  • High Retention Rates
  • High Employment Rates of Graduates

What Is a NASP-Approved Program?

The National Association of School Psychologists (NASP) sets standards for graduate preparation, credentialing, professional practice, and ethics. NASP approves both specialist-level and doctoral programs that meet its graduate preparation standards. Graduates of NASP-approved programs are assured a high-quality academic and they can have a streamlined process for applying for the Nationally Certified School Psychologist (NCSP) credential.

Frequently Asked Questions About Scholl Psychologists

The median salary for school psychologists is around $75,000 per year, and the job outlook is very good. The work can be very rewarding, as you help children and families deal with a variety of issues. However, the job can also be challenging, as you often have to deal with difficult behavior and emotional problems. It is important to consider whether you are up for the challenge before you decide to become a school psychologist.

School psychologists make a median salary of $75,000 per year. The top 10% of earners make more than $97,000 per year, while the bottom 10% make less than $54,000 per year. Salaries vary by region, with school psychologists in the Northeast and West Coast earning the most.

There is high demand for school psychologists. School psychologists help students with academic, social, and emotional difficulties. They also work with teachers and parents to create a positive learning environment.

School psychologists and school counselors are both professionals who work in schools. School psychologists have experience and training in psychology, while school counselors have training in counseling. School psychologists typically have more education than school counselors. School psychologists work with students to address academic, social, and emotional issues. School counselors typically work with students to address personal and social issues.

School Psychology Organizations

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