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Overview

As if puberty and gym class aren’t hard enough on a kid, students today are finding themselves faced with problems that their parents never had to deal with at their age. School psychology graduates look to help students maintain positive mental health in both their lives and their studies, not only through contact with the students as individuals, but also by helping teachers to design effective programs and techniques.

Upon graduation and depending upon the level of degree and work experience, there is a range of possible job opportunities beyond school psychologist, although most do go on to practice educational psychology in one setting or another. Graduates can also work in schools in an administrative capacity, or within hospitals, prisons, and private clinics. In 2001, the ratio of school psychologists to students was at a low 1:1000, so the need for school psychologists is greater than ever. Evaluation, consultation, prevention, and intervention are all important parts of the practice of educational psychology, particularly as the school system continues to grow and resources must be spread thin.

Degree Information

Each state has different certification requirements, but the minimum-required degree tends to be a master’s from a state-approved, two-year school psychology program with at least one year of internship experience. Many states require a more research-heavy Educational Specialist (Ed.S.) degree, and a good number of school psychologists also hold doctorate degrees. As with most professions, the higher you go, the more careers open up to you. If you intend to work in schools in a non-administrative capacity, a doctorate degree is not normally necessary, but if private practice is in your future, then it’s a near-certainty. Internships are mandatory at all levels, and depending on the degree, dissertations are also likely.

Questions to Ask Yourself When Choosing a Degree Program

  • Do I want to work in private practice, or would I prefer to stay within public systems?
  • Does one particular aspect of school psychology interest me—counseling, research, developmental disabilities?
  • Depending on what I want to do, what level of degree should I get, and how much internship experience am I willing to undertake?
  • Where do I want to live? What are that state’s licensing and certification requirements?

Career Overview

School psychologists are often confused with counselors, but the difference lies in the way that they interact with the students. While counselors fall back on their background in education to focus on each student individually, psychologists use their psychology backgrounds to address the issues of the students and the teachers as a whole and to define strategies and methods to work them out. You’ll assess current practices, develop new teaching methods and discipline programs, perform crisis prevention/intervention, and provide individual and group counseling.

A great deal of educational reform is being enacted from within the government, so if you find you still desire to do more, you can always choose to bridge into politics and collaborate with policymakers. This requires experience and often a higher degree, so if this is a possibility for you, start planning early.

Career/Licensing Requirements

School psychologists in the public school system are required to be licensed by the State Department of Education, while private schools, hospitals, clinics, and private practice may require licensure by the State Board of Psychology.

Each state has different certification requirements, the minimum requiring a post-master’s degree program that includes a year-long internship, but the National Association of School Psychologists’ (NASP) Nationally Certified School Psychologist (NCSP) accreditation is slowly becoming recognized as an acceptable national credential and is currently recognized by twenty-six states. The NCSP asks that you complete a master’s degree program plus thirty additional graduate semester hours, a 1,200-hour supervised internship (at least half in a school setting), and a passing score on the National School Psychology Examination.

A few states will only bestow the title of School Psychologist on those holding doctoral degrees, and the American Psychological Association (APA) does not recognize anything less than a doctoral degree for private practice.

Salary Information

Salaries vary according to region, and school psychologists are often hired on the same salary schedule as teachers, although twelve-month positions are available. Nationally starting salaries might range from the mid-$20,000 to upper-$30,000 range, and in large, affluent districts, can go as high as $70,000 to $90,000, depending on the length of the year.

Related Links

National Association of School Psychologists (NASP)
Official website of the NASP, dedicated to sharing resources, studies, and strategies in order to help the public and policymakers to recognize the effects of a student’s mental health on their development, as well as the importance of school psychological services.

American Psychological Association (APA)
Official website of the APA, a scientific and professional organization that represents over 150,000 psychologists in the U.S. Includes news on recent findings, discussion boards, career links, and more.

Association of State and Provincial Licensing Boards
Contains information about state licensing requirements.



SAMPLE CURRICULUM

  • Issues In School Psychology

  • Applied-Behavior Analysis

  • Assessment And Decision-Making In School And Community Settings

  • Collaborative Family-School Relationships

  • Educational Tests And Measurements

  • Ethics And Law In School Psychology

  • Nature, Nurture, And Individual Differences

  • Prevention And Early Intervention

  • Reading Acquisition And Reading Disorders

  • Socioeconomic Foundations Of Education