School Psychology Careers

What is a School Psychologist?

School Psychologists specialize in the psychology of children, adolescents, and young adults in a school setting.  They are skilled at identifying internal and external factors affecting a student’s ability to learn and thrive both in and out of the school setting. School Psychologists are trained in supporting students academically, mentally, and emotionally. This individualized approach helps students form a solid foundation for academic success, positive interpersonal relationships, and overall well-being.  

One key component in the field of School Psychology is helping students process problems  during critical times in development. These issues can include self-esteem, relationships, bullying, disabilities, LGBTQ concerns, and changes in environment.

A School Psychologist is trained to see the correlation between learning difficulties and mental health; they can diagnose mental health disorders.  This is important to ensure proper treatment is implemented for students with diagnosable disorders.

 

What does a School Psychologist do?

School Psychologists work with students of all ages and grade levels. They help them individually to navigate academic, mental-health, and emotional issues. School Psychologists also work with individuals that have developmental delays and those who require special education. They often collaborate with parents, counselors, and faculty to implement therapeutic interventions.

To ensure all issues are properly addressed, a School Psychologist looks at problems individually and in conjunction with other factors. This individualized approach helps students form a solid foundation for academic success, positive interpersonal relationships, and overall well-being. A School Psychologist focuses on creating and maintaining a safe place for learning, where children and adolescents can thrive.

Many School Psychologists are passionate about mental-health awareness and advocacy in their schools and communities. They push back against the stigma often associated with mental health concerns and diagnoses, and encourage others to do the same. A School Psychologist may plan educational seminars or lectures. Some plan and carry out school and community activities to spread awareness.

While most School Psychologists work and interact with the entire student population, some opt to work with a specific population. They may specialize in working with students who have special needs or troubled individuals.

 

What is a School Psychologist Responsible for?

School Psychologists advocate for the overall well-being of students.  They create school policies and design and implement school and community programs to form a supportive network for students. A School Psychologist is tasked with evaluating students for academic, developmental, mental health, and emotional issues. If a learning disability or mental-health issue is identified, they may refer to additional resources for support.  

 

Where does a School Psychologist work?

Many School Psychologists work with school-aged children in grades K-12. Others work in a high-school setting or in higher education. Many are employed by public schools, private schools, or other educational facilities. Some work in childcare centers, juvenile facilities, mental health centers, and universities. Depending on a school’s available budget, size, and need, the building or district may have multiple School Psychologists on staff.

 

What Degree is Required to Become a School Psychologist?  What do they study?

Students interested in becoming a School Psychologist must first earn a bachelor’s degree. Many students opt for a four-year degree in psychology, sociology, child development or education to prepare them for graduate studies.

Students must next obtain a master’s or specialist’s degree in School Psychology or a closely related field. Most states require those studying School Psychology to complete a specialist-level master’s program, which includes a lengthy internship to ensure students are confident and ready to begin working in the field.

Some students go on to earn a doctorate degree in School Psychology, though it is not required. These upper-level programs take approximately 5-7 years to complete, and include an additional internship, as well as a dissertation.

In many states, graduates must obtain a license before they can begin practicing.

 

How is the Job Market and How Much Money Does a School Psychologist Earn?

The need for School Psychologists is growing. According to the National Center for Education Statistics, just over 10 percent of all public-school students work with a School Psychologist annually; that’s approximately 6.5 million students per year. That need is expected to continue to grow over the next decade, as many School Psychologists reach retirement age and positions become open.

According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, School Psychologists make a median salary of $75,000. Those with more experience may receive higher compensation, and wages vary greatly depending on location and need.

Some School Psychologists decide to work in private practice to supplement their income. This is a particularly popular avenue for Psychologists who practice in school districts with extended summer breaks.

Students interested in private practice are urged to check the laws in their individual states, as many states prohibit Psychologists from practicing independently without a doctorate degree. Regulations vary greatly by state.

 

What Other Career Options are Available to a School Psychologist?

For those who choose to work in a setting other than a school, they can utilize their degree in a variety of ways. School Psychologist Jobs may conduct research or open a private practice working with children, adolescents and young adults in the community.

Other options include:

  • Community mental health centers
  • Hospitals, residential clinics, and treatment centers
  • Justice programs for juveniles
  • Colleges or childcare centers focused on early learning education

 

What Skills and Traits are Necessary to Work as a School Psychologist?

Successful School Psychologists are caring, conscientious, and empathetic. Other important traits and skills include:

The ability to work independently and with a team

A desire to work with school-aged children and/or adolescents

A passion for advocacy and bringing awareness to the community

The drive to be a lifelong learner

An interest in mental-health research, especially as it pertains to children and adolescents

Involvement in school and community events and activities

The ability to create and implement policies and programs within the school district and community

The understanding that ongoing education is necessary to stay up-to-date on advancements in the field of School Psychology

The ability to be assertive and educate community members and colleagues about topics and issues that require sensitivity or are controversial