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School Psychology CareersWhat 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.

How to become a School Psychologist

Here are the steps to becoming a school psychologist:

1. Earn a Bachelor’s Degree

To become a school psychologist, you should pursue a bachelor’s degree in psychology. You can also major in education or another related field based on state requirements. Before enrolling in this program, ensure the NASP accredits it.

You’ll also want to ensure your program has all courses required for a master’s degree. It’s important to check the requirements for a master’s program before choosing a bachelor’s program.

A bachelor’s program at the undergraduate level blends courses in liberal arts and science. During your junior year, you’ll take your psychology electives. You’ll take general courses such as biology, physical sciences, social sciences, speech, English composition, and history.

The advanced-level psychology course has units such as the history of psychology, cognition, counseling, child psychology, human behavior, and psychotherapy.

Applicants with previous experience in youth programs such as mentorship, classroom, or recreational camps have higher chances for admission.

As a senior-year student, your school may require you to submit a thesis or final-year project called a capstone project. To qualify for a master’s degree, you’ll need to complete the 4-year bachelor’s program and have a minimum GPA of 3.0.

2. Earn a Master’s Degree

Earning a master’s degree is another requirement when learning how to become a school psychologist. You can enroll in this program after completing your bachelor’s program.

Like a bachelor’s degree, ensure that your school offers a master’s degree program accredited by NASP. You can enroll for your master’s degree in a traditional institution or an online program offered by your college or university.

Your master’s degree program in school psychology will take three years. This includes completing 60 credit hours and one year (at least 1,200 hours) of supervised internship. The third is the internship year, where you get direct supervision from a professional school psychologist.

Fieldwork in a master’s degree involves a practicum where you are required to do the following:

  • Observe practicing school psychologists
  • Interact with students
  • Ask questions
  • Analyze your observations

On the other hand, an internship involves working under supervision or independently. Internships help school psychology students to gain competence in program evaluation and research, assessment skills, communication skills, and ethics.

Check with your school to understand whether they support or arrange practicums and internship placements. If you’re seeking the most prestigious internships, expect competition from other school psychology students. You can start planning for an internship earlier to ensure you get your preferred choice.

A master’s program prepares you to work with students, educators, and families. You’ll also need to take electives that match your career plans. Courses such as educational psychology, I/Q evaluation, and counseling prepare you to handle students’ psychological, emotional, and educational needs.

These courses will help you learn how to work with different student groups. They also focus on collaborative problem-solving. If your students struggle with mental health issues, you’ll use research-based treatments to help them.

Some key topics you’ll learn include the following:

  • How to find practical solutions for behavioral and learning issues
  • How to evaluate students throughout their development levels
  • How to create programs that encourage healthy learning environments
  • How to use the appropriate psychological interventions

To make your career more marketable, you can add a second language to your master’s program. If you’re planning to pursue a doctoral program, choose electives that’ll qualify you for entry into the program.

Typically, a master’s degree will allow you to earn your state license and work as a school psychologist. It also increases your chances of working in academia, certain work environments, or private practice.

You can pursue a doctoral degree to be more marketable. A doctoral program takes 5-6 years with at least 90 semester hours and a year-long internship.

3. Get Licensed and Certified

Requirements for licensure vary by state. Some states require candidates to have a certificate to prove they are Nationally Certified School Psychologists (NCSPs). This certification comes from the NASP and requires a master’s degree. Most states recognize the NCSP certification because it’s on the national level.

Other states may require the school psychology specialty (SPS) certification from the American Board of School Psychology. To acquire the SPS, candidates require a doctoral degree.

In both certifications, applicants must complete a supervised internship and an examination. Most states require school psychologists to meet the 1,200-hour supervised experience and 60 semester hours.

If your state requires the SPS certification, you must complete the 90 semester hours and at least 1,200 hours of supervised internship.

Additionally, candidates must pass the Praxis II School Psychologist (5402) Exam. Usually, the passing score is 155, but it changes after several years. You’ll need to check if your state requires this exam and the passing score required.

The Educational Testing Service (ETS) administers this exam before students can graduate. You must send your school transcripts and internship completion certificates for approval to sit for the school psychology exam.

Passing the Praxis II exams ascertains that candidates have acquired the minimum acceptable competency to work as professional school psychologists.

After receiving your state license, you can start working as a professional school psychologist. Most people find jobs as school psychologists in public schools. If you’re looking for more alternatives, you can try private schools, research settings, universities, student wellness centers, and preschools.

Remember, you’ll need to renew your state license periodically and take continuing education courses. Learn more about psychologist licensing by state.

4. Continuing Education

Securing a license and a job as a school psychologist is not the end of your education. Like other careers, school psychology requires professionals to maintain their certifications. They must take continuing education programs to keep them up-to-date with the latest techniques.

The courses expose them to new theories and techniques for handling students at different levels. Courses for renewing school psychologists’ credentials vary from state to state.

Some states require professionals to undertake continuing education courses every 2-5 years. This involves 20 to 30-hour training in child psychology each year. School psychologists can attend psychology classes, webinars, or conferences to meet these hours.

You’ll also need to take some tests to earn Continuing Professional Development credits (CPD credits). Professionals must attain 75 CPD credits within the required years to renew their credentials. You gain CPD credits through university coursework, in-service training, self-study, workshops, and conferences.

Some states don’t have specific continuing education requirements. However, practicing school psychologists within those states must renew their credentials. Learn more with our list of CE providers.

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How is the Job Market for School Psychologists?

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.

How much do School Psychologists earn?

The average salary for a school psychologist in the United States will fall between $60,000 and $90,000, with an entry-level position starting at around $60,000 annually. 

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.

See our school psychologist salary guide for more information.

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 psychologists 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

Is school psychology a stressful job?

Yes, it can be. Like any career, school psychology has its pros and cons.

School psychologists earn a reasonable salary (although less than some other subfields of psychology) and enjoy a fairly good work-life balance thanks to long summer breaks and their working day typically being focused around school hours.

The work can be immensely rewarding helping children and young adults as well as their families but the issues and challenges that you may be helping people through can be very concerning and make it hard for you to switch off at the end of your day.

There is a good chance you will need to connect children and their families with resources outside of your school and these services are often limited and overstretched which can be frustrating and stressful. There is also frequently a considerable amount of paperwork associated with the role.

Latest School Psychology Jobs Listings

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Position Company Location Posted
School Psychologist Northcentral Learning Resource Center Great Falls, Montana 03/22/2023
Northcentral Learning Resource Center has a full-time School Psychologist opening for the 2023-2024 school year working for the special education cooperative serving the rural Cascade county schools. Applicants seeking part-time positions are also encouraged to apply. Job Description: The primary functions and roles of the School Psychologist are to measure and interpret the intellectual, adaptive, academic, social, and emotional ... More
Psychologist - School - (PSY - School) AMN Healthcare Stafford, Virginia 03/22/2023
Job Description & RequirementsPsychologist - School - (PSY - School)StartDate: 08/01/2023Pay Rate: $1650.00 - 2000.00AMN Healthcare is partnering with a local school district to hire a School-Based Psychologist for a job near the Stafford Virginia area. This job will be working with one of the top districts in the area to provide services to children of all ages. Requirements include a graduate-level degree in School Psychology, as well as an internship one academic year ... More
School Psychologist Leyden Area Special Education Cooperative Frankilin Park, Illinois 03/21/2023
Position Summary: The school psychologist position involves participation in the MTSS and problem-solving process, data-based decision-making, conducting psychological evaluations, providing counseling and direct service interventions, consultation and collaboration with teachers, parents, and other professionals, and development of programs and staff training. Essential Duties and Responsibilities: 1. Knowledge and skill in using psychological instruments to evaluate students. ... More
Adjunct Faculty - School Psychology William James College Newton, Massachusetts 03/21/2023
William James College-Adjunct Faculty - School Psychology, Fall/Spring 2023-2024 William JamesCollege, located in Newton, MA, just west of Boston, is seeking an Adjunct faculty member to teach two courses,StatisticsandResearch and Evaluation Methodsin the School Psychology MA/CAGS Programs for Fall 2023 (Statistics) and Spring 2024 (Research and Evaluation Methods) semesters. ... More
Psychologist - School - (PSY - School) AMN Healthcare Plainfield, Connecticut 03/21/2023
Job Description & RequirementsPsychologist - School - (PSY - School)StartDate: 08/23/2023Pay Rate: $1650.00 - 2000.00AMN Healthcare is partnering with a local school district to hire a School-Based Psychologist for a job near the Plainfield Connecticut area. This job will be working with one of the top districts in the area to provide services to children of all ages. Requirements include a graduate-level degree in School Psychology, as well as an internship one academic ... More
School Psychologist District of Columbia Public Schools Dist. Columbia 03/20/2023
Description Pay Plan: ET Grade: 15 (10 Month) elementary and middle or 11 (12 month) high school Union: WTUStep/Salary:1-16/$61,944 ... More
School Psychologist District of Columbia Public Schools Dist. Columbia 03/20/2023
Pay Plan: ET Grade: 15 (10 Month) elementary and middle or 11 (12 month) high school Union: WTUStep/Salary:1-16/$61,944 - $90,905 ... More
Licensed Specialist in School Psychology Texas School for the Blind & Visually Impaired Austin, Texas 03/20/2023
POSITION: Licensed Specialist in School Psychology DEPARTMENT: Comprehensive Programs POSTING #: 23-035MONTHLY SALARY: Based on AISD pay scale using education and years of experienceSHIFT: Monday-Friday, 7:45am-3:45pmOPENING DATE: 3/9/2023 ... More
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