What is a School Psychologists and how to become one

School psychologists support children’s academic and emotional needs. They conduct formal assessments of cognitive ability, achievement, and emotional functioning and often have a large role in determining eligibility for special programs.

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School psychologists also use observations and other informal assessments. They consult with classroom teachers about learning and behavioral issues and may develop professional development programs. Some analyze achievement data at the school level. They may also design programs to prevent or ameliorate everything from poor academic performance and playground bullying to teen pregnancy and violence. Some school psychologists are researchers.

School psychologists typically work in elementary and secondary schools but may work in other settings like residential treatment facilities.

Becoming a School Psychologist

School psychologists need state credentialing. They may be credentialed by their state department of education (DOE) and/ or their state board of licensed psychologists. A psychologists who will be working as an employee in a public school setting is generally required to seek DOE certification, but not licensing as a professional counselor. However, licensure can expand scope of practice considerably to include other work settings and even private practice. It is important to understand that both licensing requirements and scope of practice vary from state to state. The National Association of School Psychologists (NASP) website includes links to DOE and psychologist licensing boards by state (http://www.nasponline.org/certification/state_info_list.aspx).

Grand Canyon University (GCU) offers a variety of Master’s in Psychology programs modeled after the standards and recommendations set by the American Psychological Association with emphases in: Forensic Psychology, General Psychology, GeroPsychology, Health Psychology, Human Factors Psychology, Industrial and Organizational Psychology and Life Coaching. Three Bachelor’s in Psychology programs are also offered. Click here to learn about GCU and their programs.

Southern New Hampshire University (SNHU) offers online Bachelor’s and Master’s in Psychology programs with several emphases to select from as well as a CACREP accredited online Master’s in Counseling. Click here to learn about SNHU and their programs.

Licensure as a professional psychologist typically requires education at the doctoral level, though some states make an exception for school psychologists. Prospective psychologists across disciplines should complete their education at schools that are regionally accredited. Those who plan on pursuing licensure at the doctoral level will have more opportunities if they enroll in programs that are accredited by the American Counseling Association (ACA). Those seeking DOE certification may do well to select programs that are approved by the National Association of School Psychologists (NASP). NASP-approved programs are at least at least 60 semester hours. Candidates do 1,200 hours of internship. NASP maintains a list of states that somehow recognize NASP approval in their certification process (http://www.nasponline.org/certification/statencsp.aspx).

Click Here to learn more about psychology education options based on your current educational attainment.

School psychologists are typically required to take the Praxis examination. Those who seek licensure as professional psychologists may also need to take the Examination for Professional Practice in Psychology.

Board Certification

Board certification is voluntary, but, in addition to providing verification of advanced skills, it can aid in mobility of licenses and certifications. School psychologists have two options. (http://www.nasponline.org/certification/index.aspx)

One is to become a Nationally Certified School Psychologist (NCSP) through NASP (http://www.nasponline.org/certification/becomeNCSP.aspx). A 60-unit specialist degree is adequate educational preparation for the NCSP credential provided that the psychologist meets other standards.(http://www.nasponline.org/certification/becomeNCSP.aspx) Candidates who do not complete NASP-approved programs will need to put together a portfolio to show that they have met standards in each competency area. It can be helpful to prepare early. NASP has put together tips for graduate students (http://www.nasponline.org/students/ncsptips.pdf).

Doctorally educated school psychologists also have the option of pursuing certification through the American Board of School Psychology (http://www.abpp.org/i4a/pages/index.cfm?pageid=3311).

Additional Resources

Division 16 of the American Psychological Association is a resource for school psychologists (http://www.apadivisions.org/division-16/index.aspx)

Students may wish to join the Student Affiliates in School Psychology (http://www.apadivisions.org/division-16/students/index.aspx)

Salary and Job Outlook

The Bureau of Labor Statistics reports an annual mean wage of $71,730 for psychologists employed in elementary and secondary school settings. School psychologists are grouped with clinical and counseling psychologists for the purpose of BLS data reporting. This occupational group is expected to see 22% growth in the 2010 to 2020 decade. The BLS notes that candidates with doctoral or specialist degrees in school psychology should have relatively good job prospects. However, the American Psychological Association reports that school psychologist positions can be vulnerable to budget shortfalls (http://www.apa.org/monitor/2012/09/squeeze.aspx).

In 2011, the APA released data on 2009 psychology graduates; none of the 70 doctoral level school psychologists fell into the “unemployed, seeking employment” category.