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How to Become a School Psychologist

Dec 10, 2020, 14:12 PM

A women holding a folder in the hallwayIn the next decade, there are expected to be about 10,000 openings for school psychologists, making it a great job opportunity for those interested in the field of psychology. But those who are wondering about their career options may be wondering how to be a school psychologist, what’s required and what’s in store. This short guide will run through what you need to know.

What does a school psychologist do?

A school psychologist is a type of professional psychologist who works with students as well as their teachers, parents and communities. They address behavior problems, counsel at-risk students, help to create safer classrooms and are the school’s main mental health provider. The vast majority of these professionals work in public K-12 schools, though some may also work in private schools and college settings.

School Psychologist: A Basic Job Description

This is the general job description according to the U.S. Department of Labor: “Diagnose and treat mental disorders; learning disabilities; and cognitive, behavioral, and emotional problems, using individual, child, family, and group therapies. May design and implement behavior modification programs.”

Day-to-Day Tasks

On a regular basis, a professional in this field will be doing any of these tasks:

  • Diagnose conditions and administer psychological tests
  • Maintain accurate and confidential student records, such as special education reports
  • Report pertinent information to authorities in cases of neglect or abuse
  • Collect information via interviews and surveys
  • Prepare reports and presentations
  • Conduct research and interpret data
  • Provide resources to parents and families

The Salary

According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, clinical, counseling and school psychologists earn a mean annual wage of $87,450. Those who work specifically in elementary and secondary schools earn a mean annual wage of $80,180 (or $38.55 per hour).

What degree do you need to be a school psychologist?

After obtaining your bachelor’s degree, most states have school psychologist education requirements of one of the following degrees:

  • A specialist-level M.A. (Master of Arts)
  • A specialist-level M.S. (Master of Science)
  • An EdS (Education Specialist) degree
  • A CAS (Certificate of Advanced Study) or CAGS (Certificate of Advanced Graduate Study) awarded in conjunction with a Master’s degree
  • A PsyS (Specialist in Psychology) degree
  • A PhD (Doctor of Philosophy)
  • A PsyD (Doctor of Psychology)
  • An EdD (Doctor of Education)

You need to have a minimum of 60 graduate semester hours (or 90 graduate semester hours for doctorates) with a minimum of three years of full-time study, including an internship. Generalist Masters-level degrees like an M.S. or M.A. of less than 60 hours will only lead to limited opportunities in one or two states. To get a NASP membership, you’ll need some of those courses to cover specific fields, such as research, ethics and consultation.

What are other important school psychologist requirements?

Just having a degree isn’t the only factor in becoming a school psychologist. The following requirements should also be met:

  • Internship: As a part of your degree program, you will need a 1,200-hour, full-time internship completed over one year, with at least half of it taking place in a school setting. Typically, doctoral internships will go even longer.
  • National Association of School Psychologists Certification: Make sure you look at the NASP-approved school lists when you’re applying to school programs.
  • State Licensure: Each state has its own requirements for getting a license as a school psychologist. If you already have your NASP certification, you will often be on your way to state licensure. Be sure to check the requirements in your specific state.

What does it take to be a school psychologist?

Beyond the simple licensure and education that you might need, you will also need the following skills on a day-to-day basis:

  • Exceptional interpersonal skills, critical thinking ability and capacity for active listening
  • Complex decision-making skills
  • Comfort and familiarity with data analysis, math, research and information technology
  • An in-depth knowledge of developmental psychology and experience working with kids and teens
  • Ethics, sound judgment and sensitivity to privacy
  • Capacity for inductive and deductive reasoning

If this career path interests you, and you’re looking to learn more about local school psychologist jobs, check our listings. The behavioral health field is full of different careers that may be a perfect fit for you, and learning what’s out there can help you solidify your career goals.

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