School Psychologists help schools by improving academic achievement; promoting positive behavior and mental health; supporting diverse learning; creating safe, positive climates; strengthening family-school partnerships; and improving school-wide assessment and accountability.
The vast majority of school psychologists work in K-12 public schools. They also provide services in a variety of other settings, including:
- Private schools or charter schools
- Preschools and other early childhood settings
- School district administration offices
- Colleges and Universities
- School-based mental health and health centers
- Community-based day treatment or residential clinics and hospitals
- Juvenile justice programs
- Independent private practice
- States typically require a graduate degree and supervised experience in school psychology to work as a school psychologist. Specific admission criteria and application procedures for graduate programs in school psychology vary, although they often require a Bachelor’s degree with a major in psychology, child development, sociology, or education. At a minimum, it is helpful to have introductory courses in one or more of the following: child development; general and child psychology; statistics, measurement, and research methods; philosophy and theories of measurement; instruction and curriculum; and special education.
- School psychology programs may also give preference to applicants with previous experience working with youth in settings that include recreational camps, classrooms, mentor programs, day care centers, or after school programs. Although seldom required, a teaching degree or experience can sometimes improve the potential for admission. Applicants interested in specialization (e.g., current mental health professional or educator looking for a career change) should contact graduate programs of interest for information.
School Psychologists training emphasizes using research-based methods, understanding both individual and environmental factors influencing learning and behavior, and individual and systems level interventions. More specifically, school psychologists develop knowledge and skills in areas such as, data collection and analysis, resilience and risk factors, consultation and collaboration, academic/learning interventions, mental and behavioral health, instructional support, prevention and intervention services, special education services, crisis preparedness, crisis response and recovery, family-school-community collaboration, diversity in development and learning, research and program evaluation, and professional ethics and school law.
School psychologists typically complete either a specialist-level degree program (at least 60 graduate semester hours and usually three years) or a doctoral degree (at least 90 graduate semester hours and often five to six years). The specialist degree culminates in a 1,200 hour supervised internship. The doctoral degree culminates in an internship ranging from 1,600 to 2,000 hours.. The specialist-level degree is the national standard for entry into the field and allows for comprehensive practice and career advancement in schools. A doctoral degree is also appropriate for practicing in schools and is essential to working in academia and pursuing certain research interests. Some universities offer both degrees, allowing students in the specialist-level program to transfer to the doctoral program within the first two years of coursework.
One must hold the proper state-issued credential to practice as a school psychologist in any given state or territory. Specific requirements vary across states. Be sure to check credentialing requirements for the states where you want to work, and use NASP’s resource for state school psychology credentialing information.
Applicants should apply to programs specifically titled “school psychology.” There are over 300 such programs in the United States. Some factors to consider include:
- Doctoral program versus specialist-level degree program
- Program approval/accreditation status (i.e., APA, NASP, DOE approval)
- Faculty qualifications, specializations, and interests
- Size of program
- Location (region, type of community)
- Practicum and internship opportunities
- Research opportunities
- Availability of financial support
- Employment rates of program graduates
Additional information for all graduate programs in school psychology may be found on via the following link: http://apps.nasponline.org/standards-and-certification/graduate-education/index.aspx
- The National Association of School Psychology (NASP) sets standards for graduate preparation, credentialing, professional practice, and ethics. NASP approves both specialist-level and doctoral program that meet its graduate preparation standards. Graduates of NASP-approved programs receive quality preparation across all domains of practice and can have a streamlined process for applying to the Nationally Certified School Psychologist (NCSP) credential.
- A complete list of NASP-approved programs is available at this link.
- The APA Commission on Accreditation (APA-CoA) is recognized by both the secretary of the U.S. Department of Education and the Council for Higher Education Accreditation, as the national accrediting authority for professional education and training in psychology. Accordingly, APA-CoA’s accreditation policies, procedures and guidelines are intended to be consistent with nationally recognized values of accreditation, as articulated by governmental and nongovernmental groups with an interest in accreditation.
- A complete list of APA-accredited programs is available at this link.