What are the Steps to Start a Career in School Psychology?

School psychology focuses on emotional, psychological, learning and/or behavioral issues faced by school-age children. School psychologists work in a variety of settings such as: schools, clinics, hospitals, daycares, correctional facilities and social service agencies. School psychology combines educational and clinical psychology when diagnosing and treating children and adolescents.

Educational Requirements

Most states require that school psychologists have an advanced degree (Doctorate of Education – ED.S.) in school psychology or a related field. Some states only require a master’s degree in school psychology to practice as a licensed school counselor, but this is rare. A master’s degree is always required to be licensed as a counselor. Although extremely rare, a few states will allow an individual to practice as a school counselor if they hold a bachelor’s degree in school psychology or a related field.

Undergraduate Program

The following courses are normally covered in an undergraduate school psychology program:

Undergraduate Requirements

An undergraduate program in school psychology teaches you how to correctly assess family, behavioral, emotional, psychological and/or academic issues that affect children and adolescents. It is imperative to address emotional and psychological issues in children as soon as they occur as to avoid more serious issues in the future.

While in your 4-year undergraduate school psychology program, you will learn basic psychology principles and how to assess and treat emotional and learning problems in school-age children. It is important to note that to work as professional school psychologist, you will need to further your education and eventually obtain a master’s degree or doctorate in school psychology.

Graduate Program

The following courses are normally covered in a graduate school psychology program:

  • Orientation to Graduate Learning in Psychology
  • School Psychology
  • Tests and Measurements
  • Inferential Statistics
  • Research Methods
  • Child and Adolescent Psychology
  • Cognitive Psychology
  • Multicultural Perspectives in Human Behavior
  • Psychological Assessments
  • Principles of School Psychology
  • Consultation and Collaboration in School
  • Legal and Ethical Issues in School

Graduate Degree Requirements

A graduate school psychology program teaches you the core competencies (psychological assessment, intervention, education, consultation and cultural diversity) that you need to be successful as a school counselor or school therapist. To be admitted to a master’s level school psychology program, you will first need to acquire a bachelor’s degree from a regionally accredited institution. It will take you approximately 2 to 3 years to successfully complete a graduate degree program in school psychology.

Doctoral Program

The following courses are normally covered in a doctoral school psychology program:

  • School Psychology
  • Sociological and Cultural Foundations of Education
  • Cognitive Processes and Learning
  • Educational Leadership and Organizational Theory
  • Research Methods
  • Statistics and Quantitative Data Analysis
  • Human Growth and Development
  • Developmental Child Psychopathology
  • Positive Behavior Support
  • Assessment and Intervention in School
  • Standardized Measures of Academics and Behavior
  • Assessments, Interventions and Curriculum-Based Measures in a School Setting

Doctoral Degree Requirements

A doctoral (Ed.S.) degree program in school psychology teaches you the knowledge, attitudes and skills needed to provide quality services to children and adolescents. During your doctoral program, you learn the core psychological and educational competencies (cognitive, academic, psycho-educational interventions, personality assessments, research methodology and statistics) that you may need to work in a variety of child-related settings. You may also be required to complete an internship (professional practice at a school, etc.) and maintain a 3.0 GPA on a 4.0 scale each semester.

Moreover, during your first semester of internship, you may be required to take the school psychology PRAXIS II exam. Do not forget to have your scores sent to your program coordinator. You may be able to complete a school psychology doctoral program in 5 years, although most students take between 6 and 7 years to complete it. In fact, most schools give you 7 years to complete the program. Your program consists of a combination of coursework (3 years), supervised internship (1 year) and dissertation development (2 to 3 years).

As a School Psychologist What Will You Do?

As a school psychologist you have specialized training in both education and psychology. You use your training, skills and expertise to consult with parents, educators, school administrators, social workers, therapists and/or psychologists to ensure that every child has an opportunity to learn in a safe, supportive and productive environment. You are also responsible for assessing school systems and researching effective teaching styles in an effort to accurately gauge how students learn.

Your training consists of graduate-level coursework, a supervised clinical internship and a dissertation (an extensive research paper on a school psychology topic). You are trained in the areas of: child development, mental health, school organization, behavior, learning processes and motivation. To work as a school psychologist, you must be certified and/or licensed by The National School Psychology Certification Board or the state in which you practice.

Related Reading

Further Reading and References

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