According to the National Association of School Psychologists, a group dedicated to spreading knowledge about the invaluable services that school psychologists provide, school psychologists “apply expertise in mental health, learning, and behavior to help children and youth succeed academically, socially, behaviorally, and emotionally.” In other words, school psychology is the application of psychological knowledge in a school setting, in which individuals (primarily young students, but teachers as well) mostly deal with unique and often difficult situations that may have an effect on or be affected by their mental health.
Because school psychology is such a specialized field, there are not a wide variety of different types of jobs available to school psychologists, but because of an ever-increasing concern with youth health and safety, they are in high demand. Also, because school psychology and the job of the individual school psychologist cover so much ground, a school psychologist will have a wide variety of things to do on any given day and will need to be adaptable, learning about a wide variety of people and helping them achieve their full potential not only in the strictly academic settings associated with school, but in their entire lives.
Related: Becoming a School Psychologist
Because the future of psychology overall as a field looks great, with 12% growth projected from 2012 to 2022 – 1% higher than the average growth rate across all professional fields, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics – the future of school psychology is secure. School psychology is also becoming more secure due to the rising interest in child wellness, particularly in school settings, with new focus in the media and by parents on important issues like bullying and sexuality and gender identity.
Career Path and Options
Public or Private School Psychologists
These school psychologists, who make up well over 80% of the field provide various psychological services such as counseling, preventative mental health care, behavioral therapy, and others to students, teachers, families, and others involved in the schooling process. Almost all of them take on administrative roles at the schools at which they teach, and some also take on teaching roles. They must also coordinate their efforts with a wide variety of mental health and other professionals, such as school guidance counselors, child psychologists that may be working with their students, teachers and administrators who want to provide the safest and most productive environment possible for their students, etc.
These types of school psychologists must be flexible and require degrees at the specialist or doctoral levels in order to practice; they are usually also certified by a body such as the National Association of School Psychologists. These programs must also include many hours of internship work and supervised practice, to be sure that every school psychologist is qualified to do the best job she or he can.
That being said, public and private school psychologists are often paid quite well. The average salary for school psychologists serving on 180-day contracts during the 2009-2010 school year was $64,168, while those serving 200-day contracts made somewhat more, with their average at $71,320. Their contracts are often very similar to those of teachers at their school districts.
However, there is wide variability from district to district depending on various factors such as budget allowances and general need for mental care. This is an important point for school psychologists to consider when applying for jobs in public and private universities.
University School Psychologists
School psychologists working at universities provide the same services as those that work at public or private schools for younger students, but may have to address some slightly different behavioral and psychological issues, focusing more on social psychology and the process of coming into adulthood than issues of child psychology and early developmental psychology. They also often take on more research-oriented projects and serve as faculty members or assistants to faculty members during research projects. As such, school psychologists at the university level have virtually all completed doctoral programs.
As they often have a wider range of responsibilities than school psychologists working at public or private schools, and require even more specialized training, their salary is generally higher, averaging about $77,801 per year according to the National Association of School Psychologists. However, as with school psychologists working at public and private schools for younger students, there is a significant amount of variation in terms of salary at the university level as well, though salary is more consistent than at the secondary school level.
Other School Psychologists
Although the vast majority of school psychologists are employed either in private or public school settings or in universities, they may also be employed in private clinics or in community centers or hospitals, especially if those institutions run programs in conjunction with local schools or often serve school age children. However, the salary for these types of positions varies quite widely based on any number of factors.
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