Requirements to Become a School Psychologist in New Jersey [2024 Certification Guide]

School Psychology in New Jersey (NJ)

School psychologists play a vital role in children’s academic, social, and emotional development. The services school psychologists provide to K-12 children help them become more confident, more informed, and better equipped to be well-rounded adults.

Similar to becoming a teacher, school psychologists must follow strict pathways to certification in New Jersey. The difference is that school psychologists need a higher level of education than teachers. At a minimum, you will need a master’s degree to work as a school psychologist in NJ.

Once you have your degree, then what? This guide offers you a detailed explanation of the steps required to get certified in New Jersey as a school psychologist.

What are the Requirements for School Psychologist Certification in New Jersey (NJ)?

You can gain eligibility for certification as a school psychologist in New Jersey through several pathways. Each pathway is described below.

Master’s Degree Pathway

As noted above, you must have at least a master’s degree in school psychology to be considered for a school psychology standard certificate in New Jersey. Your degree must be from a regionally-accredited college or university with a state-approved graduate program in school psychology.

Non-Master’s Pathway

Alternatively, you will be eligible for certification if you complete 60 or more credit hours of graduate work in the areas outlined below.

Educational Foundations and School Psychology Practice and Development

Of the 60+ graduate credits you earn, 12 must focus on school psychology and the school psychologist’s function in the school system, curriculum development, learning theories, educational organization, educational leadership, and multicultural education.

Education of Students With Disabilities

Your coursework must also include six or more graduate credits of study education, psychology, or assessment of students with disabilities.

Assessment, Intervention, and Research

Your graduate studies must include 18 or more credits in personality assessment, cognitive assessment, and school consultation. Other areas can include multicultural counseling, research design, and school interventions. You can also count coursework in applied behavior analysis, curriculum-based measurement, and individual counseling procedures (among others) towards the 18 credit requirement.

Human Behavioral Development

This pathway also requires you to complete 12 or more graduate credits in the human development realm. This can include courses in social psychology, psychopathology, human development, and personality psychology, to name a few.

Elective Coursework

The electives you take as part of your required 60 credits of graduate work should be in relevant realms to school psychology. This might include coursework in educational research, psychology practice, educational assessments, and the like. Practicum experiences and externships can also be used to fulfill the elective coursework requirement.

300-Hour Practicum

You must also complete a 300-hour supervised practicum experience to meet the requirements for the non-master’s pathway. The practicum must include on-campus and field-based activities that help you develop the necessary skills to work as a school psychologist. The practicum must be completed at a regionally-accredited college or university.

1,200-Hour Externship

The final component of this pathway is a 1,200-hour externship, 600 hours of which must be in a school setting with direct contact with school-aged children. The other 600 hours can be completed during an approved school psychology program or if you hold an emergency certificate (see below). All externship hours must be supervised by a school psychologist with a New Jersey or out-of-state standard certificate.

National Certification

You will automatically be issued a standard certificate as a school psychologist if you have a valid Nationally Certified School Psychologist (NCSP) license.

Emergency Certification

In some cases, you might qualify for an emergency certification as a school psychologist. An emergency certification must be requested by a school district and allow that school district to employ an intern, provided the intern is currently under the supervision of a certified school psychologist.

When applying for emergency certification, the school district must outline the dates during which the internship took place, the number of clock hours completed, and supply transcripts that show the intern has completed at least 40 semester credits of work toward a school psychology graduate degree.

Continuing Education (CE) and Certificate Renewal Requirements

New Jersey requires holders of a standard school psychology certification to complete 100 hours of continuing education (CE) every five (5) years.

Alternate Pathway to Practice School Psychology Independently in New Jersey

New Jersey allows doctoral-level psychologists to work outside of school settings, but only with a license from the New Jersey State Board of Psychological Examiners (NJSBPE). You must complete the following steps to be granted a license by the NJSBPE.

Earn a Doctorate

You must have a Ph.D., Ed.D., or Psy.D. in psychology or a closely related field. The degree must also be from a regionally-accredited institution and accredited by the American Psychological Association or the Canadian Psychological Association.

Alternatively, the program can be listed by the Association of State and Provincial Psychology Boards. Programs are also eligible if you attend classes in person for at least one academic year (full-time) or two academic years (part-time) and are taught by doctoral-level professors in psychology.

Of the credits earned in your doctoral program, no more than one-third can be transferred from another institution. All transfer credits must be from a regionally-accredited institution.

The program must include at least 40 credit hours of study in psychology. Of those, six credits must be in personality theory and human development theory. Six credits in learning theory or physiological psychology are also required.

A further six credits each are needed in psychopathology, research and statistical design, and psychological measurement and psychological assessment. You also need six credits in psychological therapy or industrial-organizational psychology.

Furthermore, the licensing board may count up to 20 credits of psychology studies at the pre-doctoral and post-doctoral levels. These credits, which might include dissertation research or remediation courses, must be earned from a regionally-accredited institution.

Submit Documentation

You must submit official transcripts from all colleges and universities attended to support your application for a New Jersey license to practice independently. Along with your transcripts, you must provide an abstract of your dissertation as published in Dissertation Abstracts International.

Two certificates of good moral character, an authorization to conduct a criminal background check, and a certification of compliance with New Jersey’s child-support enforcement law are also required.

Participate in Supervised Practice

Licensure also necessitates that you complete two or more years of full-time supervised practice, which amounts to 3,500 hours. Of these, 2,000 must be client contact hours. You must also complete 400 hours of supervision (at least half of which is individual supervision) and 1,100 hours of psychology-related activities, such as consultations and report writing.

The supervision must be by a licensed psychologist with at least two years of practice. If supervision occurs in New Jersey, your supervision must be board-approved and work under a permit issued by the NJSBPE.

Pass Written Examinations

A final component of the licensure process is to pass two exams: the Examination for Professional Practice in Psychology (EPPP) and a jurisprudence examination based on the relevant statutes and regulations that govern school psychology practice in New Jersey.

What is the School Psychologist Scope of Practice in NJ?

With a standard credential, school psychologists in New Jersey can work in early childhood, pre-K, and K-12 settings. School psychologists can work in public or private schools, charter schools, or colleges and universities as well. This work can be done either directly for a school district or on a contract basis.

In some cases, school psychologists might be able to work in non-school settings, such as hospitals or clinics. Doing so requires the prior approval of the New Jersey Department of Education.

School psychologists are responsible for a broad spectrum of services in each of the settings listed above. This might include individual or group counseling for students, family counseling with a student and their parents or guardians, or educational assessment services.

Likewise, school psychologists in New Jersey often work with classroom teachers, paraeducators, administrators, and other stakeholders to devise classroom-based activities. These activities might promote improved behavior, reduce bullying, or develop social skills, to name a few.

As is common for most school districts, school psychologists are typically involved in school-wide measures as well. For example, a school psychologist might serve on an oversight board to develop appropriate response measures for crises at school, like the death of a student or school employee.

How Long Does It Take to Become a Certified School Psychologist in New Jersey?

The fastest pathway to becoming a New Jersey school psychologist is to complete a school psychology master’s degree program. Most school psychology graduate programs are around 60 credit hours, which usually takes three years of post-baccalaureate studies to complete. This places the timeline for becoming a school psychologist at about seven years.

Do You Need a Doctorate for School Psychologist Certification in New Jersey?

No. As mentioned above, the minimum educational threshold to be a certified school psychologist in New Jersey is a master’s degree. However, if you want to work outside the school system at some point, you might need a doctorate to do so, depending on the area of licensure you pursue.

Getting a doctorate not only helps you future-proof your eligibility to work in other areas, but it also gives you a deeper skill set and level of knowledge of school psychology and related principles. Typical doctoral programs in this field take about five years of full-time studies to complete. Combined with undergraduate studies, you will need about nine years to finish your degree and be eligible for licensure.

Are School Psychologists in High Demand in New Jersey?

School psychologists are in demand in most parts of the nation due to increasing enrollments and the growing need for mental health professionals in school settings. However, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, NJ has the distinction of being among the top five in the country for the highest concentration of jobs in this field.

Moreover, the Jersey City area, when combined with New York City and southeastern Pennsylvania, has the highest employment levels of school psychologists in the nation. Camden, New Jersey, which is just across the river from Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, is seventh in the nation on the same measure.

As discussed at length earlier, school psychologists don’t just work in pre-K or K-12 school settings in New Jersey. Demand for school psychologists at the collegiate level could mean you find employment at one of New Jersey’s many community colleges or universities. Working in hospitals or clinics might also be an option, depending on demand for your services.

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