Requirements to Become a School Psychologist in Washington State [Certification Guide]

School Psychology in Washington State (WA)

Washington is a beautiful state with some of the most spectacular scenery in the United States. With ample opportunities for recreation, it’s no wonder so many people consider it among the top places to visit.

Washington is also a great place to live. It has a thriving economy, progressive politics, and an industry-focused university system, all of which factored into US News & World Report ranking Washington as the best state to live in.

So, whether you are already a school psychologist or want to study school psychology in Washington, many advantages await you both inside and outside the classroom.

And when the time comes, you can take advantage of the information below on how to become a school psychologist in WA.

What are the Requirements to Become a School Psychologist in Washington State?

Below is a quick breakdown of requirements to become a licensed school psychologist in Washington State:

  1. Complete an approved school psychology program
  2. Complete internship requirements of your school psychology program
  3. Pass a comprehensive examination (or Praxis II test)
  4. Pass a background check with fingerprinting
  5. Apply for a Residency First Issue Certificate
  6. Obtain a NCSP credential
  7. Apply for a Professional Certificate

Washington offers two types of certificates for school psychologists – a first-tier Residency First Issue Certificate and a second-tier Professional Certificate. Each type of certificate is explained in detail below.

Residency First Issue Certificate

The Residency First Issue Certificate is the minimum level certification for school psychologists in Washington. To qualify for this two-year certificate, you must have a master’s degree in school psychology (or equivalent experience) and submit official transcripts to prove you have obtained your degree.

You can meet this requirement in one of four ways. First, graduate from an approved school psychology program in any state that leads to certification as a school psychologist. Second, if you didn’t graduate from an approved program, you might still qualify if you have three or more years of out-of-state experience as a school psychologist.

A third option for getting the Residency First Issue Certificate is to have a valid credential as a Nationally Certified School Psychologist (NCSP) from the National Association of School Psychologists (NASP).

Lastly, you might still be eligible for certification as a school psychologist if you complete a school psychology program in addition to another graduate degree.

In addition to the above requirements, you must also pass a comprehensive examination as part of your master’s degree OR pass the Praxis II school psychology test (code: 0401). You also need to pass a background check with fingerprinting. If you hold a current, valid certificate, a background check and fingerprinting are not necessary.

Professional Certificate

A Professional Certificate is reserved for more experienced school psychologists. To qualify for this five-year credential, you must first meet all the requirements for the Residency First Issue Certificate. You must also have an NCSP credential from NASP.

Furthermore, you must complete a course on child abuse and a three-credit course in suicide prevention training within the last five years.

Continuing Education (CE) and Certification Renewal Requirements

Both certifications listed above can be renewed for five years after the initial issuance of the credential. To be eligible for renewal, you must fulfill continuing education requirements that include 100 clock hours of college coursework (or the equivalent) or by participating in four annual Professional Growth Plans (PGPs) before your current certificate expires.

Additionally, you can fulfill renewal requirements by completing a combination of college credit and PGPS or by getting an NCSP credential, which can count towards 100 hours of continuing education.

What is the School Psychologist Scope of Practice in WA?

As is common for school psychologists across the nation, school psychologists in Washington offer a wide range of services to students, faculty, staff, and other stakeholders in an educational setting.

A primary role is offering direct support services to students. For example, school psychologists in Washington can provide mental health counseling to individual students or groups of students who might share a common behavioral, emotional, or mental disorder.

Likewise, you can conduct various psychological assessments on students to glean a better understanding of their development. For example, you might administer an intelligence test to an elementary-aged student that is lagging behind his peers in terms of academic performance.

Another good example of the scope of work for school psychologists is to work on a broader level on school-wide programs. For example, you might devise a safe schools program that teaches elementary students about the dangers of drugs and alcohol. This program might educate children about the effects of drugs and alcohol while also encouraging kids to talk to trusted adults about situations in their lives in which drugs or alcohol have caused problems.

School psychologists also work with the families of students in an effort to create stronger family-school partnerships. Doing so might involve planning parent conferences with teachers or informational meetings for parents and guardians about school policies and procedures.

Additionally, you might even lead parent training classes that help parents and guardians understand how they can best support their child’s academic growth.

How Long Does It Take to Become a Certified School Psychologist in Washington State?

You need about seven years to become a certified school psychologist in Washington – four years to complete a traditional bachelor’s degree program and three additional years to complete a school psychology program.

That said, everyone’s timeline is a little different. Some people might meet the requirements for certification in six years. Others might need eight or nine years. This is especially true if you decide to continue your education and get an additional degree.

Where Do School Psychologists Work in Washington State?

Certified school psychologists in Washington are allowed to work in pre-K settings, public and private K-12 schools, and charter schools. Additionally, you can work in college or university settings without any additional education, training, or certifications.

The state allows you to work directly for a school system as an employee or as a contract employee of the schools. However, you cannot practice school psychology outside of a school setting.

Do You Need a Doctorate for School Psychologist Certification in WA?

No. A master’s degree in school psychology from an approved program is the minimum required education for certification.

Are School Psychologists in High Demand in Washington State?

According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), nationwide job growth for school psychologists is expected to be about average, or six percent, through the early part of the next decade. However, census data for Washignton state indicates that job growth could be more robust in the Pacific Northwest.

The latest census revealed that Washington added nearly 1 million residents between 2010 and 2020. Though not all of those residents are school-aged children, it nevertheless indicates that school systems, especially in fast-growing areas like Seattle, will continue to experience growth.

What’s more, if that level of growth has continued since 2020, roughly 250,000 more people might be in Washington today. So, what does this mean for school psychologist jobs?

With more students in schools, school systems will need more teachers and support staff like school psychologists to address the needs of the student body. What’s more, as schools become more and more diverse, the ability of school psychologists to implement diversity initiatives will become increasingly important.

Every school district in Washington is a little different with varying needs for its students. But one thing is certain – school psychologists will be needed to help manage the growing and diverse needs of students at all levels of education, from pre-K to college.

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