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School Psychologist: Education and Career Information

If the notion of working with children to help them adjust better in the educational setting interests you, this may be an indication of a career in school psychology. Although there are other positions within the school setting that may fulfill this dream, this is a more comprehensive position that can also work within the private practice setting and can be financially lucrative.

What does a school psychologist do?

A school psychologist works with students to diagnose and treat disorders or other issues they may be suffering from. A school psychologist is able to work with students one on one, have counseling sessions with the student and parents, and work with counselors in making sure all students are adjusting properly. There are a number of issues that may be brought to their attention, such as LGBTQ concerns, bullying, students who are experiencing low academic performance or displaying harmful behaviors such as cutting. Students may also be displaying issues with authority, which may stem from problems going on at home. The school psychologist will work with the student to uncover any issues to assist in the educational and personal advancement of the students’ success.

School psychologists are usually present when psychological tests are administered, they work with the administration to implement new learning techniques and programs, are present in parent/teacher conferences to discuss the social, learning and behavioral problems of a student, assists students in planning their goals, and assists with behavioral management techniques. They work in the K-12 setting, as well as in universities. They also work in private and vocational schools, juvenile detention centers, day care centers, orphanages, and some work in district offices for regional curriculum guidance.

How much does a school psychologist earn?

According to the US News & World Report, the median salary of a school psychologist was at $72,710 per year, with the highest pay over $100,000. These figures are contingent on years of experience, degrees, location, and facility where the work is being done. The highest paid metropolitan areas in 2013 were Allentown, Pennsylvania; San Luis Obispo, California; and Salinas, California.

What skills are needed to become a school psychologist?

There are a number of skills needed to be successful as a school psychologist:

Ability to Make Decisions: It is important to be able to make sound decisions and weigh the options of any recommendations prior to final decisions.

Problem Solving: As a school psychologist, assisting students, teachers and parents in getting to the root of a problem and offering solutions is an integral part of the job. A school psychologist must be able to provide assistance in identifying the problems and working toward effective resolutions.

Active Listening: It is important to hear what students, parents and teachers are saying to implement strategies and techniques that will assist in alleviating any underlying issues. Without active listening, a school psychologist cannot provide informed and educated feedback.

Persuasion: Working with students is no easy task. A school psychologist must be able to use their powers of persuasion to reach students and help them in managing their issues.

Teaching: It is important that a school psychologist be able to teach and demonstrate how to handle situations, provide guidance on resolving matters and be available for one-on-one or group therapy.

Communication: There must be a strong ability to communicate both verbally and in writing across the spectrum of clients they deal with on a daily basis. There are reports to be written and conversations that must take place. The school psychologist must be able to communicate on all levels to reach every client in their comfort zone.

Time Management: When working in a school setting, time becomes a challenge when there are meetings with teachers, parents, students and administration. A school psychologist must be able to successfully navigate these meetings and find the time to conduct training, handle paperwork and a variety of other tasks that accompany their role.

Customer Service: Although in a school setting, every student, teacher or parent should be treated as a customer. They are utilizing the services of the school psychologist to assist in solving a problem. A school psychologist must be able to provide the highest levels of customer service to every person they come in contact with.

Internship requirements

Most programs require a year’s internship or longer, depending on the concentration and rigorous nature of the program. In order to obtain national certification, there must be proof of a 1,200 hour internship completion in school psychology.

Education requirements

Becoming a psychologist takes a few years of education. The first step is to obtain a bachelor’s degree in psychology, education or sociology. Coursework under the psychology degree with a concentration on children includes:

•Introduction to Anatomy and Physiology
•Introduction to Psychology
•Statistics for Psychology
•Scientific Investigations
•Issues in Childhood Development
•Issues in Adolescent Development
•Disorders of Childhood and Adolescence

After obtaining the bachelor’s degree, the next course of action will be to pursue a master’s degree in psychology, counseling or school psychology. There is a specialist degree (EdS) under the school psychology umbrella that is obtainable after three years of graduate study and an internship for a year.

After the master’s degree has been obtained, the final educational step would be to pursue a doctoral degree in psychology, which would grant the PhD or PsyD. Once the program has been completed, licensure and certification must be granted in order to practice. The national certification is offered through the National Association of School Psychologists, which has prerequisites of completion of a master’s program, completion of an internship of 1,200 hours, and passing of the National School Psychology Exam.

School psychologists wear a number of hats in providing assistance to the students and their support systems. This can be a very rewarding career that can help change a student’s life for the better. If you are interested in furthering your education beyond a bachelor’s degree, this may be a great career path for you.

Psychology Scholarships

American Psychological Foundation Scholarships Association of Black Psychologists Epilepsy Foundation
Elizabeth Munsterberg Koppitz Child Psychology Graduate Student Fellowship Future Counselors of America Scholarship Gallagher Koster Health Careers Scholarship
Kay Wilson Presidential Leadership Award NIH Undergraduate Scholarship NAJA Graduate Scholarship
National Science Foundation Graduate Research Fellowship Psi Chi Awards and Grants Wayne F. Placek Grants


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