Make a Difference as an Important Member of an Academic Team
School psychologists provide the link between mental health and academic success. As highly trained professionals, school psychologists have an opportunity to help children make positive changes. The schedule for most school psychologists is the same as that of classroom teachers, making this a well-paid occupation that offers the opportunity for good work/family balance.
School psychologists provide their expertise in mental health, learning and behavior to help children and adolescents succeed academically, emotionally, socially and behaviorally. They work with teachers, families, school administrators and other professionals to foster safe and supportive learning environments. School psychologists identify, diagnose and treat students with mental disorders, learning disabilities, and any cognitive, behavioral or emotional problems that affect a child’s ability to function effectively in academic and social settings.
Although requirements vary somewhat from state to state, many states require at least 60 hours of graduate study in school psychology and completion of a 1,200-hour internship. Some school psychologists continue their education at the doctoral level. It’s possible to earn credits online toward the graduate degree, but because of the practicum requirements, you cannot earn a master’s or doctorate in school psychology exclusively online. Continuing education requirements vary from state to state, and it’s possible to earn credits through online coursework. Hours also may be earned through seminars and conferences offered through the National Association of School Psychologists and other professional organizations.
The first step toward becoming a school psychologist is earning a bachelor’s degree in psychology, with coursework that includes child development and educational psychology. A bachelor’s degree in another field is generally acceptable, although you may have to take additional courses related to education and psychology. Admission requirements for graduate programs can vary. Generally, your grade point average (GPA) and your score on the Graduate Record Exam (GRE) are the most important considerations. However, personal recommendations, work and volunteer experience, and personal interviews may also be considered.
Most school psychologists work in the K-12 environment in public and private schools. School psychologists also find opportunities in preschools, colleges and universities, school-based health and mental health centers, juvenile justice programs, day treatment or residential clinics and hospitals as well as private practice. Opportunities exist to specialize, such as with a specific age group or with a particular population, such as individuals with disabilities. School psychologists typically work the same schedule as K-12 teachers. Individuals in other clinical settings and in private practice may work year-round, including some evenings and weekends, to accommodate the needs of their clients. Although emergencies are rare, practitioners who work outside of school settings should have reliable child care to accommodate a client in crisis.
Years of Experience
The average salary for a school psychologist is $64,782 annually. Pay can vary from state to state, and even from district to district. According to years of experience, the average of what you can expect to earn is:
- 0–1 year of experience: $53,735
- 4–6 years of experience: $59,075
- 10–14 years of experience: $69,367
- 15+ years of experience: $83,102
Job Growth Trend
According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, job growth for psychologists in all specializations, including school psychologists, will be better than average during the next decade. Job opportunities should be especially strong for individuals with a doctoral degree. Rising school enrollment along with increased awareness of the disabilities and stresses that students face will create a heightened demand for the services of school psychologists.
- National Association of School Psychologists: Who Are School Psychologists?
- Careers in Psychology: What are the Education Requirements to Become a School Psychologist?
- All Psychology Schools: School Psychology Job Description
- US Bureau of Labor Statistics: Psychologists
- Glass Door: School Psychologist Salaries
- National Association of School Psychologists: State School Psychology Credentialing Requirements
Denise Dayton, M.Ed., M.S. teaches career readiness and workplace success, along with other business courses, at a small college in New England.