How Do I Become a School Psychologist?

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If you have a knack for working with youth but don’t wish to teach in the classroom, becoming a school psychologist may be a good fit to still support students’ ability to learn. School psychologists are best known for helping parents, teachers, and administrators address a student’s academic challenges, but this is just the tip of the iceberg. Most school psychologists are also involved in diagnosing disabilities, treating problems with therapy, determining whether students need special education services, conducting assessments, and creating school-wide crisis prevention or response plans. Due to the growing number of school-aged children diagnosed with learning, behavioral, emotional, and mental health issues, employment of school psychologists is predicted to grow steadily by 11 percent before 2022. Below we’ve created a step-by-step guide showing how you can fulfill this demand by working in school psychology.

1. Earn Your Bachelor’s Degree

First, you’ll need to prepare for your work in school psychology by earning an accredited bachelor’s degree from a four-year college or university. Although it’s extremely rare to find an undergraduate program in school psychology, most aspiring school psychologists start by majoring in general psychology or education. Regardless of your chosen major, make sure you fill up your transcript with courses in introductory psychology, abnormal psychology, educational psychology, child development, statistics, assessment, personality, experimental methods, and counseling. It’s also advised that you begin building your resume with experience working or volunteering with school-aged children, especially those with disabilities.

2. Enroll in a Graduate Program for School Psychology

According to the National Association of School Psychologists (NASP), there are around 200 accredited graduate training programs in school psychology offered in the United States. You’ll need to complete at least three years of full-time graduate study with 60 or more semester hours beyond the baccalaureate level. You can choose to earn a Master of Arts (M.A.), Master of Education (M.Ed.), Education Specialist (Ed.S.), Doctor of Philosophy (Ph.D.), or Doctor of Education (Ed.D.) in school psychology to satisfy this requirement. However, it’s important to note that those with a specialist or doctoral degree will have the best job prospects. One year of your graduate training program will be devoted to a full-time school psychology internship to obtain at least 1,200 hours of practice.

3. Pursue Licensure and Certification

Every state in the United States requires that practicing school psychologists become licensed to demonstrate their expertise in facilitating healthy student development. Although licensing requirements can vary from state to state, most will require that individuals have at least a master’s degree, complete an internship successfully, and pass the Praxis II school psychology examination with a score of 660 or higher. Many school psychologists go a step further to certify their professionalism by receiving the Nationally Certified School Psychologist (NCSP) credential from the NASP. This credential will need to be renewed every three years by completing 75 continuing education credits from NASP-approved providers.

Overall, school psychologists have been recognized by the U.S. News and World Report for having the #1 best social services job. Not only does school psychology offer a favorable job outlook and high average salary, but it also provides the rewarding opportunity to truly impact the personal and professional growth of our nation’s youth. If you follow these steps to become a school psychologist, you’ll have the qualifications to begin working in public or private schools, universities, educational centers, hospitals, community clinics, and even your own private practice.

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