While the two fields may seem interchangeable to the general public, there are actually several stark differences between a school counselor and a school psychologist, including training, work environment, and salary.
Roles and Duties
A school psychologist conducts screenings that determine a child’s need for special education accommodations, assess any potential mental illness or behavioral disorders, and creates treatment plans for the students in a school setting. A school counselor will work with the student, parents, and teachers to implement the recommendations made by a school psychologist to address any concerns listed on a child’s treatment plan. School counselors may also engage in one on one or group counseling sessions with children at their school on an as-needed basis. In many cases, a school counselor may be assigned to one school, or even one set of students within a school. A school psychologist will instead often be employed by a school system to service several schools within the school system. A school system may opt to contract with a local psychologist on an as-needed basis as a consultant, while hiring counselors to remain on staff during the entire academic year.
Training and Education
Counselors in a school setting must complete a master’s degree in counseling, school counseling, or social work in most states. These graduate training programs typically require two years to complete in addition to to earning a minimum amount of hours of supervised work experience. A psychologist may have a master’s degree in any of these areas, but must also hold a doctoral degree in psychology or school psychology and be licensed to practice in his or her state of employment. Doctorate degrees in psychology typically require four years to complete, and may require an internship in a school setting if this professional intends to work in a school system.
Career Outlook and Salary
The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics reports that the average salary for clinical, counseling, and school psychologists in 2015 was $76,040 with a range of wages between $40,920 to $116,960. BLS also reported that the average salary for school counselors that year was $53,660. Having a higher level of education and more stringent licensing requirements are two likely reasons for the range in salaries between the two professions.
Additional Roles and Duties
Counselors may be hired on by colleges and universities to serve in both a mental health professional role, as well as career counseling and advising roles. Counselors may be employed to teach classes at the community college level, but may lack the distinction of being named full time faculty. School psychologists may also be hired to work as administration in schools, colleges, and universities, while also serving as faculty members at their university.
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Although the two professions share some commonalities, the day to day roles that they play are very different from one another. If you are considering between one of these two career choices, than the difference between a school counselor and school psychologist will come down to time spent in training, the type of job duties you wish to perform, and how comfortable you are with the salary offered.