School psychology professionals are highly trained individuals with diverse duties in the system. The expertise of school psychologists includes mental health counseling, learning, and behavior research and modification, and testing administration and evaluation. The U.S. News & World Report also adds that given the current social issues, school psychologists also spend much of their time as crisis counselors, career advisers, and liaisons to the community and families. Their primary goal is to help children thrive socially and emotionally in the school environment to support their academic development.
Training for a Career as School Psychologist
The path to becoming a school psychologist is well-defined because there are specific subject areas that one has to master to cope with various aspects of the job. Start with a bachelor's degree in psychology, education or in a different field as long as the curriculum covers courses in abnormal psychology, developmental psychology, and educational psychology.
A master's degree in education or in school psychology is a required credential and may be the minimum requirement for a position as a school psychologist in elementary, middle and high schools. There are master's degree programs that combine a master's in psychology with a certification as an education specialist, which may provide the best academic track.
Credentialing for School Psychologists
The National Association of School Psychologists oversees certification programs for the Nationally Certified School Psychologist track. NASP-accredited programs typically incorporate a practicum in one year and an internship or a keystone project for the final year of academics. Some school districts and private schools require state licensing, which is similar to the NCSP certification process.
Positions for a school psychologist in post-secondary organizations may require a doctorate degree. These programs may take another three to five years to complete along with requirements such as a high-level internship and a dissertation.
Recommended: The Top 50 Doctoral Programs in School Psychology
Factors Driving Demand
Students come from different backgrounds and home environments. Schools are tasked with creating a positive and inclusive environment where everyone can learn. Families are increasingly faced with economic and social problems that can translate to emotional and behavioral problems in children. It is the job of the school psychologist to identify, evaluate and monitor students who may need support and referrals to other agencies. As social issues increase, so will the number of schoolchildren who will need the help of the school psychologist.
The emphasis on testing to gauge the effectiveness of the educational initiatives means that psychometricians will always be needed in the school system. Crisis counseling is also another aspect that school psychologists are tasked with more and more due to the pervasiveness of psycho-social stresses on students, including crimes and disasters.
The competition to get into college starts in middle school and intensifies in high school. School psychologists are at the forefront of providing guidance and support to college-bound kids, including guidance in course selection, testing, and scholarship applications.
Considering all the factors driving the demand for school psychologists, it is not surprising that the Bureau of Labor and Statistics expect a 14 percent growth rate between 2016 and 2026 for this occupation. This growth rate is above average compared to similar occupations.
The positive outlook for those who choose to specialize in school psychology serves to emphasize the need to prepare for this career. As cited above, this is a profession that requires meticulous preparation in terms of choice of academic programs, internships and extracurricular pursuits. It is a fulfilling career that involves providing supportive services for school-age children, their families and their communities.