How to Become a School Psychologist

School psychologists work with teachers, parents, and school administrators to help children succeed socially and academically. They apply psychological research and methods to study how people’s behavior is affected by their social interactions and conduct individual and group counseling sessions. School psychologists may also diagnose and treat mental disorders and learning disabilities, as well as implement behavior modification programs.

What degree is required to become a school psychologist?

School psychologists are required to have a master’s or doctoral degree in school psychology, depending on the state. These programs feature courses such as child and adolescent psychology, functional behavior assessment, and legal and ethical issues in school, and they are commonly offered at traditional colleges and universities. Working students who want to take advantage of the flexibility offered by distance learning can also enroll in online psychology degree programs.

Qualified students may also enroll in graduate-level school psychology specialist certificate programs. These programs feature further study in the biological basis of behavior and psychopathology of children and adolescents. They also may require the completion of several school psychology internships. School psychology certificate programs are accredited by the National Association of School Psychologists (NASP).

How long does it take to become a school psychologist?

School psychologists may be required to complete more than one year of graduate-level education before they can work as practicing professionals. Doctoral students can expect to spend as many as six years attending classes and participating in clinical internships before they graduate. They are typically required to complete a comprehensive exam and a dissertation before they graduate. Completion of a school psychology graduate degree may lead to licensure, which is required to practice in schools. The NASP awards the Nationally Certified School Psychologist (NCSP) designation, which can be earned if a candidate has 60 graduate semester hours in a school psychology program, completes a 1,200-hour internship, and passes the National School Psychology Examination.

What is a school psychologist’s salary?

School psychologists earned a median annual salary of $67,880 in May 2011, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, with the top 10% of earners making at least $110,410 and the lowest 10% making less than $39,060. This data also includes salaries earned by clinical and counseling psychologists. It is no guarantee of actual salary, which is determined by such factors as an employee’s qualifications, employer, location, and condition of the economy.