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How to Become A School Psychologist

Psychologists conduct scientific studies of behavior and brain function, and gather information by means of surveys, observations, and interviews. They may also conduct research to categorize emotional or behavioral patterns in addition to using their knowledge to enhance understanding among groups and individuals. These professionals seek to understand and explain thoughts, behavior, and feelings. There are many types of psychologists such as clinical psychologists who assess, diagnose, and treat mental, emotional, and behavioral disorders. Some clinical psychologists focus on particular populations, such as senior citizens or children, while others specialize in specific areas within psychology.

What is School Psychology?

This branch of psychology focuses on grade school students and how to help them make the best of their education. School is a very influential part of a child’s life. In addition to getting their first academic learning opportunities, school children also experience numerous other phases and come across people that may leave lasting impressions on their mind. Children also first begin to learn about their strengths and weaknesses once they enter school. School psychology not only focuses on the students’ academics, but on social, behavioral, emotional, and personal factors as well. The primary purpose of school psychology is to help create happy, healthy, and effective learning environments for children.

What Does a School Psychologist Do?

School psychologists are a type of psychologists that are responsible for investigating processes of learning and teaching, and developing psychological principles applicable to educational problems. They may address behavioral and learning issues that students may have, design and implement programs, and gauge performances of students. These professionals also counsel students and families in addition to consulting with other professionals to recommend development of teaching and learning techniques.

Becoming a school psychologist may be a suitable career path for those who enjoy working with children. Individuals with strong analytical and problem solving may also consider this line of work. Career prospects for school psychologists look positive in the years to come.

How to Become a School Psychologist

While a master’s degree is sufficient for some positions, psychologists generally require a doctoral degree or specialist degree in the field. In addition, they also need a certification or license. They usually have a Ph.D. in psychology or a Doctor of Psychology degree.

According to the US Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), those who want to become a school psychologist must complete advanced programs of study and licensure or certification to get into the field. Education Specialist (Ed.S.) degrees are advanced degrees for school psychologists, and they typically require 60 graduate semester hours and an internship in addition to a master’s degree or a doctoral degree in school psychology. As school psychologists are responsible for addressing mental and education health aspects of students’ progress, school psychology programs instruct students in both education and psychology.

How Many Years of School Does it Take to Become a Psychologist?

To become school psychologists, students need to hold a master’s and a doctoral degree in the field. A master’s degree program may take 2-3 years to complete while the doctoral degree generally spans over 4-5 years. The exact time that it may take a candidate to become school psychologists may vary depending on factors such as the enrollment status and the degree program he/she is taking.

What are the Requirements for Admissions?

Students who want to enroll in the doctoral program in school psychology must have a master's degree in psychology or a related field. They need to submit:

  • Academic transcripts
  • GRE scores
  • Reference letters
  • A statement of purpose

What Courses will I Study?

Doctoral programs expand on a student's applied, research and teaching skills, and the programs allow them to acquire advanced knowledge and skills in specific areas of school psychology. Students learn numerous aspects of psychology and apply theoretically based methods to their individual psychological research and dissertation work. Some of the topics of study may include:

  • Clinical ethics
  • Psychology of cognition and affect
  • Social psychology
  • Cognitive processes
  • Analytical psychology
  • Experimental psychology
  • Theories of psychology
  • Foundations of neuropsychology

The program allows students to engage in a problem solving approach, and learn to evaluate students in all dimensions of development, apply data and evidence to analyze challenges, and come up with programs that support healthy learning environments.

What are Skills that School Psychologists Must Have?

Since psychology is a highly specialized field, it requires certain skills that may help professionals take on the responsibilities of this profession in an effective manner. For example, psychologists who specialize in school psychology must have strong analytical skills, so that they may analyze the information they gather and draw logical conclusions. They may also have good observation skills as they are required to observe children and find out the causes of their behavior. Communication skills, patience, and interpersonal skills are also essential for these professionals.

Where do School Psychologists Work?

According to the BLS, most school psychologists work in public schools, ranging in level from nursery school through high school. Some of these professionals are also employed by hospitals and clinics, private schools, universities while others work for community treatment centers, and independent practice.

Career Outlook for School Psychologists

Career prospects for school psychologists look positive in future. Employment of these professionals will continue to grow due to the increased awareness of the connection between mental health and learning and the need for mental health services in schools, the BLS notes. According to data from the BLS, employment of these professionals is expected to grow at a rate of 11% between 2012 and 2022, which is about as fast as the average for all other occupations during this timeline.  

Since demand for these professionals is growing and the number of students specializing in school psychology is limited, school psychologists are likely to have considerably opportunities, the BLS reports.

Schools need the services of school psychologists to assess and counsel students. They may help teachers improve education by studying how both in-school and out-of-school factors affect learning. Additionally, these professionals will also be required to work with students, particularly those with behavioral issues, special needs, and learning disabilities.


The median annual wages for school psychologist in 2012 was $67,650, according to the BLS. But there are a number of factors that may determine the income of psychologists such as qualification, place of work, and experience.

How to Become a School Psychologist in Texas?

To become a School Psychologist in Texas, you need to complete your Master’s and PhD in Psychology or Applied Psychology with specialization in school psychology, child psychology, etc. Next, you need your practicing license from the Texas State Board of Psychologists. Once you get that, you can then apply for your Licensed Specialist in School Psychology (LSSP) certification. Alternatively, you can also obtain the Nationally Certified School Psychologist (NCSP) certification conferred by the NASP (National Association of School Psychologists).

How to Become a School Psychologist in California?

To become a School Psychologist in California, you must complete your Master’s and PhD in Applied Psychology or Psychology with specialization in child psychology, developmental psychology, etc. After that, you need your practicing license from the California Board of Psychology. You can then pursue your Licensed Educational Psychologist (LEP) certification issued by the California Board of Behavioral Sciences. You can also opt for the Nationally Certified School Psychologist certification from the NASP (National Association of School Psychologists).

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