There are a wide variety of careers available for graduates of school psychology programs. Generally, school psychologists will go on to work with children; however, there are also opportunities to work with adults with developmental challenges. Graduates may find employment opportunities in schools, universities, clinical settings, or even the government. Some graduates may choose to become clinical psychologists and earn licensure to treat patients. Others will continue on to experimental psychology, working in an academic setting typically conducting research.
No matter where they work, school psychologists have a variety of specialties or concentrations from which to choose. Most school psychology programs prepare students to work with children in K-12, but some may allow for further specialization in topic areas such as behavioral disorders, developmental disabilities, assessment (i.e. pre-school or language learners) or counseling (i.e. crisis or anger management).
Internships are a great opportunity for students to gain real-world experience in school psychology. They learn more about the field while networking with other professionals. Additionally, interns often find full-time work while interning for an organization. Advanced degree programs, such as doctoral programs, require that a student complete a practicum or internship before graduating. Internships may be paid or unpaid, depending on the hosting organization, however, all students earn college credits. The Association of Psychology Postdoctoral and Internship Centers (APPIC) is a great place to begin researching internship opportunities. Below is a list of some available school psychology-related internships to give you an idea of what’s out there:
Aldea Children & Family Services
Location: San Francisco, CA
The bilingual therapist/intern assesses, treats, and provides collateral services to children and families and acts as an interpreter/translator for Spanish-speaking clients.
Location: Senatobia, MS
The spiritual care coordinator assesses and provides for the spiritual and religious needs of the patient and family.
Asian Americans for Community Involvement
Location: San Jose, CA
Interns assist in the development and implementation of activities for the peer-supported wellness and recovery center and develop outreach and education materials for the center.
Location: Louisville, CO
The learning and development intern is involved in several projects that develop an understanding of e-learning, adult learning techniques, organizational development and the human resource process.
Columbia University – New York State Psychiatric Institute
Location: New York, NY
As part of the Boricua Youth Study Internship, interns will help conduct an epidemiological research study assessing mental health in a sample of Puerto Rican youth.
San Luis Costal Unified School District
Location: San Luis Obispo, CA
Candidates must be university intern-eligible for a pupil personnel services credential authorizing service as a school psychologist.
Fine Arts Museum of San Francisco
Location: San Francisco, CA
Unpaid school programs interns gain an in-depth understanding of the functions of the museum’s permanent school programs while they actively support the program’s mission.
Georgia Leadership Institute for School Improvement
Location: Lawrenceville, GA
The intern reports to the director of research and evaluation, supporting the collection, analysis and dissemination of data.
Location: Portland, ME
Interns research, identify, and collect contact information for potential clients that fit into the organization’s marketing goals and write online content to feature products and services.
Location: San Jose, CA
The intern will work at multiple school sites to provide direct and indirect support to students, families and staff members to ensure quality programming for students with disabilities.
Location: San Diego, CA
The user experience design engineer intern assists in research and study of consumers during software usability testing and conducts internal training of various software tools.
Understanding human behavior is important for a variety of careers in education. Very few bachelor’s degrees, however, are available in school psychology. Generally, students begin with a general psychology degree or one in a related area, and may take elective courses pertaining to the school psychology concentration such as child development, learning and motivation, childhood disorders, and behavioral assessment. They progress to a master’s and eventually a doctorate, if desired, specifically in school psychology.
While a master’s degree in psychology is required to become a school or educational psychologist, undergraduate students have some options as they begin their path in this field. Earning a degree in general psychology or a closely related discipline is a good start. Students will gain a background understanding of human behavior and development. As an undergraduate, students learn the foundation and basic theories of psychology as well as how to collect, organize, analyze and interpret data. Graduates of a general bachelor’s program in psychology can also take what they have learned and apply it to an entry-level or administrative support career in many different fields, including education.
Courses and requirements will vary depending on the program and school, but below is an example of what an undergraduate curriculum in psychology might look like for students who intend to eventually pursue school psychology:
|Introduction to Psychology||3||Students learn the basic principles of psychology while researching concepts and problems in biological, cognitive and social perspectives of human thought and behavior.|
|Research Methods in Psychology||3||This class introduces research methods in psychology, focusing on the fundamentals of research design and behavior.|
|Introduction to Statistical Methods for the Behavioral Sciences||3||This class provides an introduction to quantitative methods in behavioral science and psychological research.|
|Neurobiology||3||In this class, students discuss the biology and development of the nervous system.|
|Biological Basis of Behavior||3||Students are introduced to the anatomical structures and physiological processes that determine behavior.|
|Abnormal Psychology||3||Students examine mental disorders across the lifespan.|
|Cross-Cultural Psychology||3||Students learn about how individual, ethnic and cultural factors impact psychosocial growth and well-being.|
|Industrial and Organizational Psychology||3||This class is a general survey of the field of industrial/organizational psychology.|
|Special Topics in Professional Psychology||3||In a seminar-style discussion, students gain specialized knowledge in a specific area of professional psychology.|
|Senior Seminar in Psychology||3||This is a capstone course that explores case studies, reflective essays, and portfolio development.|
A master’s degree in school psychology is a necessary step in becoming a school psychologist and often a helpful stepping-stone for a doctorate in the field. A master’s program typically takes three years to complete, depending on whether the student attends full- or part-time. Students will participate in supervised fieldwork and internships as part of the degree program, giving them real-world, practical experience that will serve them well as they enter the field. This hands-on experience is often a required component of a master’s program. Students also gain in-depth knowledge of child development and behaviors.
Career options for graduates of a school psychology program don’t end in a traditional school setting. Other potential career paths include administration and policy development. Some might explore research and development of products and services for children of all ages.
|Psychopathology of Childhood||3||This course discusses assessment classification, treatment of abnormal behavior and psychiatric syndromes.|
|Statistics and Research Methods in Psychology I||3||This class gives an introduction of how to use data and research in psychology.|
|Psychology of Growth and Development||3||Students look at human growth and development and how that impacts behavior, motivation, cognition, etc.|
|Fundamentals of School Psychology||3||This is an introduction of school psychology, introducing the principles, theories and methodologies of school psychology.|
|Advanced Psychology of Learning||3||Students learn about human behavior and how it impacts learning in children.|
|Principles of Instruction and Intervention||3||Instruction and early intervention in children with giftedness and learning challenges are the primary focus of this class.|
|Theories of Counseling and Psychotherapy||3||Students explore counseling theories and models.|
|Neuropsychology||3||This course introduces students to human brain-behavior relationships with an emphasis on assessment and measurement of human behavior and what tasks the brain is responsible for.|
|Counseling Theories||3||Students explore counseling theories and their relationship to the counseling process.|
|Language and Learning Disabilities||3||Students learn about learning disabilities, reading problems, language deficits, academic underachievement and more.|
|Advanced Human Development||3||This course covers human development throughout the life span, including emotional, physical and cognitive development.|
|Practicum in School Psychology||3||Students discuss theory, research and applications of psychophysiological methods and technology.|
|Statistics and Research Methods in Psychology II||3||This class gives an overview of how to use data and research in psychology.|
|Seminar in Behavior Modification||3||Students gain the knowledge and skills they need to design, implement and evaluate behavioral interventions for youth.|
|Advanced Tests and Measurements||3||Students learn about response theory and computerized adaptive testing.|
|Seminar in Analysis of Research in School Psychology||3||This is a capstone course where students examine professional research in the area of school psychology.|
An Ed.S. is a post-master’s degree that can provide the graduate with expert-level designation in enhancing the educational experience of children. Students gain more knowledge in the training model, philosophy, and foundations of school psychology. Graduates will be able to better assess students’ needs, help design interventions and evaluate the effectiveness of those interventions, and may even help shape school policies and framework to address certain issues or help certain student populations such as at-risk youth, those with special learning needs, or students facing cultural barriers.
In an Ed.S. program, students also learn the legal, ethical and professional guidelines of school psychology and usually graduate ready to qualify for the National Certification in School Psychology exam.
|Psychology of the Child and Adolescent||3||Students explore child development from infancy to early adulthood, including perceptual and cognitive processes, psychosexual roles and familial interpersonal processes.|
|Prevention and Crisis Intervention in Schools||3||This class discusses crisis intervention theory and strategies in school settings.|
|Psychotherapy with Children and Adolescents||3||Students look at therapeutic and developmental considerations involved in psychotherapy with children and adolescents.|
|Ethical & Legal Problems||3||Students learn about the ethical and legal ramifications of working with children in a school setting.|
|School Consultation||3||This course provides the knowledge and skills school psychologists need when consulting with other educators and discusses how to create collaborative processes in the school setting.|
|Academic Assessment & Remediation||3||Students study standardized aptitude, achievement and personality tests and how to remediate so all students can experience success.|
|Role & Function of the School Psychologist||3||Students learn the scope of their responsibilities as future school psychologists.|
Doctoral degrees in school psychology can vary in length. Students can earn a degree in as little as two to three years, whereas some programs may take six or more years. Some universities offer self-paced programs, allowing students to complete their degree on their own time.
Graduates of a doctoral degree program in school psychology are prepared to provide services, intervention, prevention, assessment and consultation in a school setting, usually K-12. Those who graduate with a doctorate are also qualified to act in a supervisory role and many go on to impact public policy.
Within any doctoral program, students gain more insight into the legal and policy aspects of education and child/school psychology and learn how to analyze educational research as well as explore many current issues in education.
Because doctoral degree programs are so specialized, it is difficult to identify exact coursework. Below, however, are some examples of topics that may be covered in a school psychology program at the doctorate level:
|Philosophical Foundations of Education||3||This course gives an overview of the philosophical perspectives that have guided education through history.|
|Learning Theory||3||Students look at the theories of learning and how ideas about the human brain have evolved.|
|Public Policy||3||Students look at educational policy from many perspectives.|
|Motivation and Learning||3||This course explores how organizations and educational institutions have changed over the years.|
|Educational Measurement||3||Students learn how assessment works in an educational perspective, including reporting, validity, reliability and more.|
|Advanced Educational Psychology||3||Students analyze the concepts and theories of educational psychology and how it relates to classroom practice.|
|Analysis of Current Issues in Education||3||Students uncover social and ideological philosophies in current educational systems.|
|Dissertation and Oral Defense||3||Students must complete a capstone course, researching and compiling an original project demonstrating the body of knowledge learned throughout the program.|
An online degree in school psychology is ideal for the working professional. Not only can students learn at their own pace in most cases, they can also learn from anywhere with an Internet connection. Students access lectures and coursework as well as turn in assignments via course management systems such as Blackboard. They communicate with instructors and peers via web-based mail or Skype and instant messaging, and are occasionally required to call in. One of the biggest benefits of online programs is that students can attend classes through a university across the country without having to relocate. Taking online courses requires dedication and self-discipline and is not always for everyone.
Some programs may be a blend, allowing students to view lectures online but require the completion of certain requirements in-person. Students are often required to meet with their professors or academic advisors on campus on a periodic basis.
How does an online student in school psychology get practical experience?
Many schools require a practicum, even as part of an online program. Students work with schools in their area to conduct in-person observations at their convenience, usually under the supervision of licensed professionals.
Can I work full time to complete my master’s in school psychology online?
Online programs are designed for busy students, and that includes working full time. Be sure you have the time and dedication to complete all the course requirements on your own time, however. Online programs generally require more discipline than traditional on-campus programs.
How do I know if the online program I chose is a quality program?
Accreditation is the first thing to look at when choosing an online program in school psychology. Check to make sure your school of choice is recognized by the National Association of School Psychology.
What is the job market like for new school psychologists?
Because public education is funded by taxpayers, the current economy is often an indicator of the job market. Schools often employ school psychologists at the same rate as teachers. The Bureau of Labor Statistics projects the psychology field in general to grow by 12 percent from 2012 to 2022. Consult your local school district for more information about job growth.
If I earn a degree in school psychology, do I have to become a school psychologist?
Not at all. While that is the typical career path for graduates of a school psychology program, others find work in social services, private organizations and in administrative or policy roles within education.
What’s the best way to search for a job in school psychology?
Traditional online searches work well, but it also helps to get to know the schools and school districts in your area. Visit the websites of schools in your immediate area (or the area where you’d like to find work) for current job postings. Your state’s department of education is also a great place to start.
Paying for college can be a challenge for many students, and loans are not always an option because they have to be repaid with interest. Scholarships and grants do not have to be repaid and students can use them to support their thesis research or simply to help pay for college. Below is a list of just a few scholarships that are available for aspiring school psychologists:
Alexander Gralnick Research Investigator Prize
This grant works to encourage psychologists to assume a leadership role for psychology in the area of serious mental illness and is awarded to “exceptional individuals working in the area of serious mental illness.”
More information: http://www.americanpsychiatricfoundation.org/what-we-do/awards/alexander-gralnick-m-d--award-for-research-in-schizophrenia
Annette U. Rickel Dissertation Award
This scholarship supports dissertation research on public policy that helps better services for children and families with psychological issues. The student’s dissertation topic must be approved in advance.
More information: http://www.apa.org/about/division/officers/dialogue/2010/09/rickel-award.aspx
Charles and Carol Spielberger Scholarship
This scholarship is for students pursuing a graduate degree in psychology, specifically researching emotions, personality, and clinical/health psychology.
More information: http://psychology.usf.edu/resources/scholarships/
Elizabeth Munsterberg Koppitz Child Psychology Graduate Student Fellowship
This program supports graduate student research projects involving child psychology and is sponsored by the American Psychological Foundation.
More information: http://www.apa.org/apf/funding/koppitz.aspx
Esther Katz Rosen Fund Grants
Amount: $1,000 to $50,000
This scholarship helps to advance the application and knowledge related to gifted and talented children. Applicants must be graduate students at an accredited university.
More information: http://www.apa.org/apf/funding/rosen.aspx
Harry and Miriam Levinson Scholarship
Graduate students enrolled in an interim master’s program or doctoral program are eligible for this award provided by the American Psychological Foundation and the Council of Graduate Departments of Psychology.
More information: http://www.apa.org/apf/funding/cogdop.aspx
Frances M. Culbertson Travel Grant
This grant provides travel funds and resignation for women from developing countries to attend the American Psychological Association conference.
More information: http://www.apa.org/apf/funding/culbertson.aspx
Nancy B. Forest and L. Michael Honaker Master’s Grant for Research in Psychology
This grant helps student fund research of their master’s thesis in the field of psychology. Graduate students who are members of APAGS and are enrolled in school at least half time are eligible for this grant.
More information: http://www.apa.org/about/awards/forest-honaker.aspx
National Association of School Psychologists – ERT Minority Scholarship Program
This scholarship supports culturally diverse graduate students who plan to provide school-based services to diverse student populations.
More information: http://www.nasponline.org/about_nasp/minority-scholarship-program.aspx
NASP Graduate Student Research Grants
The NASP presents up to three $1,000 awards to students who conduct research that furthers the goals and mission of NASP. Applicants must be students in doctoral or non-doctoral school psychology programs.
More information: http://www.nasponline.org/about_nasp/gsra.aspx