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What is School Psychology?

Many people are interested in school psychology because they want to help students of all ages to do better in school and to deal with their personal and behavioral problems. Today there is a better understanding of the link between learning and mental health, so students interested in psychology often want to make a difference in the lives of children so they can become better adults.

If you want to work in an area of psychology where you can have a significant effect on the future of our youth, you may want to choose school psychology. Below is more information about what you can do as a school psychologist, how you become one, and other information relevant to this profession.

School Psychology Overview

School psychology is concerned with the practice and science of psychology as it relates to children, youth, families, learners across the age spectrum, and the educational process. (APA.org). The education and training of psychologists in this specialty will ready them to provide many psychological services in schools, including diagnosis, assessment, intervention, prevention, health promotion, and program development, with a focus on children’s developmental processes.

School psychologists are educated and trained to intervene with children at the system and individual level and develop, implement, and evaluate programs in which children participate at school. In this work, they perform assessments and intervene with students to create the best learning environments in which youth and children participate so they all have access to excellent educational and psychological services that encourage healthy development.

School psychologists possess advanced knowledge of findings and theories in social and developmental psychology, as well as developmental psychopathology within cultural contexts. They also have deep knowledge of learning and effective instruction, effective schools, and parenting and family processes. The school psychologist studies the child’s development from many developmental perspectives and translates modern scientific findings to help children to deal with behavioral, cognitive, emotional, and social problems at school.

School psychologists understand that schools are a vital context for child development. They:

  • Know instructional processes that are most effective
  • Understand school and classroom environments
  • Understand the operation and organization of agencies and schools
  • Apply learning principles to competence development inside and outside of school
  • Work with educators and other stakeholders pertaining to cognitive, affective, social, and behavioral performance
  • Assess the developmental needs of students and devise educational environments that meet diverse student needs

How Does School Psychology Help the Student?

Most children and youth face problems occasionally related to social relationships, learning, making hard decisions, or managing their emotions. School psychologists help students, families, and educators to understand and solve both acute and chronic issues that children face.

School psychologists offer direct support and interventions to students of all ages. They also consult with teachers, families, and other mental health professionals within the school system to improve support for children. School psychologists also work with administrators in schools to enhance policies and practices in educational institutions. These psychologists help students to: (Nasponline.org)

  • Enhance academic performance
    • Encourage student engagement and motivation
    • Perform academic and psychological assessments
    • Individualize interventions and instructions
    • Manage classroom and student behavior
    • Monitor the progress of each student
    • Interpret classroom and student data
  • Encourage positive behavior and mental health
    • Enhance students’ social skills and communication abilities
    • Assess emotional and behavioral needs of children
    • Offer individual and group counseling
    • Encourage problem solving, conflict resolution and anger management
    • Encourage coping skills and resilience
  • Support diverse learners
    • Assess the diverse learning needs of each student
    • Offer culturally responsive services to each student
    • Modify and adapt instruction and curricula
    • Modify classroom routines and facilities to improve student learning

How Can You Become a School Psychologist?

The first step is to earn your bachelor’s degree, typically in education or psychology. If you earn your degree in another field, you may need to take prerequisite courses in psychology before earning your master’s degree.

Next, obtain your master’s degree in school psychology. You may earn a Master of Arts, Master of Education or Education Specialist degree. Earning your master’s will usually take three years full time. Some courses that you will take involve cognitive assessment, statistics and research methods, school counseling techniques, and psychopathology.

Your next step is to get your National Certified School Psychologist (NCSP) credential that is offered by NASP. You must complete your master’s in school psychology and an internship to qualify for this certification. While the NCSP is voluntary, many states do require it and may accept it in place of licensure.

Last, you need to be licensed by the state in which you work. You need to have at least your master’s in school psychology, internship experience, and a passing score on the school psychology examination.

Some school districts may prefer that you have a Doctor of Philosophy or Doctor of Education in school psychology.

What Do You Need to Apply to the Program?

Every admissions office has different standards for applicants for school psychology master’s and doctoral programs, but most will require most of the following to apply for a graduate or post-graduate program in school psychology:

  • College transcripts: You will need all college transcripts, including bachelor’s and master’s, if you already have your graduate degree.
  • Letters of recommendation: School psychology programs are competitive, so you will need excellent recommendations from past professors.
  • Prerequisites: If you have a bachelor’s and master’s degree in psychology, you probably will have the prerequisites you need to be admitted to a doctoral program.
  • Personal essay: How well you write is critical to be admitted to master’s or doctoral school psychology program.

What Do Exams and Licensing Involve?

To become a school psychologist, you must complete your master’s or doctoral degree in psychology and pass Praxis II school psychology examination. Passing this examination lets you practice as a school psychologist in all states.

Is The Job Outlook for a School Psychologist Good?

The Bureau of Labor Statistics reports that jobs for all psychologists will rise by 14% by 2028, which is faster than average. Employment for school, counseling, and clinical psychologists will grow because of higher demand for psychological services in schools, hospitals, mental health facilities, and school service agencies.

Employment for school psychologists will increase because of the greater understanding of a connection between learning and mental health. There also is a higher need for mental health services in schools. School psychologists are increasingly needed to work with special needs students and those with behavioral and learning issues. They also are needed to study how factors outside and inside school affect learning. Teachers and administrators can then use this information to improve the quality of education. (BLS.gov)

Further Resources for Candidates in School Psychology

Do you want more information about school psychology as a profession? Below are some helpful resources:

Now that you have a better understanding of what school psychology is and how you can help people once you have your degree, all you need to do is get started!

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