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School Psychologist Career Guide

Are you willing to study hard for a career? Would you take board exams to become certified? Do you like working with school children and have a genuine interest in making their lives better? Are you sociable, compassionate, organized and trustworthy?  If yes, then look no further. As a school psychologist may be right for you!

School psychologists design and implement interventions for a wide range of difficulties that many children may face. The demand for school psychologists is expected to increase, as they make a valuable contribution to the lives of  children. To become a school psychologist, you will need a bachelor’s degree in psychology followed by a master’s degree, or equivalent. Most school psychologists will then achieve an advanced degree and either certification or licensure to work.

I love watching a child with seemingly the bleakest future, change and get on a path for success. I have seen some students who have had behaviors so severe they were getting very close to going to an alternative school placement. I love when interventions work and those same students make lasting changes, and have positive peer and teacher relationships.

Erin N. King

School Psychologist Career Ratings

Income

Career
Growth

Personal Growth

Contribution

Influence

Overview

What does a school psychologist actually do?

School psychologists (sometimes called educational psychologists) design and implement interventions for a wide range of difficulties that many children may face. Such difficulties may include learning difficulties, performance anxiety or anger management. The interventions they create focus on a student’s strengths and positive qualities. They may also create plans and interventions to tackle common school problems, such as bullying. The typical duties and responsibilities of a school psychologist include:

  • Assessing a students needs, abilities or behaviour using a variety of methods
  • Assessing a students eligibility for special services or community support services
  • Evaluating, supporting  and counseling high-risk students
  • Implementing counseling and educational methods (e.g., breathing and mental imagery)
  • Counseling, advising, guiding and supporting parents
  • Promoting academic achievements
  • Monitoring plans and interventions and assessing their success
  • Collaborating with educational staff to create coordinated plans
  • Keeping up with industry trends and conducting research into new methods

Why they are needed

Behavioral issues at school interfere with the teaching and learning experience. They are disruptive and, according to 100 scholastic, these behaviours are on the rise. School psychologists are needed to help these pupils perform better at school. When these pupils perform well in school, they are less disruptive to the pupils around them. On top of this, when they receive the right help at school, they are far more likely to resolve their issues and lead a successful, fulfilling and happy life. Therefore, school psychologists are needed to ensure that these disruptive behaviours are dealt with at an early stage in a professional manner. School psychologists are so important to our educational systems as they help students to achieve academically, socially and emotionally.

The pros and cons of a career as an school psychologist

Pros:

  • A career as a school psychologist is a diverse career path, where there are lots of different career opportunities available and there is work available in both the public and private sector
  • School psychologists are responsible for helping children who need it the most. Therefore, it is an incredibly rewarding and fulfilling career
  • There is a growing demand for school psychologists, which will create many job opportunities
  • No two days are the same when working as a school psychologist, which makes the job interesting and engaging
  • The career also eventually offers reasonably flexible working hours and lots of opportunities to develop skills and progress into different career paths

Cons:

  • It can take time and commitment to become a school psychologist. More often than not, you will need to complete both a bachelor’s, a masters degree and the relevant licensing exams
  • It can be very stressful at times (remember that saying: “never work with children or animals”!)
  • There is a lot of responsibility, which can be challenging and draining
  • School psychologists may work with difficult children or difficult parents, which can make the job very draining
  • There is a risk of violence from difficult school children

Employability

Job market

According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the employment of all psychologists is projected to grow 3% from 2019 to 2029. Specifically, the employment of school psychologists is projected to continue to grow because of the increased awareness of the connection between mental health and learning and because of the need for mental health services in schools. There should always be a demand for school psychologists to work with students, particularly those with special needs, learning disabilities, and behavioral issues. In addition to this, school psychologists will be needed to study how factors both in school and outside of school affect learning. Once aware of those factors, teachers and administrators can use them to improve the students education.

Career paths

The career path to becoming a school psychologist begins with a bachelor’s degree in psychology, or another related field. You will then need to earn a master’s degree, or equivalent, in educational or child psychology. School psychologists will then need an advanced degree and either certification or licensure to work. Common advanced degrees include education specialist degrees (Ed.S.) and doctoral degrees (Ph.D. or Psy.D.). School psychologist programs include coursework in education and psychology because their work addresses both education and mental health components of students’ development.

To achieve a PH.d, you will have to pass a number of comprehensive exams and write a dissertation based on original research. Whereas a Psy.D is based on practical work and examinations, opposed to a dissertation. You will most likely need to complete a 1-year internship as part of this program.

Example Job Titles for School Psychologist

Below is a list of common job titles in the School Psychologist field. Click the links below for more information about these job titles, or view the next section for actual real-life job profiles.

Benefits & Conditions

Income and benefits

According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the median annual wage for all psychologists in 2019 was $80,370. The lowest 10% earned less than $45,380 and the highest 10% earned more than $132,070 per year. Specifically, the Bureau of Labor Statistics predicts that school psychologists have a median annual salary of $78,200.

The highest paying industry was the government, which had a median annual salary of $96,870. Hospitals were the second highest paying industry, with a median annual salary of $88,480. This was followed by ambulatory healthcare services ($82,250) and elementary and secondary schools ($76,960).

Autonomy and flexibility

Like many careers, autonomy and flexibility increases with the more experience and knowledge you have. Due to the specialist and challenging nature of a lot of the work, most school psychologist will be supervised by someone else in the early phases of their career and will therefore have less flexibility and autonomy. However, with experience and further education (Ed.D or Psy.D), school psychologists quickly become well educated and well respected and will be in control of their decisions and working schedule.

Locations and commute

Job opportunities may vary by state because the employment of school psychologists in public schools and universities is contingent on state and local budgets. According to Zippia, the best states to be a school psychologist, based on average annual salary and number of job available, are:

  1. Nevada, where the average annual salary is $85,603
  2. California, where the average annual salary is $88,802
  3. Montana, where the average annual salary is $74,334
  4. Alaska where the average annual salary is $79,205
  5. Delaware, where the average annual salary is $71,862

The worst states, according to Zippia, are Indiana, New Jersey, Iowa, Tennessee and Maine.

Work environment

School psychology is the largest psychology sector (along with clinical and counseling) with 171,500 jobs in 2019 . School psychologists may work alone doing independent research or counselling school children. They may also work as part of a team with other healthcare professionals (e.g., physicians or social workers) to promote overall wellness. Typically speaking, school psychologists will always work in a school. They may or may not have an office in that school.

Career Satisfaction

Common Matching Personality Types

Which personalities tend to succeed and thrive in School Psychologist careers? Based on our research, there is a relatively strong positive correlation between the following personality types and School Psychologist career satisfaction. This doesn’t mean that there aren’t many exceptions, of course, but if you fit into one of the following personality types then we suggest you give strong consideration to a career in School Psychologist.

16 Types (Myers-Briggs)

  • None

Big Five (OCEAN)

  • None

DiSC

  • None

Enneagram

Holland Codes (RIASEC)

  • None

Personality types

Successful school psychologist are likely to be the ENFJ personality type. ENFJ’s, or ‘the mentor’ are forward-thinking, energetic and driven. They value honesty and enjoy serving the community. On top of this, they have the ability to see the potential in other people. They want to focus on the possibilities of growth for others, which is a necessity to becoming a successful school psychologist.

Accomplishment and mastery

The career path to becoming a school psychologist requires commitment and dedication (e.g., masters degrees and then further degrees and training). Therefore, once qualified, school psychologists will feel a huge amount of accomplishment and mastery. Throughout their entire career, school psychologists will continue to feel accomplished. Each time they help a child overcome their issues and/or improve their behaviour, school psychologists will feel a huge sense of reward, satisfaction and accomplishment.

Meaning and contribution

The work of a school psychologists is incredibly meaningful to the lives of many children. School psychologists will play a crucial role in their education and the development of the rest of their life. With the help of school psychologists, many children will become functional and contributing members of society. On top of this, the work is meaningful for the teachers and the other children in the class, who will have less distractions and a better learning environment.

Life fit

School psychologists tend to work full time hours. They tend to work in schools during regular business hours. Therefore, being a school psychologist is likely to provide excellent life fit to many.

Who will thrive?

First and foremost, school psychologists must have empathy and patience in order to thrive. Working with children is stressful, and the key to success when working with children is to be able to relate and understand them. You must also be able to remain calm in stressful situations and work well under-pressure. Communication skills are also key to thriving as a school psychologist, as you will have to communicate with lots of other people (e.g., the school children, social workers and teachers). Finally, in order to thrive you must be self-motivated and willing to commit to the educational requirements.

Who will struggle?

Those who do not have the desire to commit to the education required should perhaps consider an alternative career path. This is because without the relevant education, you will simply not develop the skills and knowledge to thrive as a school psychologist. Similarly, those who lack empathy and patience will not be able to work with school ages children with issues. On top of all this, those who do not thrive and enjoy interacting with others will ultimately feel drained and uninspired by the amount of social interaction that occurs as a school psychologist.

Requirements

Skills and talents

  • Communication skills are essential as a school psychologists will have to establish relationships with the children and with other education professionals
  • Problem solving and decision making skills are essential as school psychologists will have to make difficult decisions regarding client treatment and progress
  • Leadership and teamwork skills are important school psychologists often work closely with others in small teams. They will also have to set examples to the school children
  • Observational skills, as school psychologists must observe and understand the childs behaviour in school
  • Integrity, as school psychologists must keep patients problems in confidence and patients must be able to trust them
  • Analytical skills, as school psychologists need to observe and understand the progress of their interventions and treatments

Education

The career path to becoming a school psychologist begins with a bachelor’s degree in psychology, or another related field. You will then need to earn a master’s degree, or equivalent, in educational or child psychology. School psychologists will then need an advanced degree and either certification or licensure to work. Common advanced degrees include education specialist degrees (Ed.S.) and doctoral degrees (Ph.D. or Psy.D.). School psychologist programs include coursework in education and psychology because their work addresses both education and mental health components of students’ development.

To achieve a PH.D, you will have to pass a number of comprehensive exams and write a dissertation based on original research. Whereas a Psy.D is based on practical work and examinations, opposed to a dissertation. You will most likely need to complete a 1-year internship as part of this program.

Certificates

In most states, practicing psychology or using the title “psychologist” requires licensure. In all states and the District of Columbia, psychologists who practice independently must be licensed where they work. The American Board of Professional Psychology awards specialty certification in 15 areas of psychology, such as child or education psychology.

How to Become

Summary

A school psychologist designs and implements interventions for a wide range of difficulties that many children may face. Such difficulties include learning difficulties, performance anxiety or anger management. The interventions they create focus on a student’s strengths.

The demand for school psychologists is expected to increase, as the valuable contribution they make to the lives of school children will continue to be recognized.

Immediate action

Sounds like something you’re interested in doing? Great!

Well, like many careers, it is always advisable to get your foot in the door. To do this, we recommend seeking relevant work experience whilst completing your undergraduate and/or postgraduate degree. Work experience can even include things such as working in a school, volunteering for a child mental health charity or working in a kindergarten.

Education and learning

To become a school psychologist, you will need a bachelor’s degree in psychology followed by a master’s degree, or equivalent. Most school psychologists will then achieve an advanced degree and either certification or licensure to work. Common advanced degrees include education specialist degrees (Ed.S.) and doctoral degrees (Ph.D. or Psy.D.).

Skill development

School psychologists learn many of the skills they need through their work experience, education and training. They may also have to continue their learning to maintain their licensure. It takes years to develop the skills and knowledge to become a school psychologist, but it is worth it in the end!

FAQs

Ask a Question

Have a question about School Psychologist careers? If so, our mentors would love to help! Just click on a mentor’s profile below and then fill out the “Ask a Question” form on that page. Your question will then be emailed to the mentor, who can then email you a reply.

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