How to Get a School Psychologist Degree?

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This article will describe how you can get a degree in school psychology, which can be a master’s, doctoral or specialist Ed.S. degree. We will explain the criteria you should consider as you evaluate the various programs and degrees available. Further, we will suggest ways to select one that fits your career goals. Last, we provide a recommendation for an online school psychologist degree.

What Is A School Psychologist Degree?

Our education is a very important part of our lives, and this is never more true than in primary and secondary school. Most children must spend large amounts of time going to school from the age of five onward.

When children are in school, they experience many different situations and emotions. For some students, these experiences are more challenging. Some students for example must deal with problems in the family, learning disabilities, and personal disabilities that can make functioning in school harder.

School psychologists help students to adjust to difficult situations and circumstances that can affect school performance and behavior. As a school psychologist with a master’s or doctoral degree, you focus on how to help the student to leverage their education to the fullest extent possible.

A degree as a school psychologist gives you the education, skills and empathy to work with students who have challenges and special needs. Your graduate or post graduate education in school psychology can play a critical part in creating a happy, healthy and safe learning environment for all school children.

Most school psychologists must earn their education specialist or Ed.S. degree. It will usually require the student to complete at least 60 credit hours and also complete successfully a 1200 hour school psychology internship. This is a three year degree. Some in this profession may also possess a master’s or doctoral degree.

After you have completed your degree, you must receive your license in the state in which you work. You may enhance your marketability by seeking certification from the National School Psychology Certification Board.

Some common problems you will be trained to handle are as follows:

  • Disabilities that affect learning
  • Social and/or interpersonal problems that relate to behavior and learning
  • Acute or chronic childhood situations that negatively influence learning and mental health
  • Difficult social conditions that are a threat to healthy development of students

Your school psychologist degree will provide you with skills in psychological principles and techniques to help you to address behavioral and learning problems among some children. Your program will focus on teaching you how to both design and implement better school performance plans, and to learn how to properly evaluate student performance.

Your program will also provide you with a strong foundation in social psychology and developmental psychology within common cultural contexts, as well as effective instruction and areas of critical learning.

Some of the common areas of concern and knowledge in school psychology are:

  • Understanding the many school environments and types of classrooms
  • Understanding the operation and organization of different types of schools
  • Be able to apply learning principles to competence development
  • Consulting with other educators pertaining to affective, cognitive, social and behavioral performance
  • How to assess critical developmental needs and to devise more effective, innovative education environments that meet your student’s needs
  • Effectively coordinate psychological, educational and behavioral health services

Why Earn a School Psychologist Degree?

School psychologists are a critical part of the education process for many special children today in elementary, middle and high schools. School psychologists in the 21st century possess a highly advanced knowledge of empirical findings and theories in both developmental and social psychology that can help children to maximize the potential of their education.

School psychologists also are important because they protect children’s rights and those of their families in research, assessment and intervention. Their work involves a high level of understanding of state and federal child welfare laws, state statutes and case law.

People interested in a career in school psychology are being drawn into the profession by the strong job demand that is seen in this field. The Bureau of Labor Statistics states that job demand for school psychologists will climb by 20% by 2024.

It is believed that this demand is due to increased awareness today of the very important connection between learning and mental health. School psychologists clearly are needed to work with students with special needs and behavioral problems. School psychologists also are needed to better understand how factors inside and outside of school affect learning.

Doctoral level school psychologists earn a median salary of $77,000, according to the American Psychological Association (APA) website.

Ed. S. Level Degree Options

Eastern Washington University offers an online Educational Specialist in School Psychology program. This is an online, hybrid program that offers both synchronous and in person training requirements several times during the three year, full time program.

Graduates shall earn a certificate in school psychology, and an Ed.S. degree in school psychology. Previously, top candidates for this online degree were experienced educators, people working in mental health and or counseling.

This program is open to professionals who hold either a bachelor’s or master’s degree. However, if you hold a bachelor’s degree, you must have at least three years of teaching experience.

This program adheres to the scientist/practitioner model that will prepare you for a rewarding school psychology career.

This program features online classes and a practicum and internship requirement. You also will be required to assemble a portfolio that is aligned with both state and national training standards that have been established by NASP (see below under accreditation).

There is a mandatory, on campus requirement in this Ed.S. program each fall that occurs over a three day weekend. Students will meet at the campus in Spokane, WA to meet with advisors, go to live classes, and to attend certification training. You also will have opportunities to meet your professors and fellow students.

Mandatory coursework in this three year program includes:

  • PSYC 505 Applied Learning Theory and Behavior Modification (4)
  • PSYC 510 Professional School Psychology I (4)
  • PSYC 511 Professional School Psychology II (4)
  • PSYC 512 Professional School Psychology III (4)
  • PSYC 513 Advanced Child and Adolescent Development (4)
  • PSYC 523 Academic and Social/Behavioral Interventions (4)
  • PSYC 526 Academic Assessment for School Psychology (4)
  • PSYC 531 Psychoeducational Groups for Children and Adolescents (4)
  • PSYC 532 Research and Statistics: Group Design (4)
  • PSYC 533 Intervention and Program Evaluation (4)
  • PSYC 534 Human Neuropsychology (4)

Accreditation

Accreditation is an important part of selecting an appropriate school psychologist program. However, you should note that the APA does not currently accredit online degree programs.

We recommend  APA does not provide accreditation services for online psychology programs. However, you can look for accreditation by the National Association of School Psychologists, or NASP.

You also should confirm that the university has been accredited by one of six regional accreditation bodies recognized by the US Department of Education.

Summary

Becoming a school psychologist today is growing in popularity because of heightened demand and above average salaries. Choose a quality specialist or doctoral degree in school psychology, and you will be able to anticipate a very productive school psychology career.