Pros and Cons of Being a School Psychologist
As a school psychologist, you'll have the opportunity to help schoolchildren get the counseling services they need to succeed in school and in life. Check out these pros and cons to see if becoming a school psychologist is a good fit for you.
|Pros of Being a School Psychologist|
|Chance to help students get counseling and support*|
|Growing demand for school psychologists (clinical, counseling and school psychologists were expected to see an employment increase of 11% between 2012 and 2022)*|
|Good pay (mean annual salary of approximately $74,000 for clinical, counseling and school psychologists as of 2014)*|
|Work schedule usually doesn't involve irregular hours*|
|Cons of Being a School Psychologist|
|Need for a lot of schooling (at least four years of undergraduate and up to five years of graduate studies)*|
|Licensure or certification is needed*|
|Pressure to make sure students get the help they need**|
|A year-long internship is needed in addition to the lengthy education requirements*|
Sources: *U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, **O*Net OnLine
School psychologists are hired by school systems to provide support to students who face emotional, social, behavioral and academic challenges. It's common for school psychologists to administer tests as a way to diagnose conditions. You'll work a lot with parents, teachers and school administrators to understand what counseling services would best work for the students you treat.
You may also be called upon to provide counseling services to families and teachers, while connecting them to resources that can help address problems in the classroom and at home. It's also common for school psychologists to investigate suspicions of child abuse or neglect. You'll need to keep detailed, confidential records of all treatments and services provided.
Job Growth and Salary Info
There should be a good demand for school psychologists in the coming years. The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) projected that employment of clinical, counseling and school psychologists would grow 11% between 2012 and 2022. This growth is considered as fast as average compared to other occupations.
Demand for psychologists as a whole is expected to grow as more people look for professional help to address their physical or emotional conditions. A greater demand for school psychologists was expected due to increases in the number of students enrolled in schools. There was also expected to be increased interest in using the services of school psychologists to find out how different factors affect learning and improve education. The BLS found that clinical, counseling and school psychologists made an average annual salary of around $74,000 as of May 2014.
A minimum of a master's degree is needed to become a school psychologist; however, job prospects should be best for school psychologists who hold doctoral degrees. You can earn your bachelor's degree in any subject since most graduate programs don't require that your degree be in psychology; however, you may need to take some prerequisite courses, such as introductory psychology and statistics. After earning your bachelor's degree, you can enroll in a master's or doctoral degree program in school psychology.
As part of your graduate program, you'll be trained in student assessment, counseling techniques, behavior management and research methods. It's common for graduate students of school psychology to conduct research studies, as well as work with schoolchildren in a supervised setting. Both master's and doctoral programs typically require an internship to be completed toward the end of your studies. As a full-time student, you can expect a master's degree program to take around two years to complete and a doctoral degree program to take around five.
Licensure and Certification
All states require school psychologists to be licensed or certified before they can work at a school. The requirements vary by state, but you'll typically need to complete a graduate program and an internship and pass an examination before you become licensed or certified. It's also common for you to have to pass a background check before you work in a school setting with children.
You may also earn the Nationally Certified School Psychologist (NCSP) designation from the National Association of School Psychologists (NASP). Many states use this certification to fulfill licensure requirements since the eligibility requirements are similar. To earn the NCSP designation, you'll need to complete some graduate work and an internship and pass an examination.
Job Postings from Real Employers
School psychologists are in demand all over the country. A master's degree and professional experience are among the most common requirements for open positions. Check out these job openings from real employers posted on Monster.com in May 2012:
- A school in Georgia was looking for a school psychologist who could provide assessments, therapy and educational services to kids in grades K-10. Applicants needed a master's degree and Georgia state licensure. The employer also required experience and the ability to travel throughout the state as needed.
- A special education school in New York was looking for a school psychologist to provide counseling and teach social skills to preschool and school-age children. Candidates needed a doctorate for this full-time position.
- A public school in Pennsylvania sought a school psychologist who could work at a school that specializes in teaching kids who are deaf and hard of hearing. Applicants needed a master's degree with coursework in school psychology and state certification for the position. They also needed to pass a background check and know some sign language.
How to Get an Edge in the Field
School psychologists have a number of ways to engage in professional development and stay ahead in the field. The American Psychological Association (APA) is a national professional organization that frequently holds conferences and workshops for school psychologists. As a member, you'll also have access to scholarly research and publications that will enable you to keep up with the latest trends in the field. Other benefits to obtaining membership include access to continuing education resources, awards for professional accomplishments and access to job postings.
NASP is another organization that offers continuing education resources, publications and conventions. You could also consider earning certification from NASP even if it's not required for licensure in your state. This nationally recognized credential could help you stand out from your peers.
Alternative Career Paths
If you're not sure you want to work in a school, you might think about becoming a social worker. Much like a school psychologist, you'll provide counseling and support to people in need. Though you could work in a school, you'll also have a chance to work with all types of people, ranging from children and families to the elderly and homeless. A bachelor's degree in social work or a related area is usually required to get started; however, you could need a master's degree for some positions, such as those in schools or healthcare settings. Licensure is also required. Demand for social workers should grow at a faster-than-average rate, with the BLS projecting 25% growth from 2010-2020.
Mental Health Counselor
If you'd like to focus your practice on abnormal psychology, another option is to become a mental health counselor. In this position, you'll work with children and adults facing extreme emotional challenges or disorders. You'll provide counseling and treatment options to help your clients work through and address their personal struggles. These types of counselors need at least a master's degree and, as with school psychologists, the job outlook is good. The BLS predicted 37% growth in employment between 2010 and 2020.
Special Education Teacher
If you like the idea of helping children who are struggling in school but are looking for a career that's based in the classroom, consider becoming a special education teacher. You'll need at least a bachelor's degree, and if you work in a public school, a license. You'll work with students who have special physical, behavioral and mental needs. It's common for special education teachers to teach life skills in addition to academic lessons. The job outlook is average, with 17% job growth predicted between 2010 and 2020, according to the BLS.