Becoming a School Therapist: Job Description & Salary Information

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What are the pros and cons of becoming a school therapist? Get the truth about job duties, career outlook and salary info to see if becoming a school therapist is right for you.
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Pros and Cons of Being a School Therapist

School therapists, also known as school counselors, work to ensure that children thrive academically, emotionally and socially. Check out these pros and cons to determine if becoming a school therapist is the right move for you.

Pros of Being a School Therapist
Favorable job outlook (a 12% increase in employment expected from 2012-2022)*
Decent salary ($53,370 median salary in 2014)*
Ability to inspire and help children*
School year allows for a flexible schedule*
Possibility for career growth and leadership opportunities*

Cons of Being a School Therapist
A master's degree is usually required*
Must be licensed, credentialed or endorsed*
Continuing education required to maintain credentials
Career requires constant meetings with families, administrators and children*

Source: *U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics.

Career Info

Job Description

School therapists focus on meeting the needs of students' academic, social and emotional needs. School therapists can work in an elementary school, a junior high or a high school. If you work as an elementary school therapist, you'll spend a lot of time visiting school classrooms to monitor students and make sure any special needs or issues are addressed. At the junior high and high school levels, you're more likely to help students plan their course schedules and guide students as they plan for life beyond college. Therapists at junior high and high schools can be trained to support students as they prepare for the workforce and college. Your job is likely to be emotionally involved because you'll need to dedicate and focus yourself to meet the individual needs of children. You may also need to recognize the signs of child abuse and neglect, intervening in these cases and notifying the proper authorities.

Your job will require you to stay up to date on issues affecting schools and children, and you'll most likely need to organize regular meetings with teachers, parents, children and principals, as you develop plans for student success. You'll most likely work in a school setting, but there are school therapists who work at non-profit organizations or in private practice.

Salary and Job Growth

The BLS projects that employment demand will increase 12% from 2012-2022 due to an increase in school enrollments. Additionally, schools in some states are required to hire school counselors, creating the need for more jobs and providing some job security.

According to the BLS, school counselors earned a median salary of $53,370 in 2014. The top earners made $86,610, while the bottom earners made $31,960. School therapists also have the option of earning additional pay by working summers when school is out of session.

Education Requirements

You'll generally need to earn at least a master's degree to become a school therapist. That means about four years of undergraduate studies, along with two years of graduate studies to gain specialized training in school counseling and therapy. As part of your studies, you're likely to learn about human development, counseling, research and assessment and treatment.

Licensure and Credentials

Depending on where you want to practice, you may be required to earn a license, a credential or an endorsement. Some schools allow you to combine your master's degree studies with a credentialing program. In order to become licensed or credentialed, you'll need to earn a series of education credits before passing a nationally administered examination.

Job Postings from Real Employers

Many employers require candidates to hold a master's degree, along with a license and experience working with children. The goal for many of the jobs is to create support systems for children at home and at school. The following is a sample of job openings posted on Monster.com in March 2012:

  • A community health organization in Pennsylvania seeks a school-based therapist who can provide therapeutic services to school children. The position requires candidates to work directly with students through individual and group counseling. The employer prefers therapists with a license and credentials.
  • A private counseling company in Pennsylvania seeks a outpatient therapist who can provide intake and therapy services for kids at school. Job duties include developing intervention and treatment plans with help from teachers and counselors. A master's degree, a state license and experience working with adolescents is required.
  • A counseling services organization in Florida is looking for a school occupational therapist who can provide outpatient and counseling services to children at elementary and secondary schools. Applicants need to hold a master's degree and to be qualified to become licensed or certified to work in the state of Florida. Experience treating adolescents is preferred.

How to Get an Edge in the Field

A post-graduate certificate in counseling could expand upon what you learned in your master's degree program and possibly help you advance your career, without having to pursue doctoral studies. These programs typically provide teach students about the latest trends in counseling and therapy, along with leadership skills needed to get ahead. The American School Counselor Association provides current therapists and counselors with access to scholarly journals and conferences. These experiences could help you network and gain professional development.

Alternative Career Paths

Psychologist

If you aren't interested in becoming a school therapist, you could consider one of these similar careers. School psychologists address the behavioral and academic patterns of children. You could also specialize in another area of psychology, such as developmental or counseling psychology. Psychologists generally need a specialist's, master's or doctoral degree in psychology, and psychologists who practice are required to be licensed. Jobs for psychologists are expected to grow by 22% from 2010-2020. The median salary for clinical, counseling and school psychologists in 2011 was $68,000.

Social Worker

Social workers work in school, non-profit and health-based settings, providing social services to children, families, senior citizens and adults. Entry-level jobs typically require a bachelor's degree, but other positions, including those in healthcare and in schools, require a master's degree. The job outlook for social workers is positive, with a 25% increase in jobs expected from 2010-2020, according to the BLS. In 2011, child, family and school social workers earned a median salary of $41,000, while all other social workers earned $54,000.

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