Job Profile: School Psychologist

School psychologists help students deal with personal disabilities, behavioral issues, and academic problems. In most cases, the psychologist also works closely with parents and teachers to help develop effective ways of handling disruptive behavior. Another responsibility includes preparing teachers, students, and parents for properly managing crisis situations.

Although many school psychologist work in elementary and secondary school settings, there are several other areas where school psychologists are needed. Some school psychologists are employed in private practices and work as consultants. This is the primary option for psychologists with Doctoral degrees.

The National Association of School Psychology, or NASP, states that there are five specific areas where school psychologists offer services. These areas include research/planning, consultation, prevention, evaluation, and intervention. In some cases, school psychologists are also educators. This duty includes teaching parents behavior management techniques and how to properly understand childhood development.


According to the BLS, the average salary for a school psychologist was $69,280 in 2012. The highest paid psychologists earned around $110,880. The top-paying areas include computer training and business schools.

Beginning Salary

According to the BLS, the average salary for an entry-level school psychologist was below $38,720 in 2012. This is for a psychologist with less than one year of experience.

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Key Responsibilities

School psychologists that work with the teachers need to recognize and resolve academic issues that can be obstacles to learning. They should create and implement a progress monitoring system for students. The psychologist also needs to motivate students to engage in classroom activities and support personalized instruction.

School psychologists that work with students need to mentor, counsel, and instruct students that struggle with behavioral, social, and emotional issues. The psychologist should help improve social/communication skills, improve problem solving skills, help manage anger management, and create self-determination.

School psychologists that work with parents need to recognize and address issues effecting learning ability and behavior. More importantly, the psychologist needs to help teach parents skills that improve the home-to-school transition. The psychologist should also make referrals and organize student support services.

Necessary Skills

There are several skills required to be a school psychologist. These skills include effective reading/writing skills, critical thinking skills, and active learning skills. Other important skills include:
Active Listening – offering undivided attention and genuinely understanding another person’s point of view.

Social Perception – having an awareness for the reactions of others and understand why the person may react a certain way.

Complex Problem Solving – identifying complex problems and using specific information to assess options and execute solutions.

Decision Making – understanding the advantages and disadvantages of an action and selecting the most appropriate action.

Negotiation – resolving differences and creating cohesiveness.

Time Management – managing personal time as well as the time of others.

Persuasion – helping change the minds and behaviors of others.

Teaching – instructing others how to properly do something.

Systems Analysis and Evaluation – determine how a system should work and implement changes to improve and correct performance.

Although these are not the only skills required of a school psychologist, these are very important qualities.

Degree and Education Requirements

Most school psychologists earn a bachelor degree in general psychology, school psychology, educational psychology, or counseling psychology. Most school psychologists take several courses in each of these areas. In some cases, courses in developmental psychology are also important.

Most states require two or three years of graduate school as the minimum level of education. Although each state has different requirements to become a school psychologist; eighteen states require a national certification. During this certification process, students must complete an internship in school psychology.

In some cases, potential psychologists with bachelor degrees are able to obtain entry-level positions. However, many states have strict education requirements to become a licensed school psychologist. For example, most states require school psychologists to attain more than 60 graduate school credits in school psychology. Additionally, the student is required to complete a 1,200 hour internship. It is important to note that most successful school psychologists have completed their education by earning Doctoral and Master’s Degrees.

Pros and Cons

There are several advantages of becoming a school psychologist. The most beneficial aspect of being a school psychologist is the ability to help students succeed. Many school psychologists enjoy a predictable work schedule as a result of working in an elementary or secondary school setting. Although the salary for a school psychologist is one of the major benefits; many believe the ability to collaborate with teachers and parents to help students is equally important.

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Although there are many benefits to becoming a school psychologist, there are also disadvantages of a career in school psychology. In some cases, the difficulty associated with dealing with complicated students and parents can cause high stress levels. Moreover, there is a high amount of frustration and work-related stress that can lead to mental/physical exhaustion.

Getting Started

Before becoming a licensed school psychologist, there are some important steps to take to prepare for the career. Receiving good grades in high school is important and taking psychology courses offers several benefits to potential psychology majors. In some cases, these beginner courses make future courses much easier.

Another vital step for a potential school psychologist is working or volunteering in the field. This helps gain practical experience while learning from professionals and working with students. More importantly, this will help the potential psychologist learn about the field of psychology.

There are many sub-specialties of psychology and the student should learn about each specialty prior to getting started in this career. Researching different degree programs and specialties is an important step to understand if the career or university is best suited for the student’s needs.

Future Outlook

According to The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, over the next decade there will be a significant increase in demand for school psychologists. However, the growth for school psychologists is currently high. There is a demand for clinical psychologists as well as industrial-organizational psychologists. Clinical psychologists help with substance abuse and disabilities; while industrial-organizational psychologists help with production and performance. A Master’s or Doctoral Degree in school psychology offers the ability to open a private practice or work in clinics/hospitals. The BLS projects that employment for school psychologists will grow more than 20% between 2010 and 2020. For the most part, this amount of growth is considered faster than usual. The demand for school psychologists is projected to grow as more students seek professional help to identify and address emotional/physical issues. This growth is also a direct result of an increase in the number of students enrolling in schools.

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Overall, a career as a school psychologist can be extremely rewarding. There are advantages and disadvantages associated with this career; however, the pros outweigh the cons. This is a career that offers an impressive salary and the ability to help those in need. These are two appealing aspects that many careers do not offer.

Further reading:

5 Great TED Talks About Child Development

The 50 Best Private Special Needs Schools in the United States