School psychologists can make a positive, lasting difference in children’s lives. They are a vital part of the effort to unlock each child’s potential for success. School psychology is an ideal career for individuals that are interested in:
- Working directly with children and adolescents
- Supporting students with mental health needs by providing counseling, skill instruction, and learning and support plans
- Assessing and evaluating individual differences to identify intervention strategies
- Working collaboratively with parents and teachers to support children’s success
- Changing practices and policies to improve school outcomes
- Engaging in challenging and diverse activities that change from day to day
- Using research to inform practices
- Developing strong team member and leadership skills
- Promoting appreciation and support for human diversity
- Demonstrating the highest standards for ethical and professional behavior
- Helping students thrive at home, in school, and in life
School psychologists apply expertise in mental health, learning, and behavior to help children and youth succeed academically, socially, behaviorally, and emotionally. They provide assessment, support, and intervention services to students; partner with families, teachers, and other professionals to create safe, healthy, and supportive learning environments; work with school administrators to improve school-wide policies; and collaborate with community providers to coordinate services for students.
The vast majority of school psychologists work in K–12 public schools. They also provide services in a variety of other settings, including:
- Private and charter schools
- Preschools and other early childhood settings
- School district administration offices
- Colleges and universities
- School-based health and mental health centers
- Community-based day treatment or residential clinics and hospitals
- Juvenile justice programs
- Independent private practice
States typically require a graduate degree and supervised experience in school psychology to work as a school psychologist. Specific admission criteria and application procedures for graduate programs in school psychology vary, although they often require a Bachelor’s degree with a major in psychology, child development, sociology, or education. At a minimum, it is helpful to have introductory courses in one or more of the following:
- Child development
- General and child psychology
- Statistics, measurement, and research methods
- Philosophy and theories of education
- Instruction and curriculum
- Special education
School psychologists typically complete either a specialist level degree program (at least 60 graduate semester hours and usually three years) or a doctoral degree (at least 90 graduate semester hours and often five to six years). Both degrees culminate in a year-long 1,200- to 1,500-hour supervised internship.
The specialist-level degree is the national standard for entry into the field and allows for comprehensive practice and career advancement in schools.
A doctoral degree is also appropriate for practicing in schools and is essential to working in academia and pursuing certain research interests. Some universities offer both degrees, allowing students in the specialist-level program to transfer to the doctoral program within the first two years of coursework.
School psychologists’ training emphasizes using research-based methods, understanding both individual and environmental factors influencing learning and behavior, and individual and systems level interventions. More specifically, school psychologists develop knowledge and skills in areas such as:
- Data collection and analysis
- Resilience and risk factors
- Consultation and collaboration
- Academic/learning interventions
- Mental and behavioral health
- Instructional support
- Prevention and intervention services
- Special education services
- Crisis preparedness, response, and recovery
- Family–school–community collaboration
- Diversity in development and learning
- Cultural competence
- Research and program evaluation
- Professional ethics and school law
Applicants should apply to programs specifically titled “school psychology.” There are over 300 such programs in the United States. Some factors to consider include:
- Doctoral program versus specialist-level degree program
- Program approval/accreditation status
- Faculty qualifications, specializations, and interests
- Size of program
- Location (region, type of community)
- Practicum and internship opportunities
- Research opportunities
- Availability of financial support
- Employment rates of program graduates
Student Member (Undergraduate, graduate or interning student.)
The Kentucky Association for Psychology in the Schools is the professional association for school psychologists in Kentucky. We are affiliated with the National Association of School Psychologists, Kentucky Psychological Association, Kentucky Association of School Administrators, and Kentucky Center for School Safety. Your membership helps us keep school psychologists’ needs in the limelight at Capital Hill and in the classroom.
Resource links for School Psychologist Students:
- Nationally Certified School Psychologist (NCSP)
The Nationally Certified School Psychologist (NCSP) credential recognizes school psychologists who meet rigorous national standards for graduate preparation and continuing professional development.
- NCSP Eligibility
Applicants must complete an organized program of study that is officially titled “School Psychology” that consists of at least 60 graduate semester/90 quarter hours.
- How to Apply for NCSP Certification
To qualify for national certification, a school psychologist must meet NASP’s established credentialing standards. Graduates of NASP-approved graduate programs benefit from a streamlined application process.