A Guide to a Career as a School Psychologist

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If you’re passionate about youth and helping them achieve their full potential, pursuing a career as a school psychologist could be the ideal path for you. School psychologists are there to support youth with both their academic and mental needs. They are the go-to person for any child who needs support above and beyond that offered by their teachers. You’ll get the chance to form strong bonds with the students and benefit their psychological wellbeing. If this sounds like it’s for you, you’ll find everything you need to know to begin a career as a school psychologist.

What is a school psychologist?

A school psychologist is the primary support unit for children who are struggling both in school and in their personal life. They consult with teachers to determine what barriers children might be facing and create development programs to help them overcome them. These barriers could include bullying, poor academic performance, drug use, violence in the home, and more.

Children go through many changes and experiences while in school. They spend most of their time there, and besides the learning that takes place, there is also a lot of social interaction. Children form friendships, break friendships, have crushes, go through puberty, and identify personal strengths and weaknesses.

School psychologists are there to guide students through these experiences and changes. While their academic performance is one piece of the puzzle, they will also examine emotional, behavioral, and social issues that may be disturbing their education.

Ultimately, a school psychologist’s role is to help students thrive during their time in school and set them up for success for when they enter the working world.

What’s the importance of school psychology?

Kids are in school during the most impressionable years of their lives. They learn how to function in a social group, the importance of work ethic, and take in a lot of new information simultaneously. Many students struggle during their time in school for a variety of reasons. Some struggle academically, while others excel academically but struggle socially. Children’s experiences can have a dramatic impact on the rest of their lives, including work and social life.

School psychologists are there to help students navigate the struggles they face in school and are an integral part of ensuring they are ready for life after school.

What education do you need to become a school psychologist?

If you are interested in becoming a school psychologist, you will need to have the correct education. You will need to have at least an EdD, or a Doctor of Education degree, or even a Christian psychology degree on top of your master’s degree to pursue this career path. The rules in each state can vary, but to work in a school setting, you must have your master’s. A PhD in school psychology or education is also helpful for becoming a school psychologist. While the programs do have their similarities, you should familiarize yourself with the differences of a PhD versus EdD and choose the best path.

It’s essential to research the specific requirements in the state you want to work in. Some states have strict requirements regarding how many school psychology credits you need and how many internship hours you have to log.

Where can you get a job as a school psychologist?

School psychologists work predominantly, as you may have guessed, in schools. They can work in any type of educational facility in both the public and private sectors, including:

– Elementary schools

– High schools

– Colleges

– Universities

– Tech schools

– Daycare centers

– Orphanages

– Juvenile detention centers

– Etc.

What’s daily tasks are involved with being a school psychologist?

School psychologists don’t just work directly with the students. They also work with teachers, families, and school administrators as required to ensure that the students are fully supported by all those who have contact with them. Each day will look completely different as a school psychologist. To follow this career path, you must be adaptable and ready to respond at the drop of a hat to serve your students. Here are some tasks that you can expect as a school psychologist:

– Assessing and evaluating students for learning disabilities, social barriers, and mental and emotional problems.

– Help students navigate struggles in their life, such as abuse at home, or bullying.

– Work with parents or guardians to help them understand their child’s specific needs and limitations.

– Work with teachers to work out misunderstandings between them and their students and create action plans to make the students learning experience the most effective.

– Provide advice to administrators on school policies and suggest outreach programs that could benefit the students.

– Having discussions with students regarding recent events or happenings and determining the best course of action.

– Research and apply for local, state, and federal funding for school and student resources.

– Keep up to date, organized records and files on all students and events.

– Respond during crisis situations and work with the local authorities when necessary.

– Design programs to help with a variety of common issues students face, such as poor academic performance, bullying, and teen pregnancy.

How much do school psychologists make?

Based on the occupational employment statistics from the U.S. Bureau of Labor, school psychologists have a median salary of $78,200, although some can make upwards of $132.600. Employment of school psychologists is projected to grow by 14% by 2028, meaning that there will be many job opportunities available if you choose this career path. The reason for this growth is to accommodate the ever-growing population of children. The more children that are in school, the more school psychologists are needed to support them.

The benefits of becoming a school psychologist

Pursuing a career as a school psychologist is incredibly fulfilling and allows you to impact many students’ lives. Here are some of the benefits of becoming a school psychologist.

  • Contribute to the wellbeing and success of students during their school years

The years in school can be some of the hardest for kids as they are going through vast periods of growth and change. Often students will struggle either academically or socially and have no one to support them, leading to feelings of inadequacy and depression. As a school psychologist, you will be that person that students can talk to and voice their struggles to. You will create development plans to help the students achieve success both in and out of class and get to witness the positive changes as they happen.

  • Build long-lasting relationships with students and their families

The longer you stay within a specific school, the more time you will get to form long-lasting bonds with students and their families. You’ll see students grow and develop from a young age and make a difference in their lives. The more time you spend with each student, the more they will trust you, and having someone they can trust is essential as they age. You may well start working with a student as soon as they enter school, at age 4 or 5, and still be part of the process at age 14. You will also be working with the families throughout these years and building a rapport with them.

  • Every day is different

Being a school psychologist is far from monotonous. No two days will ever be the same, as each day, you’ll be dealing with different students in different situations. If you’re adaptable and a quick problem solver, you’ll thrive in your role as a school psychologist. You cannot predict what your day will look like, and some days you could be talking a student down during a panic attack, while the next might just be doing paperwork. You’ll work with a huge range of age groups, from young children to parents, teachers, and school administrators. For those who love to have variety and excitement in their job, this is a great career path.

  • Job security

The job market for school psychologists is growing. The number of students pursuing this career path is less than the amount needed to fill open positions. School psychology is ranked second in the best social services jobs, and there is a considerable demand for professionals in the field. Another benefit of obtaining credentials in school psychology is that they are incredibly portable.

Although each state’s requirements vary slightly if you have your masters and an EdD, then you will be able to work as a school psychologist in basically every state. That means your employment opportunities are endless, especially if you’re willing to relocate as needed. Alternatively, if you are moving for lifestyle reasons, then you don’t have to worry about struggling to find a new job.

  • No micro-management

No one likes being micro-managed, and as a school psychologist, you are in control of your own day. You get to structure out your day and your caseload in the way that you think is best. If you believe a particular student needs extra work, you can allot that time without seeking external approval. If you feel that a student has made incredible progress or no longer needs your assistance, you can finish your work with them. You are trusted to make decisions that will benefit the students the most because you are the expert.

  • Amplify student strengths

Many students will assume if they are bad at one thing, they are bad at everything. Each child has a strength, and as a school psychologist, you get to help them find it. By doing assessments, activities, and talking with the students, you can identify their passions and interests. You’ll be able to find out what the student is good at and push them in that direction. If they are struggling academically in math but doing well in drama class, you can encourage them to join the school theatre group to help them focus on growing in their strengths.

Students who are disabled in some way often think that they will never be able to succeed because of their disabilities. Though it can be more challenging, you can help them unlock their hidden strengths, which will make them feel empowered and motivated. You may deal with students who have severe handicaps, but by identifying their strengths, you can significantly boost their self-esteem.

  • Help parents to better support their children

Parents are often oblivious to what their child is experiencing and going through in school. Children don’t always discuss their struggles with their parents because they are scared or nervous, so situations often go unnoticed. Parents may become overwhelmed and don’t understand how to support their children when they are getting bad grades, or always getting in trouble at school. That’s where a school psychologist comes in.

School psychologists will work with the parents to help them understand what their child is going through, and what supports are available to them. Whether it’s special accommodations that are needed in-class, or additional development tools to use at home, a school psychologist will create a plan with the parents. Building a partnership with parents is essential for the success of development plans. Keeping parents in the loop will allow for a collaborative effort and give parents the tools they need to help their children.

Conclusion

Becoming a school psychologist will allow you to continually learn new and interesting things each day. The more time that you spend in the field, the more you will understand neuroscience, human behavior, disabilities, and students’ unique educational needs. You will get to watch as students achieve their full potential with your help and guidance and positively influence the lives of many students throughout your career. 

Not only will you be able to help students navigate through their difficulties, but you’ll also be helping their parents to support them as well. Parents aren’t psychologists and often feel helpless when it comes to guiding their children. The impact you’ll have as a school psychologist is widespread and will allow you to feel fulfilled in your line of work.