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School Psychology Certification in Pennsylvania: Become a School Psychologist in PA

Pennsylvania school psychologists are issued educational specialist certificates by the Department of Education. Certificates are valid for service in grades K through 12. Professionals are certified at Level 1 after they meet basic requirements, which include completing a graduate level school psychology program and a yearlong internship and achieving passing scores on general academic and content area examinations. School psychologists move up to Level II after successful work experience.

The National Association of School Psychologists notes that Pennsylvania’s certified school psychologists are allowed to carry out private practice under some conditions (http://www.nasponline.org/certification/state_info_list.aspx).

Capella University is accredited by the Higher Learning Commission and is offering several Online Bachelor's, Master's and Doctoral programs in Psychology including Educational Psychology, Counseling Psychology and Clinical Psychology. Capella University, is also offering three online CACREP - accredited master's programs: School Counseling, Clinical Mental Health Counseling and Marriage and Family Therapy. Click here to request information about the Capella University programs.

New York University Steinhardt Department of Applied Psychology offers a Master of Arts in School Counseling (Counseling and Guidance: School and Bilingual School Counseling). The program is accredited by the Master's in Psychology and Counseling Accreditation Council (MPCAC). Click Here to contact NYU Steinhardt Department of Applied Psychology about this program.

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Education and Training Requirements

School psychologists must complete approved programs. A program may be approved by Pennsylvania or by the licensing agency of another jurisdiction. In-state programs should appear on the list of PDE-approved programs (http://www.portal.state.pa.us/portal/server.pt/community/approved_certification_programs/8815). (An out-of-state candidate will submit a verification form that documents that the program was certification-qualifying in the state it was located.

The student will need coursework in the following content areas:

Psychological foundations: This content area includes coursework in human development as well as the biologic, cognitive, affective, and social bases of behavior.

Educational foundations: This content area includes instructional delivery and design, school organization, and coursework related to exceptional learners.

Professional, legal, and ethical foundations: This covers laws and rules, ethical and professional standards, alternative service delivery models, and emerging technologies.

Scientific and methodological foundations: This includes data analysis, educational and psychological measurement, and research and evaluation methodologies.

Practice roles: This covers the theories and techniques of assessment, diagnosis, and direct and indirect intervention.

The National Association of School Psychologists notes that candidates educated within Pennsylvania will earn a master's degree and then an additional 30 semester hours of credit (http://www.nasponline.org/certification/state_info_list.aspx).

A year of internship is required. The internship is to be a minimum of 1,000 hours (http://www.aspponline.org/About/Becoming-a-School-Psychologist-in-PA.htm). At least 500 hours are to be in a public school setting. Pennsylvania expects supervisors to be professionals who have had at least five years of experience.

Examination Requirements

Pennsylvania school psychologists are required to pass two examinations; a test of basic skills and a test of content area knowledge.

The basic skills examination is the Pre-service Academic Performance Assessment (PAPA): The candidate will need to take the reading, writing, and mathematics sections. (http://www.portal.state.pa.us/portal/server.pt/community/testing_requirements/8638). A candidate may be excused from the PAPA requirement on the basis of SAT composite scores of 1550 or higher provided that no subtest score is less than 500. A candidate may also be excused on the basis of ACT PLUS Writing scores of 23 or higher provided that the English/ writing score is at least 22 and the math score is at least 23.

The content area examination is the Praxis II examination #0401 (https://www.ets.org/praxis/pa/requirements). Pennsylvania has set the minimum passing score at 150; this is lower than the score required for national school psychologist certification (and lower than the score required in some other jurisdictions.)

The examination is offered on set dates at testing centers around the nation. Candidates can find information about test sites and test dates on the Educational Testing Service (ETS) website. Those who opt to test in a jurisdiction other than Pennsylvania will need to enter the correct code to have their score reports sent to the Pennsylvania Department of Education (https://www.ets.org/praxis/pa/requirements).

A candidate who is licensed by the Pennsylvania State Board of Psychology as a psychologist is excused from the usual testing requirements; the license may be presented instead. Licensure is dependent on holding a doctoral degree and passing psychology and jurisprudence examinations.

The Application Process

Candidates submit applications online, utilizing the Teacher Information Management System (TIMS). An application user guide is available (http://www.education.state.pa.us/portal/server.pt/teachers%2C_administrators_and_certifications). Supplemental forms may also be downloaded from the Department of Education website (http://www.portal.state.pa.us/portal/server.pt/community/applications_for_certification/8649).

Candidates with questions may submit a help desk ticket through the Department of Education website (http://www.portal.state.pa.us/portal/server.pt?open=514&objID=506869&mode=2).

Both in-state and out-of-state candidates will submit university verification forms. The Pennsylvania DOE will inquire about grade point average. However, the form, and some of the information requested, will be different.

Pennsylvania code states that certification may be granted to out-of-state candidates without university recommendation provided they have been certified in another jurisdiction and provided they show evidence of having met similar standards (http://www.pacode.com/secure/data/022/chapter49/chap49toc.html).

The DOE charges in-state candidates $125 for an educational specialist certificate (http://www.education.state.pa.us/portal/server.pt/teachers%2C_administrators_and_certifications). Out-of-state candidates are charged $185.

The DOE notes that the review process may take four to six weeks. While applications are accepted on an ongoing basis, the focus of review shifts at different time of the year (http://www.education.state.pa.us/portal/server.pt/application_processing_status_and_application).

Achieving and Maintaining Level II Credentialing

The initial credential is issued at Level I (http://www.pacode.com/secure/data/022/chapter49/chap49toc.html). The Department of Education notes that Level I certificates are based on service years not calendar years (http://www.education.state.pa.us/portal/server.pt/about_level_ii_certification). A Level I certificate is valid for a maximum of six years but may be converted sooner. Level I will be converted to Level II after three years of successful service and after all requirements have been met. Pennsylvania code notes that an induction program is required.

Level II certificates are renewed on a five year basis. Continuing education is required.

Emergency Certification

Emergency certification (issued to candidates who have not yet met all requirements) is granted only at the request of a school district.

Criminal Background Checks

School employees are required to have state and federal criminal history checks as well as child abuse history clearance (http://www.portal.state.pa.us/portal/server.pt/community/background_checks_(act_114)/7493).

Additional Information

Additional information can be found on the website of the Pennsylvania Department of Education (http://www.portal.state.pa.us/portal/server.pt/community/).

The Bureau of School Leadership and Teacher Quality Center Division of Certification Services can be reached at 717-728-3224 (717-PA TEACH). Call center hours are currently listed as Monday, Wednesday, and Friday between 8:00 and 4:30.

The Association of School Psychologists of Pennsylvania does not issue licenses but serves an additional professional resource (http://www.aspponline.org/).