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School Psychology Certification in Washington State: Become a School Psychologist in WA

Washington school psychologists are licensed as Educational Staff Associates (ESAs) by the Office of the Superintendent of Public Instruction, or OSPI. Certificates are issued on the basis of graduate education and examination. There are multiple pathways to certification.

A candidate will first be issued a Residency ESA certificate. After serving in a professional capacity for the requisite time period and completing additional education and certification requirements, the candidate can earn a Professional ESA certificate.

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Educational Requirements

School psychologists must complete state-approved school psychology programs. In most cases, they must have a master's in school psychology. However, candidates who have master's degrees in related fields are not required to earn a second master's so long as they have met coursework requirements for the school psychology degree. The latter must be verified by the program head or registrar's office; OSPI does not carry out transcript evaluations.

The National Association of School Psychologists notes that programs must include 320 hours of practicum and 1,200 hours of internship (http://www.nasponline.org/certification/state_info_list.aspx).

Examination Requirement

A school psychologist who did not complete a comprehensive examination as part of the degree program must take the national school psychologist examination prior to licensure (https://www.k12.wa.us/certification/ESA/Residency.aspx). The examination is offered as part of the Praxis II series for educators. The required score on version 0401 (test code 10401) is 165; this is identical to the score required for national certification by the National Association of School Psychologists (NASP). Candidates who took an examination with a test code of 10400 must document a score of 660.

Candidates who take the test in September2014 or later may take examination 5402 (http://www.nasponline.org/certification/2014_exam_faq.aspx). They may check the Washington requirements page of the Educational Testing Service (ETS) website to determine current score requirements (https://www.ets.org/praxis/wa/requirements/).

Candidates can find information about test dates and testing sites on the ETS site (https://www.ets.org/praxis/register/centers_dates). In most cases, candidates who test in September 2014 or later will take a computer-delivered examination. There are computer-delivered examination sites listed in Mountlake Terrace, Ellensburg, Puyallup, and Spokane.

OSPI notes that scores are not automatically received from ETS; a candidate will need to send a copy. Details are available on the current application form.

A candidate who does not take the Praxis II prior to receiving the first certificate (Residency level) will take it later when pursuing certification.

Fingerprinting Requirement

A fingerprint-based criminal background check is required for certification. Candidates may go to an Educational Service District (ESD) office to have Livescan fingerprints made. A candidate who is not able to do so may have fingerprints made on cards. OSPI recommends that candidates who have fingerprints that are not easily discernible have their fingerprints made through the traditional inked method. Some ESD offices are able to carry out this procedure.

Candidates who have criminal records or who answer "yes" to character questions will be evaluated by the Office of Professional Practices. The review process will take longer for these applicants.

OSPI recommends that the background check process be initiated early so as not to delay the certification process.

Candidates who currently hold a certification through OSPI will not need to go through the process again.

The Application Process

Applications are available on the OSPI website in eCert and paper formats; candidates will use an ESA application that is specific to school counselor and school psychologist roles.

Candidates must submit official transcripts.

School psychologist application packets are to be sent to an ESD office, not directly to OSPI. All items required by the ESD for processing should be sent together in one envelope. A list of ESDs is found on the OSPI site (http://www.k12.wa.us/maps/esdmap.aspx). An applicant will submit a total of $88 with a Residency ESA application.

Earning and Maintaining Higher Level Certification

The first Washington certificate is issued with an undefined expiration date (https://www.k12.wa.us/certification/ESA/ProfcertforESAs.aspx). Once the individual has been employed in the field for two years, the certificate will be reissued with a five-year date. The individual is expected to complete requirements for the higher level certificate during this timeframe.

Currently, school psychologists earn their professional certificate by achieving national certification through the National Association of School Psychologists. In order to be eligible for national certification, a candidate must have completed a program comprised of at least 60 graduate semester hours. The candidate must have accrued 1,200 hours of internship; at least 600 hours must have been accrued in a school setting. The certification process is simplified for candidates who complete programs that are approved by NASP. Other candidates may submit a portfolio and case study to demonstrate that they meet competencies.

In order to be certified at the professional level in Washington State, a school psychologist must have a workshop in Issues of Abuse. Among the required topics are the following: emotional, physical, and sexual abuse, substance abuse, duty to report and assist, and methods of teaching about abuse and abuse prevention. Beginning in July 2015, professional school psychologists will also need training in suicide prevention (http://apps.leg.wa.gov/wac/default.aspx?cite=181-79A-221).

Professional development is required for certificate renewal. The National Association of School Psychologists advises professionals that Washington is in the process of revising requirements; the process by which school psychologists renew their credentials may change (http://www.nasponline.org/certification/state_info_list.aspx).

Out-of-State Candidates/ Alternate Pathways

The licensing agency will accept three years of experience in lieu of verification of having completed a state-approved program. A candidate can also demonstrate that initial educational requirements have been met by presenting a Nationally Certified School Psychologist (NCSP) credential issued by the National Association of School Psychologists.

Emergency Certification

Emergency certification may be granted to an individual who has not yet completed the internship portion of a school psychology program if the school district is not able to place a fully qualified professional in the position. The district must make a request. The individual working under emergency certification is expected to continue enrollment in the school psychology program and to complete requirements within one year.

Other Credentialing Options

According to the National Association of School Psychologists, some Washington school psychologists may qualify for credentialing as Certified Counselors (http://www.nasponline.org/certification/state_info_list.aspx). The Certified Counselor credential is issued by the Department of Health (http://www.doh.wa.gov/Portals/1/Documents/2600/630112CertCoun.pdf). There are additional requirements.

NASP notes that it is permissible for individuals credentialed by OSPI to work in some non-school settings; an individual working under supervision of a licensed psychologist may have services reimbursed by insurance carriers. However, the individual would not use the title “school psychologist” while practicing in a healthcare setting.

Additional Information

Applicants can call their ESD to receive the most current application.

Questions can be addressed to the OSPI certification office at (360) 725-6400; current office hours are 9:00 to 12:00 and 1:00 to 4:00.

The Washington State Association of School Psychologists is not involved with the certification process but serves as an additional professional resource (http://www.wsasp.org).