Becoming a School Psychologist

It typically takes several years of graduate coursework and internship to become a school psychologist. There are some steps, though, that can be carried out much earlier. Early preparation can have you poised for success.

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If You Do Not Have a College Degree

Step 1: In high school, take a college prep or honors curriculum. There are no specific courses you need to take at this stage. However, you may want to seek out volunteer experiences with special needs students. It’s also a good idea to do some career exploration. You can even become a student affiliate of the American Psychological Association.

Step 2: Take general studies courses and select a college major. Most school psychologists start out as undergraduate psychology majors. However, you can opt for another field like education. Look ahead to see what prerequisites will be expected at the graduate school level. You will typically need some psychology coursework. Statistics is also important.

Step 3: Bolster your resume. Volunteer with young people or seek out paid employment. One option would be a special needs camp. You may also seek out psychology professors who are looking for undergraduates to work with them on research projects – some competitive programs favor students with research experience. You may also want to join the psychology honor society. However, don’t try to do so much that your grades suffer.

If You Have a College Degree

Step 4: Research graduate programs and state licensing standards before deciding which program is most appropriate. Consider programmatic accreditation. Most school psychology programs are at least 60 semester hours (the equivalent of an educational specialist degree). Some, however, have a two-step process; students may first be admitted to a 30 semester hour master’s. There are also doctoral programs in school psychology. These are quite competitive. Consider whether you are ready to apply or need to spend some time gaining volunteer or paid experience.

Step 5: Gather references and begin the application process early. You will likely be asked to write a personal statement to show how academic and life experiences have prepared you for a school psychologist role. Also be prepared for an interview.

Step 6: Complete coursework and practicum. You will spend at least two years completing required classes. You will have practicum experiences in areas like cognitive testing. Progression in the program may depend on earning a 3.0. Optionally, you may want to become a student member of the National Association of School Psychologists or Division 16 of the American Psychological Association during your student years. Professional affiliations can provide you with networking opportunities.

Step 7: Take whatever steps are necessary to prepare for the internship. In some locations, students go through an interview process. In others, the internship matching process is handled for them. In some states, interns apply to the state for a license or certification.

Complete internship requirements. You will spend a full year out in the field, taking on the duties of a school psychologist. You will be under university supervision.

Step 8: Complete additional steps required for licensure. Some states require you to take a licensing examination. Some individuals also pursue national certification; this is an added validation of skill and can make it easier to move to a new jurisdiction.

Step 9: Develop your portfolio and seek out a position. The National Association of School Psychologists has career resources.

Step 10: Earn higher licensing. You may work with a mentor or clinical supervisor during your early years in the field. Continuing licensure may depend on earning positive evaluations. You may need to take additional classes or create a portfolio before you attain a higher license. Requirements vary by state.

State Specific School Psychologist Requirements