The School Psychologist Certification / Licensing Process
School psychologists are credentialed at the state level. In most cases, they are credentialed by the same agency that credentials teachers; this may be termed “Department of Education” or “Department of Public/Instruction”.
The credential may also go by different names. The difference between a state-issued educator license and a state-issued certification is generally no more significant than the title of the licensing agency. The National Association of School Psychologists notes that some states use one term while others use another. There is, however, a distinction between certification by a state agency and certification by a third party. The latter does not grant the authority to practice, though in some cases, it simplifies the process and makes it easier to move to a new jurisdiction and show that standards have been met.
It is important to understand the state level requirements before beginning the journey.
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Meeting Training Requirements
School psychologists begin by enrolling in graduate programs that are license-qualifying in their own states. Some states have an extensive set of standards while some set more general rules, for example, that the program be housed in a regionally accredited institution.
The state may set minimum standards for progression in the program. It may also mandate one or more tests. Some states require educators to take a pre-professional (academic) skills test; this is typically taken before program admission. School psychologists and other graduate level professionals may or may not be exempted.
The Praxis II examination for school psychologists is a common, though not universal, requirement. In some jurisdictions, this is taken before graduation.
Most states require a yearlong internship. The internship is generally supervised by the institution that grants the degree. Some jurisdictions require individuals to apply for a state credential before beginning the internship. Some make it an option; if there is a shortage of fully qualified school psychology professionals, a student may be placed in a position.
A school psychologist can expect to have a background check at least once before beginning work, though the timeline will vary. In many instances, fingerprinting will be a condition of initial licensure; the education department may have very specific directions.
In other instances, background checks are done at the employment level. It is not uncommon to have a background check before beginning an internship – or even before formal admission to the graduate program.
Applying to the Licensing Agency
A candidate can usually apply soon after the degree is granted. In some states, the application process is simplified for graduates of approved in-state programs. The school may even initiate the process. If all steps have been carried out before graduation, the soon-to-be-professional may have little more to do than fill out a little paperwork (or enter data online) and pay a fee. Often, though, several supporting documents are required.
Some education departments have separate application packets for school service personnel and teachers. In many cases, they use the same one. Applications are typically designed more for teachers; they may make reference to application pathways that are not relevant to school psychologists or to tests that are not mandated for the role. Generally, there is a phone number that applicants can call if they have questions.
Earning Higher Levels of Licensing
Some jurisdictions have multiple levels of licensing. There is a good deal of variation from jurisdiction to jurisdiction with regard to requirements for progression. In some states, it is not an option but a mandate, at least for an individual who is employed within the school system. The school psychologist may move to higher levels of licensing based on successful employment and positive evaluation. There may be other requirements, for example, putting together a professional development plan. The new professional may be assigned a mentor.
State Specific School Psychologist Requirements
- District of Columbia
- New Hampshire
- New Jersey
- New Mexico
- New York
- North Carolina
- North Dakota
- Puerto Rico
- Rhode Island
- South Carolina
- South Dakota
- West Virginia