School Psychology Graduate Programs

A school psychology education is an investment. School psychologist certification, or licensure depending on your state, typically takes three years of graduate education; as students move through the program, though, they spend less time sitting in the classroom and more time out in the field working with children, administering assessments, and consulting with other professionals.

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In most states, it takes a minimum of 60 semester hours of graduate coursework to earn full licensure as a school psychologist. Often, students earn two graduates degrees along the way. A master’s may be awarded after as little as 30 semester hours; the student then continues on for a higher degree, often termed an “educational specialist degree”. The logistics vary from place to place. In some cases, a student may earn only one graduate degree, a master’s, after 60 semester hours of coursework.

The National Association of School Psychologists notes that, while programs that are less than 60 semester hours include similar practice-oriented coursework, they are license-qualifying in a minority of states (

Program Requirements: Coursework and Practica

In the early stages of a school psychology program, there is a lot of theory. Students typically take some general psychology courses like human development, biological and social bases of behavior, and abnormal development. They learn about the structure of the school system, special education services, and professional roles and responsibilities. There is often coursework in reading and/ or mathematics disabilities. There is also some coursework in statistics and research methodology. Some states look to the National Association of School Psychologists to set the standards. Others set their own coursework requirements. There is often a comprehensive examination; it may include an oral component. There may or may not be a thesis. Students who do not opt for a thesis may have a few electives, but often the entire program is planned.

Students take multiple courses in assessment and intervention. They typically do several hundred hours of practicum work before beginning the formal internship. One practicum will generally involve administering individual cognitive ability assessments to children or youth; some states specifically cite this as a licensing requirement. The psychology student will likely also spend time counseling youth.

Program Requirements: Internship

Most states require 1,200 hours of internship or the equivalent of one academic year. Candidates sometimes have the option of completing the internship part-time over two years.

There may be an option to serve part of the internship in a non-school setting that serves children and families. The National Association of School Psychologists notes that internship selection procedures vary greatly. Some schools have designated sites while others allow students to apply for their own internship. The internship can be an opportunity to develop interests as well as secure references. In some cases, it leads to employment. NASP has provided internship tips; the resource is particularly relevant to students who will be going through an interview process (

Sometimes the degree is a awarded before the internship, sometimes after. A post-degree internship is typically completed under the supervision of the degree-granting institution, and academic credit is awarded. The student will have direct supervision provided by a certified or licensed school psychologist.

Program Options

Although there is not usually a lot of room for electives at the master’s level, some programs have a special focus. Some school psychology programs emphasize bilingual or multicultural service delivery.

Some students opt for membership in professional organizations as students. The National Association of School Psychologists has a student membership category ( Students may also opt to take the first steps toward national certification. This is not a requirement in most cases but can facilitate license portability.