Becoming a licensed psychologist isn’t easy. By the time you earn the title, you have usually devoted many years to your post-secondary education, from your freshman year as an undergraduate through the completion of your doctoral dissertation. Despite the preparation, career shifts are common in the broad field of psychology, according to the American Psychological Association. If you find yourself wanting to change your area of specialty to school psychology, you may need just a little more schooling – such as a school psychology certification program.
Requirements for a School Psychologist Career
Generally speaking, school psychologist is a role that requires a less extensive education than most other licensed psychologist positions. While a doctorate is non-negotiable for most clinical, research and counseling psychologist roles, a specialist-level degree, like the Ed.S. degree, is often sufficient to be a school psychologist, the United States Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) reported.
That doesn’t mean you wasted your time, hard work and tuition dollars earning your Ph.D. or Psy.D. in a different area of psychology. The doctoral-level knowledge and experience you have cultivated will continue to help you succeed in your school psychologist career, and your existing college credits can help satisfy some of the credits needed for a certification program.
If you are already educationally overqualified, you may wonder why a certification program is necessary in the first place. Specialized competencies are as important to preparing for a career in school psychology as college credits. Some of the standards set by the National Association of School Psychologists (NASP), like Consultation and Collaboration and Data-Based Decision Making and Accountability, are broad enough to apply to many different areas of psychology. Others are more specialized, including Development and Learning, School-Wide Practices to Promote Learning, Interventions and Instructional Support to Develop Academic Skills and Family-School Collaboration Services. Students of a school psychology certification program will usually take specialized courses that build on their knowledge of general psychology, such as Introduction to School Psychology, Literacy Foundations, School-Based Interventions, Teaching Methods for Inclusive Education and Instructional Planning for Students with Disabilities in Inclusive Settings.
The NASP only accredits specialist-level and doctoral programs that include a minimum of 60 graduate semester hours. If you already completed a doctorate in psychology previously, you may have completed many of the foundations of the degree previously.
Gaining Hands-On Experience in a School Setting
Practical experience is a crucial part of learning the field of psychology. Whether you’re coming from a clinical, counseling or even industrial-organizational psychology background, there’s a good chance you already completed some lengthy experience requirements for your previous psychology degree. Your internship may have been completed before or after earning your doctorate, according to the BSL – depending on your state’s regulations, your field of study and your school’s requirements. As you make the switch to school psychology, you will need to complete new practicum and internship experiences inside the school setting.
During your internship for a school psychologist certificate program, you will work under the guidance of a fully credentialed school psychologist. Your hands-on training in a school psychologist program may include everything from administering a variety of psychoeducational assessments and evaluations to providing consultations and interventions directly to students of the school. Although more than 80 percent of all school psychologists work in public schools, aspiring school psychologists may perform their internships in public or private school settings.
Occasionally, students of a school psychology certificate program complete one or more practicum or internship experiences in alternative settings, like hospitals and clinics that provide both educational and psychological services to children.
The Credentials Required to Practice School Psychology
Even if you already have a license to practice clinical or counseling psychology, there’s a good chance that you will also need a separate credential to work as a school psychologist. Requirements to obtain a school psychologist credential vary from one state to another. Usually, they include an advanced degree from an accredited school, completion of an approved school psychology curriculum and a minimum number of internship hours.
Certificate programs in school psychology are often designed to help students meet the requirements for credentialing in that college’s state, so students considering out-of-state programs should carefully compare their state’s requirements to their intended school’s curriculum.