As an aspiring psychologist, your career would involve researching and applying the principles and practices that relate to the science of thinking and behavior. Choosing to focus your career on school psychology offers a number of benefits, including career preparation options besides doctoral degrees, salary potential, a positive job outlook and the chance to make a difference in the lives of struggling kids.
Education Options for School Psychology Careers
Most psychologist jobs require a doctoral degree, the United States Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) reported. In the field of school psychology, your options aren’t limited to Doctor of Philosophy (Ph.D.) and Doctor of Psychology (Psy.D.). There’s another doctoral degree option you could consider, the Doctor of Education (Ed.D.) degree, along with options at the master’s and specialist levels.
The National Association of School Psychologists (NASP) differentiates between traditional graduate-level master’s degree programs in school psychology, which often require around 36 credit hours of graduate study, and 60-credit specialist-level master’s degree programs. These shorter master’s degree programs don’t meet NASP standards for approval and accreditation and may not include an internship. They also may not qualify you for many jobs, because most states require a minimum of 60 credits plus a lengthy internship. On the other hand, specialist-level programs in this area of study, including 60-credit Master of Arts, Master of Science, Education Specialist (Ed.S.) and graduate certificate programs, meet accreditation standards and offer full job prospects. You can complete specialist-level programs in as little as three years, compared to five to six years of study, the NASP reported.
How do most school psychologists choose to meet their education requirements? Although Psy.D., Ph.D. and Ed.D. programs exist, most school psychologists don’t choose this route. Instead, 48 percent of them earn some level of master’s degree, 32 percent complete a post-master’s certificate and 19 percent choose a professional degree like the Ed.S.
NASP-approved school psychology programs must include a year-long internship in a school setting that culminates in at least 1,200 to 1,500 hours of fieldwork.
High Income Potential
Although it’s common to think of school psychologist roles as adjacent to occupations like school counselor and school social worker, psychologists earn considerably higher wages than these other help-focused careers. Across all occupations, the BLS reported a median salary of just $38,640. Social workers and counselors typically earn somewhat more. The median annual wage for child, family and school social workers is $46,270, while for school counselors, it’s $56,310. The wages for clinical, counseling and school psychologists are much higher, at a median salary of $76,990, the BLS reported.
School counselors need a master’s degree, so choosing the school psychology route often takes just one year of additional study and can offer a lifetime of better pay rates.
Faster Than Average Job Growth
The field of psychology is growing at twice the average rate of job growth. Compared to the seven percent increase in opportunities expected across all occupations, jobs for psychologists should grow by 14 percent, or 23,000 new jobs, the BLS reported. The job outlook is particularly strong in the areas of clinical, counseling, and school psychology, in which 21,000 of these new jobs are expected to emerge. Considering that 27 percent of all psychologists in any field or specialty are employed by public and private elementary schools, it’s no surprise that, even in the face of budget cutbacks, this field of psychology should reap the benefits of job growth.
Public school environments account for 81 percent of school psychologist jobs, but they can also work in private schools, universities, community agencies, clinics and hospitals, according to NASP.
Working With Young People
What draws many school psychologists into the field is their calling to work with children. Childhood and adolescence are crucial times in the human lifespan, and whether or not children get support to deal with any mental, emotional, learning or developmental difficulties that present themselves can have a profound impact on their future. There’s something particularly fulfilling about knowing that your efforts are helping children and teenagers succeed academically, function better socially and become healthier, happier and better adjusted. As a school psychologist, the work you do every day helps future generations overcome obstacles and reach their full potential.
U.S. News & World Report lists school psychologist second among its ranking of the best social services jobs.