Doctoral Degree in School Psychology: Program Summary

Oct 08, 2019

There are two degree options for students who want to study school psychology at the doctoral level. Learn more about program curriculum, graduation requirements, and future prospects for graduates.

Essential Information

Doctoral-level school psychology programs may result in a Doctor of Education (Ed.D.) or a Doctor of Philosophy (Ph.D.) degree. In some programs, school psychology is a main field of study that offers additional concentrations, and in others, it's a specialization within educational psychology. Students in these programs learn about biological, social and cognitive factors that affect individual behavior and learning. They also study psychological and educational evaluation methods, intervention strategies, research procedures, and program design. Specialization options include preschool education and learning disabilities.

Prior to graduation, students are expected to work on lab projects, engage in fieldwork, and conduct original research leading to a dissertation. They must also get practical experience through an internship, externship, or apprenticeship. In total, most programs take at least five years to complete. In order to apply, students must hold a bachelor's degree. Some programs also require applicants to hold a master's degree or pass an entrance exam.

All states require that school psychologists be licensed. A doctoral degree meets the educational requirements necessary to take the exam.

Doctorate in School Psychology

These programs provide instruction in a broad range of topics. Students may study neuropsychology, psychopharmacology, human development, ethnic studies, socio-economic status, familial relationships, perception and creativity. They also learn about issues that restrict learning, including emotional disorders, learning disabilities and Intellectual Disability. Finally, they gain an understanding of proper professional, legal and ethical work behaviors. Possible course topics include:

  • Psychological assessments and intelligence testing
  • School psychologists' roles and functions
  • Developmental disabilities
  • Psychopathology
  • Counseling techniques
  • Therapeutic and disciplinary interventions

Employment Outlook and Earnings Information

As of May 2018, roughly 162,000 individuals worked as clinical, counseling and school psychologists nationwide, according the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics ( Around 43,470 of these individuals were employed by elementary and secondary schools, and their average annual salary was $78,970. Employment for clinical, counseling and school psychologists is expected to grow 15% from 2018 to 2028.

Overall, doctoral degree programs in school psychology provide comprehensive training in education and psychology through theoretical coursework, practical training, and intensive research.

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