After earning a master's degree in psychology, a doctoral program is undertaken by many students looking to pursue careers as school psychologists. Although there are online course options for some master's and doctoral programs, residency and internship components must be conducted in person.
To become a psychology student, prerequisites typically include a resume, writing sample, and interview. Master's programs often also require GRE scores and a bachelor's degree, whereas doctoral programs may necessitate a letter of recommendation and a bachelor's degree in a related field. A thesis and internship are also required at the master's level, while a residency and dissertation must be completed to obtain a Ph.D.
Master of Arts in School Psychology
A master's degree program in school psychology generally takes two to three years to complete and includes an internship with a local school. Students in a school psychology master's degree program receive core training in psychology research methodology, the theoretical foundations of school psychology, and intervention techniques for school-age children. Many schools and universities do not require that applicants have an undergraduate degree specifically in psychology. Some possible course topics include:
- Psychologists and ethics
- Research design in psychology
- Behavioral neuroscience
- Statistical methods
Doctor of Philosophy in School Psychology
Research-based doctoral programs in school psychology help students learn to plan and implement an intervention, assess children's behavior patterns and social development, and interact with key school personnel and parents to provide different perspectives on a child's progress. Depending on the doctoral program, a student may also have an opportunity to gain some field experience with a local school. Many colleges and universities require that applicants have at least an undergraduate or graduate degree in psychology. Some possible topics and courses include:
- Statistics and psychology
- Psychological assessment
- Biological components of behavior
- Cognitive components of behavior
Popular Career Options
A doctoral program prepares graduates to work with children in a variety of settings. Those settings are primarily elementary and secondary schools, but also include offices of healthcare practitioners.
Employment Outlook and Salary Information
According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (www.bls.org), the estimated job growth of counseling, clinical and school psychologists is 20% for the years 2014 through 2024. The annual median salary of a school psychologist, also reported by the BLS, was $70,580 in 2015.
Continuing Education Information
Certification is required before applying for work as a school psychologist, and it's administered by the National Association of School Psychologists (NASP). The NASP certification is recognized by 31 states. To earn the certification, an applicant must successfully pass an exam, have at least 600 hours of work experience as a school psychologist, and complete 60 hours in school psychology at the graduate level.
A Ph.D. and NASP certification are required to pursue a career in school psychology and are often preceded by a 2- to 3-year master's program. These programs will impart skills for assessing and helping elementary and secondary school children, as well as allowing you to gain valuable internship and residency experience.