Master’s in school psychology program guide

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Introduction to school psychology

A master’s in school psychology is a degree that focuses on teaching you how to support children in an educational setting. School psychologists work at several levels, including informing and evaluating the system and advising individuals.

A master’s degree in school psychology could help you to implement positive learning environments, promote equal access to education, and address health issues. School psychologists are best placed to address behavioral, emotional, social, and cognitive problems in students.

If you’re interested in guiding and developing young children through to adolescents you might enjoy studying school psychology. The degree typically gives you the expertise to assist children with their social and academic performance. It can lead to a very rewarding career, finding solutions for students and helping them to achieve their goals.

As well as the rewards of helping others, you could be stepping into a role where you’re in demand. One in 5 young people are affected by mental health problems but 2 out of 3 of those who need treatment can’t access it. The National Association of School Psychologists (NASP) indicates that there’s a shortage of school psychologists. With more graduates choosing this specialization, the situation could improve.

How to get a master’s in school psychology

There are many opportunities to earn a master’s degree in school psychology online. Universities can teach the whole course digitally, as there isn’t usually an internship or practicum involved. This online option might suit you if you want to study while working. It’s also a suitable choice for students who need a flexible learning approach due to family commitments.

If you prefer some in-person contact with your professors, you could consider a hybrid or campus-based program. These degrees are widely available from schools across the U.S. You’ll need to either live on campus or be prepared to commute for these programs.

School psychology courses

You can complete most master’s degrees in school psychology or educational psychology in 1 or 2 years. The majority of these programs require somewhere between 30 to 40 credits. If you choose a flexible or part-time option, you could study for up to 3 or 4 years.

You can expect to take foundation courses in educational psychology, human development, and adolescence. Generally, master’s degree programs will also cover sociology and educational research. These courses will teach you about cognition, motivation, and how to cater to different learning needs.

You might also have the opportunity to choose between a range of courses that focus on emotional, cognitive, and social aspects. These could include counseling children, theories of intelligence, gender and education, and helping children in poverty. Courses of this nature are designed to equip you with intervention, assessment, and consultation knowledge and skills.

Most master’s degrees in school psychology don’t include fieldwork or an internship. However, you might need to complete a project or a thesis as part of your assessment. That could involve research and a presentation of your findings. Combined with the courses, this assessment helps prepare you to progress your specialization in school psychology.

Program concentrations

School or education psychology is a specific program concentration within the psychology department. Usually, this program has specific content with a few electives that allow you to pursue your interests in the social, emotional, or cognitive elements. It is likely that you will cover all of these aspects to some extent.

Some schools might offer a more research-focused concentration, which could lead to a school psychologist position as a researcher. Those programs will likely include courses on statistics, design, strategies, measurement, and data analysis.

Application requirements

A typical requirement for a master’s degree in school psychology is a bachelor’s degree. Some universities require you to have a bachelor’s degree in psychology, or at least to have taken foundational courses in this subject. You’ll need to submit your transcript as part of your application.

Most schools require prospective students to have a grade point average (GPA) of 2.75 or 3.0. As well as submitting your transcripts, you might need to provide test scores, such as those from the Graduate Record Examination (GRE). Your application will likely include a personal essay or statement of your professional goals and 2 letters of recommendation that refer to your academic and professional commitment.

Accreditation

Accreditation is a process carried out by an independent body. It evaluates course content, financial stability and student services of the school. This evaluation is often carried out through peer review. Most certifying bodies specialize in subject areas, such as psychology.

Finding a program at an accredited university could benefit you in several ways. One is that you’ll feel more assured that the course content will be of high quality. Secondly, earning a degree from a certified school could improve your chances of securing a place at another university if you continue to study. Finally, future employers will likely consider it when looking for suitable candidates.

You can see if your university is accredited by checking your program information or the school homepage. There are several accreditation boards for psychology degrees, or you might see a regional one like the Middle States Commission on Higher Education. You can look for the body’s initials, for example, the National Association of School Psychologists (NASP), the Council for Accreditation of Educator Preparation (CAEP).

Further education opportunities

Many graduates of master’s degree programs in school psychology go on to complete a doctor of philosophy (Ph.D.) or an education specialist degree (Ed.S.). Ph.D. programs tend to focus more on research or clinical practice, as it is the level most practitioner roles require. You could also choose a psychology doctorate (Psy.D.), which also has a clinical focus.

Many Ed.S. programs follow on from a master’s degree in school psychology, which means you can apply for the whole program at once. They usually take an extra 2 or 3 years on top of the master’s degree. Typically, in the first year, you’ll study advanced educational concepts, including developmental psychopathology and the ethics and legal aspects of school counseling.

Additional to the theoretical aspects, the first year usually includes a year-long practicum. During the third and final year, students complete a full-time internship in an educational setting. This fieldwork prepares students to enter the workplace as school counselors and often provides the required practice hours that are necessary for licensure.

Career options

There are several roles that you could be eligible for with a master’s in school psychology. Many school psychologist roles require a doctorate, so you might need to continue your education before starting your career in that job. The average annual salary for a school psychologist is $62,375.

Other possible career options include:

Working in a university setting instead of a school, you support students with their mental health as well as advise on careers. The average annual salary is $47,953.

At local, state, or federal level, you could analyze data and contribute to educational policy. The average annual salary is $59,170.

In this role you might deal with admissions, offer student services, or take care of assessments and learning support. The average salary is $39,812.

School psychology certificate opportunities

Certificates in school psychology typically come from psychology departments. You might find a Master of Science (M.S.) in Educational Psychology, a Master of Education (M.Ed.) in School Psychology, or a Master of Arts (M.A.) in Educational Psychology. Although much of the program content will be similar, it’s worth looking at the elective courses and program requirements to see which would suit you best.

School psychology licensing

Most states require school psychologists to obtain a license or credentials before they can practice. It can vary by state and might depend on the state education agency (SEA). That might mean demonstrating a minimum number of supervised hours, showing a commitment to continuing education, or showing you meet the education requirements with a degree from an accredited school.

Degree costs

Tuition for school psychology degrees can range from just over $6,000 to around $13,000 for in-state tuition, and $12,000 to $35,000 for out of state tuition. Online master’s degree programs often have similar fees, although they might charge per credit hour, which can range from $500 to $650. You’ll likely need to pay some additional fees for your application and registration.

Grants and financial aid

You might be eligible for federal aid to help you with the cost of your studies. Filling out the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) can help determine whether you qualify. Alternatively, there are several grants and scholarship programs that award funds to those aiming to become school psychologists.

One example is the Minority Scholarship Program from NASP, which has annual scholarships of $5,000. The Children’s Fund of School Psychology (CFSP) gives out grants to graduate students, although you do need to be a member to qualify.

National Association of School Psychologists (NASP)
This accreditation council for universities with school psychology programs also provides information about state certification.

Council for Accreditation of Educator Preparation (CAEP)
This is the website for an accreditation council that focuses on schools with programs that relate to education.

American Psychological Association (APA)
This organization supports psychologists in all professions. It has a dedicated section for education and school psychologists.