What is a School Psychologist?

Do you think you'd enjoy helping children and youth succeed in all aspects of life? A career as a school psychologist may be the career for you!

School psychologists help children and youth succeed academically, socially, and emotionally. They have a wide range of skills that help them address student needs and improve school support systems.

School psychologists offer psychological evaluations and consult with school teachers and principals in regards to the students’ learning, behaviour, and environments. They also provide individual and group interventions, as well as counseling.

What does a School Psychologist do?

School psychologists are motivated by working with children and youth, both individually and in groups. Their initial mandate is to provide counseling; conduct educational and personality assessments; and address behavioral problems and learning disabilities.

Their ultimate goals are to improve academic performance and resolve emotional, personal, and social issues. They may also assist with crisis situations and tackle problems such as alcohol and drug abuse.

A school psychologist evaluating a student.

These psychologists are called upon to take a multi-faceted approach to help students not only succeed in school, but also to help them develop into active and productive members of the community.

The job is a big one, which frequently involves bringing together parents, teachers, and other education professionals to determine strategies and create plans aimed at resolution.

Areas of expertise in the field are:

Preventative and Responsive Services
School psychologists who specialize in this sub-discipline are charged with educating students and their families about the potential hazards and challenges within the school environment.

They also develop educational tools that promote positive learning and social practices and guard against victimization and unhealthy behavior. In addition, they provide psychological services for at-risk students.

Examples of preventative programs:
-Eating disorders
-Bullying and cyberbullying, including text message harassment
-Lack of a sense of belonging at school or among peers

Special Education Assessment
One of the main duties of a school psychologist is assessment. Assessments are conducted with students suspected of having a disability in order to determine eligibility for special services.

A cognitive battery is administered to obtain a level of intellectual functioning, learning potential, and an understanding of the student’s strengths and weaknesses.

Personality assessments obtain data about a student’s emotional and behavioural functioning. A strong part of the assessment is obtaining the teachers’ and parents’ perspectives; this allows the school psychologist to develop a complete picture of the student, his or her abilities, and how interventions can be developed. By using this process, a multidisciplinary team is developed to establish if a disability is interfering with a student’s ability to learn.

Specialists in this area spend the majority of their time performing tests and assessments and analyzing results. Using a range of psychoeducational tools and considering both medical and institutional factors, they evaluate learning disabilities, mental health issues, and special educational needs; and treat them accordingly. These professionals may further focus their specialty in a particular disorder, such as Autism.

Examples of issues requiring assessment and treatment:
-Learning disabilities
-Spectrum disorders, such as Autism and Asperger Syndrome
-Social and behavioral abnormalities

Consultation and Counseling Services
School psychologists also offer consultations to teachers as a way of providing an intervention for a student in a classroom. This is a way for school psychologists and teachers to promote success for students who are struggling or displaying behavioural, emotional, or academic difficulties. Together, the school psychologist and the teacher identify the problem, develop certain goals, create interventions, and hopefully help the student become more successful.

Consultation and counseling are among the most distinctive and crucial services provided by school psychologists. Working alongside teachers, staff, and students’ families, these practitioners offer confidential psychotherapy to students as treatment for a wide range of personal, social, and behavioral issues.

Examples of counseling topics:
-Anxiety
-Low self-esteem
-Depression
-Underdeveloped social skills

Student Intervention
Intervention tactics used by school psychologists are designed to treat even the most advanced psychological needs of at-risk and special education students.

Examples of intervention techniques:
-Behavior contracts: often used as a first step in correcting repetitive bad behavior
-Response to Intervention (RTI) Model: a multi-tier approach
-Discrepancy Model: isolated treatment for individual students

Are you suited to be a school psychologist?

School psychologists have distinct personalities. They tend to be investigative individuals, which means they’re intellectual, introspective, and inquisitive. They are curious, methodical, rational, analytical, and logical. Some of them are also social, meaning they’re kind, generous, cooperative, patient, caring, helpful, empathetic, tactful, and friendly.

Does this sound like you? Take our free career test to find out if school psychologist is one of your top career matches.

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What is the workplace of a School Psychologist like?

The majority of school psychologists work in public schools, however, other workplaces include private school systems, clinics and hospitals, private practice, and universities.

School psychologists are trained to serve all age groups from infancy through college, although they primarily serve school-aged children.

Frequently Asked Questions

Should I become a School Psychologist?

Every step in the process to becoming a school psychologist exemplifies a synergy between education and mental health care.

If you enjoy helping children and youth succeed in all aspects of life — academically, socially, and emotionally — a career as a school psychologist may be the career for you. However, before making the decision to pursue this occupation based solely on the opportunity to help people, it is vital to gain an understanding of the competencies that it demands:

Active Listening / Communication
Capacity to offer undivided attention, understand another person’s point of view, and lead productive discussion

Social Perception / Sensitivity to Privacy Concerns
Awareness of the reactions of others and understanding of why an individual may react in a particular way; attention to the sensitive nature of the responsibilities

Persuasion / Negotiation
A sense of how to change the minds and behaviors of others, resolve differences, and create cohesiveness

Critical Thinking / Complex Problem Solving
Ability to identify problems and use specific information to assess options and execute solutions

Complex Decision Making / Sound Judgement
Capacity to identify and understand the advantages and disadvantages of an action and select the most appropriate action

Time Management
Management of personal time, as well as the time of others

Systems / Data Analysis and Evaluation
Ability to determine how a system should work and implement changes to improve performance

Consider this diverse skill set; then ask yourself if you are ready to:
- Counsel students one-on-one and in groups
- Help set district-wide policies to make schools safer
- Evaluate academic programs to determine if certain teaching methods work
- Help teachers improve classroom management skills
- Help parents improve parenting skills
- Help students with disabilities
- Accept the stress and potential frustration that are often associated with complex issues
- Manage the mental/physical exhaustion that can accompany this intense work

What are School Psychologists like?

Based on our pool of users, school psychologists tend to be predominately social people, who genuinely care about the welfare of the communities in which they work. They call upon a long list of traits and characteristics — especially compassion and patience — to effectively carry out the diverse responsibilities of their role, one which is a delicate mesh of education and mental health care.

How long does it take to become a School Psychologist?

Training for the occupation spans both educational and clinical psychology and prepares students for the career’s wide scope of duties: prevention; early intervention and treatment; assessment and diagnosis; consultation and case management; and advocacy and inter-agency collaboration.

Becoming a school psychologist takes between six and eight years, based on a four to five year course of study for a bachelor’s degree and another two to three years to earn a Master’s Degree in School Psychology.

Many states also require an Educational Specialist (Ed.S.) degree, but some allow prospective school psychologists to obtain a license with a master’s degree. The Ed.S. program combines advanced study of psychology with educational training needed to help foster students’ mental, social, and educational development. Some schools format these programs so that you can earn your master’s and the Ed.S. degree concurrently.

An additional two to five years of study are needed to obtain a doctorate in the field; however this is generally only required for positions in research and academia.

Are School Psychologists happy?

School psychologists rank as moderately happy among careers. Overall they rank in the 60th percentile of careers for satisfaction scores. Please note that this number is derived from the data we have collected from our Sokanu members only.

Here’s how the profession rates based on three job satisfaction metrics:

Upward Mobility / Opportunities and advancement
Rating: Average

Stress Level / Complexities of the job’s responsibilities and work environment
Rating: Above Average

Flexibility / Alternative working schedule and work/life balance
Rating: Average

School Psychologists are also known as:
Educational Psychologist Early Intervention School Psychologist Consulting School Psychologist