Mental health has become an important topic of conversation in both the workforce and education. Mental and behavioral health professionals are needed now more than ever, especially since the emergence of the COVID-19 pandemic.
In fact, according to a survey conducted by Lurie Children’s Hospital of Chicago, 71 percent of parents point to the pandemic as a catalyst for their child’s weakening mental health. This trend is projected to continue as these children complete their education in the coming decades.
The field of school psychology addresses these challenges and focuses on students’ personal and educational success. Ranked fifth in the U.S. World News’ Best Social Services Jobs Report, school psychology is an ideal and incredibly rewarding career path for those who want to make a difference in the lives of young people daily.
Not all mental health professionals are equipped for the specific needs that school psychology fulfills. Therefore, it’s important to understand what a school psychologist does, the benefits of the role, and skill requirements to keep in mind if you’re considering pursuing this career.
What is a School Psychologist?
A school psychologist works with students, teachers, and parents to support the academic and mental well-being of their school’s student body. They are experts in mental health, as well as human behavior and development, who help students improve academic performance, boost social skills, and resolve behavioral issues that stem from declining emotional and mental health.
Unlike school counselors, whose duties include individual counseling sessions and generalized academic advising, school psychologists work closely with both students and teachers facing specific mental health and academic success issues. Their involvement in developing strategies to aid both children and adults in those students’ lives is particular to the school psychology field.
For school psychologists, no two days are alike, but you can expect to perform some of the following activities:
- Psychological evaluations
- Teach social and behavioral skills
- Act as a liaison to the school community
- Train staff in comprehension and response to behavioral issues in the classroom
To become a certified school psychologist, you’ll need to earn a graduate degree and licensure to practice in the state you wish to work. While these requirements may be discouraging to some, there are several reasons why this is a rewarding investment.
7 Benefits of a Career in School Psychology
While becoming a school psychologist can be difficult, there are many benefits to pursuing a career in this industry.
1. Earning a Good Salary
Like many careers, there’s a wide range of salaries depending on both the state and region you work in. The good news is that starting salaries for most school psychologist positions tend to be much higher than other mental health roles. According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, you can expect an average salary of approximately $79,820 annually.
2. Increasing Job Growth
Mental health has become an important discussion point within society, especially in schools. Thanks to an increased awareness of mental health and a growing national shortage of behavioral support in schools, the demand for school psychologists is higher than ever.
Because of this, many prospective graduates can expect to be hired almost immediately after graduation. Even more reassuring is the expected job growth in coming years, which is expected to increase by 10 percent in the next decade.
3. Convenient Schedule Flexibility
Because school psychologists work closely with students, your work calendar will likely follow the schedule of the school at which you work. So beyond additional meetings, assessments, and counseling sessions, your day will likely conclude around 3-4 pm.
4. Enjoying Summer Breaks/Holidays
Perhaps one of the best perks to working in education is that you’ll get to enjoy holiday breaks and summers without taking vacation time. This is more time off than most other careers can offer.
If you’re a parent, this is ideal since your time off should align with your children’s school breaks. There may be some exceptions depending on additional meetings or school prep, but you’ll often have the ability to adapt your work schedule accordingly.
5. Making a Positive Impact
Being a school psychologist is no easy feat, but the positive impact you can have on students’ lives is incredibly fulfilling. You’ll work closely with students, parents, and teachers to drastically improve young people’s mental health in education and witness the positive results first-hand.
6. Working on a Team
As a school psychologist, you won’t work alone. You’ll get to work directly with the student body while also collaborating with teachers and school counselors in order to properly support the community and ensure students reach their full potential.
7. Building Relationships with Kids and Their Families
The relationships you build with students and their families are often life-changing and could potentially last a lifetime as your students grow and develop. Young people look up to their teachers and support staff as mentors throughout their education, so it’s no surprise that these relationships can continue for decades.
In some cases, you may even have the opportunity to work with younger siblings of past students years later. Not all career paths empower you to build meaningful bonds within the community you serve, but school psychologists often reap the benefits of their hard work in this regard.
Things to Consider If You Want to Be a School Psychologist
While working in school psychology can be extremely rewarding, there are certain characteristics of this field to keep in mind as you decide whether it’s the right career path for you. Ask yourself the following questions to see if you have the right skills to become a school psychologist.
1. Are you professionally flexible?
Adaptability is a crucial element of this career. School psychologists almost never experience the same day twice since students’ needs often differ daily. This unpredictability has its challenges, but it also means you won’t get bored.
2. Do you like working on a team?
One of the perks of a career in school psychology is its collaborative nature. You’ll have the chance to work with teachers, students, administrators, and parents alike to best support students. Successful members of any team need excellent listening skills, the ability to communicate with others effectively, and a natural tendency to collaborate with others. If you hope to succeed in school psychology, you’ll need to be a team player.
3. Do you have strong planning and organizational skills?
From student progress reports, intervention plans, workshops, emergency counseling sessions, and more, school psychologists must keep track of considerable people, records, and work. Staying organized and being proactive is essential to a school psychologist’s day-to-day responsibilities. This skill set will enable you to respond quickly and efficiently to your school’s constantly evolving needs.
4. Can you be fully committed to your students?
Like all professionals working in education, school psychologists must be committed to the well-being of their students. This is done by providing proper attention and care to those who need assistance thriving in their academic environment.
The Right Career Path For You
Working as a school psychologist is a great career choice, but you’ll need strong organizational, collaborative, and leadership skills to succeed and stand out among the competition. If these closely align with your skillset and professional interests, perhaps school psychology is the right path for you.
Those who choose school psychology can earn a comfortable salary and benefits, have significant career growth, and, ultimately, make a true impact on their community and the people they serve.
Ready to start your journey to become a school psychologist? Check out Northeastern University’s MS/CAGS in School Psychology and start making an impact in your community.