Pursuing an education in psychology can lead you to many career paths, but which is right for you? If you enjoy working with children, school psychology is a great option. Read on to learn more about the field and why you should consider a career in school psychology.
What Is a School Psychologist?
A school psychologist is a licensed professional who works with students, teachers, and parents to support students’ academic and mental well-being in a school setting. While many mental health professionals work with patients in response to trauma or mental health concerns, school psychologists also perform preventative work. They are experts in mental health and human behavior and development, working with students struggling academically, behaviorally, socially, and emotionally while also addressing mental health concerns before they arise.
Should You Become a School Psychologist?
If you’re considering school psychology as a career path, here are four questions to help determine whether it’s a good fit for you.
What are my career goals?
When selecting any career, it’s important to start by establishing your career goals. What do you hope to accomplish? What type of organization do you envision working with? Do you want a career that provides significant work-life balance, or are you comfortable with high-pressure environments? Knowing what you want out of your career is an excellent place to begin.
How much education do I want to complete?
While other psychology career paths involve a doctoral degree, school psychologists need only a master’s degree and 30 additional credit hours to be eligible for licensure in most states, according to the National Association of School Psychologists. This is the case in Massachusetts, where you’ll need to:
- Earn an undergraduate degree
- Earn a master’s degree from an accredited program
- Obtain an initial license
- Complete an internship or practicum
- Obtain your professional license
- Maintain your certification
Northeastern University offers a Master of Science (MS) and a Certificate of Advanced Graduate Study (CAGS) in School Psychology—a three-year, fully accredited program through the National Association of School Psychologists and the Massachusetts State Department of Education.
Who do I want to work with?
A major focus of school psychology is helping children and adolescents. Approximately 81 percent of school psychologists work in public schools. If you want to work with children, it’s an excellent career path.
However, if you’re looking for a career path in which you only work with children, it might not be for you, as much of school psychology involves collaboration with adults, including:
- Speech and language pathologists
- Occupational therapists
- School administrators
- Physical therapists
- Other service providers
What services do I want to provide?
While every day is different for school psychologists, they typically provide the following services.
Assessments: School psychologists evaluate children’s areas of strength and weakness, determining whether they meet the eligibility requirements for special education and making recommendations for improved functioning.
Counseling: They counsel children individually and in groups to support their mental health and academic success.
Consultation: School psychologists consult with parents, teachers, and other educators to promote better social, emotional, and behavioral success for all students in the building. This consultation may focus on one child needing support or on a whole classroom of students.
Prevention programming: School psychologists help schools implement and evaluate prevention programs. For example, they may help teachers implement social-emotional learning in the classroom. This is a curriculum-based approach for all students in schools to support their ability to solve problems, take alternate perspectives, develop empathy for others who are different, and learn self-management skills.
What Skills Do School Psychologists Need?
When working as a school psychologist, specific skills are necessary to succeed.
Oral and written communication skills are essential when working with students, teachers, and parents. From encouraging students’ academic and emotional success at school and home to identifying problems that exist in school systems, school psychologists need excellent communication skills to be effective.
School psychologists must be able to quickly form relationships with children and adults and sustain relationships with coworkers and children. Daily duties may involve managing conflict and working with people with different interaction styles.
All mental health providers, including school psychologists, must have excellent listening skills. They need to be responsive and communicate that they are listening closely.
As a school psychologist, it’s important to understand how systems work, your role in the system, and how to work with others in said system.
Adaptability is a crucial element of this career. Unanticipated challenges arise regularly, and school psychologists must be able to respond quickly and effectively. School psychologists seldom experience the same day twice since students’ needs differ greatly. While this unpredictability has its challenges, it also means you won’t get bored.
Tolerance for Stress
Although it’s a rewarding job, it can also be stressful helping students struggling with behavior and learning issues, partnering with families, and putting new practices into place. School psychologists need to be able to remain calm in stressful situations and respond effectively in a crisis.
Planning and Organizational Skills
School psychologists manage and keep track of many moving parts. School psychologists have many meetings each day and sometimes divide their time between multiple schools. To be effective, school psychologists must be able to proactively manage people, records, and work and organize their time efficiently.
Making a Difference
School psychology is an important and exciting field that offers an opportunity to profoundly impact the lives of children and adults alike. It’s a challenging but very rewarding career.
School psychologists reap many benefits, including summer holidays, school pensions, and flexible schedules. It’s also an in-demand and growing career as the need for mental health support in schools increases.
If you’re ready to start your journey to becoming a school psychologist, Northeastern University is here to help. Learn more about our Master of Science (MS) and a Certificate of Advanced Graduate Study (CAGS) in School Psychology, speak to our admissions team, and apply today.