PhD in School Psychology

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Who Gets One & What to Expect

Earning a Ph.D. in school psychology online qualifies graduates to pursue careers as school psychologists, deans, and university professors. These positions typically have above-average salaries. While a master’s degree qualifies graduates to enter the field of psychology, advancement opportunities may be limited for professionals without a doctoral degree.

Ph.D. candidates should be passionate about research and leadership. Doctoral programs require significant financial and time investments, so prospective students should make sure that a Ph.D. will benefit their career goals. This guide provides information about opportunities available to professionals who have earned a Ph.D. in school psychology online.

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Reasons to Pursue an Online Ph.D. in School Psychology

Earning a Ph.D. in school psychology online can lead to advanced career opportunities with higher earning potential. While earning a Ph.D., students often conduct research, earn credentials, and focus on a specific area within the psychology field. Below are a few common reasons to pursue a Ph.D. in school psychology.

Research Opportunities

Professionals with a doctorate in psychology often lead research projects. This work allows individuals to advance the field and create positive changes related to treatment and instructional procedures.

Career Advancement Opportunities

A Ph.D. may qualify professionals for advanced positions such as practitioner, administrator, and university professor. These career paths offer high earning potential and involve the management of teams.

Credentials

In addition to a degree, many psychology positions require credentials such as certification. Many Ph.D. programs prepare students to take certification exams.

In-Depth Knowledge

Ph.D. in school psychology programs typically include advanced courses in areas such as research, assessment, and childhood development. Learners gain comprehensive knowledge that they can use to advance professionally and better understand industry trends.

Field Experiences

Most Ph.D. programs require a field experience, such as an internship or practicum. During the field experience, learners apply classroom knowledge to workplace situations and often explore various career opportunities.

What Can I Do With an Online Doctorate in School Psychology?

Earning an online doctorate in school psychology can lead to advanced career opportunities. While many psychology careers do not require a doctoral degree, positions that require a doctorate typically offer higher salaries. The following sections highlight common career options for graduates who have earned a Ph.D. in school psychology online.

Common Career Paths and Salaries

Graduates of school psychology doctoral programs can qualify for various occupations. Some positions may require additional credentials, such as licensure or certification. The following table details a few common career paths for professionals with a doctorate in the field.


  • Postsecondary Teacher



    Postsecondary teachers develop instructional plans, grade tests and assignments, and advise students. These teachers can work in public and private universities, professional schools, and community colleges.

    Median Annual Salary: $78,470


  • School Psychologist



    School psychologists identify learning and behavioral issues in students. They may work with school administrators to develop testing protocols and instructional best practices. These professionals can work as consultants or as part of a school district’s staff.

    Median Annual Salary: $79,010


  • Academic Dean



    Academic deans develop academic policies, make faculty decisions, and manage school budgets. Deans typically work year-round in the university office, but they may work reduced hours during the summer.

    Median Annual Salary: $94,340


  • Psychometrician



    Psychometricians measure psychological attributes by designing, administering, and reviewing tests. These professionals may help schools develop curricula using student testing. They may also work with researchers to develop new theories.

    Median Annual Salary: $82,118


  • Instructional Coordinator



    Instructional coordinators create lesson plans, observe students, prepare students for testing, and communicate findings to parents and school administrators. These professionals typically need a master’s degree. However, a Ph.D. can lead to career advancement and higher earning potential.

    Median Annual Salary: $64,450


Source: BLS and PayScale

School Psychology Ph.D. Program Requirements and Outcomes

The graduation requirements for a school psychology Ph.D. vary by school and specialty. Most students earn their Ph.D. in school psychology online in 5-6 years, and programs typically require about 90 credits. Degree completion time depends on the student’s course load. Most doctoral programs require an internship, practicum, research project, or dissertation. Online students may need to complete some program requirements on campus.

Most doctoral programs require applicants to submit GRE scores, transcripts from previous college coursework, and an application. Some schools require applicants to have a minimum cumulative GPA, such as a 3.0, and may require a resume, a personal statement, and letters of reference. Prospective students should research admission requirements before applying.

Common Courses

Students earning a Ph.D. in school psychology online complete advanced coursework in the field. Curricula help learners develop a comprehensive understanding of psychology and student behavior. Ph.D. programs prepare learners for leadership positions and roles training future school psychologists. Required courses vary by focus area, but the classes below are common to many doctoral programs in the field.

RESEARCH DESIGN AND METHODS

This course provides a comprehensive overview of qualitative and quantitative research techniques. Students use course concepts to design research experiments that meet industry standards. Coursework typically uses research cases to challenge students to analyze a problem and propose alternative solutions.

CHILD AND ADOLESCENT PSYCHOPATHOLOGY

Students explore major categories of behavior disorders, focusing on assessment, etiology, and evidence-based intervention. The course emphasizes the importance of early detection and accurate diagnosing, and learners prepare to assist patients as they move through the education system. In addition to classroom hours, this course may include field experiences, during which learners apply course concepts to practical situations.

LEGAL AND ETHICAL ISSUES

This course introduces students to industry-standard ethical guidelines. Learners explore concepts through role playing, lectures, and case studies. Students consider various workplace situations through the lens of ethical guidelines, and they develop techniques to minimize and avoid ethical problems.

ACADEMIC ASSESSMENT AND INTERVENTION

Learners examine current assessment methods and receive training evidence-based intervention and response-to-intervention procedures. The course helps students learn to assess academic performance and compile data to choose an intervention plan. Students also develop decision-making skills and explore monitoring tactics.

CHILD AND ADOLESCENT DEVELOPMENT

This course focuses on developmental processes from infancy through adolescence. The curriculum prepares students to design, evaluate, and monitor educational interventions. Learners train to assist individuals dealing with mental health issues or learning disabilities. Students gain the skills necessary to work with parents and district officials while making curriculum changes.

Other Requirements

While program requirements vary, Ph.D. students must often complete a research project, a practicum, or an internship. Students pursuing a Ph.D. in school psychology online should carefully research prospective programs to identify all graduation requirements.

Programs that require a practicum or internship often connect distance learners with clinics and schools in their area. However, some programs require online students to find internship locations independently.

Directed Research

Directed research typically involves the completion of a faculty-guided research project that lasts the duration of the Ph.D. program. Some programs allow students to choose their topic, while others provide the topic. This requirement helps learners develop research skills and allows students to publish their findings. Research typically culminates in a dissertation that students present and defend in front of peers and academic advisors.

Practicum

A practicum comprises a set number of work hours, typically at least a few hours per week. Students select a faculty-approved setting, such as a classroom or clinic.

Internship

Internships typically involve full-time work in a faculty-approved location. Internships often span a full academic term and may or may not be paid. Exact requirements vary by program.

Skills and Competencies

Effective school psychologists possess a variety of skills and competencies. This section explores skills learners develop while earning a Ph.D. in school psychology online.

  • IconInterpersonal SkillsSchool psychologists work with students, teachers, parents, and school officials. These professionals need the ability to listen and adjust their behavior to communicate with people.
  • IconObservational SkillsA key aspect of a psychologist’s job is observing people to identify issues and develop plans to address them. Psychologists must understand how to analyze a person’s body language, actions, and interactions.
  • IconPatienceWorking with students with mental health or behavioral issues can be challenging. School psychologists must be patient so that students feel safe and comfortable.
  • IconProblem-Solving SkillsTo develop effective instructional plans and assessment techniques, psychologists must possess the ability to collect and interpret data. Problem-solving skills help psychologists identify and address issues related to students and teaching methods.
  • IconWriting SkillsSchool psychologists often write proposals, develop treatment plans, and research findings. The ability to write clearly and concisely is vital to effective communication.
  • IconSpeaking SkillsPsychologists need strong verbal skills to communicate with students, parents, and school officials. School psychologists may also need to deliver presentations and lectures.

School Psychology Professional Organizations

Professional organizations often provide networking opportunities and access to research, certification, and continuing education. Each organization offers unique resources, so students and professionals should research the costs and benefits of joining each association.

You may consider which community the organization serves, which continuing education opportunities and conferences it offers, and whether it focuses on a specific area of the field. Many organizations also deliver webinars that help members develop industry skills and knowledge without incurring travel expenses.

Members of professional organizations can reach out to other members to create local study groups. Connecting with peers can help you develop a professional network and advance your career. The following organizations serve professionals in the field of school psychology.

American Psychological Association

  • This organization provides resources related to a variety of psychology fields, including school psychology. Members can access courses, links to industry resources, and publications. The APA website provides career resources and information about certification.

American School Counselor Association

  • This organization supports school counselors nationwide and helps professionals stay informed and certified. ASCA offers webinars, continuing education courses, and access to free and discounted industry publications.

Association for Counselor Education and Supervision

  • ACES works to advance counselor education and improve access to counseling. Members receive a quarterly journal detailing the latest in industry research and can access interest networks to collaborate with peers. ACES hosts a conference that includes lectures and networking opportunities.

Association of Educational Therapists

  • This organization offers leadership, certification, and training for school psychology professionals. AET hosts a national conference, along with workshops and webinars. Members can network and collaborate through local study groups.

National Association of School Psychologists

  • NASP provides access to online learning, online and print industry publications, and certification information. The association hosts summer conferences and an annual convention, providing opportunities for members to network and learn about industry trends.

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