Doctorate in School Psychology

By Staff Writers

Published on August 9, 2021

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School psychologists focus on analyzing and understanding behavioral and learning issues within academic settings. Learners pursuing a Ph.D. in school psychology prepare to work directly with students, often individually. Graduates may work with elementary school, middle school, or high school students.

School psychologists deliver assessments to determine whether students qualify for special services. These professionals also coordinate with teachers and administrators to ensure students receive appropriate and continuous guidance.

The Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) reports that psychologists earn a median salary of $82,180 per year, which is much higher than the median salary of $41,950 for all occupations. Graduates with a Ph.D. in school psychology enter a high-paying field with ample opportunities for professional and personal growth. is an advertising-supported site. Featured or trusted partner programs and all school search, finder, or match results are for schools that compensate us. This compensation does not influence our school rankings, resource guides, or other editorially-independent information published on this site.

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Frequently Asked Questions About School Psychology

Q. What can you do with a school psychology degree?

Many school psychologists work in public schools. However, a Ph.D. in school psychology also qualifies degree-holders for roles as professors, researchers, and school district administrators.

Q. Are school psychologists in demand?

The BLS projects employment for psychologists to increase 3% from 2019-2029, which is about as fast as the average for all occupations.

Q. What do you study in school psychology?

Students earning a Ph.D. in school psychology typically complete coursework in psychopathology, statistical methods and design, measurement psychometrics, and biological and cognitive aspects of behavior.

Why Get a Degree in School Psychology?

Most school psychologists work in public schools at the elementary, middle, or high school level. However, a Ph.D. in school psychology can also lead to careers in other workplace settings. For example, graduates can work in outpatient care centers, agencies offering individual and family services, and childcare facilities. Some school psychologists pursue careers in private practice.

Several colleges and universities offer school psychology degrees online and on campus. Many online programs follow accelerated schedules and offer asynchronous courses, which can greatly benefit students who work full time or have personal responsibilities.

How Much Does a School Psychology Degree Cost?

According to the National Center for Education Statistics, graduate students at in-state public institutions paid an average of $12,171 in tuition and fees for the 2018-2019 academic year. The cost of tuition and fees at private schools averaged $27,776 for the same academic year. Although costs vary by school, individuals pursuing a Ph.D. in school psychology may pay comparable amounts.

Colleges and universities often support Ph.D. candidates through fellowship and grant programs, many of which include teaching and/or research responsibilities. Fellowships and grants can significantly lower the cost of a doctoral degree. Some of these programs even provide annual living stipends and tuition waivers. Individuals searching for the most affordable Ph.D. in school psychology programs should inquire about fellowship and grant opportunities at prospective schools.

Additional Online Student Fees for School Psychology

Some online programs include onsite components, which can impact the overall cost of earning a degree. Online students may need to visit campus to attend an orientation, take comprehensive exams, and defend their dissertation. Students who reside far from their school should budget for the cost of travel and accommodations.

Some schools also require online enrollees to pay per-credit or per-semester technology fees. Learners should research fees at each prospective institution before enrolling.

How Much Do School Psychology Majors Make?

According to BLS data, elementary and secondary schools hire the greatest number of clinical, counseling, and school psychologists (44,970). However, outpatient care centers pay the highest average salary ($109,100). Clinical, counseling, and school psychologists working in day care centers and home healthcare agencies earn the second- and third-highest average salaries, at $105,670 and $103,520, respectively.

A psychologist's geographic location also influences their earning potential. The top-paying states for clinical, counseling, and school psychologists include California, Hawaii, Louisiana, and Oregon. Psychologists in these states all earn average salaries above $100,000 per year.

As a terminal degree, a Ph.D. in school psychology qualifies holders for postsecondary teaching positions. These educators earn a median salary of $80,790 per year. The top-paying states for postsecondary teachers include New York, California, and Oregon.

Courses in School Psychology

Institutions often allow doctoral candidates to design individual study plans. Students work closely with academic advisors to choose courses that support their academic and professional objectives. Most programs feature foundational and specialized coursework.

A Ph.D. in school psychology typically requires about 90 credits, along with a practicum experience and a dissertation. Most learners also complete a supervised postdoctoral internship. Courses vary by program, but individuals earning a school psychology degree online often take the following classes.

Behavioral and Personality Assessment of Children and Adolescents

Students in this course learn how to administer, score, and interpret various personality and behavioral assessments. Topics include standardized rating tests and teacher, parent, and child interviews. Degree-seekers gain skills necessary to plan interventions and identify emotional handicaps in educational environments.

Diagnosis and Treatment in Counseling

The course covers the criteria used to identify various mental disorders. Students explore the dynamics of psychopathology in counseling environments, along with the role of psychopharmacology in the treatment process. Degree-seekers master using the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders as a diagnostic framework.

Student Service Personnel in Public Schools

Students in this class explore the importance of preventive mental health programs in public schools. Coursework defines the responsibilities of school psychologists and covers topics such as legal guidelines and standard psychological services. Learners also examine common challenges that psychologists face in multicultural, urban educational environments.

Certifications and Licensure for School Psychology

In addition to a state license, school psychologists can pursue professional certifications to demonstrate advanced training and knowledge in a specialized area. These voluntary credentials can help professionals attain increased responsibilities, leadership positions, and higher salaries.

The American Board of School Psychology administers this credential to professionals with a doctoral degree in school psychology. Candidates must also have completed a one-year, full-time supervised internship comprising at least 1,500 hours. Applicants submit documents supporting an advanced level of postdoctoral practice. School psychologists can pursue this credential from the National Board for Certified Counselors to demonstrate counseling skills. Doctoral degree-holders in a non-counseling field must submit transcripts and records of their postdoctoral internship and work experience. Candidates must also pass the National Clinical Mental Health Counseling Examination or the National Counselor Examination. The National Association of School Psychologists offers this certification to applicants with at least 60 graduate credits from a school psychology program and at least 1,200 internship hours. Applicants must have earned at least a 147 on the Praxis School Psychologist Exam.

How to Become a School Psychologist

Psychologists must hold a state license to practice. Specific licensure requirements vary between states but typically include a doctoral degree in counseling, psychology, or a related field.

Licensure candidates must also have completed the number of postdoctoral client contact hours mandated by their state. Psychology licenses are typically valid for up to five years and renewable every three years thereafter. To qualify for renewal, professionals must usually complete a certain number of continuing education credits and maintain a clean and unencumbered license.

Doctorate in School Psychology 2021

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