The Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) forecasts that the employment outlook for school psychologists will grow by 12 percent by the year 2022. This is because there is a growing demand for psychologists to address and manage mental health issues that interfere with education, such as bullying, substance abuse and school violence.
According to the American Psychological Association (APA), school psychology is the science and practice of psychology with students of all ages within the education system. School psychologists are trained to diagnose, assess, intervene and prevent common psychological problems among students. They are also trained to promote the positive social, physical and psychological development of students. School psychologists are prepared to individually intervene with students, as well as develop and implement preventive programs. Therefore, they must be equally proficient in the fields of education and psychology.
School psychology services aren’t just limited to public schools and universities. They are also available in private companies, correctional facilities and government social service programs. School psychologists must understand effective instructional processes, school environments and the principles of classroom management. They should be able to apply the principles of learning to help educators with the collective teaching process. They will regularly consult with other professionals regarding social, cognitive and behavioral problems.
Why School Psychology Matters
Due to changes in society, the role of a school psychologist is evolving from being a solitary practitioner to a collaborative team player who works with educators to provide mental health services for students. This is especially true in population-dense school districts that need to maintain a proper ratio of students and school psychologists. As many of the solitary school psychologists of yesteryear approach retirement, there are more openings for school psychologists.
Society is rapidly changing and this can cause stress, conflict and problems at home. Therefore, school psychologists are needed to prevent and manage serious problems that schools are experiencing. School psychology is shifting from an educational focus to a mental health and crisis-intervention focus. This is critical because parents, educators and communities are now much more open about discussing mental health problems in children. Now, school psychologists can preemptively assess and intervene during the early stages of problems in order to give students a better chance in school and in life.
School Psychology Programs
Students who become a school psychologist will generally obtain a bachelor’s degree in psychology and then go on to obtain a master’s degree in school or educational psychology. These problems integrate scientific practices with clinical counseling to create effective interventions and assessments. Thus, students will be trained how to make empirically-based decisions and creatively problem solve. Many programs focus on how to increase student’s social, emotional and cognitive development.
After school psychologists obtain their master’s degrees, they can complete a three-year program that covers courses in both education and psychology. The National Association of School Psychologists (NASP) is the premier accrediting body for school psychologists. In fact, obtaining this prestigious credential gives the student an important competitive edge. NASP requires that students graduate from an accredited program, complete a supervised practicum and successfully finish a 1,200 hour internship through a recognized institution. Bear in mind that all states require independent school psychologists to be licensed.
As parents and communities continue to recognize the need for mental health services for children, the employment outlook for school psychologists will increase.