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Master’s in School Psychology Online Programs

What Does a School Psychologist Do?

School psychologists use their understanding of psychological principles to help support student learning. Parents and educators often turn to these psychologists to help address educational and developmental disorders or behavioral issues. School psychologists design and oversee student performance plans and offer counseling to students and their families. They often work closely with other educators and school-based professionals to improve teaching and administrative outcomes.

Most school psychologists work in K-12 educational settings, though some work for private companies or mental health agencies. Others work independently, consulting for a variety of school districts and educational organizations on specific student cases or larger projects. No matter where they work, school psychologists need a strong foundation in psychological theory, specialized knowledge in child development, and exceptional interpersonal skills. Most jobs require a master’s in school psychology or a related field.

The Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) projects that employment for school psychologists will grow by 14% between 2018 and 2028, significantly higher than the average growth rate for all occupations. An online degree in school psychology offers a flexible and affordable path to professional opportunities in this field.

Featured Online Programs

Figuring out where to apply? These top, accredited schools offer a variety of online degrees. Consider one of these accredited programs, and discover their value today.

Frequently Asked Questions About School Psychology

  • Where do school psychologists work?

    Most school psychologists work in K-12 public schools, although others may serve in private schools, early childhood centers, preschools, colleges and universities, juvenile programs, mental health facilities, and community-based treatment centers. At times, they may conduct home visits to work with children and their families in a more personalized setting.

  • What education is required to be a school psychologist?

    To secure a license to practice and work with students in nearly all school settings, educational psychologists must obtain at least a master’s degree from a regionally accredited college or university. Although they do not need a doctorate, some professionals pursue one to advance in their careers.

  • What is the job market for school psychologists?

    According to the BLS, just over 110,000 school psychologists currently practice in the United States. These professionals earn a mean annual wage of $85,340. The top-paying states for this occupation include California, Oregon, New Jersey, and Hawaii. The BLS projects 14% job growth in the psychology field between 2018 and 2028.

  • Does a school psychology program need to be NASP-approved?

    The National Association of School Psychologists (NASP) maintains rigorous standards for approving school psychology master’s programs. The nation’s best programs maintain this designation. However, individuals may seek a degree from a program not NASP approved and still receive a license to practice in their state.

  • What's the difference between a school psychologist and a school counselor?

    While school counselors work with general student populations, school psychologists typically work more with special education students and those dealing with mental or emotional challenges. School psychologists also often focus on students most at risk of struggling with poor academic performance, substance abuse, and behavioral issues.

Can You Get a Degree in School Psychology Online?

Prospective students can pursue their degree through a variety of online school psychology programs. The educational experience in these programs is similar to on-campus programs. Online courses cover the foundations of psychology along with topics within the concentration of school psychology.

Most programs require students earning a master’s in school psychology to complete a clinical experience, often referred to as an internship or practicum. While the nature of these experiences vary by program, many require approximately 600 hours of field experience. Online students may face some additional challenges in arranging their clinical experiences, especially if they live in an area with few organizations that can act as internship or practicum sites. Faculty members and program administrators can provide support in matching students with nearby organizations that offer clinical experience opportunities.

For students with the discipline and motivation to direct their own studies, an online program may best suit their needs.

While the clinical component of a school psychology degree may be more difficult for online students, the format offers many benefits. In programs that feature asynchronous courses, students can review content and complete assignments on their own schedules. Online students can earn their degree without commuting to campus, allowing them to maintain work and family obligations. Additionally, online programs often cost less than on-campus degrees, as students do not need to pay for room, board, or fees associated with campus activities and resources. For students with the discipline and motivation to direct their own studies, an online program may best suit their needs.

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Are Practicums and Internships Required in an Online School Psychology Program?

School psychology programs feature four levels. The first is a bachelor’s degree, which provides students with a foundation in psychological theories and typically does not require clinical experience. School psychology master’s programs require applicants to hold a bachelor’s in psychology or a related field.

The second level is a master’s in school psychology. This program requires students to complete roughly 36 credits, but usually does not involve a clinical experience like an internship or practicum. While licensure requirements vary by state, these programs do not necessarily prepare students to earn a state license in school psychology.

The third level is a specialist degree in school psychology, which prepares students to earn licensure in any state. Learners take the same kind of coursework as in master’s programs, but must also complete a clinical experience. NASP also recommends a year-long internship that includes at least 1,200 hours of supervised practice, with 600 hours in a school or educational setting.

The fourth level is doctoral study, with students earning a doctor of philosophy (Ph.D.), doctor of psychology (Psy.D.), or doctor of education (Ed.D.) degree. These programs often require additional coursework and extended clinical experiences. While a specialist-level master’s degree is usually enough to earn licensure, a doctorate may help students interested in pursuing work in private practice or academia.

Before choosing a degree, students should research the level of education and clinical experience their state requires for licensure as a school psychologist.

How to Become a School Psychologist

To apply to school psychology master’s programs, students must complete a bachelor’s degree in psychology or a related field. After completing their undergraduate studies, learners can pursue a master’s degree or a specialist-level master’s degree.

A master’s degree usually takes about two years to complete. A specialist-level degree requires an extra year of clinical experience, bringing the total program length to three years. This level of education is the minimum requirement to earn licensure and practice as a school psychologist. Finally, a doctoral degree usually takes 5-6 years to earn.

Program costs vary due to many factors, including location and duration. Students pursuing their degrees online may be eligible for in-state tuition or accelerated options that can help reduce the overall cost of their education.

Online Bachelor’s Degree in School Psychology

A bachelor’s degree alone does not qualify professionals to work as a school psychologist. However, a bachelor’s is required to enter almost all master’s or doctoral programs in school psychology. Undergraduate programs in school psychology are rare. Most students earn their bachelor’s degree in the broader psychology field before choosing a specialization in a graduate program.

In addition to general education courses, undergraduate programs help students develop fundamental knowledge in psychological theory and practice. Some programs also offer specialized classes that prepare students for graduate studies in school psychology. See below for five common courses in bachelor’s psychology programs.

Example Courses

  • Introduction to Psychology

    This course provides an overview of the principles, concepts, and methods within psychology. Through an exploration of cognitive processes, perception, motivation, learning, measurement, development, personality, and the biological and social bases of behavior, students gain a general understanding of their chosen field of study.

  • Theories of Personality

    This class introduces students to the prominent theorists and theories of personality. Degree-seekers explore psychoanalytic, neopsychoanalytic, trait, behaviorist, humanistic, biological, and social-cognitive approaches to this discipline, as well as their proponents and applications.

  • Cognitive Psychology

    Cognitive psychology is the scientific study of mental processes. Students learn how people acquire, store, use, and communicate information. This course lays the foundation for a deeper understanding of reasoning, decision-making, problem-solving, and creativity, all of which are critical to students’ future work as school psychologists.

  • Learning

    As students advance in their undergraduate coursework, they begin to take classes more closely related to their specialization area. Through a combination of theoretical study and practical application, this class introduces degree-seekers to the behavioral and cognitive bases of learning and memory.

  • School-Age and Adolescent Development

    To succeed in their work, educational professionals must understand school-age children’s cognitive, physical, and social-emotional development. In this course, distance learners examine developmental theory and complete an integrative research paper to apply their learning to a topical developmental issue.

Online Master’s Degree in School Psychology

A specialist-level master’s degree is the minimum requirement to work as a school psychologist. Students can pursue an online master’s degree in school psychology with or without a clinical experience component. Degree-seekers should note that master’s degrees without a practicum or internship may not qualify them for licensure in all states.

Online school psychology programs at the master’s level typically require 36 credits. Like bachelor’s programs in psychology, graduate-level programs teach students about human thought and behavior, development through different phases of life, and psychological assessment. Additionally, school psychology master’s programs offer coursework in more specialized areas, such as counseling, crisis intervention, research methods, and professional ethics. These courses help prepare students for their day-to-day work as school psychologists or the more advanced topics they will encounter if they choose to pursue doctoral studies.

Example Courses

  • Educational Psychology

    This course provides an introduction to how school and educational psychologists support student motivation, teacher effectiveness, and overall academic achievement. Topics covered include learning environments, teaching methods, curriculum development, educational assessment, and the psychological characteristics of teachers and learners.

  • Theories of Learning

    Degree-seekers examine modern learning theory, from its historical contexts to its present applications in educational settings. Professors cover a variety of theoretical ideas and approaches, including behaviorism, gestalt, information processing, cognitivism, humanism, and constructivism. The course also explores how differences in cognitive development affect learning throughout life.

  • Culture and Psychology

    Because school psychologists often work with diverse populations, an understanding of cross-cultural psychology is critical. Students learn about the impact of culture on the development of the psychology field. They also explore the unique needs of different cultures as they relate to mental health and academic achievement.

  • Psychology of the Exceptional Individual

    Psychologists often work with students who deviate from the norm, whether those students face cognitive challenges or possess extraordinary academic gifts. This course explores the benefits of inclusive education and strategies for promoting effective and diverse learning environments.

  • Tests and Measurement

    In this course, students gain an overview of the assessments employed in educational and clinical settings. Degree-seekers learn about the psychometric properties used to develop and evaluate these testing instruments, study concepts including normative sampling and standardization, and consider cultural biases as they relate to educational measurement.

Required Licenses and Internships to Become a School Psychologist

In most states, school psychologists need a license to practice. However, licensure requirements vary by state. NASP has compiled a database of state school psychology credentialing requirements. Prospective students should research their state’s requirements before pursuing an online degree in school psychology.

Individuals need a specialist-level master’s before acquiring a license. Specialist-level master’s programs involve significant coursework and clinical experience, often referred to as an internship or practicum. While requirements vary, NASP recommends an internship that lasts one full academic year and involves 1,200 hours of work, with 600 of those hours taking place in a school or educational setting.

In most states, school psychologists need a license to practice. However, licensure requirements vary by state.

Some states require students to take an examination after they have earned their degree. Others maintain a simpler application process. In California, for example, aspiring school psychologists only need to verify they have earned a bachelor’s degree and a master’s degree that consisted of 60 credits in school psychology and a supervised field experience with school-aged children. Other states, like New York, award provisional licenses based on graduate studies and an internship, but require individuals to work for two years in a school setting before they can earn a permanent license.

Careers for School Psychology Degree-Holders

Most school psychologists work in public or private K-12 educational settings. However, some psychologists who focus on substance abuse or mental illness may work in treatment facilities or mental health centers. Others may work as consultants or in private practice. Read on for five possible professional opportunities for graduates of online school psychology programs.

These counselors support their students’ academic achievement and personal development. Depending on an individual student’s need, they may offer advice on colleges and career paths or provide assistance in dealing with bullying or family challenges. Most school counselors hold a master’s in school counseling or school psychology.

These social workers provide therapy to those in need of emotional or mental support. They may also coordinate mental health services and other forms of support for their clients. Most states require clinical social workers to possess a master’s degree as well as two years of supervised clinical experience.

These psychologists perform several duties to create effective learning environments. They diagnose learning disorders and behavioral problems, create and implement plans to boost student performance, and work with teachers and administrators on teaching practice and school policy. School psychologists need a master’s degree. Most states require some form of clinical experience to earn licensure.

Often self-employed, these consultants work with different school districts and educational organizations to create curricula, individual performance plans, or school-wide programs and services. They may also act as counselors to students and parents. Educational requirements vary, but many employers prefer to hire consultants with an advanced degree and significant professional experience.

The title ‘educational psychologist’ is effectively interchangeable with that of ‘school psychologist.’ Both apply psychological principles to help students learn. And like school psychologists, educational psychologists must have a master’s degree and clinical experience to obtain licensure.

What Does a School Psychologist Make in a Year?

School psychologists typically make somewhat less than their counterparts in private practice, industry, and healthcare, according to the BLS. The median annual salary for the entire psychology field sits at about $100,000, while those serving in educational settings bring in a median annual salary of $76,990. However, the amount school psychologists earn varies depending on their location, education, and experience.

Salaries for school psychologists also depend on budgets at the state and school district level. Professionals in states with a well-funded public school system can expect greater salary growth potential. Certain positions also pay better than others. Educational psychologists, for example, earn significantly more than clinical social workers.

Entry-level school psychologists typically earn lower salaries, while more experienced professionals can earn more than six figures per year.

PositionAverage Annual Salary
School Counselor$50,244
Clinical Social Worker$55,998
School Psychologist$61,176
Educational Consultant$61,101
Educational Psychologist$72,882

Source:PayScale

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