What is school psychology?
School psychology is a field that applies principles of educational psychology, developmental psychology, clinical psychology, community psychology, and applied behavior analysis to meet children's and adolescents' behavioral health and learning needs in a collaborative manner with educators and parents. School psychologists are educated in psychology, child and adolescent development, child and adolescent psychopathology, education, family and parenting practices, learning theories, and personality theories. They are knowledgeable about effective instruction and effective schools. They are trained to carry out psychological testing and psycho educational assessment, counseling, and consultation, and in the ethical, legal and administrative codes of their profession.
Unlike clinical psychology and counseling psychology, which often are doctoral-only fields, school psychology includes individuals with Master's (M.A., M.S., M.Ed.), Specialist (Ed.S. or SSP), Certificate of Advanced Graduate Studies (CAGS), and doctoral (Ph.D., Psy.D. or Ed.D.) degrees. In the past, a Master's degree was considered the standard for practice in schools, but the National Association of School Psychologists currently recognizes the 60-credit-hour Specialist degree as the most appropriate level of training needed for entry-level school-based practice. According to the NASP Research Committee (NASP Research Committee, 2007), in 2004-05, 33% of school psychologists possessed Master's degrees, 35% possessed Specialist (Ed.S. or SSP) degrees, and 32% possessed doctoral (Ph.D., Psy.D., or Ed.D.) degrees. A B.A. or B.S. is not sufficient.
School psychology training programs are housed in university schools of education or departments of psychology; in Specialist degree programs, the former typically results in an Ed.S. degree, while the latter results in an SSP degree. School psychology programs require courses, practice, and internships that cover the domains of:
- Data-based decision-making and accountability;
- Consultation and collaboration;
- Effective instruction and development of cognitive/academic skills;
- Socialization and development of life skills;
- Student diversity in development and learning;
- School and systems organization, policy development, and climate;
- Prevention, crisis intervention, and mental health;
- Home / school / community collaboration;
- Research and program evaluation;
- School psychology practice and development; and
- Information technology Standards for Training and Field Placement
Specialist-level training typically requires 3–4 years of graduate training including a 9-month (1200 hour) internship in a school setting. Doctoral-level training programs typically require 5–7 years of graduate training including a 12-month internship (1500+ hours), which may be in a school or other (e.g., medical) setting. Doctoral level training differs from specialist-level training in that it requires students to take more coursework in core psychology and professional psychology. In addition, doctoral programs typically require students to learn more advanced statistics, to be involved in research endeavors, and to complete a doctoral dissertation constituting original research.
Doctoral training programs may be approved by NASP and/or accredited by the American Psychological Association. In 2007, approximately 125 programs were approved by NASP, and 58 programs were accredited by APA. Another 11 APA-accredited programs were combined (clinical/counseling/school, clinical/school, or counseling/school) programs (American Psychological Association, 2007).