How to Become a School Psychologist

Three Parts:Becoming a Strong Candidate for Graduate StudiesGetting Your Graduate Degree and CertificationStarting Your Career

School psychologists practice within schools. They are concerned with emotional and behavioral needs that must be fulfilled for student success and wellbeing. A school psychologist may take on the duties of a school counselor, but the psychologist also provides academic and psychological evaluations in addition to working with special populations. To become a school psychologist, take a long view: decide the state and type of school where you would like to work, then determine the degrees and certification you will need to get there.

Part 1
Becoming a Strong Candidate for Graduate Studies

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    Think ahead while in high school. As a high school student, you can best prepare for your future degree in psychology by shaping a vision for your future.[1] As a high school student, research colleges with strong psychology programs. Check the statistics for freshman admissions, and try to achieve an above-average GPA and high enough SAT scores to become a desirable candidate. Learn as much as your school offers about science and writing, and take a full four years of math.[2]
    • Talk about your interests with your guidance counselor, your teachers, and your family.
    • Take advanced placement or college-level math, science, and english classes if you can.
    • Establish good study habits.
    • Volunteer at mental health clinics, hospitals, shelters, or community centers.[3]
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    Get an undergraduate degree in Psychology or a related field. Pick a major that is relevant to your future graduate studies. Psychology is the most popular choice of major for future psychologists, but an undergraduate degree in child development, education, or sociology could also be advantageous.[4].
    • If you have already gotten your undergraduate degree, you may have to take classes at a community college to fulfill prerequisites for graduate school.
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    Fulfill the requirements for your top pick of graduate schools. Make a list of the schools you would be interested in attending for your masters or doctorate, and set your undergraduate goals accordingly. Learn the average GPA of students at your top choices, and try to achieve as high or higher a GPA. Complete all prerequisites required by your desired program.
    • To find out prerequisites, go to the department website of the schools you are interested in attending.
    • Depending on the school, your degree may be housed in the Psychology department, the Education department, or another.[5]
    • Visit your guidance counselor for advice on fulfilling requirements for your graduate degree.
    • Call the department of the schools you are interested in and ask them for information for prospective students.
    • Many schools consider your GPA in psychology courses separately, so make sure to prioritize those classes.
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    Participate in activities relevant to your career goals. Work or volunteer in elementary or high schools, whatever kind of school you would like to work in as a psychologist. Become a camp counselor over the summer. Mentor disadvantaged youth in your community. Volunteer as a tutor, or in a library.
    • Ask your school for the kind of volunteer experiences they recommend. Many schools offer volunteer opportunities targeted at specific majors.
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    Take the GRE. You will want to study for the GRE for several months before you take the test.[6] If you are enrolled in an undergraduate program, check with your guidance counselor or any academic resources office to see if there is help offered for students preparing for the GRE. Take practice tests in which you simulate test-taking conditions as much as possible: no breaks, no snacks, no distractions. You will be ready to apply to graduate school when you are getting scores comparable to the scores accepted at your school of choice.
    • Sign up to take the GRE by making an account. Book an available seat at a test center near you.

Part 2
Getting Your Graduate Degree and Certification

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    Pick the right graduate school for you. Choose a National Association of School Psychologists (NASP)-approved school. To become a school psychologist, you will need a minimum of three years full time graduate study after your undergraduate degree. Depending on your career goals, you will want to get a master's, specialist (Ed.S), or doctoral degree in school psychology.
    • Doctorate degrees are required for private practice and usually include 5-7 years of graduate work, a 1,500-hour internship and a dissertation.
    • Many schools combine the Masters degree and Ed.S certificate.
    • Go to the websites of the sort of schools in your state you would be interested in working for. Read the staff biographies of their psychologist and see what kind of degree they earned.
    • Check the statistics for your school online. How many of their graduate students get a job within two years of graduating? Where are they working?
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    Complete your degree. For a master's or Ed.S degree, your first year will involve basic coursework. Your second year will include coursework and practical, and your third will be a full-time supervised internship of 1,200 hours, at least 600 of which must take place in a school.[7]
    • If you decide you would rather work in a different state, ask your program if you can do your internship out of state.[8][[
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    Meet requirements for state licensure or certification. After you have your degree, you will need to meet state requirements. These differ state to state. Check the state requirements on the NASP website.[9] Some states require national certification, while others have state exams.
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    Seek national certification from the NASP National School Psychology Certification Board (NSPCB). If your state or school of choice require it, you may seek national certification. NSPCB certification requires a documented internship, completion of an NASP-approved program and passing the national school psychology examination (PRAXIS II). You can study for the PRAXIS II online, by reading study guides and purchasing a practice test.[10]
    • Sign up for the PRAXIS II by making an account.

Part 3
Starting Your Career

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    Apply for work. Check job boards, the National Association of School Psychologists (NASP) job career center, and the employment section of schools in your area. Email courteous requests for recommendations from your professors and those you worked for as an intern. Write a professional looking resume that includes your education, certifications, and work experience.
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    Get connected. Join one of the professional organizations dedicated to psychologists at schools or in the community. Two good choices are the National Association of School Psychologists or the American Psychological Association. Use these organizations to get to know other school psychologists in your area.
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    Stay in step. Read professional journals to stay up-to-date on issues and practices for school practice and psychological evaluations. Popular journals include The Journal of School Psychology, The School Psychology Review, and The School Psychology Quarterly. Depending on your state and school, you may be required to renew your certification, so staying current on issues in psychology is to your advantage.


  • In many states, a school counselor does not require training in special education, unlike school psychologists who do. Additionally, the internships for school psychology are typically twice as many hours as that of counselors at schools.
  • A list of approved NASP training programs is available at the NASP web site at

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Categories: Psychology Studies