School Psychology Degree and Career Guide
School psychology, also known as educational psychology or ed psych, is a specialty recognized by the American Psychological Association (APA) that is focused on the science and practice of psychology in school settings, including children, families, learners, teachers, and the schooling process.1 School psychologists work in schools with students, families, teachers, and others in the school system to meet the individual learning and psycho-emotional needs of diverse learners, and to promote positive learning environments for everyone involved.
According to the National Association of School Psychologists (NASP), a specialist degree in school psychology is considered an entry-level degree for a job in school psychology.2 Courses in school psychology may be taken at the undergraduate level as electives for a general psychology degree, but the degree as a specialty is typically offered at a higher level. As a result, school psychology degrees, which are related to educational psychology degrees, are usually advanced. Since school psychology is a specialization of psychology, no further specializations (also called concentrations, specialties, or emphases) are typically offered in those degree programs.
Most students entering a school psychology graduate program hold a bachelor’s degree in psychology or education. Those who hold a bachelor’s degree in another field may need to take some prerequisite courses. Certified school psychologists must hold at least a master’s degree in school psychology, or a specialist degree, known as an Education Specialist (EdS) or Specialist in School Psychology (SSP or PsyS). Most states require a minimum of a specialist degree to become licensed. In some states, including Massachusetts, New York, and Washington, a master’s degree in school psychology (including a year-long advanced practicum) is required to become licensed. With the practicum included, the master’s in school psychology is considered a specialist-level degree.
At the doctoral level, Doctor of Education (EdD), Doctor of Psychology (PsyD), or Doctor of Philosophy (PhD) degrees are offered, but according to NASP, no states require a doctoral degree for licensure in school psychology.2. Another common requirement for state school counselor certification is NASP certification as a Nationally Certified School Psychologist (NCSP). Most graduates seek jobs in K-12 public school systems, but others pursue employment in private schools, hospitals or clinics, and universities.
- There are 205 not-for-profit colleges and universities with school psychology programs.3
- 3 school offers a certificate in school psychology.3
- 1 school offers an associate degree in school psychology.3
- 5 schools offer a bachelor’s degree in school psychology.3
- 204 schools offer a master’s or advanced degree in school psychology.3
Table of Contents
- School Psychology Degree Requirements and Coursework
- Top-Ranked School Psychology Degree Programs
- Best Value Schools With On-Campus School Psychology Programs
- Select School Psychology Degree Programs
- School Psychologist Career Information
- Becoming a School Psychologist
- Job Description
- Salary and Job Outlook
- Additional Resources
- Frequently Asked Questions
School Psychology Degree Requirements and Coursework
In an advanced school psychology degree program, students study both the psychology and education fields and participate in a supervised internship in a school setting before they are eligible for licensure. School psychologists are an important part of a team that includes teachers, social workers, parents, and other stakeholders that convene to recommend helpful strategies for students. School psychologists must be knowledgeable about the school system, teaching and learning methods, and the psychology and development of children. They should also have strong communication, problem-solving, and analytical skills.
Students entering a school psychology program should have a minimum GPA of 3.0, but some schools require a higher GPA to be competitive. A doctoral program typically takes between four and seven years to complete, while a specialist program takes around three years to complete full-time, and a master’s degree takes one to two years of full-time study to complete. Students in school psychology programs will learn about assessment, how to identify risk factors, consultation, mental health interventions, behavioral interventions, how to give instructional support, special education services, and crisis response. Sample coursework includes:
- Behavioral Disorders in Children
- Cognitive Assessment
- Consultation in School Psychology
- Internship in School Psychology
- Practicum in School Psychology
- Psychology of Classroom Discipline
- Research and Issues in School Psychology
- Roles and Functions of School Psychology
- Social and Emotional Assessment and Intervention
- Theories of School-Based Psychological Interventions
Top-Ranked School Psychology Degree Programs
US News & World Report’s Best Doctoral Educational Psychology Programs 2023
- University of Michigan-Ann Arbor (#1)
- University of Wisconsin-Madison (#2)
- Stanford University (#3)
- Vanderbilt University (Peabody) (#4)
- Michigan State University (#5)
- University of Maryland-College Park (#6)
- University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign (#7)
- Ohio State University (#8)
- University of California-Los Angeles (#9)
- University of Texas-Austin (#10)4
Best Value Schools With On-Campus School Psychology Programs
The table below shows the not-for-profit colleges and universities with school psychology programs offering the best value to students. To determine this best value list, we researched schools offering on-campus graduate programs in school psychology with an undergraduate net price of under $20,000 per year and an undergraduate graduation rate of 75% or above. In addition to these factors, we include the applicable degrees, US News & World Report rankings, and percentage of faculty with tenure.
|School||Graduate Degree(s)||US News National Rank4||Grad Rate3||% Tenured Faculty5||Net Price3|
|University of Washington-Seattle Campus||EdS School Psychology w/ Cert.;|
PhD School Psychology
|University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill||PhD School Psychology||#30 tie||91%||43%||$11,100|
|Indiana University-Bloomington||EdS School Psychology;|
PhD School Psychology
|Brigham Young University-Provo||EdS School Psychology||#66 tie||83%||46%||$12,979|
|University of Florida||EdS School Psychology;|
PhD School Psychology
|University of Georgia||MEd Educational Psychology;|
MA Educational Psychology;
EdS Educational Psychology;
PhD Educational Psychology
|University at Buffalo||MA Educational Psychology & Quantitative Methods;|
MA School Psychology w/Adv. Certificate;
PhD Counseling Psychology/School Psychology;
PhD Educational Psychology & Quantitative Methods
|James Madison University||MA/EdS School Psychology||NR||83%||41%||$16,154|
|University of Delaware||MA/EdS School Psychology||#89 tie||82%||57%||$16,286|
|Michigan State University||EdS School Psychology;|
PhD School Psychology
|Texas A & M University-College Station||PhD School Psychology||#66 tie||82%||49%||$19,554|
Select School Psychology Degree Programs
Traditional Education Specialist Programs
Barry University offers a school psychology program that allows students to get a Master of Science (MS) in School Psychology, which seamlessly transitions into a Specialist in School Psychology (SSP) degree. Students in the MS program take a total of 30 credits before moving on to the SSP track, during which they take 41 credits. Barry welcomes full-time or part-time students. Full-time students can complete both the MS and the SSP in three years, including two years of coursework and one year of fieldwork internship. Prospective students who already hold a master’s degree in a related subject may be able to enter the SSP program directly. Students of the MS program must maintain a 3.4 GPA to be admitted into the SSP program. Completion of these two programs at Barry fulfills NASP’s educational standards and will adequately prepare graduates to apply for a school psychology license in the state of Florida. All students who enroll in the School Psychology Program at Barry University receive a 20% tuition reduction.
Brigham Young University’s (BYU) Counseling Psychology and Special Education (CPSE) division of the School of Education offers an Educational Specialist (EdS) in School Psychology that is approved by NASP. The program prepares graduates to work with teachers, students, and parents in K-12 schools to solve problems, design and carry out interventions, and create safe learning environments for children. To be admitted, prospective students should have a bachelor’s degree with a preferred concentration in education or the social sciences with a GPA of 3.0 or higher. GRE scores are no longer required. The program takes three years to complete, with the last year being devoted to a full-time, 1,200-hour supervised internship in an elementary or secondary school setting. Courses include Ethics and Professional Roles and Standards; Human Growth and Development; Consultation with School and Family; Child Social/Emotional Assessment; and Intervention, Crisis Intervention, and Learning Theories.
Approved by NASP, Indiana University-Bloomington offers preparation for a practitioner career as a school psychologist through its Educational Specialist (EdS) degree in School Psychology, leading to licensure in Indiana and eligibility for licensure in other states. Comprising 65 credit hours taken over two years, the EdS degree at Indiana University focuses on three primary areas: professional studies in school psychology, psychological foundations, and research/inquiry methods. Courses include Academic Assessment and Intervention; Behavioral Analysis and Consultation for School Psychologists; and Developmental Psychopathology of Childhood and Adolescence. A school-based practicum is taken each semester of the first two years and all students participate in a 1,200-hour full-time internship at a school during the third year to gain real-world experience. All students also select a minor (normally in counseling or special education). The program culminates with a capstone project or comprehensive examination. Most graduates work in public and charter schools as psychologists, though some work in private schools.
Traditional Doctoral Programs
Michigan State University (MSU) offers both a 60-credit Educational Specialist (EdS) and a 115-credit Doctor of Philosophy (PhD) in School Psychology. Both degrees include an MA in School Psychology as part of the program, but the MA is not offered as a stand-alone program. MSU’s PhD program is accredited by the American Psychological Association (APA) and both programs are approved by the NASP and the Michigan Department of Education (MDE). The PhD program distinguishes itself from other programs with its communities of practice, a curriculum with developmental and contextual perspectives, and scholarship and inquiry. The four primary goals that define MSU’s program include foundational knowledge, professional practice, research and inquiry, and professional conduct. Applicants must hold a bachelor’s or a master’s degree, and master’s degree holders may be able to waive some requirements. A minimum GPA of 3.0 for the last two years of undergraduate coursework and 3.5 for graduate work is required. Of approximately 40 applicants, eight to 10 students are admitted each year. On average, the PhD program takes five to six years to complete, including a one-year, full-time 2,000-hour internship, while the EdS program takes about three years of full-time study to complete. Graduates of both programs are qualified to become Certified School Psychologists in Michigan as well as Nationally Certified School Psychologists (NCSPs).
The University of Wisconsin-Madison (UW-Madison) offers a graduate program in school psychology, established in 1960, which leads to a Doctor of Philosophy (PhD) in Educational Psychology. The program is accredited by the APA and has also been ranked by US News & World Report in the Best Graduate Schools for Educational Psychology category. The doctoral program at UW-Madison is based on the scientist-scholar-practitioner model, with an emphasis on research and preparing students for careers in academia. Students can choose from three areas of specialization including Human Development, Learning Sciences, and Quantitative Methods. The program takes five years to complete and includes a Master of Science (MS) degree, which takes three of the five years. Year five is spent completing a full-time internship. UW-Madison also offers a PhD in School Psychology with an option to minor in Prevention and Intervention Science, and a new Master of Science (MS) Educational Specialist Certificate in School Psychology, which takes three years to complete. Both programs prepare graduates to be licensed as school psychologists in Wisconsin.
Online and Hybrid Programs
The Chicago School of Professional Psychology (TCSPP) offers a part-time online Doctor of Education (EdD) in Educational Psychology and Technology that takes three years to complete. The curriculum prepares students to bridge the gap between research and professional practice, being able to identify and assess teaching and learning challenges and adjust curricula to better address students’ learning needs. The online program attracts working mid-career teachers, school administrators, curriculum specialists, counselors, corporate training directors, and other related professionals. Three concentrations are offered to students: Higher Education Learning and Technology; K-12 Education Learning and Technology; and Instructional Design. Coursework includes Cognition across the Lifespan and Technology’s Impact; Proseminar in Technology and Education; and Integrating Technology in Learning Systems. A total of 60 credits are required for the degree, as well as two on-campus residency sessions which last three and a half days.
Eastern Washington University (EWU) offers a NASP-accredited Educational Specialist (EdS) in School Psychology. EWU’s EdS is offered in three tracks: three-year hybrid, three-year online, or accelerated two-year online. Admission requirements vary by track. The three-year hybrid or online track requires applicants to have a bachelor’s degree, whereas the two-year track requires applicants to have a master’s degree. Both bachelor’s and master’s degrees should be in psychology, education, or a related field with coursework in research methods, statistics, abnormal psychology, and developmental psychology. All three tracks require at least a 3.0 GPA and applicants must meet EWU’s graduate admission requirements. The three-year hybrid track requires a minimum of 150 hours of relevant professional experience, while the three-year and two-year online tracks require at least three years of full-time experience teaching in schools or at least five years of relevant professional experience in a related field. The EdS program uses a science-practitioner model, preparing students to practice as school psychologists. EWU’s program covers topics like student and program evaluation, the development of academic and social-behavioral intervention plans, and research. Most coursework is online with synchronous classes occurring twice a week for the hybrid track and once a week for the online tracks. However, each track requires students to visit campus during their program. Students in the hybrid track must visit once per quarter for two to three days. Students in the two-year or three-year online track must visit once per year for three days.
School Psychologist Career Information
How to Become a School Psychologist
Becoming a licensed school psychologist requires at least a master’s degree in school psychology (sometimes an education specialist degree or higher) along with meeting the standards set by your state’s board of psychology. This may include gaining experience in the field, passing an exam, and seeking NASP certification. While the requirements to become licensed vary by state, the common steps to becoming a school psychologist are:
- Earn a bachelor’s degree and (optionally) a master’s in psychology or a related field.
- Earn an accredited specialist-level degree in school or educational psychology.
- Apply for a provisional school psychologist certificate and become provisionally certified in your state.
- Gain experience in school psychology.
- Pass any exams required by your state.
- Seek the NCSP credential from NASP, if required for full certification in your state.
- Apply for and receive a school psychologist license.
- Begin practicing as a professional school psychologist.
- Complete any continuing education required by your state to keep your credential current.
With a degree in school psychology, most graduates will work in the K-12 public school system although a few may work in clinical or hospital settings or universities, treating school-age children and addressing school-related problems. School psychologists must understand the dynamics of classroom environments and effective instructional practices, as they work with educators to evaluate and improve school performance. They also help to diagnose and work to treat developmental, social, and learning differences in students and may help implement individualized education plans (IEPs) for students who require special education services. School psychologists also consult with students, parents, teachers, and administrators concerning children’s academic or behavioral problems. According to NASP, school psychologists work to:
- Improve academic achievement within schools
- Promote the positive behavior and mental health of students
- Support diverse learners and address diverse learning needs
- Create safe, positive school climates for children and school employees
- Strengthen relationships between families and schools
- Improve school-wide assessment and accountability
With a master’s or specialist degree in school psychology, you can get a job as a school psychologist in most states. NASP maintains that a minimum of specialist-level training is required, which consists of at least 60 graduate semester credits, including a 1,200-hour internship.2 Possible job titles for school psychology degree holders include:
- Bilingual school psychologist
- Educational diagnostician
- Educational psychologist
- High school psychologist
- Middle school psychologist
- Pediatric school psychologist
- School psychologist
Salary and Job Outlook
The average salary for school psychologists, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), was $87,550 in May 2022.6 The highest-paid school psychologists were found in management positions, making $107,540 annually, while those working in educational support services earned an average of $103,000 per year.6 The states with the highest average salaries for school psychologists are California ($106,890), Colorado ($104,810), and Washington DC ($102,850).6 Approximately 60,250 school psychologists were employed across the US in 2022, with the most working in California, New York, and Texas.6
The outlook for clinical, counseling, and school psychologists is positive. According to Projections Central, the profession is expected to grow by 10.4% from 2020 to 2030.7 This growth is much faster than the average growth expected for all occupations over the same time period.7
- APA’s Division of School Psychology (Division 16): Exists to represent the interests of school psychologists and the children, teachers, and families they serve.
- National Association of School Psychologists (NASP): Professional organization dedicated to helping children thrive in school and at home, which exists to empower school psychologists by promoting professional development, diversity within the field, and life-long professional learning.
- International School Psychology Association (ISPA): Dedicated to promoting the work of school psychologists worldwide, and offers member benefits like access to their newsletters, reduced conference rates, and access to other school psychology resources.
- Society for the Study of School Psychology (SSSP): Descendant of the group that formed the Journal of School Psychology (JSP) in the early 1960s, which seeks to advance scientific research and broaden awareness of the profession of school psychology.
Frequently Asked Questions
What kind of degree do I need to be a school psychologist?
According to NASP, school psychologists need to complete a minimum of a specialist-level program to be qualified.2 Specialist-level programs typically award an EdS, SSP, or PsyS, but some award an MA, MS, or MEd. As long as the degree earned is a specialist-level degree, the title typically doesn’t matter. A specialist-level degree involves 60 graduate semester credits, along with a 1,200-hour internship taking approximately 30 weeks of full-time work.
How long does it take to get a degree in school psychology?
Specialist programs typically take around three years to complete, including the internship, and doctoral programs typically take around five or six years to complete.
What is the difference between a school psychology degree and a child psychology degree?
A school psychology degree prepares graduates to become professionals who are qualified to bridge psychology and education to address issues related to school, but not limited to children. The breadth of a school psychologist’s work includes not only interacting with children, but also with educators, administrators, parents, and families. A child psychology degree prepares graduates to become doctoral-level clinical psychologists specializing in children, with a focus more on the child than the school environment.
Does the APA accredit master’s in school psychology programs?
While school psychology programs are offered at the master’s and specialist levels, the APA only accredits doctoral programs. NASP, however, accredits both specialist- and doctoral-level programs.
What is the difference between a school counselor and a school psychologist?
While both types of mental health professionals work in a school setting, school counselors typically focus more on improving the emotional health of students through individual and group counseling, while school psychologists work to improve behavioral symptoms and academic issues through testing and targeted research. School counselors also tend to assist students with college and career planning, whereas school psychologists do not. Both school counselors and school psychologists must be licensed through the state in which they work, which typically involves obtaining an advanced degree, completing supervised experience, and passing state exams.
1. American Psychological Association: https://www.apa.org/ed/graduate/specialize/school
2. National Association of School Psychologists: https://www.nasponline.org/
3. National Center for Education Statistics College Navigator: https://nces.ed.gov/collegenavigator/
4. US News & World Report Best Educational Psychology Programs 2023: https://www.usnews.com/best-colleges/rankings/national-universities
5. College Factual: https://www.collegefactual.com/
6. Bureau of Labor Statistics, Occupational Employment Statistics May 2022, School Psychologists: https://www.bls.gov/oes/current/oes193034.htm
7. Projections Central, Long Term Occupational Projections: https://projectionscentral.org/Projections/LongTerm