What is the Difference Between a School Psychologist and a School Counselor?

School CounselorBoth school psychologists and school counselors work closely with students in elementary and secondary schools. Both positions also require specialized training. However, there are certain important differences in the expertise provided by psychologists on the one hand and counselors on the other. This article briefly outlines the different responsibilities of each position.

What Do School Counselors Do?

School counselors are trained counselors who work with the total student population in their schools. At the elementary level, these counselors may work with young students on social and classroom skill development. By contrast, counselors in middle schools and high schools may focus on issues like sexuality, drug and alcohol use, peer pressure, and college or career preparation. According to the American School Counselor Association, the role of a school counselor is to “help all students in the areas of academic achievement, personal/social development, and career development.”

What Do School Psychologists Do?

Unlike counselors, school psychologists do not work with the wider population in their schools. Instead, school psychologists are trained and certified psychologists who work with specific populations of students such as special needs and special education students. The primary task of school psychologists is to assess risk of academic and social failure among students with documented disabilities. Because their work tends to focus on this specific student population, school psychologists are often funded through special education budgets and resources.

What are the Educational and Training Requirements for each position?

As a general matter, both school counselors and school psychologists must obtain graduate-level education. According to the National Association of School Psychologists, however, each position demands different educational and professional preparation. In the case of school counselors, the required education and training are typically a two-year master’s degree and approximately 600 hours of supervised internship experience. By contrast, school psychologists typically need three years of graduate education and 1200 hours of supervised internship experience. Each state maintains its own licensing requirements, so you should always consult your local authority to confirm education and training prerequisites.

Do School Pyschologists and School Counselors Make the Same Salary?

As suggested by the different educational and training requirements, the salary levels for these two positions vary. In general, school psychologists tend to be slightly higher paid than school counselors. However, each school operates according to its own budget, and salaries may vary widely depending on geographic location, private or public school, and years of experience. As another matter of consideration, because school psychologists are trained child psychologists, they may be able to secure non-school positions in hospitals, community centers, social work agencies, and juvenile detention centers.

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Both school psychologists and school counselors work with schoolchildren to help them improve academic and social performance. School counselors tend to take a more broad-based approach, thinking about how to work with the student body as a whole. By contrast, school psychologists focus on specific student populations of special needs or at-risk students. Despite the difference in emphasis, both psychologists and counselors have the opportunity to work with children and teenagers, promoting mental and social health.