How Do You Become a School Psychologist?

School PsychologistThose who want to know become a school psychologist often do so, because they want to work with children and students of different ages. A school psychologist functions as both a psychologist and a guidance counselor. You might help students dealing with bullying, peer pressure and problems at home, and you might help students with their college applications and problems they experience in the classroom. School psychologists must have a college degree, a graduate degree and meet some other requirements before working full time.

Finish College and Graduate School

Going to college gives you the chance to study a number of different topics before selecting a major and focusing on the future. As a future school psychologist, this is your chance to take a range of psychology and social science courses, including sociology and social work. After completing an undergraduate degree, you will need to attend graduate school and study school psychology. One of the requirements for finishing graduate school is an in-depth internship. You’ll generally work in a school and meet with students as you work under the guidance of a licensed psychologist.

Complete Your Residency

Many graduate programs have a residency requirement that goes beyond a traditional internship. While completing an internship, you’ll generally spend some of your time viewing psychologists in action and learning from their techniques. When you do a residency, you have the chance to work as a psychologist yourself. This helps you gain the experience that you need to become a school psychologist. The residency requirement may ask that you spend up to 300 hours or more working as a school psychologist and in the field before you gain your degree. Some schools let you begin your residency before you finish the courses required in your program.

Get Certified

School psychologists working in the United States must obtain certification from the state where they live and teach. While some states will accept certification from other states, many will ask that you apply for and obtain your certificate during your first year of employment. You generally need to submit a copy of your transcripts from college and graduate school, pay a small fee and show that you are a member of a professional organization. Many schools also require the successful passing of a criminal background check that shows you did not commit any crimes in the past that would expose children to negative behaviors.

Apply for Professional Certification

According to the National Association of School Psychologists, you must also pass a national certification examination to become a school psychologist. Prior to taking the examination, you must show that you took to credit hours of graduate studies, 54 credit hours of supervised work in the field and an internship that lasted for at least 600 hours. The national school psychologist test asks you various questions about what you would do in different situations, the meaning behind psychological terms and other topics. To obtain your certification, you must score a minimum of 147 points on that test.

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School psychologists identify problems that keep students from performing their best in school and help kids with problems they face both at school and at home. If you want to become a school psychologist, you’ll need to go to college and grad school, obtain your state license, complete a residency and get your national certification.