11 Best School Psychology Programs & Online Options [2021]

School psychologySchool psychologists are some of the most in-demand professionals.

The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (2021) reported that the field for clinical, counseling, and school psychologists is expected to grow by 3% between 2019 and 2029.

If you are considering a career in school psychology, this article will provide you with an overview of the requirements for school psychologists in North America and also give you a selection of the best school psychology programs.

Before you continue, we thought you might like to download our three Positive Psychology Exercises for free. These science-based exercises will explore fundamental aspects of positive psychology including strengths, values, and self-compassion, and will give you the tools to enhance the wellbeing of your clients, students, or employees.

Requirements for School Psychologists

Admission to a clinical psychology program usually requires individuals to have a bachelor’s degree in psychology or science with a grade point average of 3.0 or higher. Most schools also require prospective students to complete the Graduate Requisite Exam, a standardized test that measures quantitative reasoning, analytical writing, and critical-thinking skills (ETS, n.d.a).

Most graduate school psychology programs are broken up into three components, with the focus and attributes varying depending on the institution:

  • Coursework:
    Students take courses focused on standards of clinical practice, psychopathology, research methods, and specific areas of school psychology.

  • Practicum/Internship:
    Students enter the field as psychological professionals and learn alongside certified members in a variety of settings (e.g., private clinics, schools, learning centers).

  • Research:
    Based on their interests and expertise, students choose an area to engage in independent research and complete a major research project (i.e., thesis, dissertation).

The qualifications necessary to become a school psychologist vary by country and state. Typically, individuals practicing with a master’s degree are referred to as psychological associates, and they work alongside educational psychologists to test, diagnose, and treat children.

Even though a psychological associate is extremely involved in the diagnostic process, they cannot independently render a diagnosis. If they want to diagnose children independently, they need to pursue a doctorate to be a fully certified psychologist. However, it is important to check the specific local requirements.

Upon completion of both a master’s degree and a doctorate in school psychology, most areas require you to take examinations so you can register with a regulatory body that governs standards of practice across all areas of clinical psychology.

In the United States, the Praxis test (ETS, n.d.b) measures whether entry-level psychologists meet the standards of practice and is required to register with the National School Psychology Board (NCSP). However, the requirements for registration vary by region and country, so it is important to check the most up-to-date information wherever you are planning to obtain certification.

 

5 Best School Psychology Master’s & Doctorate Degrees

Studying school psychologyThere are many opportunities to study school psychology in North America.

We have outlined a selection of great clinical master’s and doctoral programs that highlight school psychology as a central focus.

The programs were selected based on a combination of ratings from the Times Higher Education (2021) World University Rankings and focus on school psychology, rather than educational psychology or a broader combination of psychological disciplines.

 

1. Doctor of Philosophy in School Psychology (PhD), Indiana University–Bloomington, United States

IndianaThis doctorate program combines research, theory, and real-world experience.

The program takes between five and six years to complete and has 800 hours of practicum, as well as 1,500 hours of internship, really allowing students to gain a lot of experience in the field and build connections prior to graduation.

Indiana University has a strong focus on field-based research to ground its students in practical theory. A few of the course options that are relevant to school contexts include autism spectrum disorders, social justice/educational equity, school-based mental health, trauma, emotional and behavioral disorders in students, and action research.

Find out more on their website.

 

2. Doctor of Philosophy in School Psychology (PhD), University of Wisconsin–Madison, United States

The aim of this program is to educate students on practical methodology to serve children, teachers, and parents in the school community as specialists in school psychology.

Students complete their practicums in a variety of settings, including the Dane County Juvenile Detention Center, Student Assessment Services (on campus), and various schools, to prepare them for different careers in the school psychology field.

The program requires students to complete 1,025 hours of practicum and 2,000 internship hours, with an optional summer practicum of 800 hours at Student Assessment Services or the on-campus psychology clinic to help further build their experience.

The American Psychological Association (APA) accredited the program.

Find out more on their website.

 

3. Doctor of Psychology (PsyD), William James College, Massachusetts, United States

William James College

While traditional doctoral programs focus on a combination of research and practice, this program centers on developing students’ professional and personal selves in order to become well-balanced practitioners.

This program is a great option for individuals who are looking to specialize in student diversity and want to apply a specific concentration to their research on issues faced by different groups of people.

Specific concentrations include:

  • African & Caribbean mental health
  • Children and families of adversity and resilience
  • Global mental health
  • Latino mental health

This program is accredited by the APA and NCSP.

Find out more on their website.

 

4. Doctor of Philosophy in School Psychology (PhD), University at Buffalo, State University of New York, United States

This program provides students with a combined degree in school and counseling psychology, which allows graduates to practice outside educational settings while still taking the knowledge they have gained to support clients in other settings.

The major difference between the two disciplines is that the counseling psychology program focuses more on diagnosis and treatment in older adults and adolescents in clinical settings such as hospitals and post-secondary institutions, while school psychology focuses on children and young adults.

Students have the option to complete their practicum hours in both settings to help them gain expertise and experience with both groups, broadening their horizons for future clinical practice.

The program is accredited by the APA.

Find out more on their website.

 

5. Master of Psychology in School and Applied Child Psychology (MA), McGill University, Montreal, Canada

McGill

McGill’s program aims to prepare future school psychologists to work with educators, children, youth, and families to promote individuals’ learning and development, particularly in relation to schooling and mental health.

Students in the MA program or with an MA in a related field can apply for entry to the PhD program. The program aims to provide students with an understanding of strategies to help promote wellbeing in children and adolescents, while maintaining high international standards in the field.

Students explore a variety of topics including mental health, child development, school organization, learning processes, behavior, motivation, and effective teaching. Since McGill is located in Montreal, there are options for both English- and French-speaking students.

The program is accredited by the Canadian Psychological Association (CPA) and the Order of Psychologists in Quebec. CPA accreditation is accepted by most states, as well as the APA.

Find out more on their website.

 

Top 3 Programs & Certification Opportunities

Below, we have included the best programs to prepare you for a career in school psychology.

Even though not all these programs have a specific department focusing on school psychology, these departments focus on topics that are directly related to developing students’ knowledge of developmental and child psychology, which are central topics in school psychology.

 

1. Master of Education in Human Development Counseling, Clinical Mental Health or School Counseling (MEd), Vanderbilt University, Tennessee, United States

Vanderbilt

This top-ranked school offers two Master of Education degrees (clinical mental health and school counseling) that aim to provide students with a theoretical grounding in human development and counseling. They also offer an online option for students to pursue certification.

The program gives students the opportunity to pursue licensure as professional counselors in clinical mental health or school counseling. There is also a dual option available for students who meet the requirements for both specializations.

Find out more on their website.

 

2. School and Applied Child Psychology, University of British Columbia, Vancouver, Canada

UBC

This program has several degree options designed to prepare students for a career in school and applied psychology.

One of the distinguishing elements of the School and Applied Child Psychology program is the strong emphasis on equity and diversity, specifically in social justice and human rights.

This program has certification opportunities for students to become a school psychologist. Students can also obtain a Master of Education (MEd) in School and Applied Psychology. While the MEd program acts as a direct entry to practice, the MA and PhD programs act as a dual program, and students in the MA program typically pursue a PhD.

The program is accredited by the CPA and APA.

Find out more on their website.

 

3. Department of Applied Psychology and Human Development, University of Toronto: Ontario Institute for Studies in Education, Canada

Toronto

The Ontario Institute for Studies in Education is part of the University of Toronto and considered to be a global leader in graduate programs in teaching, learning, and higher education.

The Department of Applied Psychology and Human Development engages in research centered on mental health, wellbeing, and education.

Potential programs are listed below:

  • Child study and education (teacher education program)
  • Counseling and clinical psychology
  • Counseling psychology
  • Developmental psychology and education
  • School and clinical child psychology

With a combination of accredited school and counseling psychology programs, teacher education, and academic programs, graduating students will be well placed to pursue a career in school psychology-related domains.

The program is accredited by the CPA and APA.

Find out more on their website.

 

3 Online Courses & Programs

Study school psychologyBecause of an influx in online learning, there are several options for students to conduct most of their graduate studies online.

This section provides a sample of online programs that provide hybrid or fully online instruction.

Prior to selecting one of these programs, prospective students should consider their learning style, as online instruction is typically more independently oriented and requires more individual discipline. Online classes may not include a lot of in-person guidance or interaction.

 

1. Master of Science (MS) & Education Specialist (EdS) in School Psychology (remote), Fort Hays State University, Kansas, United States

Fort HayesThis online program is designed for students who want to pursue a career in school psychology with the flexibility of online education.

The program is fully remote and only requires students to come on campus for one five-day workshop on appraising and evaluating children, which takes place during the summer semester, when there is a reduced course load. This makes the program more accessible to students across the United States. There are part-time and full-time options, depending on students’ needs.

Students also have the option to choose from various program tracks, giving them flexibility to choose their courses depending on when they want to take on the bulk of their workload. This makes this program ideal for students who are already working or looking to complete the program full time.

Find out more on their website.

 

2. Master of Arts (MA) & Education Specialist (EdS) in Educational Psychology-School Psychometry (hybrid), University of Alabama, United States

University of Alabama

This multifaceted program offers coursework online, with two intensive in-person sessions when students can interact with faculty and other individuals in the program.

Psychometrics are highly integrated along with practical school psychology courses that focus on intervention, prevention, instructional, and school psychology practice.

Because of this program’s hybrid approach, it provides a flexible option for students who want to complete the majority of their program online but still have interaction with others in the program. It is it ideal for working professionals who want to develop more enhanced academic relationships.

It is set up for both full-time and part-time study. The coursework that students need to complete is evaluated on a case-by-case basis, making this ideal for those who have already pursued graduate-level education in teaching and learning.

Find out more information on their website.

 

3. Doctor of Psychology (PsyD) in School Psychology (remote), Capella University, United States

Capella

Capella offers a fully online program with several options for students to complete their degree on a pathway that works around their work and personal obligations.

The program aims to develop skills for clinical practice including psychological and neuropsychological assessment, clinical supervision and consultation, psychopathology of children and adolescents, and collaboration with school systems.

Although the program is not APA accredited, it gives many options for coursework and practicums that can work around a student’s location in the United States and cater to the specific area of child and school psychology in which students want to specialize.

Find out more on their website.

 

PositivePsychology.com’s Helpful Resources

We have many resources available to build your growing practice in school psychology.

Children require specialized interventions to help them manage their emotions and become more self-aware of their feelings and reactions. The Inside and Outside Worksheet and Self-Awareness Worksheet for Older Children are great exercises for children who you may be treating in a school-based setting.

Both exercises focus on increasing emotional awareness and connecting feelings with reactions, which are central objectives in child psychology.

An important aspect of a psychologist’s practice is applying self-care and taking steps to avoid compassion fatigue. This can be especially difficult when working with children in vulnerable situations. The Therapist Self-Care Exercise and Countering Compassion Fatigue Exercise are great strategies to help prevent psychologists from experiencing burnout or anxiety, especially when dealing with challenging situations.

17 Positive Psychology Exercises – If you’re looking for more science-based ways to help others enhance their wellbeing, this signature collection contains 17 validated positive psychology tools for practitioners. Use them to help others flourish and thrive.

 

A Take-Home Message

School psychologists represent a critical field, using their expertise to apply mental health diagnoses and facilitate academic and social success in the school environment.

If this line of work interests you, gaining the skills and qualifications required to pursue a career in school psychology largely depends on where you live. However, even if a school or program is at the top of the ranking chart you are consulting, the method of delivery may not work for you.

First, take the time to understand how you work and learn best before consulting this list and making your choice. Make sure you consider the program that will work with your individual learning and personal needs.

We hope you enjoyed reading this article. Don’t forget to download our three Positive Psychology Exercises for free.

If you wish for more, our Positive Psychology Toolkit© contains over 370 science-based positive psychology exercises, interventions, questionnaires, and assessments for practitioners to use in their therapy, coaching, or workplace.

  • ETS. (n.d.a). GRE. Retrieved May 14, 2021, from https://www.ets.org/gre
  • ETS. (n.d.b). National Association of School Psychologists (NASP). Retrieved May 14, 2021, from https://www.ets.org/praxis/nasp/
  • National Association of School Psychologists. (2021). NCSP eligibility. Retrieved May 14, 2021, from https://www.nasponline.org/standards-and-certification/national-certification/ncsp-eligibility
  • Times Higher Education. (2021). World university rankings 2021. Retrieved May 14, 2021, from https://www.timeshighereducation.com/world-university-rankings/2021/subject-ranking/psychology#!/
  • U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics. (2021). Occupational outlook handbook: Psychologists. Retrieved May 14, 2021, from https://www.bls.gov/ooh/life-physical-and-social-science/psychologists.htm#tab-6

About the Author

Dr. Gabriella obtained a Ph.D. from the University of Toronto (OISE) in Developmental Psychology and Education where her research is centered around emotions, instruction, and online learning. She currently works as a psychological consultant with children, adolescents, and adults in Toronto, Canada. In her spare time, she enjoys building her writing portfolio, spending time with her family, and walking her dog.

Comments

  1. HealthTimes

    This is an amazing article. This gives a lot info so Thank you for sharing this.

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