School psychologists collaborate with teachers, parents, administrators, and other school personnel to create safe, healthy, and supportive learning environments for all students. According to the National Association of School Psychology (NASP), there are five major areas where school psychologists provide services: (1) consultation, (2) evaluation, (3) intervention, (4) prevention, and (5) research and planning. School psychologists also act as educators by helping others understand more about development, learning, emotional and behavioral problems in childhood and adolescence. They seek to improve teaching, learning, and socialization strategies based on their understanding of psychology, focusing on learning, motivation, and cognition.
More specifically, school psychologists assess and address students' learning and behavioral problems, suggest improvements to classroom management strategies or parenting techniques, and evaluate students with disabilities, as well as gifted students, to help determine the best way to educate them. They serve on interdisciplinary teams that develop individualized educational plans, as well as provide counseling and crisis intervention services. They may also evaluate the effectiveness of academic programs, prevention programs, behavior management procedures, and other services provided in the school setting.
While most work in elementary and secondary schools, there are a number of different areas where school psychologists might find employment. Private clinics, hospitals, state agencies and universities are possible sectors of employment. Some school psychologists also go into private practice and serve as consultants, especially those with a doctoral degree in school psychology. Sensitivity, compassion, good communication skills, and the ability to lead and inspire others are particularly important qualities for people wishing to do clinical work and counseling. See NASP’s FAQs about school psychology for more information on careers in this area.
Employment of all psychologists, including school psychologists, is expected to grow 12 percent from 2008 to 2018, which is about as fast as the average for all occupations. According to the U.S Department of Labor, job prospects should be best for those with a specialist (MA/MS) or doctoral degree in school psychology, among other applied psychology areas. In 2011, U.S. News and World Report named school psychology one of the top healthcare professions. Demand for school psychologists will be driven by a growing awareness of how students' mental health and behavioral problems, such as bullying, affect learning. School psychologists will also be needed to provide mental-health services to students, including working with students with disabilities or special needs, preventing and intervening on students’ risky behaviors, and managing crises.
Many school psychologists find great satisfaction in helping students to succeed. They are also able to work as part of an interdisciplinary team, often with a variety of teachers, administrators, parents, doctors, community members, students, and other psychologists. Further, those that work in a school setting enjoy a relatively predictable schedule, with daytime hours. On the other hand, while the hours may be predictable, school psychologists’ often face hectic schedules, especially if they work for multiple schools within a district. The work can be emotionally taxing and such stress can lead to burnout.