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Friday, March 12, 2010

Ever Think About Becoming a School Psychologist?

If you like children and want to work in a "helping profession", school psychology may be for you. According to the National Association of School Psychologists, these professionals "help children and youth succeed academically, socially, and emotionally. They collaborate with educators, parents, and other professionals to create safe, healthy, and supportive learning environments for all students that strengthen connections between home and school.

School psychologists are highly trained in both psychology and education. They must complete a minimum of a Specialist-level [graduate] degree program (60 graduate semester credits) that includes a 1200-hour internship and emphasizes preparation in the following: data-based decision making, consultation and collaboration, effective instruction, child development, student diversity and development, school organization, prevention, intervention, mental health, learning styles, behavior, research, and program evaluation."

To read about one professional's experience as a school psychologist, see below.

Simone Gunderson, MA. School Psychologist, Capistrano Unified School District
“A Career as a School Psychologist”

"I have always had a passion for children and have wanted to work in a career that allowed me to make a difference for them. During my undergraduate studies, I began researching careers that involved working in the educational system and the opportunity to work directly with students. While doing this research, I discovered the field of school psychology. I chose the field of school psychology for both the challenge and positive impact I can have on a child’s education.

I discovered that a school psychologist typically works within a school setting, providing services to students from the preschool through the secondary level. They collaborate with teachers, parents, and professionals to determine the best learning environment for students. Their duties typically include conducting educational evaluations to determine the appropriate placement of students. Additionally, they counsel students, provide parent and teacher consultations, and are sought after as a resource for student interventions.

After completing my Bachelor of Arts degree from the University of California Irvine, I began working on my graduate degree at Azusa Pacific University in Southern California. This program combined both a Master of Arts degree in Educational Psychology and a Pupil Personnel Services Credential in School Psychology. A Pupil Personnel Services Credential is required to practice as a School Psychologist in the state of California. The graduate program consisted of a minimum of sixty graduate units, which included a 1200-hour internship. The graduate course of study focused on counseling, academic and behavioral interventions, completing psycho-educational assessments, research, and evaluation.

Prior to completing my graduate degree, I held a variety of jobs working with students with disabilities. This kind of experience can be very valuable when entering the field of school psychology. I worked as an Intensive Behavioral Intervention (IBI) instructor for preschool age students with moderate to severe autism. This position was especially helpful gaining experience working with the growing number of students with autism in our school system.

Currently I work for Capistrano Unified School District as a full-time school psychologist. I am positioned at both a middle school and an elementary school. As a school psychologist, I have many duties. The majority include conducting psycho-educational evaluations on students and interpreting the information to parents and staff regarding the appropriate placement of students. These evaluations may include intelligence testing, academic evaluations, and determining how a student is functioning both socially and emotionally. Counseling students on various issues such as school success, behavior, and emotional issues is also an important part of my job. Most school psychologists also serve on the school site’s crisis management team in order to provide support and consultation in the event of a school crisis. Additionally, as a member of the-school’s intervention team, I participate in meetings regarding particular students that are struggling.

The field of school psychology can be very rewarding. School psychologists work in collaboration with teachers, parents, and administrators to promote student success. There seems to be a steady need for professionals in the field of school psychology. If working with children and helping them see their true potential seems interesting, a career in school psychology may be for you."

Special thanks to Simone Gunderson for writing this narrative to be included in the Insiders' Guide to the Psychology Major (by Wegenek and Buskist, APA Books, 2010)

For more information on what school psychologists do, visit the National Association of School Psychologists online: http://www.nasponline.org/about_sp/whatis.aspx


Visit the American Psychological Assocation Division 16 (School Psychology Division) site:

To learn about the job outlook for school psychologists, including expected growth and salaries in this field, visit the Occupational Outlook Handbook published by the federal bureau of labor statistics:


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