Education and Certification

The APA only accredits doctoral programs in school psychology. Its standards describe how the program should be structured, but not specific courses to be offered (Committee on Accreditation, 2002). Likewise, the U.S. National Association of School Psychologists (NASP) describes how the program should be developed and implemented. In the U.S., a Specialist degree is usually required for an individual to work as a school psychologist, although a few states still credential school psychologists with a Master's degree or Certificate of Advanced Graduate Studies (CAGS). In addition, NASP provides a national credential (NCSP) for those who have the equivalent of a Master’s degree plus 30 graduate semester hours, a 1200-hour supervised internship, and have a passing score on the National School Psychology Examination.

Accredited programs require courses/practica/internships to ultimately cover the following domains: data-based decision-making and accountability; consultation and collaboration; effective instruction and development of cognitive/academic skills; socialization and development of life skills; student diversity in development and learning; school and systems organization, policy development, and climate; prevention, crisis intervention, and mental health; home/school/community collaboration; research and program evaluation; school psychology practice and development; and information technology.

Ph.D. training programs differ from Specialist programs in that they require students to take courses within a chosen area of academic specialty, complete a dissertation and comprehensive examination, and complete a qualified 12-month (as opposed to 9-month) internship. Ph.D. programs may also require students to involve themselves in more advanced research endeavors within the department. While the Ed.S. and SSP are the most common Specialist degrees, some schools instead offer a Psy.S. (Specialist in Psychology) in school psychology, which is a post-Master's specialist degree.

Since school psychologists are so influential within the school system and frequently consulted to solve problems, practitioners should be able to collaborate with other members of the educational community and confidently make decisions based on empirical research.