Let’s Explore: School Psychology 101!

School Psychology is the specialty of psychology that focuses on the educational and psychological needs of children and adolescents in a school environment.

School psychologists make a difference in the lives of children, families and schools!

School psychologists utilize their knowledge and skills in principles of learning, behavior, development, and mental health to support students in their academic, social, emotional, and behavioral functioning. They provide comprehensive psychological and educational services to children and adolescents (both individually and in groups), and consult and collaborate with teachers, administrators and families, to create safe and supportive learning environments.

The Roles and Functions of a School Psychologist are diverse and exciting, and can include:

  • Individual and group counseling
  • Psychological and Academic Assessment
  • Crisis preparedness, response, and recovery
  • Family-school-community collaboration
  • Consultation and collaboration with teachers and school professionals
  • Diversity in development and learning
  • School wide anti-bullying and social-emotional learning initiatives
  • Academic/learning interventions
  • Mental health interventions
  • Behavioral interventions

Notably, the typical work day of a school psychologist is often NOT so typical!

School Psychologists hold distinct roles and functions from School Counselors (sometimes referred to as Guidance Counselors), School Social Workers, and other school staff not providing direct instruction. Importantly, schools ideally have access to all three of those professionals, as they often work in partnership to ensure all students and families have access to the supports and services they need.

Indeed, school psychologists help children, families, schools, and communities thrive.  Here are 4 reasons to pursue a career in school psychology!

How easy will it be to get a job once I graduate?

There is a current shortage of School Psychologists in the US, which is predicted to continue into at least until 2025.  The Bureau of Labor Statistics estimates that the field of School Psychology is expected to grow faster than average, by 14% from 2016-2026. This lack of available school psychologists, plus an increased demand for school psychological services, means that those who enter this field in the coming years will most likely have an easy time securing positions in the field after graduation. Many high school and college students seeking a stable and exciting career are excited to learn that School Psychology has been ranked #2 in Best Social Service Jobs, #20 in Best STEM Jobs, and #45 out of 100 in Best Jobs by US News and World Report.

Where can I learn more about School Psychology?

The roles and functions of a school psychologist

School psychologists are uniquely trained to work with children, families, teachers, administrators, and other professionals within school, community, and mental health systems.

School psychologists wear many hats, and their varying roles and functions can allow you to serve children, families and schools in countless ways!

School Psychologists Give Back in the Local Community by:

  • consulting with families to help children and to strengthen schools, families and communities.
  • collaborating with teachers, administrators, doctors, and other professionals from the community to help students thrive at home, school, and in the community
  • striving to foster school environments that celebrate diversity, promote inclusion, and inspire success.

School Psychologists are learning/educational and mental health specialists within the schools that:

  • serve as experts in analyzing student behavior.
  • provide counseling to support the mental health and learning needs of youth.
  • consult with parents, teachers, and other educators to solve learning or behavioral challenges.
  • provide expertise in the evaluation of students and identification of students’ individual learning and behavioral health needs in school.
  • promote school safety and address school crises and threats. Many school psychologists become PREPaRE trained to better support school safety and crisis teams.

The day-to-day experiences and the roles and expectations of school psychologists differ vastly by school district, specific school, and even within the same school.

School Psychologists can:

  • provide support at one school, while other school psychologists support a few schools.
  • spend the majority of their time evaluating students for special education and writing reports, while others spend their time consulting and intervening to help children blossom in the classroom.
  • work within or interface with medical, juvenile justice, alternative or therapeutic schools, and community mental health or psychiatric settings to support students across settings.

Overall, most school psychologists spend their days balancing the above listed roles and hold additional responsibilities, all to enhance academic, social-emotional, and behavioral well-being of all children.

That said, each day as a school psychologist provides a unique, exciting, and fulfilling opportunity to support students and their families. School psychologists demonstrate flexibility, work hard, think critically, and care for the success of students and leaders in the school system.

For additional information, the National Association of School Psychologists has an extensive web resource and printer-friendly documents that outline the roles and functions of school psychologists

About the Author

Erika Franta
Erika Franta, Ph.D., is a Provisionally Licensed Psychologist and a Licensed Mental Health Practitioner in the state of Nebraska. She is a recent graduate in School Psychology from the University of Nebraska—Lincoln. Erika is completing her post-doctoral work as a Psychology Fellow within the Munroe-Meyer Institute at the University of Nebraska Medical Center. Currently, she engages in school-based assessment and consultation within the Omaha Public Schools and provides behavioral health services in an integrated primary care pediatric clinic. She is the Project Coordinator of the Mid-America Mental Health Technology Transfer Center School Mental Health component and is a member of the Graduate Recruitment and Development (GRAD) Team. Her special interest are in school-based mental health, data-based problem solving and decision making, and prevention, evaluation, and treatment of youth involved in the juvenile justice system.
Aaron Gubi
Aaron Gubi, Ph.D., is a Licensed Psychologist and a Nationally Certified School Psychologist. He currently works as an Assistant Professor within the Department of Advanced Studies in Psychology at Kean University and also works part-time as a Psychologist within the New York City Health & Hospital system. He is currently a member of the Graduate Recruitment and Development (GRAD) Team, Co-chair of the Child Maltreatment and Trauma Interest Group through the National Association of School Psychologists, and Chair-elect of the Consortium of Combined-Integrated Doctoral Programs in Psychology (CCIDPIP) through the American Psychological Association in addition to other service at the national, state, and local levels. His research focuses on child maltreatment/trauma and multicultural competency issues in professional training and practice.
Dominique Reminick, MA, is a first-year doctoral student and graduate assistant in the Combined Clinical and School Psychology PsyD Program at Kean University in Union, NJ. She received her Bachelor of Arts in Psychology from Cleveland State University, as part of the University’s inaugural Honor’s Program, and she later completed a Master of Arts degree in Cognitive Science from University College Dublin in Dublin, Ireland. Her lifelong commitment to serving the community led her to positions in case management for adults with mental disorders, tele-counseling for tobacco cessation, public safety emergency response, management of CDC-funded programs for STD clinical education, and health advocacy for individuals with developmental and intellectual disabilities. Her research now focuses on implementing mindfulness practices in school-settings and increasing access to trauma-informed care approaches for school psychologists.

1 Comment on "Let’s Explore: School Psychology 101!"

  1. Great and inviting article! I enjoyed a 40 year career in school psychology, working in Wisconsin, then Columbia University (NYC) and finally NC. I branched out into gifted assessment and wellness for staff & students. My professors said there would be an increasing need for school psychologists, and they were right. Now I write, trying to pay forward for a rewarding career (American Institute of Stress at stress.org)

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