EdS in School Psychology: Degree and Career Guide
If you’re interested in using your psychology knowledge within the education system, a career in school psychology could be for you. Working to provide support for children, teachers, administrators, and parents, school psychologists aim to create safe environments for learning and teaching.
From job specific information to the degree options available, there’s a lot to learn about starting a career in school psychology. You can find all that information and more in the overview below, giving you the tools you need to get started in the field.
School Psychologist Job Overview
Before we dive into the degree options, let’s learn the specifics about what a school psychologist does and where they work.
What does a school psychologist do?
First and foremost, the responsibilities of a school psychologist are oriented towards enhancing a student’s chance for success. However, to do that, they must work with not only the student, but with teachers, administrators, and even families. Depending on who a school psychologist is working with, their job will take on different roles:
|Students||Administer psychological and academic assessments|
Manage behavior and provide instructions and interventions
Collect and interpret student data
Prevent bullying and promote positive disciplinary action
Monitor student progress
|Teachers/Administrators||Educate staff on diverse cultures and backgrounds|
Bridge the gap between the staff and the student’s family
Adjust classroom facilities and routines when necessary
|Parents||Connect families to community service providers|
Communicate the student’s learning and mental health needs
Communicate student progress
School psychologist vs. school counselor
School psychologists and school counselors may sound like interchangeable titles, however, there are differences between these roles. While school counselors also work to provide support for students, school psychologists work at a level above these counselors. They often work with more at-risk students or those with disabilities and have more specific training in mental health screening and behavioral assessment. They can provide additional support and guidance to counselors, especially in cases of particularly challenging students or situations. School psychologists also tend to focus on the overall data collected by student assessments and ways to implement the proper changes within the school.
A final difference is the level of education required for the position. Though each state will have their own requirements, school counselors are often required to have a master’s degree while school psychologists often need a more advanced degree, such as an EdS or doctorate.
School psychologist vs. educational psychologist
Educational psychologists are interested in the study of learning, working to evaluate teaching methods, implement new processes, design better curriculum, and help students achieve their goals. For example, an educational psychologist might study how culture influences how people absorb and retain new knowledge, or how different types of technology can help remote students develop specific skills.
Educational psychologists may interact with students to perform assessments, however, they primarily work with teachers and administrators. While school psychologists typically work within a public school, educational psychologists may work at a higher level within a school board or in settings such as education departments, research institutions, or private testing companies.
Where do school psychologists work?
The most common work environment for school psychologists is, you guessed it, a school, specifically K–12 public schools. However, if that doesn’t appeal to you, you can find employment in:
- Private schools
- School district administrative offices
- Mental health centers
- Hospital settings
- Juvenile justice programs
School psychologist requirements
Every state has different requirements for becoming a practicing school psychologist, including the type of credentialing you need.
No matter what type of credential you seek, a master’s degree in school psychology is the minimum level of education required and, in fact, most states require a specialist-level degree. Depending on the level at which you want to practice, such as in research or administration, you may need to earn a doctorate.
Beyond the degree title you hold, most states credential school psychologists according to the semester and internship hours that they’ve completed. In terms of specialist programs, you’ll need to complete at least 60 semester hours and a 1,200-hour internship.
The majority of states will also require that you complete a school psychology exam to become credentialed. The exact exam will vary depending on the state you seek licensure in.
What’s an EdS Degree in School Psychology?
So, what exactly is this specialist-level degree that most states require? To start, an EdS—short for Education Specialist—is a classification of degree unique to the field of education. This degree is a step above a master’s and a step below a doctorate. While a typical master’s degree takes a minimum of 30 semester hours to complete, an EdS doubles that at 60.
Education specialist vs. other degrees
If you opt to earn an even higher degree, there are 3 options available at the doctorate level:
- PhD (Doctor of Philosophy)
- PsyD (Doctor of Psychology)
- EdD (Doctor of Education)
A PhD and PsyD both allow you to work in leadership roles and private settings, however, they have different advantages in the type of work you’ll do. PhD programs for school psychologists focus on the research and teaching aspects of the work. Students earning a PhD are more interested in generating data to provide new knowledge to the field. On the flipside, PsyD programs focus on practical application. PsyD students work to apply their data and knowledge through the services they provide to students and schools.
EdDs are perfect for practicing school psychologists looking to advance their career into higher-level leadership roles. These practitioners commonly work to apply their systems-based skills at the district level as a superintendent, or at the school level as a program director.
Whether looking to earn a PhD, PsyD, or EdD, you should expect your program to take about 90 semester hours and include a 1,200–1,500-hour internship. These degrees usually take about 5–6 years to earn, though PhDs may take longer due to the extensive focus on research.
Admission Requirements for an Education Specialist Degree Program
EdS programs have different requirements depending on the school you’re applying to. However, all require you to submit transcripts for the degree you hold, whether it be a bachelor’s, master’s, or both.
Holding a degree in school psychology, while helpful, is not required to enter an EdS program. At a minimum, you should complete coursework in psychology and statistics or research if you don’t hold a psychology degree specifically. Your experience level can help as well. Many programs look favorably upon applicants who apply with work-related experience in psychology, even if their degree is outside of the field.
Many programs will also require letters of recommendation, an essay detailing why you’re applying to the program, and an in-person interview.
Is there a GPA requirement?
GPA requirements vary depending on the program you pursue. On average, most schools accept students with a minimum GPA of 3.0 on a 4.0 scale, though the most competitive programs may require as high as a 3.5.
Do you need to take the GRE?
Whether or not you’ll need to take the GRE again depends on the EdS program you apply to. While not all EdS programs require applicants to submit GRE scores, others require a composite verbal and math score of 310 with a writing score of 4.
For students with a GPA of 3.5 or higher, some programs may waive the GRE requirement.
Can you get in without a master’s degree?
Depending on the program you apply to, you may or may not need to hold a master’s degree. At a minimum, all EdS programs require applicants to hold a bachelor’s.
Programs that don’t require students to have a masters to apply do require that students work towards earning a master’s on their way to completing their EdS.
How Long Does It Take to Get an Education Specialists Degree?
If you’re entering into an EdS program without a master’s degree, you can expect your program to take roughly 4 years of full-time study to complete. However, the average EdS program consists of a minimum of 60 semester hours and 3 years of full-time study.
EdS in School Psychology Curriculum
Typical curriculum in an EdS program covers assessment, research, theory, and practice. Within those general categories, your course load will be broken down into more specialized topics.
You should expect your coursework to include specific classes such as:
- Social-emotional assessment in schools
- Consulting in schools
- Systems theory and practice
According to the National Association of School Psychologists (NASP), your general curriculum should address:
- Data-based decision-making and accountability
- Consultation and collaboration
- Interventions and instructional support to develop academic skills
- Interventions and mental health services to develop social and life skill
- School-wide practices to promote learning
- Preventive and responsive services
- Family-school collaboration services
- Diversity in development and learning
- Research and program evaluation
- Legal, ethical, and professional practice
Is an Internship Required?
Most states do require applicants to complete an internship to gain credentialing as a school psychologist. While EdS programs often have different internship specifications, many states have adopted the NASP internship standard of 1,200 hours.
These hours can be completed full-time over the course of a year, or part-time over the course of 2 years. At least 600 of these hours must be completed in a school setting.
Are There Online EdS Programs for School Psychology?
Online programs are available at the EdS level, however, it’s important to note that an internship will still be required to complete the program. While online programs can give you flexibility, you’ll need to ensure that you can complete the in-person internship requirement before committing to an online program.
You may also find options for hybrid programs, which combine both online and in-classroom coursework. These typically involve the majority of classes being offered online, letting you only have to attend classes on campus 1 or 2 times a week.
How to Choose a School Psychology Program
You should evaluate a variety of factors when determining what kind of EdS school psychology program will work for you. Consider questions such as:
- Is there an online option?
- Are scholarships or financial aid available?
- How long will the program take to complete?
- Can I commit part-time?
- Do I want to earn my master’s and EdS degree at the same time?
- Is the program accredited?
The exact type of accreditation your program should have will vary depending on the state that you want to become licensed in. While some require a NASP accreditation, others require accreditation through the U.S. Department of Education or the Council for Higher Education Accreditation. You should check your state’s licensing requirements before committing to a program.
Financial Aid for School Psychology Students
To seek financial aid as a student in an EdS school psychology program, you should first complete the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA). This application takes into account your financial standings and compiles the best financial options available. These options can include loans, grants, and scholarships. Your school may also offer work-study opportunities that can decrease the overall cost of your tuition.
There are even scholarships offered by private businesses and organizations. One notable scholarship is the NASP-ERT Minority Scholarship Program. This scholarship works to encourage the training of minority students pursuing licensure as school psychologists.
Does School Psychology Qualify for Student Loan Forgiveness?
With loans being a huge financial burden, many potential students avoid earning advanced degrees altogether. Looking to reduce shortages created by this problem, the NASP pushes for school psychologists to be included in loan forgiveness policies.
Currently, NASP has highlighted 3 loan forgiveness opportunities for school psychologists:
- Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act, Title V: Health Care Workforce
- Higher Education Opportunity Act of 2008
- College Cost Reduction and Access Act of 2007: Public Service Loan Forgiveness Plan
These each have their own stipulations, such as your type of employer or how many months of repayment are needed because you can be granted forgiveness.
Professional Organizations for School Psychologists
The leading organization for school psychologists is the NASP. They’re dedicated to supporting school psychologists specifically, including providing professional development opportunities and job-finding resources.
The American Psychological Association (APA) covers the entire field of psychology, including but not limited to school psychology. Both the NASP and APA are helpful resources for students in school psychology programs and those who are already practicing school psychologists.
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