Best School Psychology Programs

Updated November 2, 2022

Graduates of school psychology bachelor's programs often pursue graduate studies to qualify for counseling roles.

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The field of school psychology focuses on assessing, analyzing, and treating mental health and learning issues that school-age individuals face. Many psychology bachelor's programs offer school psychology concentrations, which prepare learners to work as school counselors, program developers, or educational consultants. Most counseling jobs require a master's degree and state licensure, so graduates of school psychology programs often pursue further education.

The Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) projects employment for psychologists to increase 3% from 2019 to 2029. School psychologist positions may increase faster due to the increasing demand for professionals who are qualified to care for students with special needs.

Most full-time students complete bachelor's in school psychology programs in about four years. However, associate degree-holders often graduate in two years. Learners can graduate sooner by choosing accelerated programs, which usually involve several short, intensive terms per year.

Freshman applicants typically need a high school diploma or the equivalent, a minimum GPA, and acceptable standardized test scores. Learners may also need to submit an application essay. Psychology programs often require successful performance in prerequisite courses. The following sections explore program requirements, accreditation, careers, and resources for school psychology students.

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What Can I Do With a Psychology Degree?

School psychology programs help learners understand human behavior, which can lead to diverse career opportunities. Graduates often work for community organizations that provide educational or training programs. A school psychology degree can qualify working professionals for promotions, raises, and graduate studies.

After earning a psychology bachelor's degree, graduates often work for companies, community organizations, and schools. Graduates can become educational consultants, program coordinators, training and development managers, and school administrators. Current educators can earn a school psychology degree to improve their teaching approach or to transition to a new career. Direct-provider roles as school psychologists, guidance counselors, and social workers usually require state licensure and a master's degree in psychology.

The BLS projects average job growth for psychologists from 2019 to 2029. The BLS also projects a growing need for professionals specializing in learning disabilities, behavioral issues, and special needs.

Accreditation for a Psychology Degree

School psychology programs help learners understand human behavior, which can lead to diverse career opportunities. Graduates often work for community organizations that provide educational or training programs. A school psychology degree can qualify working professionals for promotions, raises, and graduate studies.

After earning a psychology bachelor's degree, graduates often work for companies, community organizations, and schools. Graduates can become educational consultants, program coordinators, training and development managers, and school administrators. Current educators can earn a school psychology degree to improve their teaching approach or to transition to a new career. Direct-provider roles as school psychologists, guidance counselors, and social workers usually require state licensure and a master's degree in psychology.

The BLS projects average job growth for psychologists from 2019 to 2029. The BLS also projects a growing need for professionals specializing in learning disabilities, behavioral issues, and special needs.

FAQ on Psychology

What can I do with a bachelor's degree in psychology?

Individuals with a psychology degree can choose from dozens of career paths. However, many psychology positions require additional credentials and work experience. Graduates of psychology bachelor's programs often pursue graduate studies to qualify for counseling roles.

What is the difference between a psychiatrist and psychologist?

As medical doctors, psychiatrists can diagnose mental illnesses and prescribe medication. Psychologists usually focus on talk therapy and cannot prescribe medication.

Is a psychologist a therapist?

Psychologists' responsibilities vary by position. For example, some conduct original research. However, many psychologists provide therapeutic mental health services.

What do psychologists make annually?

Clinical, counseling, and school psychologists earned an average annual salary of $87,450 in 2019, according to the BLS. However, earning potential varies based on the individual's experience, credentials, employer, and region.

What Are the Requirements for a Psychology Degree?

Applicants to bachelor's programs typically need a minimum 2.5 GPA, a high school diploma, recommendation letters, and sufficient standardized test scores. Psychology programs may feature additional requirements, such as prerequisite coursework.

Psychology bachelor's programs usually comprise about 60 major credits and 60 general education credits. Major requirements often include core courses, school psychology concentration courses, and a capstone internship or thesis.

Courses in a Psychology Program

Students earning a bachelor's in school psychology typically complete general education requirements, general psychology courses, and core and elective school psychology classes. Most psychology programs include an internship or practicum experience, during which students develop clinical counseling skills. Experiential requirements prepare learners to provide direct mental health services. Some programs also require a senior capstone thesis, which allows degree-seekers to demonstrate skills in psychology research, analysis, and writing.

Core school psychology curricula usually include classes in counseling, human development, learning theory, and research. Other common courses include instructional design and assessment. School psychology electives focus on topics such as change and advocacy in schools, family-school partnerships, and school psychology in a global society. The courses below appear in many school psychology programs.

  • Counseling and Psychopathology Theories

    This core course introduces key bodies of theory, such as cognitive-behavior therapy, existential therapy, family systems therapy, and psychoanalytic theory. This class may also cover reality therapy, gestalt therapy, person-centered therapy, and solutions-focused approaches. Degree-seekers learn about the therapeutic methods that correspond to various theories. Students prepare to recognize, diagnose, and treat mental illnesses.
  • Program Development

    This course teaches enrollees how to design and implement counseling and education programs for specific populations. Learners also prepare to address school-wide issues. Coursework may focus on programs that address common issues, such as low student morale, poor grades and test scores, and high numbers of students with special needs. Learners cultivate problem-solving skills and prepare to apply development strategies, relevant research, and assessment practices.
  • Learning Theory

    This essential class covers key theories related to learning and cognitive development. Students explore major theoretical schools of thought, including contextual learning, experiential learning, cognitivism, and behaviorism. Enrollees also study perspectives, principles, and tools for accommodating various learning styles. Some school psychology programs offer elective courses in specific learning theories.
  • Exceptional Individuals

    Many school psychology programs require this class, which helps degree-seekers gain theoretical knowledge and practical tools to accommodate students with giftedness, disabilities, and diverse backgrounds. Aspiring education professionals prepare to design learning environments that are conducive to students with special needs and abilities. Enrollees prepare to help teachers create individualized learning plans tailored to students with unique learning challenges, needs, styles, and preferences. Coursework emphasizes the skills and tools professionals need to promote motivation and inclusion among students.
  • Child and Adolescent Development

    This core class surveys the mental, emotional, and physical development of children and young people. Enrollees learn about genetic and environmental factors that influence growth. Degree-seekers examine topics including learning theories, personality development, addiction, and trauma. Students prepare to serve children and youth in culturally relevant ways and to encourage resilience and development. This training helps future counselors and psychologists identify and treat various mental health issues.

Certifications and Licensure for Psychology Majors

Educational psychologists, guidance counselors, and school counselors who serve students directly need certification or licensure from their state's board. Licensure requirements often include a relevant master's degree from an accredited school and a certain number of supervised internship or professional experience hours. School psychology professionals often pursue the following credentials.

State boards administer this credential to school counseling professionals who hold a counseling-related master's degree from a regionally accredited school. Candidates must have completed coursework in nine core areas, along with 48 graduate-level credits of supervised fieldwork.

Candidates also need at least 3,000 hours of postgraduate counseling work, including 100 supervised hours. To obtain certification, individuals need a professional endorsement from a qualified colleague and must pass the National Counselor Examination (NCE) or the National Clinical Mental Health Counseling Examination (NCMHCE).

This certification for school counselors can lead to advanced positions in the field. Candidates must have completed prerequisite coursework in three of five content areas, which include school counseling, family counseling, addictions counseling, and child and adolescent counseling.

Applicants also need six credits of supervised field experience, 100 hours of postgraduate supervised school counseling, and at least two years of school counseling experience. Candidates must also receive a professional endorsement and pass the NCMHCE or the NCE.

State boards deliver this licensure. In some states, licensed professionals are known as licensed clinical professional counselors or licensed mental health counselors. LPCs need a master's degree from an accredited school and must have completed relevant coursework and internship requirements. Licensure candidates need at least 3,000 experience hours and must pass the NCE or an equivalent examination.

Professional Organizations for Psychology Majors

The following professional organizations serve psychology students and professionals. Many professional associations provide networking opportunities, continuing education courses, special events, and job postings. These organizations may also host annual conferences, publish research, and advocate for mental health practitioners and researchers.

The field's leading professional organization, APA generates practice codes and standards, publishes research, and provides continuing education programs. APA also hosts the largest annual psychology conference and maintains two special divisions focused on educational psychology. Committed to ethical practice and professionalism, ASCA publishes relevant research and offers webinars, employment, and networking opportunities. Members can also join special-interest networks. The organization supports policy, law, and initiatives favorable to school counseling professionals. NASP is the nation's largest professional organization for school psychologists. The association advocates for increased access to high-quality mental health services. NASP also sets professional standards, provides professional development and continuing education opportunities, and publishes practitioner guides. Student members can access leadership opportunities, networking events, funding opportunities, and mentorship programs. As the top educational therapy professional organization, AET establishes ethical and professional practice standards. The association works to raise public awareness and offers training, continuing education, networking, and professional development opportunities.

Scholarships for Psychology Students

School psychology students can qualify for field-specific scholarships. Many private and public foundations and professional organizations award scholarships based on financial need, academic performance, and community involvement. Learners can also apply for awards reserved for students who belong to underrepresented populations. The following scholarships are available to qualifying school psychology students.

Diversity in Psychology and Law Research Award

Who Can Apply: The American Psychology-Law Society offers this research award to support underrepresented students and those researching diversity-related psycholegal issues. Applicants must hold membership with the society and must submit a project proposal, a cover letter, a CV, and support letters. Applicants must also include an approval letter from their institutional review board.

Amount: $500-$1,000

Melanie Merola O'Donnell Memorial Scholarship

Who Can Apply: The Melanie Foundation awards this scholarship to U.S. students enrolled in accredited mental health-related graduate programs. Applicants must express interest in either O'Donnell's commitment to wisdom and compassion or the link between community violence and mental health. Candidates must demonstrate a history of volunteer, extracurricular, career, or research activities. Applicants submit a CV, transcripts, reference letters, and an essay.

Amount: $2,500

Deborah Partridge Wolfe International Fellowship

Who Can Apply: This fellowship supports African American women who are enrolled full time. Applicants must be a U.S. student in an international graduate program or an international student in a U.S. graduate program. Application requirements include three recommendation letters, official transcripts, and a 150-word essay describing the applicant's educational and professional aspirations.

Amount: $500-$1,000

The Best School Psychology Programs

#1 Best School Psychology Programs

Johns Hopkins University

  • Baltimore, MD
  • 4 years
  • Online + Campus

Johns Hopkins University is a private college offering hybrid education in Baltimore, Maryland. The college offers 74 bachelor's programs, as well as a range of master's and doctoral programs. Students benefit from a supportive learning environment and personalized interactions with faculty and staff.

Students interested in psychology should consider pursuing the institution's master of science in counseling degree. Degree-seekers gain skills and knowledge through classes, lectures, and experiential learning opportunities. Students can customize their study by declaring a double major, a minor, or a degree concentration, as well as choose electives that reflect their career interests. Students benefit from institutional resources throughout their studies, including career services and academic advising.

Depending on eligibility, students can apply for scholarships, fellowships, and other funding for their educational expenses. The college reports that 67% of all learners receive some form of aid.

Average Tuition
In-state
$55,350
Out-of-state
$55,350
Retention Rate
97%
Admission Rate
11%
Students Enrolled
27,079
Institution Type
Private
Percent Online Enrollment
46% Percentage of all students who are enrolled online.
Accreditation
Yes Middle States Commission on Higher Education

#2 Best School Psychology Programs

Lehigh University

  • Bethlehem, PA
  • 4 years
  • Online + Campus

Lehigh University is a private college offering premier bachelor's-level education to students worldwide. The private institution offers hybrid degree programs at the undergraduate level. At present, the college provides 75 bachelor's degree programs.

Upon enrollment, students connect with a supportive learning community, whether in person or online. Students who earn a bachelor of arts in psychology degree build competency through rigorous coursework and lectures. Learners complete foundational and advanced coursework designed to facilitate graduate studies in psychology or a related field. 

Students can work with their academic advisor to modify their studies, select electives, and pursue additional coursework that suits their career goals. Learners further benefit from access to institutional resources, such as academic advising and career services.

Learners can also meet with a financial aid counselor to determine their eligibility for scholarships, fellowships, and federal financial aid. According to data, 69% of all enrollees receive some form of aid.

Average Tuition
In-state
$54,790
Out-of-state
$54,790
Retention Rate
93%
Admission Rate
32%
Students Enrolled
6,953
Institution Type
Private
Percent Online Enrollment
6% Percentage of all students who are enrolled online.
Accreditation
Yes Middle States Commission on Higher Education

#3 Best School Psychology Programs

University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill

  • Chapel Hill, NC
  • 4 years
  • Online + Campus

Students looking to jumpstart their careers should consider a bachelor's degree from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, which offers 62 undergraduate programs. Undergraduate students connect with peers and a world-class faculty through a supportive learning community.

Students who choose to earn a bachelor of arts in psychology will gain skills and knowledge through their coursework, better preparing them for a career relevant to the field. At the undergraduate level, a bachelor's degree in psychology will introduce students to the foundational principles of psychology.  

Students can also customize their studies by choosing electives and declaring minors. For a more specialized program, students can opt to earn a bachelor of science in psychology degree. This track helps prepare students for an advanced degree. The college connects students with numerous resources, such as academic advising and career services, throughout the duration of their degree programs.

Students can meet with the financial aid office to determine their eligibility for scholarships, fellowships, and other financial aid awards. The college notes that 65% of all enrollees receive some form of financial aid.

Average Tuition
In-state
$7,019
Out-of-state
$34,198
Retention Rate
96%
Admission Rate
23%
Students Enrolled
29,877
Institution Type
Public
Percent Online Enrollment
12% Percentage of all students who are enrolled online.
Accreditation
Yes Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges

#4 Best School Psychology Programs

Northeastern University

  • Boston, MA
  • 4 years
  • Campus

Future school psychologists seeking a quality advanced degree program should consider Northeastern University. The Boston-based college supports both in-person and remote degree learning. Both modalities support rigorous study and connect students with premier faculty and supportive learning communities.

The university offers a master of science in applied educational psychology and a certificate of advanced graduate study in school psychology. The school psychology (MS/CAGS) degree can be earned in three years and prepares students for a career in school psychology. Students complete foundational and advanced coursework, as well as participate in experiential learning opportunities. While enrolled, students can also access institutional resources, including career services and academic advising.

Based on their eligibility, students can receive scholarships, fellowships, and other financial aid awards. At the college, 78% of all enrollees are awarded financial aid packages.

Average Tuition
In-state
$52,420
Out-of-state
$52,420
Retention Rate
99%
Admission Rate
18%
Students Enrolled
22,207
Institution Type
Private
Percent Online Enrollment
10% Percentage of all students who are enrolled online.
Accreditation
Yes New England Commission on Higher Education

#5 Best School Psychology Programs

Loyola Marymount University

  • Los Angeles, CA
  • 4 years
  • Online + Campus

Loyola Marymount University is a leader in hybrid education, supporting both in-person and online learning. The college campus and online learning environments both enable students to connect with peers, faculty, and staff during their studies.

After enrolling in the master of science in educational psychology program, students join a supportive learning community, connecting with peers, faculty, and staff online or in person. As part of the program curriculum, students complete coursework, attend lectures, and participate in experiential learning opportunities. 

While the program takes three years to complete, students can customize their workload to accommodate their career goals and schedule. Students can earn their advanced degrees online or in person at the Los Angeles campus.

The college connects students with scholarships, fellowships, and other funding sources to help offset educational expenses. Of all enrollees, 93% receive some form of financial aid.

Average Tuition
In-state
$49,550
Out-of-state
$49,550
Retention Rate
89%
Admission Rate
44%
Students Enrolled
9,822
Institution Type
Private
Percent Online Enrollment
6% Percentage of all students who are enrolled online.
Accreditation
Yes Western Association of Schools and Colleges Senior Colleges and University Commission

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AccreditedSchoolsOnline.org is an advertising-supported site. Featured or trusted partner programs and all school search, finder, or match results are for schools that compensate us. This compensation does not influence our school rankings, resource guides, or other editorially-independent information published on this site.

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