The Best School Psychology Programs 2021

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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.

The Best School Psychology Programs

Rank School Location
1 Johns Hopkins University Baltimore, MD
2 Lehigh University Bethlehem, PA
3 University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill Chapel Hill, NC
4 Northeastern University Boston, MA
5 Loyola Marymount University Los Angeles, CA

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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


  • 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.

National Certified Counselor


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).

National Certified School Counselor


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.

Licensed Professional Counselor


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.


  • American Psychological Association 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.

  • American School Counselor Association 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.

  • National Association of School Psychologists 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.

  • Association of Educational Therapists 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 2021



  1. Johns Hopkins University
    Location

    Baltimore, MD

    Johns Hopkins University offers a master of science in counseling with a concentration in school counseling. The program emphasizes urban school environments and prepares graduates for positions in K-12 institutions.

    Beginning in the Fall of 2020, students accepted to the MS program follow a 60-credit curriculum. Students can complete the degree on a full-time or part-time basis. Graduates must pass the Counselor Preparation Comprehensive Examination to earn the MS degree.

    The curriculum includes coursework in counseling theory, practice, appraisal, and testing. Classes also cover diversity, social justice, and ethical and legal issues. Enrollees can transfer up to six graduate-level credits from another accredited school with their faculty advisor's approval. The program requires students to complete a 600-hour internship.

    The MS program qualifies graduates for the Maryland State Department of Education certification as school counselors.

  2. Lehigh University
    Location

    Bethlehem, PA

    Lehigh University in Bethlehem, Pennsylvania offers a postgraduate psychology program consisting of an educational specialist (Ed.S.) degree in school psychology. The National Association of School Psychologists approves the 66-credit curriculum.

    Candidates must show an undergraduate GPA of 3.0 or higher and submit their latest GRE scores, except for Fall 2021 applicants. Students can pursue the program full time or part time. Most full-time enrollees earn the Ed.S. within three years.

    The 66-credit program comprises six research core credits, 12 psychological foundation credits, 3-9 credits each in counseling psychology and special education, and 36 professional school psychology credits. The curriculum includes classes in applied behavior analysis and assessment and intervention in educational consultation. Other courses cover crisis management in schools and historical and contemporary issues in school psychology.

    Ed.S. candidates complete 200 hours of practical experience during their first two years. The final year consists of an internship. Students must pass a comprehensive exam to graduate.

  3. University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill
    Location

    Chapel Hill, NC

    The master of education (M.Ed.) in school counseling at UNC Chapel Hill consists of 60 credits completed with a cohort. The program prepares graduates for licensure as school counselors in K-12 schools throughout North Carolina.

    The curriculum follows a three-part structure: 30 credits of core content, 24 credits of clinical coursework, and six credits of approved electives. Core courses cover subjects such as human development, cultural competence, and social justice. Enrollees also study promoting health and wellness in schools and college admissions counseling.

    The clinical requirement includes 700 hours of field experience, 100 practicum and 600 internship. The practicum includes 40 hours of direct service, while the internship includes 240. Students fulfill contact requirements during the regular K-12 school year and the remainder of the required clinical hours during summer terms.

    After securing their advisor's approval, M.Ed. candidates can enroll in non-counseling elective courses in fields such as social work, sociology, or education.

  4. Northeastern University
    Location

    Boston, MA

    Northeastern University offers a school psychology program consisting of a master of science in applied educational psychology and a certificate of advanced graduate study (CAGS) in school psychology. A three-year dual program, the MS/CAGS offers optional specializations in early intervention and applied behavior analysis.

    Applicants must submit their latest GRE scores and hold a bachelor's degree in psychology. They must also show completion of undergraduate courses in child development, abnormal psychology, introduction to psychology, and research methods and statistics.

    The MS curriculum comprises 31 credits and includes classes in psychopathology, cognitive assessment, behavior management, and learning principles. The CAGS curriculum also consists of 31 credits and includes coursework in clinical skills, consultation, and program evaluation. Classes also cover curriculum-based assessment and instruction and counseling youth in schools.

    MS/CAGS candidates complete 75 hours of pre-practicum experience, 450 practicum hours, and 1,200 internship hours. Students also produce a graduate portfolio that includes comprehensive case studies.

  5. Loyola Marymount University
    Location

    Los Angeles, CA

    The school psychology program at Loyola Marymount University consists of three advanced certifications: a master of arts in educational psychology, an educational specialist degree, and a California pupil personnel services credential.

    Applicants need a bachelor's degree in psychology or closely related field. The program requires an undergraduate GPA of 3.0 or higher. Applicants with a non-psychology undergraduate degree must complete at least 18 credits of psychology classes before starting the program.

    Required coursework for the credentials include cognitive and learning problems, special issues and best practices, and behavioral assessment. Learners also study social responsibility, violence prevention, and crisis intervention. Students complete field placements during their second and third years in the program. To graduate, candidates must pass the praxis exam for school psychology with a minimum score of 147.

    LMU's school psychology program is approved by the National Association of School Psychologists.

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