These days, stress is not only hitting adults, but also children. Adults at least have an idea about how to handle stress, unlike children. The education system is becoming more and more competitive and demands a lot from pupils. We can hardly do anything to change the system, but what we can certainly do is assist and support children in bearing this stress, so that they can face problems more confidently. Considering this need of the hour, most schools are appointing school psychologists and/or counselors. If you think you have the ability to make life easier for children and want to make a career in this field, it is essential to understand how to go about it.
A school psychologist uses his/her knowledge of psychology and education to treat the emotional and mental problems of children regarding the learning process, in a school setting. There are various areas in which he/she can specialize, such as education testing, counseling, or research. Some mandatory duties involve conducting and administering psychological tests in schools, ensuring that the children get maximum education opportunities and good learning atmosphere, and dealing with parents and teachers to solve critical mental problems associated with children. From their duties, it is clear that this field is highly specialized, and so, the candidate has to pass strict regulations to enter this profession.
The first thing you must know about is the qualifications required. It is advisable that you start preparing, right from your high school days. If possible, take up science subjects; this will improve your logical reasoning and will give you insights into the functioning of the physical world.
It will also prepare you for later studies in brain functioning, which are essential to psychology. After high school, it is advisable that you complete an undergraduate psychology major, as some graduate programs require so. You can also go for statistics, mathematics, educational psychology, child psychology, and education. At the end of college, you must appear for the Graduate Record Examination (GRE) and apply to graduate schools simultaneously.
The candidate must get a license/certificate from the National Association of School Psychologists (NASP) for legal practice. To get the certificate, a candidate must achieve a Master’s, Specialist, or Doctoral degree in school psychology. In many states, it is also mandatory to acquire board certification, for which he/she has to complete the APA (American Psychological Association) accredited graduation program. This program includes coursework and experience in ethical professional practice, consultation, assessment, and intervention. The 60-credit-hour specialist degree is currently recognized by NASP, as the most appropriate training needed for entry-level practice. Earlier, a Master’s degree was enough to practice in schools. Specialist training lasts for 3 – 4 years, including a minimum of 1200-hour internship. As for doctoral training, one has to complete 5 – 7 years of graduate coursework that includes 1500-hour internship. The main difference between these two programs lies in the duration of coursework. In doctoral-level training, one requires studying more advanced statistics, involving oneself in research activities, and engaging in original research. Specialist training is for those who want to make careers as a practitioner/administrator, while doctoral-level training is for the ones willing to enter into research and academia. After program completion, one becomes eligible to work in the respective sub-fields.
The salary range varies according to different states and the school, but on an average, it falls somewhere between USD 80,000 and USD 95,000 per year, and increases with experience. The role of a school counselor is quite similar to that of a school psychologist. If you aspire to become a school counselor, it is important to know that it is relatively easy to become one, as you will simply require to appear for the GRE and get a Master’s degree only. Counselors do not need to undergo the complicated and time-consuming process that the former needs to.