It doesn’t seem like that long ago I graduated from my School Psychology graduate program but it has actually been going on 16 years now. Time flies and much has changed in the field of School Psychology. However, it seems like my reasons for becoming a School Psychologist have relatively remained intact. Here they are:
1) The pay isn’t that bad. Even though we are required to complete 3 years of graduate school which includes a one year internship that is commonly unpaid, School Psychologists get compensated relatively well. The average salary seems to be in the $60-80K range after about 5 – 10 years of experience.
2) The vacation time isn’t bad either. School Psychologists are commonly on a 210 day contract or around there and don’t work through the summer unless they want to pick-up some extra money. This allows time to spend with family or to go on long vacations in the summer.
3) School Psychologists are relatively well respected in the school setting. Despite the fact that most individuals think we are guidance counselors and very few school officials even know exactly what we do, School Psychologists seem to be held in high regard and are commonly looked for when it comes to finding solutions to a wide range of issues.
4) School Psychologists have a great deal of autonomy in the work place. Quite often you will be assigned more than one school. This can be stressful in terms of work load but it can also be a blessing in disguise since you will be able to move from school to school depending on each school’s needs. You usually aren’t stuck in an office being watched by your boss. If you are, you probably need to re-consider where you are working.
5) Number 4 brings up another good point. The job outlook for School Psychologists is pretty good. I don’t have the statistics but it seems that there are plenty of jobs available to those that are willing to move about the country. With the economy taking a turn for the worse lately I have definitely seen a decrease but even in tough economic times it seems that there are opportunities still out there for school psychologists. I have found Schoolspring.com a great place to go to get a feel for actually how many schools are looking for new School Psychologists.
6) You feel like you are helping those that need help. Sure, weeks and months pass by where you slog through the paperwork and complete the evaluations. However, every so often you are confronted with a situation in which you are able to provide some real assistance to someone in need of it. That always feels good. I actually recommend finding a position in those areas that are the most economically depressed and full of problems. After all, this is where we are needed the most and is also where our efforts are appreciated the most by parents, children and administrators. I work on the Mexican border and wouldn’t change that for anything. Despite the news reports, the people and the community here are very grateful and value their children’s education quite a lot. I very rarely get the over aggressive soccer mom yelling at me because her child isn’t in the gifted program.
7) Opportunity to branch out into other fields. With a Masters in Psychology one can teach at the community college level, work weekends for the local counseling agency, perform outside evaluations for other local area school districts, and/or branch out into educational consulting. Not too many fields where you are qualified to do so many different things.
8) If you don’t want to supplement your income in the various methods in #7 the field of School Psychology offers a great many areas you can choose from to be an “expert” in and apply in your everyday professional life while being a School Psychologist. There are post graduate certificate programs in School Neuropsychology as well as behavior specialist and/or life coaching, all of which can be applied with your students in the school setting.
9) We are called “Psychologists” but do not have a license. This was actually up for review by the APA but thankfully we can still call ourselves School “Psychologists”. Funny thing how many Clinical “Psychologists” attempted to become School “Psychologists” due to the poor job prospects for clinical psych degrees but that is another story and issue.
10) Helping is something you are driven to do. If you like helping kids who are basically just in need of a bit of support to get them through to a successful life then the field of School Psychology might be fore you. I wish I were able to read the ups and downs of being a school psychologist back in the early 90’s before I ventured out into this profession. However, this article is there for those who want to consider this profession. No profession is perfect and jobs vary a great deal depending on locations, bosses, school boards and so on. In my experience it seems that School Psychology positions are more similar than they are different and the job is what you make of it. You have the freedom to start programs or specialize in your area of choice. Not too many professions out there where you can do that.