Student Psychology and Counseling

If you pursue a career in student psychology and counseling, you'll help children or teenagers overcome learning and social issues. To learn more about educational and licensing requirements, earnings and the employment outlook for school counselors and psychologists, read on.

Is Student Psychology and Counseling for Me?

Career Overview

School psychologists and counselors have similar duties in that they both assist and advise students who are having difficulty with educational and social issues. School counselors may play a bigger role when it comes to helping students make college and career decisions. In elementary schools, you might work with parents and teachers to address students' academic and developmental needs. At the high school level, you'll help students choose a career, select appropriate classes and fill out college admissions paperwork.

School psychologists work with students to help them succeed in school while maintaining friendships and familial relationships. As a psychologist, you'll most likely conduct research in child development, social learning and behavioral problems, or how school programs can be evaluated and improved. You may also have the chance to apply your research to your place of work.

Career Options

If you decide to become a school psychologist or counselor, you'll most likely work in schools at the elementary, middle or high school levels. Additional training may qualify you for a position at a college or university. Potential employers might also include hospitals, clinics and government organizations that work with young people and families.

Employment and Salary Information

The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) reported that employment of clinical, counseling and school psychologists was predicted to grow by 11% nationwide from 2012-2022, which is about average. Candidates with a doctoral or specialized degree in school psychology should enjoy the best opportunities. During the same 10-year period, employment of school and career counselors was expected to increase by 12% across the country. As of May 2013, the median annual salary for school psychologists was $67,760, while career, guidance, school and vocational counselors earned a median annual salary of $53,600 (www.bls.gov).

How Can I Become a Student Counselor or Psychologist?

Educational Requirements

To become eligible to work as a school counselor or school psychologist, you'll need to earn a master's degree in educational counseling, educational psychology or a closely related field of study. Once enrolled, you'll learn how school, community and family shape children's growth, development and behaviors. You'll also be trained to address student behaviors and provide various counseling methods. Exploring the use of standardized tests to assess children's abilities and progress might also be part of the curriculum.

As an aspiring school counselor or school psychologist, it would be beneficial to begin your education with an undergraduate major in psychology. You'll need to earn several credits in counseling or psychology in order to apply to graduate programs.

Educational Specialist Programs

Once you've earned a master's degree in school counseling or school psychology, you may be eligible for admission to an Educational Specialist (Ed.S.) program. This is a post-master's, terminal course of study that may include advanced topics in student behavior and educational trends. The credits earned through an Ed.S. program may be transferable to a Doctor of Education.

Doctor of Philosophy in School Psychology

A Doctor of Philosophy in School Psychology program may require intensive research in behavior management, learning disorders and educational legal issues, among other areas of inquiry. Additional requirements include fieldwork, internships or practicums. As a qualified graduate, you'll be eligible to teach your subject at the postsecondary level.

Licensing and Certification

For many states, completion of a master's degree program is sufficient to become a certified or licensed school counselor or school psychologist. If you live in a state that does not grant licensure or certification after completion of a master's degree, earning an Education Specialist (Ed.S.) degree should help you qualify for a position. Depending on your state, you might have to obtain an additional credential, such as the Pupil Personnel School Psychology (PPSP).

A voluntary certification may improve your chances of finding employment. The National Board for Certified Counselors (NBCC) offers exams that can lead to a National Certified Counselor (NCC) or the National Certified School Counselor (NCSC) credential. The American Board of Professional Psychology (ABPP) offers specialty board certification in counseling psychology and school psychology.

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