Working as a professional in the education sector has become increasingly difficult in recent years. These positions must deal with evolving student behavior issues and rapidly changing technology. School psychologists act as the much-needed support system to these challenges, tackling mental health issues and human behavior within a school setting.
Looking for a career that not only makes a significant impact on young people’s lives but also offers a comfortable salary? Consider becoming a school psychologist to address the growing mental health concerns among school-aged children.
But what does a school psychologist do exactly, and how do you become licensed to work as one? Here’s an overview of what it means to be a school psychologist and the steps required to become certified in the state of Massachusetts.
What Is a School Psychologist?
A school psychologist is a trained and licensed expert in psychology, human behavior, mental health, and education responsible for students’ academic and mental well-being. School psychologists collaborate with and support students, teachers, parents, and other educational administrators alike to address—and educate them on—their students’ academic and mental health concerns.
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School psychologists generally work in a preventative capacity by conducting evaluations and behavioral assessments, creating and implementing academic and behavioral intervention plans, teaching social and behavioral skills, and facilitating peer meditation sessions. Additionally, school psychologists may assist with crisis response as well as issues around substance abuse, eating disorders, and bullying.
While no two days are exactly alike for school psychologists, they are viewed as the liaison between the school administrators, parents, and students in some capacity.
6 Steps To Become a School Psychologist in Massachusetts
There are several steps you must complete to become a certified psychologist. These requirements can vary from state to state, and you’ll need to get licensed in the state in which you plan to work. If you’re looking to become licensed in Massachusetts, here are the steps you’ll need to take to gain licensure.
1. Earn an Undergraduate Degree
The first step to becoming a school psychologist in the state of Massachusetts is to earn an undergraduate degree from an accredited institution. Fortunately, your undergraduate degree doesn’t need to be in psychology, but it must meet certain prerequisites. Therefore, it helps if your undergraduate degree is in a closely related field, such as sociology, child development, or education.
No matter the degree specialization, it’s recommended to take courses in child development, psychology, statistics and research methods, and general or special education to best position yourself for your master’s-level coursework.
2. Enroll in a Master’s Degree Program From an Accredited Program
After earning an undergraduate degree, it’s recommended you earn your master’s degree from an accredited program. Even though you can still find work with an MS degree from a non-accredited program, it makes becoming a school psychologist more complicated—requiring you to submit additional materials and/or take additional coursework.
Northeastern University offers a Master of Science (MS) and a Certificate of Advanced Graduate Study (CAGS) in School Psychology—a three-year, fully accredited program through the National Association of School Psychologists and the Massachusetts State Department of Education.
Your curriculum will likely include some, if not all, of the following courses:
- Introduction to Cognitive Assessment
- Behavior Management
- Child and Adolescent Psychopathology
- Understanding Culture and Diversity
Northeastern’s program requires students to complete 62 semester hours and a full-year internship. Additional coursework may be required depending on the concentrations or specializations you hope to pursue. The School Psychology program at NEU has become increasingly popular in the state of Massachusetts, boasting culturally diverse and urban field placements, as well as a supportive network of student cohort groups.
Although a doctoral degree isn’t required to become a school psychologist, some individuals pursue this additional education for more opportunities to conduct research. If you’re interested in this, you may want to consider earning a doctoral degree, which takes about five to six years to complete.
3. Obtain an Initial License
While earning your MS and Certificate of Advanced Graduate Study in School Psychology, graduates must pass the Communication and Literacy Skills test (MTEL). The MTEL is proctored online and consists of two sections:
- Reading comprehension: 42 multiple-choice questions
- Writing subtest: 35 multiple-choice questions, seven short-answer questions, and two open-response assignments
Many prospective students take this exam outside of their graduate degree program. Still, NASP-accredited schools, such as Northeastern University’s Bouve College of Health Sciences, include this licensure requirement as part of the curriculum. Therefore, NEU students are ready to immediately transition into the field post-graduation.
4. Complete an Internship or Practicum
The final year of your master’s degree program focuses on applying your education to real work experience by completing 1,200 hours in a relevant practicum or internship program. At least half of these hours must be completed in a school setting to graduate with a master’s degree. This is also required for earning the certificate of advanced graduate study.
By reducing the coursework in the final year of the master’s degree program to a single support seminar, students are able to fully immerse themselves in the internship experience. If you know what location you want to eventually live in and work out of, you may want to complete your internship in that state rather than where you earn your degree. Many students complete their internship out-of-state because of this.
Once your internship is over and all coursework prerequisites are complete, you’ll be eligible for initial licensure as a school psychologist through your state’s department of education.
5. Obtain Your Professional License
The final step is obtaining a professional license. To qualify, you’ll need an initial license, a passing score on the Praxis II exam (which is completed as part of the degree requirements at Northeastern), and three years of experience working in the field.
6. Maintain Your Certification
Now that you’ve earned your MS in School Psychology, passed your certification exams, and earned your professional license, you can officially begin your career as a school psychologist.
The work doesn’t stop here, though. Now it’s essential to maintain your certification and ensure both your licensing and training stay up-to-date to remain employed. For example, the NCSP certification requires 75 hours of continuing professional development every three years to keep you informed on new developments and methods within your profession to keep your skills sharp.
You should also expect some additional fees for renewing your certification over the years. The NCSP certification renewal fee costs $99 for NASP members and $199 for non-members.
Take the First Step Toward a New Career
Pursuing a career in school psychology may seem daunting, but it’s well worth the investment in both time and money. Working as a school psychologist is an incredibly rewarding opportunity, thanks to its impact on the well-being of young people.
If you’re a highly skilled psychology professional who enjoys working with children, school psychology is a great opportunity to work with a diverse staff in a wide range of education systems to best serve and ensure the success of future generations.
Start your journey to becoming a certified school psychologist by applying to Northeastern University’s MS/CAGS in School Psychology program.