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The Top 10 Reasons To Become A School Psychologist
It doesn’t look like I graduated that long ago from my graduate school psychology program, but it’s actually been 16 years now. Time flies and a lot has changed in the field of school psychology. However, it seems that my reasons for becoming a school psychologist remained relatively intact. Here they are:
1) The salary is not that bad. Even though we are required to complete 3 years of graduate school which includes a one-year internship which is usually unpaid, school psychologists are relatively well paid. The average salary seems to be between $60-80,000 after about 5-10 years of experience.
2) Vacation time isn’t bad either. School psychologists usually have a contract for 210 days or so and do not work during the summer unless they want to earn extra money. This allows you to spend time with family or go on vacation during the summer.
3) School psychologists are relatively well respected in the school environment. Despite the fact that most people think of us as guidance counselors and very few school officials know exactly what we do, school psychologists seem to be held in high regard and are generally sought after when it comes to to find solutions to a wide range of problems.
4) School psychologists enjoy a great deal of autonomy in the workplace. Very often you will be assigned to more than one school. This can be stressful in terms of workload, but it can also be a blessing in disguise since you will be able to move from school to school depending on the needs of each school. You’re usually not stuck in an office watched by your boss. If so, you probably need to reconsider where you work.
5) Number 4 raises another good point. Job prospects for school psychologists are quite good. I don’t have the stats, but it looks like there are plenty of jobs available for those willing to move around the country. With the economy deteriorating lately, I have certainly seen a decrease, but even in tough economic times, it seems there are still opportunities for school psychologists. I found Schoolspring.com to be a great place to go to get an idea of how many schools are looking for new school psychologists.
6) You feel like you are helping those who need help. Of course, weeks and months pass as you go through paperwork and complete assessments. However, once in a while you come across a situation where you are able to provide real help to someone who needs it. It always does good. In fact, I recommend finding a position in the most economically depressed and troubled areas. After all, this is where we are most needed and where our efforts are most appreciated by parents, children and administrators. I work on the Mexican border and wouldn’t change that for the world. Despite the news reports, the people and community here are very grateful and highly appreciate their children’s education. I very rarely get the overly aggressive soccer mum who yells at me because her child is not in the gifted program.
7) Opportunity to diversify into other areas. With a master’s degree in psychology, one can teach at the community college level, work weekends for the local counseling agency, perform external assessments for other school districts in the area, and/or get into counseling in education. Not too many areas where you are qualified to do so many different things.
8) If you do not want to supplement your income in the different methods of #7, the field of school psychology offers many fields from which you can choose to be an “expert” and apply in your everyday professional life while by being a School Psychologist. There are graduate certificate programs in school neuropsychology as well as behavioral specialist and/or life coaching, all of which can be applied with your students in the school setting.
9) We call ourselves “Psychologists” but do not have a license. This was actually supposed to be reviewed by the APA, but luckily we can still call ourselves the “psychologists” of the school. Funny how many clinical “psychologists” have attempted to become school “psychologists” due to poor job prospects for clinical psychology degrees, but that’s another story and another issue.
10) Helping is something you are motivated to do. If you enjoy helping children who just need a little support to succeed in life, the field of school psychology may be for you. I wish I could have read about the ups and downs of being a school psychologist in the early 90s before venturing into this profession. However, this article is here for those who want to consider this profession. No profession is perfect and jobs vary greatly by location, boss, school board, etc. In my experience, it seems that school psychology positions are more alike than they are different, and the job is what you make it. You have the freedom to start programs or specialize in the area of your choice. There aren’t too many professions where you can do that.
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