School Psychologist Education Requirements

Last Updated on December 14, 2022 by

Four Steps to Becoming a School Psychologist

Wondering how to become a school psychologist? The following steps outline the education and licensure requirements needed to work as a school psychologist.Step 1Complete a DegreeSchool psychologists typically hold a bachelor’s degree in psychology or a closely related field and a graduate degree in school psychology. Most states require at least 60 graduate credits to earn licensure or certification, so many school psychologists pursue an Ed.S. in school psychology.


During a school psychology program, students take classes on topics like behavioral analysis, the psychology of learning, and research methods. Programs also incorporate internship or practicum requirements to give students hands-on experience in the field.Step 2Earn State LicensureSchool psychologists need a license from the state to practice. Licensure requirements vary by state, but candidates typically need a school psychology degree from an accredited program. Most states also require at least 1,200 hours of supervised experience. In addition to education requirements, many states require passing scores on a school psychologist examination, such as the Praxis II exam.Step 3Find a School Psychologist PositionAfter meeting education and licensure requirements, school psychologists can look for jobs in their field. Over 80% of school psychologists work in public school settings, but they may also work in private schools, universities, preschools, student wellness centers, and research settings.


School psychologists can begin looking for a job during their graduate program. Networking with professionals in the field and building connections during an internship can help school psychology students enter the workforce.Step 4Maintain CertificationEven after securing a job as a school psychologist, professionals must maintain their credentials and stay current in the field. Each state sets its own licensure renewal process. In some states, school psychologists must meet these requirements every 2-5 years to maintain their credentials. Other states do not set specific continuing education requirements but still require school psychologists to renew their credentials.

Preparing to Become a School Psychologist: Schools and Programs

Courses in School Psychology Programs

Many colleges and universities offer school psychology programs at the bachelor’s and graduate levels. During a bachelor’s degree in psychology, students learn foundational concepts and methods in the field while taking specialized courses in school psychology, the behavioral process of learning, and educational psychology.

At the graduate level, school psychologists can earn a master’s degree, a specialist-level degree, or a doctoral degree. In many states, school psychologists must complete at least 60 graduate credits to earn licensure or certification.

When researching school psychology programs, prospective students should consider factors like enrollment options, cost, and admissions policies. Candidates should also research a potential program’s accreditation status, length, and practicum or internship requirements to find the best school psychology program for their needs.

Research Methods in School Psychology

Students explore the techniques and principles used in educational research. Students conduct research reviews and critique their methods while learning how to design their own research processes. The class prepares learners to write a thesis or research-based project as part of their degree.

Behavioral Assessment

School psychology students examine behavioral assessment methods to identify the causes of behavioral problems and create effective behavioral interventions. Coursework covers evidence-based behavioral assessment techniques, such as interviews, observations, and descriptive assessments. The class also introduces students to the process of designing and conducting behavioral assessments.

Instructional Intervention

This class covers systematic instruction methods, assessment procedures, and the role of psychologists in placing students into appropriate educational programs. Learners study the implementation process for intervening with learners. They also explore different methods to promote academic, communication, and social skills, such as direct instruction, incidental teaching, and task analysis.

Behavior Principles of Learning

In courses on the behavioral principles of learning, students examine research and scholarship on the psychological principles behind learning. Topics may include student motivation, the influence of schedules, and respondent conditioning. The class integrates concepts like behavior analysis into the assessment and intervention process for working with learners.

School Psychology Practicum

During a practicum, students complete supervised field experience under the guidance of a licensed school psychologist. They may shadow a school psychologist in an educational setting, work directly with students, or complete other activities to build the skills required for careers in school psychology.

School Psychologist Education Requirements California

Education and Experience: Candidates Educated Outside of California

A student educated outside California must also have a baccalaureate degree from a regionally accredited school and 60 semester hours of appropriate baccalaureate-level study. The Commission notes that programs approved by the National Association of School Psychologists (NASP) meet requirements.

If the education is not clearly recognizable as equivalent, the candidate will need to have a California-approved program review their education and make a recommendation (http://www.ctc.ca.gov/credentials/leaflets/cl606.pdf).

NASP lists the following as minimum program standards for out-of-state students seeking California school psychologist licensing: 450 hours of practicum and 1,200 hours of field experience. At least 300 of the practicum hours must be with children from preschool to twelfth grade level, but a portion of the 300 may be in community agency settings. At least 800 of the field experience hours must be in a school setting unless the program was before July 1, 2004 (http://www.nasponline.org/certification/state_info_list.aspx).

An out-of-state candidate must also confirm that they are eligible for the school psychology credential in their own state.

Internationally Educated Applicants

Candidates educated outside the United States must have a formal transcript evaluation (http://www.ctc.ca.gov/credentials/leaflets/cl635.pdf). The Commission notes that internationally obtained credential-qualifying coursework must be evaluated by one of the approved agencies even if a U.S. institution has accepted it for credit. Rush services are available for an additional fee.

Basic Skills Requirement

Certification candidates must meet a basic skills requirement (http://www.ctc.ca.gov/credentials/leaflets/cl667.pdf). However, candidates who passed an acceptable examination as a requirement for program admission will not be required to do again.

If a candidate has passed the California State University (CSU) Early Assessment Program in English and math or the CSU English Placement Test and the Entry Level Mathematics assessment, this is deemed sufficient. Otherwise, the candidate may submit scores from the California Subject Examinations for Teachers (CSET) Multiple Subject Plus Writing Skills Examination or the California Basic Educational Skills Test (CBEST).

California will also accept basic skills examinations administered by other states.

Background Clearance

Certification is dependent on clearing a background check through the California Department of Justice (DOJ) and the FBI. The Commission notes that background checks completed for other agencies or employers are not accepted.

In-state candidates must use LiveScan fingerprint capture. They should download three LiveScan forms from the Commission site and bring them to the LiveScan operator (http://www.ctc.ca.gov/credentials/fee-and-fingerprint.html). Those who visit the Commission website can also find a list of fingerprint locations organized by county (along with their hours of operation and fees charged). Some locations accept walk-ins; others require appointments.

Out-of-state candidates can have their fingerprints made the traditional way. They may email credentials at ctc.ca.gove to request fingerprint cards.

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