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How to become a school psychologist

Are you passionate about promoting mental health awareness and wellbeing to young people? If so, discover how to become a school psychologist here.

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While school can be an enjoyable and enriching time for young people, there are some students that may struggle during their school years. Like everyone else, students also need support for their mental health and wellbeing. 

In this article, we‘ll explore how to become a school psychologist. From talking about salaries to the soft skills you’ll need, we’ll make sure you’re clued up so you have all the information you need when deciding whether this role is right for you.

What does a school psychologist do?

A school psychologist works with students to improve and maintain their mental health and overall wellbeing. They provide support through counselling, academic consultation, and crisis intervention.

With the growing presence of social media and online bullying, school psychologists are more in demand than ever before. Not only do they guide students through anxiety and concerns about online abuse, they also support them with issues such as challenging friendships, behavioural classroom issues, violence, and any other similar problems. 

There are lots of different areas that a school psychologist may need to support students with, so no two days are necessarily the same. However, there are some day-to-day responsibilities that remain consistent, including:

  • Using cognitive assessment skills to evaluate and diagnose learning disorders and developmental disabilities
  • Offering impartial, easy-to-understand advice
  • Addressing behavioural issues
  • Managing crisis intervention 
  • Working on strategies to improve learning experiences
  • Interacting with parents and teachers to recommend solutions
  • Implementing and evaluating school programmes
  • Contributing to teaching and learning strategies

What qualifications do you need to become a school psychologist?

The qualifications you’ll need will depend on the country you live in. However, this information can also be applied to most countries around the world.

In the UK, you’ll have to register with the Health & Care Professions Council (HCPC), which involves training at postgraduate level at a university. To start, you’ll need to take a British Psychological Society (BPS) accredited degree in psychology, to then be granted a Graduate Basis for Chartered Membership

If you studied a non-psychology degree, then you’ll need to do a conversion course. You’ll also be expected to complete a year’s work experience with young people in an education, health, social care, youth justice, or childcare setting. Once completed, you need to do a three-year Doctorate in educational psychology accredited by the BPS. At this point, you’ll then be given HCPC registration.

What are the skills needed to become a school psychologist? 

A lot of the more technical skills you need will come with training and experience. However, there are some soft skills that’ll come in handy if you want to thrive in this role and give students the best support possible:

  • Good communication and interpersonal skills
  • Sensitivity and compassion
  • An open-minded nature
  • The ability to explore emotional issues
  • The ability to work well under pressure
  • A flexible and adaptable approach to work
  • Good time management
  • Curiosity
  • Excellent research skills
  • Self-awareness
  • The ability to work both independently and in a team

How long does it take to become a school psychologist?

The length of time it takes to become a school psychologist depends on the academic path you choose. If you study a relevant degree and get a three-year Doctorate (including any work experience you may do along the way), you can expect it to take six to eight years.

However, if you study a different course at university that isn’t a BPS-accredited degree, then you’ll also need to factor in the time it takes to complete a conversion course as well as one year of work experience.

How much could you earn as a school psychologist?

A school psychologist’s salary will depend on the country you work in, how much experience you have, the position you apply for, and the school you choose to work for.

As a benchmark, in the UK, you can expect to earn approximately £38,865 once you’re qualified, which can rise up to £52,440. As your career and experience develops, you can expect to earn anywhere from £48,727 to £65,707 as a senior or principal educational psychologist.

Indeed estimates that the average school psychologist’s salary in the UK is £50,215. If you work in the US, you can expect to earn approximately $55,137.

Other salary expectations from around the world include:

What careers are available as a school psychologist?

There are lots of exciting career opportunities available to you when studying to be a school psychologist. While the role itself tends to stay quite consistent in terms of responsibilities, the environment you work in can vary. Possible employers include:

  • Schools (public and private) and colleges
  • Community environments and social enterprises
  • NHS hospital trusts (UK only)
  • Private consultancies
  • Charitable organisations
  • Self-employed or private practice partnership

Some people are quite happy working their way up an organisational structure and gaining more seniority. On the other hand, others may prefer to go down the self-employed route and have that extra freedom, once they have enough experience. 

You may also want to take the skills and experience you’ve gained as a school psychologist and specialise in another field of psychology. To do this, all you need to do is complete the relevant qualifications and training to make the switch.

How to become a school psychologist: additional learning

Now you know how to become a school psychologist, why not take a look at some of the courses we offer at FutureLearn to support you in your studies? Whether it’s our youth mental health or wider psychology and mental health courses, we have something for everyone. 

Online youth psychology courses at FutureLearn

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