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School Psychologists

At a Glance

  • Help students with personal and emotional issues
  • Regularly interact with students, teachers, and parents
  • May have summers off
  • Have at least a master's degree
  • Need a license

Career summary

School psychologists help students with learning and behavioral problems. They work with teachers and parents to improve a student's school experience.

School psychologists evaluate students' needs through observation, assessments, and discussions with teachers and parents. They evaluate students of all abilities including those with learning disabilities as well as those who qualify for gifted and talented programs.

Based on their observations and assessment scores, school psychologists develop individualized education plans.

Psychologists work with students, teachers, family members, and school administrators. They also work with speech-language therapists and other educational therapists.

Psychologists may make suggestions to teachers for ways to improve the learning environment in the classroom to address the particular needs of a student. They might suggest different parenting techniques to improve the home environment.

While most school psychologists work in public or private school settings, some work in clinics, mental health institutes, state agencies, hospitals, or doctor's offices.

Related careers

This career is part of the Human Services cluster of careers.

Related careers include:

Job duties

Task list

The following list of tasks is specific to school psychologists.

Common work activities

School psychologists perform the following tasks. These tasks are common to many careers.

Work requirements

Working conditions

In a typical work setting, school psychologists:

Interpersonal relationships

Physical work conditions

Work performance


Physical demands

School psychologists frequently:

It is important for school psychologists to be able to:

It is not as important, but still necessary, for school psychologists to be able to:

Skills and abilities

School psychologists need to:


Reason and problem solve

Manage oneself, people, time, and things

Work with people

Perceive and visualize

Education and training

Educational programs

The programs of study listed below will help you prepare for the occupation or career cluster you are exploring.

Programs of study directly related to this occupation

Other programs of study to consider


To work as a school psychologist, you typically need to:

Education after high school

Most school psychologists earn an education specialist (EdS) degree in school psychology. This takes a minimum of three years of graduate study and a one-year, full-time internship. You study both psychology and education in-depth. Some people decide to continue their education with a doctoral degree in school psychology. This generally takes five to seven years.

During your graduate work you study child and adolescent development, data-based decision- making, mental health, learning styles, and many other subjects.

A bachelor's degree in education or psychology is a good foundation for your graduate study. Make sure to take classes in child development, research methods, statistics, and English.

On-the-job training

After you complete your graduate study, a one-year, full-time internship is necessary. During this you work in a school setting and receive hands-on experience.

School psychologists attend classes and seminars each year to update their skills and knowledge. They must complete a certain number of continuing education hours each year. This is required to remain certified as a school psychologist or maintain a professional license.

Helpful high school courses

In high school, take classes that prepare you for college. A college preparatory curriculum may be different from your state's graduation requirements.

You should also consider taking some advanced courses in high school. This includes Advanced Placement (AP) and International Baccalaureate (IB) courses if they are available in your school. If you do well in these courses, you may receive college credit for them. Advanced courses can also strengthen your college application.

Helpful electives to take in high school that prepare you for this career include:

Many school psychologists are self-employed. If you want to run your own business some day, you should consider taking these courses as well:

The courses listed above are meant to help you create your high school plan. If you have not already done so, talk to a school counselor or parent about the courses you are considering taking.

You should also check with a teacher or counselor to see if work-based learning opportunities are available in your school and community. These might include field trips, job shadowing, internships, and actual work experience. The goal of these activities is to help you connect your school experiences with real-life work.

Join some groups, try some hobbies, or volunteer with an organization that interests you. By participating in activities you can have fun, make new friends, and learn about yourself. Maybe one of them will help direct you to a future career. Here are examples of activities and groups that may be available in your high school or community.

Things to know

Most employers require a master's degree in school psychology. All states require school psychologists to be licensed.

Applicants must have good communication skills and a strong desire to help others. Some employers prefer applicants who are certified by The National Association of School Psychologists. Some employers look for school psychologists who speak languages other than English.


School psychologists must be certified by the Washington State Office of Superintendent of Public Instruction. There are two levels of certification for those applying for certification in Washington for the first time: residency and professional. Residency certificate requirements include:

The residency certificate is undated when first issued. After two years of employment as a school psychologist, the certificate becomes valid for five years.

Requirements for a professional certificate include:

The original educational staff associate certificate is good for five years. The renewal certificate is good for two years. After that, qualified psychologists receive a professional certificate. School psychologists who do not already have a valid educational staff associate certificate must go through a background check which includes digital fingerprinting. Digital fingerprints can be obtained at one of nine Educational Service District (ESD) offices. There is a main processing fee and each ESD may also charge a processing fee. Fingerprints can also be obtained from private fingerprinting services or law enforcement agencies for an additional fee and submitted to Washington State Office of Superintendent of Public Instruction. Employers may require an additional background check.

School psychologists must take 100-clock hours of continuing education and three hours of approved suicide prevention training every five years to renew their certification.

For more information on state certification, contact:

Washington State Office of Superintendent of Public Instruction
Professional Education and Certification (external link)

PO Box 47200
Olympia, WA 98504-7200


Job listings

Listed below are links to job categories from the National Labor Exchange that relate to this career. Once you get a list of jobs, you can view information about individual jobs and find out how to apply. If your job search finds too many openings, or if you wish to search for jobs outside of Washington, you will need to refine your search.

To get a listing of current jobs from the WorkSource system, go to the WorkSource website (external link).


Psychologists working for public schools in the state earn an annual average base salary of $59,675 per year.

#Updated ES wage info 07.16 sd; Updated OSPI data from 2011-12 School Dist. Personnel Summary Report, 4/30/13 cj. Updated from 2013-14 OSPI rpt 3/30/15 cj. 4/11/16 lh, 4/3/17, 3/18/19 cj.

Clinical, counseling, and school psychologists (SOC 19-3031)

Pay Period
Washington Hourly $21.85 $27.06 $34.46 $42.07 $49.02
Monthly $3,787 $4,689 $5,972 $7,291 $8,495
Yearly $45,440 $56,290 $71,670 $87,510 $101,960
    Bremerton-Silverdale Hourly $20.71 $26.62 $31.32 $37.91 $43.93
Monthly $3,589 $4,613 $5,428 $6,570 $7,613
Yearly $43,093 $55,365 $65,134 $78,848 $91,378
    Clarkston-Lewiston Hourly $12.57 $16.59 $21.02 $30.32 $36.23
Monthly $2,178 $2,875 $3,643 $5,254 $6,279
Yearly $26,127 $34,513 $43,728 $63,071 $75,366
    Kennewick-Richland Hourly $13.86 $26.73 $33.63 $37.83 $43.12
Monthly $2,402 $4,632 $5,828 $6,556 $7,473
Yearly $28,824 $55,599 $69,947 $78,685 $89,684
    Longview Hourly $25.66 $27.83 $31.44 $37.28 $43.34
Monthly $4,447 $4,823 $5,449 $6,461 $7,511
Yearly $53,361 $57,885 $65,386 $77,534 $90,155
    Mount Vernon-Anacortes Hourly $26.83 $28.60 $31.55 $35.90 $38.94
Monthly $4,650 $4,956 $5,468 $6,221 $6,748
Yearly $55,814 $59,495 $65,630 $74,680 $80,993
    Olympia-Tumwater Hourly $28.81 $32.80 $37.33 $43.32 $49.24
Monthly $4,993 $5,684 $6,469 $7,507 $8,533
Yearly $59,941 $68,234 $77,639 $90,101 $102,432
    Seattle-Tacoma-Bellevue Hourly $22.36 $27.65 $36.23 $44.84 $51.51
Monthly $3,875 $4,792 $6,279 $7,771 $8,927
Yearly $46,510 $57,530 $75,367 $93,268 $107,141
    Spokane-Spokane Valley Hourly $28.08 $32.30 $37.51 $45.13 $50.31
Monthly $4,866 $5,598 $6,500 $7,821 $8,719
Yearly $58,411 $67,189 $78,024 $93,879 $104,645
    Vancouver Hourly $22.73 $30.16 $40.70 $57.82 (1)
Monthly $3,939 $5,227 $7,053 $10,020 (1)
Yearly $47,277 $62,722 $84,654 $120,272 (1)
    Wenatchee Hourly $27.13 $31.58 $36.57 $40.86 $47.30
Monthly $4,702 $5,473 $6,338 $7,081 $8,197
Yearly $56,435 $65,677 $76,048 $84,981 $98,382
    Yakima Hourly $26.17 $30.36 $37.51 $44.29 $48.50
Monthly $4,535 $5,261 $6,500 $7,675 $8,405
Yearly $54,430 $63,152 $78,027 $92,112 $100,877
United States Hourly $21.18 $27.99 $37.01 $48.44 $62.17
Monthly $3,670 $4,851 $6,414 $8,395 $10,774
Yearly $44,040 $58,220 $76,990 $100,760 $129,310

(1) Wage estimate is not available.

Wages vary by employer and area of the country. The psychologist's experience and reputation also affect wages.

Salaried psychologists who work full time usually receive benefits such as paid vacation, sick leave, and health insurance. Self-employed school psychologists must provide their own insurance.

Employment and outlook

Washington outlook

The table below provides information about the number of workers in this career in various regions. It also provides information about the expected growth rate and future job openings.

Clinical, Counseling, and School Psychologists (SOC 19-3031)

Location Current employment Growth over 10 years Annual openings
Washington 3,948 19.7% 16.1% 430
    Adams, Chelan, Douglas, Grant, and Okanogan Counties 86 19.8% 13.4% 9
    Asotin, Columbia, Ferry, Garfield, Lincoln, Pend Oreille, Stevens, Walla Walla, and Whitman Counties 227 5.3% 8.6% 17
    Benton and Franklin Counties 133 18.0% 15.0% 13
    Clallam, Jefferson, and Kitsap Counties 146 18.5% 11.9% 15
    Clark, Cowlitz, and Wahkiakum Counties 319 21.6% 15.2% 36
    Grays Harbor, Lewis, Mason, Pacific, and Thurston Counties 223 20.6% 14.1% 25
    Island, San Juan, Skagit, and Whatcom Counties 158 22.8% 14.6% 18
    King County 1,046 21.2% 19.6% 117
    Kittitas, Klickitat, Skamania, and Yakima Counties 153 20.3% 13.8% 17
    Pierce County 871 21.9% 15.2% 99
    Snohomish County 320 18.8% 12.4% 34
    Spokane County 292 14.0% 13.9% 28
United States 162,000 14.7% 5.2% 14,600

National employment

About 30% of school psychologists are self-employed.

Major employers:

National outlook

Demand for this occupation will grow much faster than average. This is due to the increase in the number of students in schools. It is also because schools are trying to handle students' mental health and behavioral problems.

Opportunities should be best for psychologists with a doctorate (PhD). Those who have a master's degree in school psychology should also have many job prospects.

Other resources

American Psychological Association (external link)
750 First Street NE
Washington, DC 20002
Association of State and Provincial Psychology Boards (external link)
PO Box 849
Tyrone, GA 30290
Careers in Psychology (external link)
National Association of School Psychologists (external link)
4340 East West Highway, Suite 402
Bethesda, MD 20814


Career cluster

Career path

O*Net (external link) occupation

O*Net job zone (external link)

DOT occupation

Strong Interest Inventory

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