Have you ever wondered, “What is a school counselor?” or, “What is school psychology?” You may have seen these important support professionals in elementary and secondary schools without knowing exactly what their role is in helping students. Below you will find some of the similarities and differences between school psychologists and school counselors.
To become a school psychologist, you will need to complete a graduate degree in school psychology. You may either complete a specialist-level degree such as an EdS (Education Specialist), PsyS (Specialist in Psychology), a specialist-level master’s degree, or a doctoral-level degree (PhD, PsyD, or EdD). Not all master’s degrees are specialist-level degrees. Specialist-level degree programs require at least 60 graduate semester hours,an internship, and take longer to complete [PDF, 728 KB]. A specialist-level degree program takes a minimum of 3 years of full-time study to complete (including the internship), whereas a master’s degree typically requires 2 years of full-time study.
The role of a school psychologist is to support students in collaboration with teachers, families, administrators, and other school mental health professionals. Typical school psychologist duties include administering psychological and academic tests for students who need them, creating appropriate individualized education plans for students with disabilities, promoting positive behavior modification, and intervention planning for special education needs. It is important to note that schools do not diagnose children; doctors and clinicians do.
How do school counselors help students? School counselors advise students on academic planning, provide counseling for students who have attendance or disciplinary issues, and consult with teachers and administrators about connecting with students to ensure student success, among many other responsibilities [PDF, 57 KB]. Learn more about education and licensing requirements, pay, and potential work settings for school counselors below.
To become a licensed school counselor, check with your state education department for current requirements. Some states require a separate licensing exam, while others only require completion of an accredited graduate program.
Both school psychologists and school counselors play an essential part in the academic, social, and emotional development of students. There is some overlap in the roles and duties of a school psychologist and school counselor. Considering the similarities and differences between the two roles, as well as the educational path, can help you choose which one is the best fit for you.
School Counselor Career
If you want to work with a large variety of students and help to improve student success for all students, becoming a school counselor may be the better option for you. School counselors help students by developing and implementing a school counseling program that addresses the academic, career and social/emotional development of all students.
In most cases, you need a master’s degree and a licensing exam to become a school counselor, but not a specialist or doctorate degree as required for school psychologists. While money is not the main motivation for most people pursuing a career in education, it is worth noting that the average salary for school counselors is lower than that of school psychologists.
School Psychologist Career
If you want to provide direct support and create interventions for students with more targeted needs, you might want to consider a career in school psychology. School psychologists work one-on-one with students but also have the opportunity to create a positive school climate overall. If you’re prepared to invest more time in a specialist-level master’s degree or doctoral degree, becoming a school psychologist can be a rewarding career choice.