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10 Pros and Cons of Being a School Psychologist


Written By: Jennifer Schlette MSN, RN

Has a career in helping students succeed academically, emotionally, and behaviorally ever appealed to you? Have you ever felt like you would be a good life problem solver? Then pursuing a career as a school psychologist may be right for you, or is it? As with any decision you ever have to make, there will be pros and cons. So, what are the pros and cons of being a school psychologist? Do not fret if you do not know, I will help you out with that. Below you will find the top 10 pros and cons of being a school psychologist. The information you will read below will prepare you to make a sound decision regarding your future.


What Is A School Psychologist?


A school psychologist is a mental health expert that works in a variety of settings but mainly within the school system. One of the key objectives of a school psychologist is to work alongside other professionals such as teachers, administrators, and families in order to foster a safe environment for students. As a school psychologist, you will be applying principles from educational psychology, developmental psychology, clinical psychology, community psychology, and behavior analysis to meet the learning and behavioral needs of students to create a positive environment. A student’s success is the main goal of these mental health professionals.


TOP CONS OF BEING A SCHOOL PSYCHOLOGIST

(The following are the top 10 disadvantages of being a school psychologist.)

1. You will first need the correct Bachelor’s degree.

In order to become a school psychologist, you must first earn a Bachelor’s degree in the field of psychology. So, if you majored in something like business or art history in your undergraduate career, it looks like it is back to the drawing board for you.

2. You didn’t think your education ended with a bachelor’s degree, did you?

In order to become a school psychologist, some states will require that you must go on to earn your master’s degree. The master’s degree is the set standard and the minimum education level for those looking to enter the profession of school psychology. Having to earn a graduate degree in order to start working is definitely one of the top disadvantages of being a school psychologist. Rarely is a Ph.D. required unless you are looking to be a consultant or work in private practice.

3. I hope you have been saving those pennies.

As we discussed, the first step in becoming a school psychologist is earning a bachelor's degree in psychology. The bad news about this is that this degree, unfortunately, is not free. At Penn State, you are looking at spending around $6,994 to $7,549 per semester. The University of California-Berkley will run you $9,126.75 for state residents and $ 4,003.75 for out-of-state residents a semester. Man; those bills are wracking up.

4. I hope you didn’t think you were done paying for your education?

So, as previously discussed, you will need to go on and further your education with a master's degree to work as a school psychologist in some states. The University of Miami does offer a graduate program in psychology at the cost of $2,213.00 per credit. Purdue University also offers a graduate degree in psychology and will cost you about $347.85 if you are a resident, total Nonresident tuition is about $948.30, and for total international Nonresident $1,018.30. The cost of your education just keeps going up. The amount of money that you could be potentially spending in order to pursue this career is one of the elements you will need to assess when weighing the pros and cons of being a school psychologist.

5. You will dedicate a great deal of time to schoolwork.

In order to become a school psychologist, you are going to have to put in a lot of time for your schoolwork. The amount of time you will need to dedicate to your studies is one of the biggest disadvantages of being a school psychologist. Let’s start off with the bachelor's degree, you will need around four years to complete this degree, and then you must move on to your graduate-level degree. Your required graduate work will take you about 2-3 years to complete. So, in total, you are looking at around 6-7 years before you can get out there and work and earn some money.

6. You will need to pass an exam.

In some states, you will not only be required to pass a state licensing exam but you will also be required to pass the Praxis #5402. This test is designed to assess if you are qualified to practice in the field of psychology. Although exams can be nerve-wracking, imagine how nerve-wracking it can be if you fail these tests and have to take them over.

7. You will find your credentials will vary from state to state.

Each State Education Agency (SEA), except for Texas and Hawaii, specifies the requirements to practice as a school psychologist in that state. Not having uniform credentials can become confusing and not practical if you decide to relocate. This means you may find that you are stuck to one location if your credentials are not satisfactory for a different state.

8. You may feel overworked.

Depending on which school district you are employed by, you may be required to handle more than one school within the district. If that is the case, you will find that you will have many more students to manage in comparison to those who only have to manage one school. Managing multiple schools also means you may be required to show a presence at these numerous schools throughout the week making this one of the cons of being a school psychologist.

9. You may not be getting a good night's sleep.

As a school psychologist, you are the go-to person when a student is experiencing a mental health crisis. The thing about a mental health crisis is that it does not always fit into the Monday through Friday 9-5 schedule. Although it does happen rarely, you may be woken in the middle of the night to lend your expertise to a student in need.

10. You will be faced with ethical and legal dilemmas.

As a school psychologist, you will be faced with ethical and legal dilemmas at some point in your career. Unfortunately, this realm can be pretty grey. You will have to balance the well-being of the children you are seeing and their families, all the while maintaining confidentiality. This can become stressful and nerve-wracking. You want to do the best for your clients, but you also want to uphold standards and the law.


TOP PROS OF BEING A SCHOOL PSYCHOLOGIST

(The following are the top 10 advantages of being a school psychologist.)

1. You could get the summers off.

As a school psychologist, your work schedule will follow the school calendar. So, what that means for you, is that you get to have summer vacation just like all the kids which is one of the biggest advantages of being a school psychologist. This will be beneficial to you if you have your own kids because you will be able to save money on childcare during the summer since you are home as well as spending quality time with family and friends while making memories. You can always take a summer vacation.

2. You will get paid during the summer.

Although you are not working during the summer months, you will still be paid. You will never have to go without a paycheck. I mean, think about it you could be paid for sitting by a pool. That sounds pretty good to me.

3. You will have a really lovely schedule.

I know we just talked about having the summers off, but as a school psychologist, you will have weekends and holidays off as well. Let's also not forget any type of breaks such as winter break and spring break, to name a few. Having the ultimate work schedule is one of the top pros of being a school psychologist.

4. You can make a pretty good living.

As a school psychologist, you can expect to make a pretty good living. According to payscale.com, the average salary for a school psychologist is around $73,632 per year as of May 27, 2021. Still, the salary range typically falls between $61,757 and $87,013 per year. The difference in salary will mainly depend on a couple of factors. Some of these factors are your education level, certifications, years of experience, and if you have any special skills.

5. You will be in demand.

Job security is a beautiful thing to have in life and is one of the biggest advantages of being a school psychologist. As a school psychologist, you will be able to breathe a bit easier because you will indeed have job security. According to the Bureau of labor statistics, the job growth for this field is about 3% by the year 2029. Although the projected number may seem feeble, it is right on par with other occupations. Remember, slow and steady wins the race.

6. You will be able to help students.

In choosing a career as a school psychologist, you will be able to help children who are in need. You will also be helping them succeed in challenges they take on as well as celebrate in their victories. You will become an instrumental part of their lives and is one of the best pros of being a school psychologist.

7. You can work in a variety of settings.

I know what you are probably thinking, doesn’t a school psychologist work in a school. The short answer to this is yes, 81% of school psychologists do, but there are other places of employment that you can be suited for as a school psychologist. Some of these settings include schools, hospitals, clinics, and community outreaches, to name a few. Having the potential to work in different settings is something to consider when weighing the pros and cons of being a school psychologist. If one setting does not feel right to you, you can always try another.

8. Your days will always be different.

When you begin to work as a school psychologist, your every day will be different. No two days will be the same. This is because you will always be working with diverse students who have various reasons for seeing you. You will also be working with different age groups who definitely have their own difference.

9. You will have autonomy over your day.

Yes, you will have a caseload with work that you will need to complete on a daily basis, but you will not be micromanaged. You will have complete autonomy over how you arrange your day and how you will see your students. Having so much autonomy is definitely one of the advantages of being a school psychologist. This can create a pretty friendly working environment for you.

10. You get to be part of a team.

When you are a school psychologist, you are not helping these kids on your own. You are part of a team or a network that is striving to help these kids succeed. Your team will consist of teachers, other support people, and the child’s family in some instances. Working as a team is not only beneficial to the student, but it is also beneficial for you. You will have a sense of belonging and a feeling of comradery.


The Bottom Line


Helping students as a school psychologist on an academic, emotional, and behavioral level can feel extremely rewarding, but you will find, just like with any career path, that there will be positives and negatives. So, what are the pros and cons of being a school psychologist? You have just read the top 10 pros and cons of being a school psychologist and I am sure you now have a lot to think about. Deciding if this career path is right for you is a very personal decision that you will have to make. Remember only you know what is right for you.


Jennifer Schlette MSN, RN
Jennifer Schlette is a registered nurse in pediatric critical care in New York City. She is the former Director of Undergraduate Nursing at a college located in New York. After obtaining her BSN from the College of Mount Saint Vincent, she went on to complete her MSN.