Online Master’s in School Psychology: Compare Programs

Completing an online master’s in school psychology may open doors to a rewarding career working with secondary students, families and school administrators. This field combines educational theory and mental health services to help schools:

  • Create safe, supportive learning environments for diverse learners
  • Address the mental health needs of students
  • Improve the overall academic performance of the student body
  • Provide counseling, crisis intervention, behavioral support, and much more

School psychologists may have a lasting, positive impact on the well-being of youth and the community by helping children and teenagers succeed academically, socially and emotionally.

Earn an MA in Psychology Online from Pepperdine

Pepperdine University’s online Master of Arts in Psychology program prepares students to pursue doctoral study or a career in human services.

  • Open to all undergrad majors
  • No GRE required 
  • Can be completed in about 18 months

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Online Master’s and EdS Programs in School Psychology

Graduate level and educational specialist degree (EdS) programs that focus on school psychology are available across the country. Some are offered in-person, online or via hybrid format, which is a combination of in-person and online instruction. Here are institutions that provide 100% online instruction for school psychology graduate students:

What is School Psychology?

The National Association of School Psychologists (NASP) defines school psychologists as professionals who work in the field as “uniquely qualified members of school teams that support students’ abilities to learn and teachers’ abilities to teach.”

The field is made up of professionals who help students learn and thrive in an academic and social setting. School psychology also supports teachers’ ability to teach by establishing safe, supportive, healthy and successful learning environments that extend beyond the school building to students’ homes and communities.

What does a school psychologist do?

A school psychologist’s primary focus is to improve student academic achievement, support diverse learners, create safe school environments, promote positive behavior and strengthen relationships between families and schools. They often consult with families, teachers, school counselors and social workers to change school policies and practices. 

What’s the difference between school psychology, educational psychology and school counseling?

Although educational psychology, school psychology, and school counseling are similar, they are separate areas of psychology with distinct differences.

School psychologists provide complete, comprehensive psychological services to children and families in schools or other similar settings by assessing and counseling students, consulting with parents and school staff, and conducting behavioral interventions when appropriate.

Educational psychologists apply human development theories to understand how individuals learn and identify strategies to make learning more effective. While they sometimes work in a school environment, educational psychologists examine people who learn elsewhere, such as the workplace.

Interested in educational psychology? Explore online degrees in educational psychology.

School counselors help students and clients cope with everyday problems or adversity by guiding them to recognize their strengths and resources.

Interested in school counseling? Explore online master’s in school counseling programs.

School psychology admission requirements

Although admission requirements vary from program to program, there are several common requirements that school psychologists should expect when applying to higher education. Grade point averages (GPAs) and Graduate Record Examination (GRE) scores often weigh heavily on the admission decision. Many psychology master’s programs may prefer undergraduate coursework in a psychology-related major or minor.

If you’re concerned about a low GPA or GRE score, or sufficient psychology pre-coursework, it may be beneficial to highlight other areas that show your commitment to the field, such as work or volunteer experience. You will likely also need to secure several recommendation letters and prepare to do well in a personal interview with the admission board. 

Master’s Degree vs. EdS vs. PhD

There are three degree levels a school psychologist (PDF, 728 KB) may earn. The shortest program of study is a master’s degree. It will typically require two years of full-time, graduate-level study. Although this degree rarely requires an internship, it also offers fewer career options since you may not qualify for national specialty certification.

With just one more year of school (three years total) and 1,200 hours of full-time internships, school psychologists with EdS degrees are qualified to practice in schools or educational settings in every state and territory according to the NASP.

If a school psychologist wants to have a broader range of career options in schools, independent practices, clinics, hospitals or research facilities, they typically spend five to six years of full-time study, including a full-time internship, to obtain a PhD.

How to choose a degree in school psychology

Researching and deciding on a graduate program may be a daunting task. But if you keep your career goals in mind, it may help you narrow your list of possible programs. Here are three questions to consider before deciding on your best path:

  1. How much debt am I comfortable taking on?
    With each higher degree level comes more tuition cost, so it’s useful to consider how much debt you are willing to incur. To help you decide, check how much income you expect to earn once you have your degree.
  2. Do I meet the admission requirements?
    The different degree levels have varying requirements for admission. Research diligently to understand what type of degree you already qualify for. If you lack the minimum admission requirements, can you reasonably complete them before you want to enroll?
  3. Is the program accredited?
    It’s generally recommended that you complete your graduate studies at an institution that has received regional or national accreditation. Program accreditation provides public assurance that the school or program has met minimum standards as required by the accrediting agency.

Why Get an Online Master’s in Psychology?

Students completing an online master’s degree program qualify for the same employment and internship opportunities as students who complete their program in a traditional learning environment. This may include jobs in schools, private practice and general psychology. Online programs typically offer the same caliber and quantity of coursework and curriculum, just with a different teaching delivery.

Getting your master’s degree online may offer more flexibility than traditional, in-person instruction. A master’s degree may also be a stepping-stone to a doctoral program. Before deciding whether to obtain your degree online, it is essential to weigh your preferences and priorities.

Some of the benefits of getting an online master’s in psychology may be career opportunities. By obtaining a school psychology degree, you may be qualified to work as a school psychologist in K-12 schools. 

Salary

While industrial organizational psychologists and other general psychologists may expect to make $90,000 to $110,000 annually, the median annual salary for school psychologists is $78,200. School-based practitioners may earn less than those working in hospitals or government facilities.

There are also significant differences in school psychologist salaries depending on the region, with the Northeast and West reporting higher average wages than other U.S. regions. Your pay as a school psychologist will also depend on your experience and highest degree earned. The more extensive your experience and education, the greater opportunity for higher earnings.

FAQs

How long does it take to get a master’s in school psychology?

According to the NASP, it typically takes two years of full-time study at the graduate level to obtain a master’s in school psychology. Generally, such programs do not require an internship.

How long does it take to get an EdS or PhD in school psychology?

According to the NASP, an EdS in school psychology typically takes three years of full-time, graduate study. This includes completing a 1,200-hour internship over one year. A PhD typically takes five to six years of full-time school and 1,200-1,500 full-time internship hours over one year.

How much does a school psychologist earn?

As of May 2019, the median annual salary for school psychologists was $78,200, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics Occupational Outlook Handbook. Different industries may pay more or less than median salaries. For example, those working in elementary and secondary school settings earned $76,960 on average.

Where do school psychologists work?

Most school psychologists work in K-12 public schools, the NASP reports. They also provide services in other educational institutions, such as private schools, preschools, universities and colleges, independent private practices, and mental health and juvenile justice centers.

What is the role of the school psychologist in schools?

School psychologists help create a supportive learning environment for the student, inside and outside the classroom, the NASP says. This includes partnerships with students and their families, teachers, other educators, and the community-at-large.

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Last updated: March 2021