Online Master’s in School Psychology: Compare Programs

Completing a school psychology master’s program online 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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What Is School Psychology?

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

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

Online Master’s and EdS Programs in School Psychology

Graduate level and educational specialist degree (EdS) programs that provide school psychology programs online 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:

Information collected in this table was last updated November 2021. For the most current information, it is always best to visit the university’s website.

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 learning behaviors 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?

From education requirements to scope of practice, there are some key similarities and differences between school psychology, educational psychology and school counseling. These similarities and differences will be made clear in the sections listed below.

Educational Psychology vs. School Psychology

Educational psychologists observe students’ learning processes to determine how they learn and retain knowledge. They serve clients of all ages. Conversely, school psychologists only work with students up to high school on improving their social and academic performance. A master’s degree in educational psychology prepares graduates to assume a variety of roles across industries. While educational psychologists can work in schools, they can often be found in other settings such as the corporate offices.

School Psychology vs. School Counseling

School counselors help students and clients cope with everyday problems or adversity by guiding them to recognize their strengths and resources, whereas school psychologists focus on understanding behavioral symptoms and academic issues via testing, researching and assessing. However, both require an in-depth understanding of human behavior, child and adolescent development and mental health. School counselors typically earn a master’s in school counseling.

School Psychology Admission Requirements

Although admission requirements vary from program to program, there are several common requirements that school psychologists can expect when applying to graduate school. Grade point averages (GPAs) and Graduate Record Examination (GRE) scores might be factors in 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 a number of recommendation letters and prepare for a personal interview with the admissions board.

Online Master’s in School Psychology Program Curriculum

Online school psychology master’s programs comprise foundational courses and electives, designed to build students’ knowledge and skills in the field. Sample courses include:

Behavior Therapy. This course demonstrates behavioral therapy principles and procedures, as well as how these can be applied in a number of different settings, including in clinics, homes and schools.

Theories of Human Development. This course describes the different developmental theories used to explain the evolution of the human race. Students focus on theories that have shaped current ideas of how humans have developed while also learning new perspectives that may impact how human development is perceived in the future.

Methods in School Psychology.  By instructing students with best practices, problems, methods, ideas and trends, this course prepares them to succeed in modern school psychology settings.

Professional Writing and Thesis Development. Students learn how to write properly for the psychological sciences in terms of content, style and pervasive ethical issues.

Observation in School Psychology. This course provides students an opportunity for a period of time throughout the semester to experience life at a local educational agency, where they will shadow a school psychologist while observing children’s behavior, thereby gaining direct school psychology experience.

Master’s Degree vs. EdS vs. PhD

There are three degree levels available to a school psychologist [PDF, 728 KB], according to the NASP. The shortest program of study is a master’s degree. It will typically require two years of full-time, graduate-level study. 

With just one more year of school (three years total) and 1,200 hours of full-time internships, school psychologists with EdS degrees may be eligible for certification or licensure that allows them to practice in schools and related educational settings, according to the NASP.

If a school psychologist is interested in 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?

Tuition costs vary by degree program and level. As such, it’s useful to consider how much debt you are willing to incur. To help you decide, check how much income you can potentially 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 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 offers accredited online school psychology programs. Colleges and universities can be either regionally or nationally accredited. Program accreditation provides public assurance that the program in question has met minimum standards as required by the accrediting agency.

Why Get an Online Master’s in School 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 delivery format.

Before deciding whether to obtain your degree online, it is important to weigh your preferences and priorities. 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. Those who choose to enter the workforce straightaway may qualify for school psychologist positions in K-12 schools. 

School Counselor

A school counselor provides students with the academic and social tools to help them succeed after graduation. People in this position help students and other clients develop their skills, understand the many different occupations available to them and pinpoint educational programs that may lead to a professional path.

Most states require school counselors to hold a master’s degree in a field like psychology in order to practice their profession. These master’s programs are designed to teach the essential skills of the field and often require that prospective counselors complete an internship that involves hands-on work in a real job setting.

School Psychologist

School psychologists employ principles and techniques to address learning and behavioral problems in students and create plans designed to improve their academic and behavioral performance in tandem with other school professionals.

Generally, school psychologists complete a master’s in school psychology program before getting a license or certification that allows them to practice in the United States. These programs include education and psychology-based coursework, exposing students to the educational and mental health components of their future clients’ developmental processes. 

Educational Psychologist

Educational psychologists use human development theories to understand how people learn—then shape the instructional process accordingly. By studying the various cognitive, social and emotional processes underpinning education, these psychologists may have a significant effect on how students of all ages learn and process information.

Pursuing a master’s in educational or school psychology is important because students in such programs learn how mental health affects their future clients’ developmental processes and prepares them to address educational and mental health issues in learners.

School Psychologist Salary

According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the median annual salary for school psychologists was $79,510 in 2021. There are 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 degree earned. The more extensive your experience and education, the greater opportunity there may be for higher earnings.

FAQs

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

It typically takes two years of full-time study to obtain a master’s in school psychology. Generally, school psychology online programs do not require an internship.

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

An EdS in school psychology typically takes three years of full-time graduate study. This includes completing a 1,200 hour internship. A PhD typically takes five to six years of full-time school, and 1,200 to 1,500 full-time internship hours completed within a year.

How much does a school psychologist earn?

As of May 2021, the median annual salary for school psychologists was $79,510, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics. Different industries may pay more or less. For example, those working in elementary and secondary school settings earned $78,830 on average.

Where do school psychologists work?

Many school psychologists work in K-12 public schools. 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 school psychologists in school?

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

Last updated: May 2022