What Does a School Psychologist Do? Responsibilities & Skills

What Does a School Psychologist Do? Responsibilities & Skills

School psychologists are vital members of school communities. Their compassionate guidance helps nurture students’ wellbeing, supporting healthy development and learning. This article explores the responsibilities and required skills for this meaningful career.

The Role of a School Psychologist

A school psychologist works with students, families, teachers and school administrators to support students’ mental health needs and academic development. Their core responsibilities include:

  • Assessing students for learning disabilities, emotional issues, or other special needs
  • Developing strategies to support struggling students academically and socially-emotionally
  • Counseling students in areas like self-esteem, stress management, bullying, and family issues
  • Educating school staff about child development and learning issues
  • Promoting positive school culture and preventing crises

Conducting Assessments

A major duty for school psychologists involves conducting assessments to identify students’ learning needs. This includes testing for learning disabilities, ADHD, emotional issues, autism spectrum disorders, and giftedness.

After evaluations, school psychologists analyze results, determine diagnoses, and offer recommendations to support each student’s learning and wellbeing. Their insights guide the development of Individualized Education Programs (IEPs) for students needing special education services.

Supporting Social-Emotional Growth

In addition to addressing learning needs, school psychologists help students develop emotionally and socially. They may lead counseling groups on issues like bullying, self-esteem, stress reduction, and family dynamics.

School psychologists also consult with teachers and parents for suggestions on supporting students’ mental health and relationships. Their compassion helps create school environments where all students can thrive.

Crisis Prevention and Intervention

School psychologists play a critical role in crisis prevention and response. They educate school communities about mental health issues to reduce stigma and prevent problems.

When crises occur, such as with suicidal students or threats of violence, school psychologists lead interventions. They evaluate risks, counsel impacted students, advise administrators, and coordinate community resources as needed to restore wellbeing after traumatic events.

Consultation and Collaboration

School psychologists don’t work in isolation. Consulting and collaborating with others is central for supporting students effectively. Key partnerships include:

  • Teachers – Develop strategies to help students learn and participate positively in class
  • Parents – Provide guidance on issues impacting home life and learning
  • Administrators – Advise on policies and programs fostering healthy school culture
  • Medical professionals – Coordinate care plans for students’ physical and mental health issues

Skills Needed as a School Psychologist

Succeeding as a school psychologist requires certain competencies. Important skills include:

  • Assessment expertise – Mastering tests for disabilities, giftedness, developmental delays, and emotional needs
  • Counseling abilities – Building rapport with students and compassionately exploring issues impairing wellbeing
  • Communication skills – Listening actively, conveying complex information understandably, facilitating sensitive conversations with tact
  • Cultural competence – Understanding diverse populations and tailoring services sensitively
  • Organization – Managing large caseloads efficiently while prioritizing urgent student needs
  • Collaboration – Partnering effectively with families, teachers, administrators, and community providers

Education and Training for School Psychologists

Becoming a school psychologist requires substantial education and training, including:

  • A master’s degree or doctorate in school psychology
  • Coursework in psychology, education, child development, testing, counseling, special education, and research methods
  • A year-long supervised internship in a school setting
  • State certification/licensure demonstrating competency

Many states also require passing scores on exams like the Praxis School Psychologist test.


What is the difference between a school psychologist and school counselor?

While both provide student mental health services, school psychologists have more extensive training in assessments, diagnostics, and special education, while counselors focus more on daily counseling for typical school issues.

Do I need teaching experience to become a school psychologist?

Teaching experience is not required. However, familiarity working with school-age children is important background to have.

What does a typical day look like for a school psychologist?

Days vary greatly, with time divided between assessments, meetings (for IEP planning, crises intervention, collaboration with teachers and parents), counseling students, developing academic and behavioral plans, and consulting with staff on learning issues.

What is the job outlook for school psychologists?

The job outlook is excellent due to increasing student mental health needs. Positions are projected to grow 14% from 2020-2030, much faster than average across all occupations.

Do school psychologists work summers?

Many use summers to complete assessments and plan for the coming school year. While not required in all districts, some also provide summer services like extended school year programs for students with IEPs.