School psychologists come from various fields and stages of life. Successful school psychologists tend to be intellectually capable and socially responsible, and enjoy working with both children and adults. School psychology is a desirable option for recent college graduates, mid-career educators, and human services professionals. Applicants must have a four-year college degree. Preferably, they should have prior coursework and/or work experience in psychology, education, or a related field.
Frequently Asked Questions
School psychologists apply advanced expertise in education, human development, and personal-social relationships to promote the healthy development of children in educational settings, and to foster the effective functioning of families, schools, and communities. This involves a wide repertoire of skills and strategies, including (1) assessment of, and educational planning for, students with special needs, (2) consultation with teachers and other school personnel, (3) individual and group counseling, (4) program development and evaluation, and (5) collaboration with parents and community providers.
Program graduates will qualify for certification or licensure as school psychologists in Massachusetts and in other states. After working as a school psychologist for two years and meeting other requirements, graduates can apply for Massachusetts licensure as an educational psychologist and practice privately. (Credentialing requirements for private practice vary from state to state.)
Students who enter the program with a four-year college degree first earn a Master of Arts (MA) in Professional Psychology after earning 30 or more credits. They continue on to earn a Certificate of Advanced Graduate Studies (CAGS) in School Psychology. The CAGS is equivalent to what is called a specialist certificate in many states. The specialist level is the entry level for the profession, and qualifies the recipient to be certified as a school psychologist in Massachusetts and other states.
An applicant may also choose to apply to the School Psychology PsyD Program at William James College, whereby the student continues on for a doctoral degree after earning the CAGS. Detailed information about this program is posted on our website.
There are several reasons for the multiple-degree progression through the program:
- The CAGS, or specialist, level of training exceeds that of master’s degrees in other fields. This distinction may translate into higher pay levels in the salary schedules of school systems and mental health agencies.
- The MA degree, earned after one year of full-time study, enhances the status of trainees while they continue on in the program.
- Student progress is assessed in multiple ways over the course of the program. The transition from the MA to the CAGS segment of the program is a key point at which to review progress to date and assess preparedness for program completion.
- A student who, for personal or academic reasons, does not complete the full program can exit with the Master’s degree.
- The PsyD degree, while not required for employment in the schools, offers additional value as it (a) provides more advanced training, (b) offers the opportunity to develop areas of specialized expertise, (c) enhances career opportunities, such as teaching in higher education and school system administration and supervision, and (d) may qualify an individual to practice independently as a psychologist.
- By earning the CAGS degree prior to pursuing the PsyD, the doctoral candidate has the necessary credentials to work as a school psychologist.
The standard progression through the MA/CAGS program requires three years: two years of full-time study and practicum field placements, plus a full-time (minimum 1200 hour) internship in the third year. Given the extensive amount of coursework and fieldwork, it is not practical to combine MA/CAGS program enrollment with full-time employment.
The School Psychology PsyD program, however, is designed to enable practicing school psychologists to pursue doctoral level training while employed as school psychologists. Individual programs of study will vary in length depending on prior graduate work and professional experiences, and course load undertaken. It is estimated that PsyD students will take an average of 20 credits per year, and require 3 to 4 years to complete the PsyD phase of the program.
The expectation is that William James College will enroll 15 or 16 students at the MA/CAGS entry level, and up to 15 advanced standing students at the PsyD entry level. This should provide for a faculty-student ratio that complies with training program standards established by the National Association of School Psychologists (NASP).
If you have questions about applying to the School Psychology Program, please contact Admissions at firstname.lastname@example.org or 617-564-9376.