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Frequently Asked Questions

What is a school Psychologist?

School psychologists have specialized training in both psychology and education. They use their use their knowledge and skills to team with educators, parents, and other educational and behavioral/mental health professionals to ensure that all children learn in safe, healthy and supportive environments. School Psychologists understand school systems, effective teaching practices, and student learning. They provide assessment, academic and behavior consultation, prevention and early intervention services, program development and evaluation, and behavioral/mental health services within schools.


What are the degree requirements for certification and practice?

As in most states, School Psychologist certification in Missouri requires completion of an Educational Specialist in School Psychology (Ed. S.) degree. The Ed. S. degree is a 60- hour, three-year fulltime program consisting of two-years of intensive coursework and a yearlong 1,200- to 1,400-hour school-based internship. To work as a School Psychologist, one must be certified or licensed by the state in which services are provided. School Psychologist certification, AKA, “Educator Licensure” in some states, is granted by the state’s Department of Education and permits the provision of school psychological services within a school or educational setting. Educator licensure or certification does not support the delivery of services directly to the public. A professional license issued by the State Board of Examiners in Psychology (Licensed Psychologist) or Counseling (Licensed Professional Counselor (LPC) is required to work in private practice or community mental health settings. School psychologists typically are employed by public and private schools and not licensed.


Is the program accredited and is this important?

The UMSL School Psychology Program is Fully Approved by the National Association of School Psychologists (NASP) through December 2023. Currently, UMSL is the only NASP-approved educational specialist program in Missouri. NASP-approval is important because it demonstrates that a program meet the highest national standards for training in school psychology. Consequently, upon graduation, UMSL graduates are eligible for School Psychology Certification from the Missouri Department of Elementary and Secondary Education and the Nationally Certified School Psychologist (NCSP) credential from NASP. In addition to Medicaid reimbursement mentioned above, the NCSP facilitates mobility with automatic certification in 31 states across the country. Given that the UMSL School Psychology Program exceeds NCSP requirements, it is no surprise that all our graduates to date have obtained certification wherever they have applied.


How is the job outlook?

A national shortage of qualified school psychologists has existed for many years, and in recent years demand has become even more pronounced due to high rates of retirement.The rewarding nature of the job, excellent working hours and conditions, competitive salary and benefits, and favorable supply and demand characteristics have helped school psychology rank consistently among top professions by US News. The demand for school psychologists is expected to increase at a faster rate (10.4%) than other occupations (Bureau of Labor Statistics), thereby exacerbating Missouri’s existing shortages. As of June 2021 UMSL Ed. S. in School Psychology graduates have had a 100% placement rate within six weeks of graduation, most in fact prior to graduation.


What are some of the major similarities and differences among school psychologists and other related disciplines such as school counseling, educational psychology, and clinical psychology?

The UMSL School Psychology program is housed in the College of Education Department of Education Sciences and Professional Programs. In addition to School Psychology and Counselor Education programs, our department provides Educational Psychology, Educational Technology, and Research and Evaluation Methods courses that support the various professional programs across the College of Education.

Educational Psychology historically has been a more theoretical field that focuses on the production of research, whereas School Psychology is a research-based applied specialty that places greater emphasis on being good consumers and distributors of research. In this regard, School Psychology is more similar to Clinical and Counseling Psychology than it is Educational Psychology. Roughly half of all school psychology programs across the country are housed in Psychology Departments in Colleges of Arts and Sciences, and the rest are located in Departments of Counseling, Educational, and School Psychology Departments in Colleges of Education.

Educational Psychologists typically will have a Ph. D. in Educational Psychology and work as university professors or with businesses or agencies as a researchers, consultants, or program evaluators. Educational Psychologists routinely are involved with experimental and applied research projects in the pursuit of new knowledge, whereas the applied specialties of Clinical, Counseling, and School Psychology typically tend to be consumers, distributors, and evaluators of established research that addresses various academic, social-emotional and behavior, and psychiatric difficulties.

Individual psychological assessment and counseling services are provided by School Psychologists, Counselors, and Clinical Psychologists. Aside from settings, perhaps what most clearly separates school psychology from the other disciplines is its historical affiliation with special education and expertise in psychological measurement and evaluation. Dating back to the late 1970s, School Psychologists have been the primary school-based professional responsible for the assessment of eligibility and educational programming for individuals with disabilities. As such, the identity of a School Psychologist is first and foremost as that of a special educator.

In recent years School Psychologists increasingly have expanded their roles within the schools to include prevention and early intervention services and programs for general education students. These roles often are shared with School Counselors and Social Workers. In August 2017 Nationally Certified School Psychologists in Missouri became the only school-based behavioral/mental health provider whose services are recognized for Medicaid reimbursement. This is a huge development for Missouri School Psychologists.


What is distinctive about the UMSL School Psychology Program?

The UMSL Ed. S. in School Psychology degree program has a cognitive-behavioral theoretical orientation with a strong emphasis on prevention and early intervention. The program prepares School Psychologists who are uniquely trained as data-based problem solvers. Some of the primary responsibilities associated with this role are consultation with teachers and parents and the development, implementation, and evaluation of research-based interventions for individuals and groups of students. The UMSL School Psychology Program prepares School Psychologists to work collaboratively with other school professionals to improve academic, social-emotional behavior, and mental health outcomes for all children and youth. The inclusion of Program Development and Evaluation and Facilitation of Organizational/Systems Change as program emphases are rare among specialist level school psychology programs.


What degree do most incoming Ed. S. Candidates hold?

The minimum requirement for admission to the UMSL Ed. S. in School Psychology degree program is a completed bachelor’s degree with a 3.0 GPA. The vast majority of candidates admitted to the program, upwards of 90 percent, are Psychology majors.

The rest typically come from Counseling or Teaching, but successful candidates have come from completely unrelated areas such as Business and Marketing, Sociology, English, History, Information Technology, Political Science, and Theater and Dance to name a few. As long as the prerequisite coursework in developmental psychology and statistics, preferably Psychological Statistics, is satisfied, any bachelor’s degree will do.


What undergraduate coursework is required?

Regardless of degree major, the more psychology classes one takes the better. In addition to the minimum admission prerequisites of developmental psychology (Child, Adolescent, Life Span, etc.) and Psychological Statistics, other recommended courses include Abnormal Psychology, Theories of Personality or Counseling, Learning & Cognition, Physiological/Biological Psychology, Research Methods, and Tests & Measurement. Furthermore, prospective applicants are encouraged to seek out opportunities to work with a faculty member as a research assistant and/or to obtain relevant work experience with children, parents, and families.

Finally, any advanced courses, especially those in math, science, and English, are highly recommended. Additional coursework beyond the minimum general education requirements in these areas will help develop well-rounded school psychologists.


What is the personal statement?

The personal statement is an extremely important component of applications to graduate programs in psychology. In addition to providing the admissions committee with a writing sample, the personal statement gives the applicant an opportunity to highlight any unique qualities and experiences that will contribute to success as a school psychologist. Consequently, this is perhaps the only place where an applicant has a chance to stand out from the others prior to the personal interview.

Think of the personal statement as a written interview that that describes why you want to be a school psychologist, what is it about the UMSL program that appeals to you, how you found out about the field, what personal attributes and experiences do you possess that are a good fit with school psychology, how have your personal and professional experiences prepared you for this career, etc. Please note that the Personal Statement is a formal, multi-page essay of up to five double-spaced pages.

Use this space to tell us whatever you can to demonstrate to the admissions committee that you have done your homework about the field and why you are strong applicant.

Minimally developed personal statements will not be viewed favorably. Some points to consider include:

  • Briefly discuss your educational background, interests, and special
  • Describe how your past experiences with family, friends, education, work, and leisure have contributed to your decision to select the field of school psychology as your goal.
  • Highlight any paid work and/or volunteer experiences you may have had, especially those involving children and youth and/or activities related to education or mental health
  • How did you learn about school psychology, and what influenced your decision to pursue this field for a career? What other careers have you considered?
  • Describe your career goals and perception of the current and future roles and functions of a school psychologist


What else can you tell me about successful applicants and the application process?

The admissions committee considers each application component individually when reviewing and ranking applicants. As such, strengths in one area can help compensate for lower ratings in another. For example, an applicant with extensive relevant experience and low undergraduate GPA potentially could be rated ahead of another applicant with outstanding academic credentials and limited professional experience.

The initial screening process will identify the top 20-25 applicants who will be invited to campus for an interview. Enrollment in the program is limited by NASP to 36 FTE candidates at any given time, so approximately 10-12 applicants are admitted per year following the January 15 application deadline for the following fall semester.


How are transfer credits handled for prior graduate coursework?

Upon admission graduate transcripts will be reviewed in consultation with a school psychology program advisor to determine equivalency with courses in the Ed. S. curriculum. A maximum of 30 credits from a conferred graduate degree can be accepted for transfer credit; however, due to the highly specialized nature of the Ed. S. curriculum, rarely does a master’s level applicant have more than 12-15 hours that can be applied toward the Ed. S. degree. All coursework used toward the Ed. S. in School Psychology degree, including transfer credits, needs to be completed within seven years of graduation. Waivers for courses older than seven years will be considered on a case by case basis in consultation with the advisor.


What if I have other questions?

In addition to the information available from the UMSL School Psychology Program page, the National Association of School Psychologists website (www.nasponline.org) contains a wealth of information about the field. Contact your local school and ask to talk or meet with a school psychologist. It always is a good idea to job shadow with a couple of different school psychologists as well as other school-based professionals (e.g., school counselors and social workers) to get a better idea of which of these related, yet clearly distinct, professions. Please do not hesitate to contact the UMSL Program Director or other program faculty with your questions. We welcome inquiries from anyone interested in learning more about school psychology and enjoy discussing the field with others to help determine whether or not school psychology is right for you.


Donald A. Gouwens, Psy. D. 
School Psychology Program Director
Office: (314) 516-4773