School Psychologist vs. School Counselor
Today’s children are more frequently diagnosed with anxiety than in the past, and are more likely to experience bullying in school. Problems like these can have negative effects on children’s mental health as well as their academic performance—and as a result, school support personnel such as school psychologists and school counselors are increasingly important for school-aged children, as well as parents, teachers and others who work with kids.
Both school psychologists and school counselors both play critical roles in the lives of students. While their roles are frequently confused, these professions are distinctly different.
What Does a School Psychologist Do?
A school psychologist is usually more focused on providing mental health services for students, while school counselors are more focused on aiding academic achievement. School psychologists’ duties include administering and scoring tests and screenings, developing outreach and crisis intervention programs, and serving as an advocate for children.
School psychologists also play important roles in helping with students’ parents and families, helping them identify learning difficulties or disabilities, and coaching them on how to work with such difficulties or with emotional problems. When students have family problems that are affecting their school performance, a school psychologist can provide counseling, refer the family to a counselor, provide coaching for parents or point them to a support group that might be helpful.
What Does a School Counselor Do?
School counselors, also known as guidance counselors, help students in the areas of academic achievement, personal and social development and career development. Counselors do this by teaching structured lessons that meet students’ developmental needs, on topics such as interpersonal relationships, study skills, time management and behaviors that promote learning and achievement.
In addition to teaching classes, school counselors also assist students with developing future goals, creating plans and scheduling upcoming coursework to meet those goals. When students have immediate needs or concerns, school counselors can also provide counseling, crisis response and referrals to others who may be able to help.
The educational requirements for school psychologists and school counselors are similar but require degrees in their distinct fields. School counselor requirements include a minimum of a master’s degree in school counseling, along with a certification from the state in which they work. To become certified, a person must complete a graduate supervised internship in a school, under the direction of a certified or licensed school counselor.
School psychologist requirements include a bachelor’s degree, frequently in psychology or education, as well as at least 60 semester hours in a graduate program for school psychology. To earn certification through the National Association of School Psychologists, a person must complete an internship of at least 1,200 hours that provides work experience in an academic setting such as a school or university.
The future looks bright for both school counselors and school psychologists. Employment of school and career counselors is projected to grow 13 percent from 2016 to 2026, faster than the average for all occupations, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Services (BLS). As school enrollment is expected to increase, the need for school counselors will also continue to grow.
In addition, as the traditional route of going straight from high school into college becomes increasingly expensive and more families are questioning its value, the school counselor job outlook will likely expand. There will be a greater need for school counselors to provide information about other pathways to viable careers, such as educating students and families about career technical training and providing opportunities for students to interact with employers interested in hiring non-degreed individuals.
Similarly, employment of school psychologists (as well as clinical and counseling psychologists) is projected to grow 14 percent from 2016 to 2026, faster than the average for all occupations, according to BLS figures. As the school psychologist job outlook continues to expand, it has become an increasingly attractive position for people who have psychology degrees. You can become a school counselor or school psychologist if you have a psychology degree, you just need to pursue graduate work in one of the two specific fields. It’s a great way to make a difference in the lives of children and adolescents every day.
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