Wednesday, December 8, 2010

School Psychology

Would you believe that School Psychology was listed as one of the best jobs in 2010? According to US News and World Report it is. Well imagine that. I read the article (posted in regular text) and added the real world truth below in red. It's information that I would have found helpful before I entered this career several years ago so I hope that this helps some future school psychologist somewhere out there. Plus, my mom should probably read and learn about what I actually do for a living. :)

The rundown:

The line between educational success and failure is thick: High school dropouts earn just a fraction of what students with bachelor's and advanced degrees earn. As thick as the divide is, its causes are complicated. As a school psychologist, it's your job to find the physical, psychological, social or emotional issues that prevent students' success and craft a systemic solution that generally involves the student and the student's family, caregivers, and teachers. Although you may be working with limited resources and overstretched teachers, it's your job, for example, to ensure that a student who has just lost a parent to cancer can get the support he or she needs, or that a student's drug addiction isn't ignored. Programs and solutions are monitored and reworked with the help and input of parents and teachers.

Agreed-- and I feel for the teachers. Teachers nowadays are BEYOND overstreched and completely unappreciated. I feel for them and I'm happy that I can help them in any and every way. That's not to say I'm always Polly Sunshine though. If you complain to me on the daily about how bad a kid is, I'm going to expect you to collect data and to at least try my interventions. I don't feel for teachers that complain but don't meet me halfway.

The outlook:

The Labor Department projects that the number of jobs held by clinical, counseling, and school psychologists will jump 11 percent between 2008 and 2018, creating 16,800 more positions. The growth is expected to be particularly strong in schools (as well as in hospitals and mental-health centers

among others) thanks to increased efforts to provide mental-health services to students.
Yes please. We could use the exta help. I'm stretched pretty thin with FOUR schools. Our National Association recommends 1 school psychologist per 1,000 students. I service at least 2,200 each year.

Median earnings for school psychologists were $66,040 in 2009. Annual earnings range widely, from less than $40,000 to more than $109,000. Psychologists in private practice tend to earn more.

Yeah, we can earn up to/over 109,000 but at this rate, it will take me a trillion years to do so. Our steps and raises have been frozen for the last three years due to budget cuts. I hate budget cuts. I'm actually making less than new school psychologists because I haven't been given my raise in three years, yet new school psychologists are being hired at a rate comparable to what I make now. Don't even get me started on that one......

Upward mobility:

Psychologists may head into academia or into private practice. In fact, more than a third of clinical, counseling, and school psychologists are self-employed. When you hang your own shingle, pay will be higher, and you'll be able to set your own schedule.

Over 1/3 of clinical and counseling psychologists maybe, but less than 5% of school psychologists are self-employed. I'll have to look into this though.. I tend to get a bit burnt out by June. I would love to be able to charge for my assessments someday and to make my own hours.

Activity level:

Average. You might be observing a class or meeting with a student, but your days won't call for much (physical) heavy lifting.

I totally disagree with this one. Whenever I wear heels, it's no fail that I will chase a student out the building and through the woods. Never mind all of the crisis and child protective holds we have to be trained in and are forced to use more frequently than I'd like to admit.

Stress level:
Sometimes high. You're working with a lot of variables: the students, the teachers, the parents, the school district and its budget—and when interests clash or progress stalls, your days can get stressful.

This is an understatement. I manage my stress well, but you've got to be able to disassociate. I've mastered this skill, but don't go into this job if you have an overly bleeding heart. You've got to be able to turn things off to enjoy your non work life. The budget cuts are killer and depending on where you work, the parents are the worst part of the job.

Education and preparation:

This is a career that requires intensive education. Most states require school psychologists to have earned a specialist degree in school psychology—through about three years of graduate study, including a one-year internship—or its equivalent. Some school psychologists choose to get doctorates.

I chose NOT to get a doctorate because a Masters and CAGS alone took me three years. With a doctorate, most school psychologists only earn 1,000 dollars more each year. For me, 1,000 dollars wasn't worth an additional three years of schooling. Plus, when I hear doctor, I think medical doctor, not a chick that works at a school so I would never use the title anyways.

Real advice from real people about landing a job as a school psychologist:

Before applying to graduate school, think carefully about where you want to live in the future. "If you do know where you think you want to live, try to go to graduate school there," says Kathy Cowan, communications director at the National Association of School Psychologists. Chances are that you're going to work in the area where you choose to go to graduate school because universities generally have feeder systems that funnel you into local school districts. When interviewing for jobs, Cowan says to make sure you have a detailed portfolio of all the work that you've completed during your internship. It's also important to be able to articulate how you support the mission and purpose of the schools where you're interviewing.

I don't necessarily agree with this either. I went to graduate school in Boston (Tufts University) and I moved to Maryland for my internship and I later got a job in Maryland. I do agree that you SHOULD definitely do your internship WHERE you want to work because counties and school districts often hire than interns. It worked for me and I've been here ever since.
My number one thing to think about if you are interested in a career in school psychology is to consider how comfortable you are interacting with other adults. For me, I spend more time with grown ups than I do with children- which is a common misconception related to this career. When I signed on I thought that I would spend all or at least most of my time counseling students, testing students, and hanging with students. Honestly, I spend at least 20 hours per week in meetings with parents, teachers and administrators. I spend at least 10 of these 20 hrs per week talking and presenting information to other adults, parents, teachers etc. You have to feel confident and comfortable interacting and explaining many facets of psychological assessments, behavior, disorders etc. If you work in a wealthy school (I do now), be prepared to deal with litigious parents and lawyers.

I never realized the amount of meetings that I would participate in when I signed up for this job. Thankfully, I find them enjoyable and don't mind most of the meetings. However, I know several school psychologists that have left the career because they hated the meetings.


Jessi said...

I just found your blog and I'm really enjoying it!

You have the greatest layout, I love crabs!

Erica said...

The pay scale currently works that way for nurses, too. I hate it. I want my step increases and yearly COLA, not to mention being paid more than new grads with zero experience.

You career does sound really interesting though. Glad there are people out there who want to work with teens!

Anonymous said...

I feel ya. Being a school counselor, it sounds like we have a lot of similar frustrations (and good parts). I can't imagine that pay situation though, the whole steps thing can be frustrating. We have at least 25 steps in our district, and many years there's only about $700-$900 diff. between steps. Yippee. :)

Sonya said...

Great information! I don't think our psychologist is even full time in our district. I think he works with other districts too. But I'm out in a rural district. I wouldn't mind the assessment portion of the job since I end up doing a lot of that in my reading position anyway, but I don't think I could handle the parent thing. Although it seems like sometimes they are more willing to listen to you guys than they are the teachers.

That bites with the money. We got the step & a bit this year, but only a 1 year contract. I'm scared for next year. I'm praying for at least the step over nothing.