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The Calming Corner: How I became a school psychologist

Thursday, May 25, 2017

How I became a school psychologist

I love chatting with people who are interested in becoming school psychologists, who are eager to know exactly how I became a school psychologist, so I thought I would share my experience here!  I'd love to chat more with anyone thinking about becoming a school psych in the future.

My Undergraduate Years:  What to study?
I went into college with a completely different area of study:  pre-law!  I liked it, but ended up taking my first psychology course as a core course (an introductory course), and I just loved learning about it.  I definitely believe, first and foremost, that you need to have a passion about psychology, education and children to do this work

During my time in college, I enjoyed almost every single psychology class I took.  I was fortunate to be able to participate in number of activities in the field.  My first was a developmental psychology course, where we volunteered for a number of weeks in a Head Start program.  Later, there was a course on aging where we volunteered in a convalescent home.  My first experience with a school psychologist was shadowing one for a day.  It was an inner city school, and for the first time, had a taste that this might just be something I would like to do.  

During my senior year in college, I thought that I was moving toward the clinical side of psychology.  My first semester, I interned at a partical day hospitalization program at a mental health hospital near my school.  It was challenging, to say the least, but I knew it was important work.  As it ended, I learned that there was a therapeutic day school on campus, and spent my last semester there.  The head of the program was a school psychologist, who was amazingly inspiring, and was so great with the students.  I enjoyed the balance of her role in education and mental health.  When it was time to graduate, my primary goal was to find a job, and I ended up working in the field of social worker, as a Therapeutic Foster Care case manager.

The Real World Experience
You guys, if I could give one piece of advice to anyone thinking of graduate school, it would be to get   a few years of real world experience under your belt before going back to school.  Especially in a field where your job is to work with a challenging population, the more experiences you can bring in, the better.  I worked for 3 years (in Boston and Connecticut) in Therapeutic Foster Care before I decided on any career, and it was the best thing for me.  Working in the social work field gave me a glimpse into all kinds of careers I was considering:  therapy, education, social work, and ultimately, I really felt like the work that the school staff was doing impacted the kids I had in a positive way.  I did some research and found out that I could take up to 2 classes in a nearby school psychology program before matriculating, so I signed myself up!

Back to School
I love learning and education, and as a budding school psychologist, you probably should do.  After taking my first class in school psychology, during which we interviewed and shadowed various school psychs, I knew it was the career for me.  I applied, and was accepted!  The school psych program at my school was 3 years:  1 for your masters, and 2 for your 6th year, including a full time internship.  I continued to work full time in social work for the first 2 years.  It wasn't easy, but it was 100% worth it.  Because the programs in school psychology are small, I really enjoyed the other women in my cohort, and we still talk today!

An internship for a school psychologist is a big deal;  it's a huge learning experience, and helps set the tone of who you will become as a school psychologist.  When considering where to intern, I knew that there were a few chosen districts I had in mind, and I applied to intern in those.  I really considered the district over the school psych I was matched with.  In the end, my internship year was rough, as I don't think we matched personalities too well, but I learned SO MUCH, and it gave me great experience.

The Job Hunt
My classmates and I all had different goals when we were searching for our first jobs.  For some, they just wanted a job, so they applied to every school psychologist posting that came up in the state.  I took another approach, and really wanted to work in only a few certain districts.  There were probably about 8-10 towns I wanted to work in, and as a result, I waited and waited for positions in those to pop up.  Of course, as many postings do, they did right before the school year, and I was offered a position in the district I interned in!

Now in my 5th year of working, in my second district, I feel like my time in graduate school was so long ago!  To now be entering a position where I'm being as to take on an intern is crazy to me, but I can't wait to help someone else on this journey.

I hope you enjoyed hearing about my journey to becoming a school psychologist, and please, let me know any questions you might have!



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