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How to Become a School Psychologist

A high school starts a “pay it forward with kindness” campaign, urging students to write down things they appreciate about others as a way to pre-empt bullying. An elementary school pairs mainstream students with special-needs students in a "buddy" program.  A middle school sponsors a Red Ribbon Week to reinforce to students that most kids don't do drugs.

These promotion and prevention activities are the work of school psychologists, who strategize ways their schools can create safer, more positive school climates.

Who Are School Psychologists

School psychologists contribute in many ways to keeping children well-adjusted academically, socially, behaviorally and emotionally. They promote wellness dynamics and intervene in brewing problems.  They also collect data, perform research and monitor progress as a way of providing helpful information to teachers and administrators.

Many school psychologists enjoy the chance this field offers to blend their social science knowledge and methods with their compassionate desire to help children learn respectful and positive behaviors, grow and thrive.

Requirements to Become a School Psychologist in Illinois

To become a school psychologist in Illinois and become a certified School Psychologist (NCSP) by the National Association of School Psychologists (NASP), you will need to obtain an Education Specialist (Ed.S.) degree in school psychology, pass a state school psychology exam and obtain a Professional Educator’s License (PEL) with a school psychology endorsement.  To become an NCSP, you will also need to pass the NASP test. Obtaining the NCSP enables you to practice school psychology in 32 states, rather than just Illinois.

NLU's Ed.S. in School Psychology Degree Program

The Ed.S. is a three-year program that spans at least 60 semester hours, or 90 quarter hours, past a bachelor’s degree. The first and second years are spent in a part-time school practicum. The third year is spent in a full-time, full academic year internship, which typically is partially paid, in a school district.

If you hold a master’s degree in a related field, you generally still need to spend three years to obtain your Ed.S. in School Psychology. However, the total number of courses you would take may be reduced. For example, if you had courses in research or abnormal psychology, you may not have to retake them. That could lighten your course load, but probably not shorten the three-year pursuit of your Ed.S. degree.

At National Louis University, students who hold a bachelor’s degree and enter the Ed.S. program in school psychology earn a Master’s in Education (M.Ed.) degree at the end of their first year.

Students with undergraduate degrees are required, by Illinois rules, to matriculate into an Ed.S. program in school psychology, passing a basic skills test or its equivalent.   Acceptable ACT scores no more than 10 years old or passing the Test of Academic Proficiency (TAP) are the standard.

When students begin the program, they spend one day a week in a school-based practicum, expanding to two days a week during the second year.

In the third year, during the full-time internship in a school district, students are provided a field supervisor who is a practicing school psychologist and will meet with the student weekly. A university professor also will provide supervision, on a monthly half-day basis.

Learn more about the Ed.S. program at National Louis University.

Applying to National Louis University’s school psychology program is competitive, and nearly all students admitted graduate. All graduates who seek jobs have found them, even during the recent economic downturn, said Mark Shinn, Ph.D., School Psychology Program Coordinator.


    NLU’s Chicago campus on South Michigan Avenue occupies five floors of the historic Peoples Gas Building. This landmark building, across the street from the Art Institute of Chicago and Grant Park, is easily accessible by train, bus and car and is surrounded by restaurants, parking lots/garages and shops.

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