How You Can Impact Student Mental Health as a School Psychologist

by Ashley Eneriz

Focusing on student mental health has become just as essential in K-12 schools as teaching youth their current grade-level curriculum. School psychologists play a crucial role in this regard—these professionals are responsible for supporting all students and making sure they thrive not only academically, but also behaviorally, emotionally, and socially.

The goal of a school psychologist is to help individual students and entire school communities overcome any obstacles that are preventing or hindering learning. It’s a pivotal role to play during students’ formative years. If the thought of improving the lives of young people energizes you, here are a few reasons you should consider an education specialist degree (Ed.S.) in school psychology.

The Increasing Need for School Psychologists

Take a quick look at the news and you’ll see there is no shortage of issues facing today’s students. From depression to ADHD to dealing with excess stress, young people are facing complex challenges that are difficult to navigate. In some cases, these issues are exacerbated by the increased use of social media, which continues to spread. Difficult family situations and abuse may further escalate student mental health challenges.

Accordingly, students need guidance to help them navigate tough issues like bullying, divorce, anxiety, eating disorders, and abandonment. All students can benefit from a trustworthy professional who is trained to create safe and healthy learning environments for young people. School psychologists do this by working one-on-one with students and by collaborating with teachers, school counseling professionals, district leaders, and families to improve student outcomes. School psychologists have the power to positively impact students’ lives for many years to come, helping them unlock their full potential and find success.

A Steady Career With Promising Growth

The presence of school psychologists within learning institutions was first established in the early 1900s and grew exponentially in the 1970s to meet the needs of students with disabilities. “The role of a school psychologist has continued to evolve into a mental health service provider for all students,” says Michael Salce, Ed.D, director of the school psychology program at Azusa Pacific University. “The demand for quality mental health services has only increased for the past several decades, and will likely continue, therefore the outlook for the profession is a positive one.”

Not only is school psychology an in-demand career choice, but demand continues to increase each year. The Bureau of Labor Statistics reports that employment of psychologists is projected to grow 14 percent by 2026, faster than many other occupations. Additionally, school psychology is one of the top social service jobs; the occupation boasts a low unemployment rate and a median salary of $73,270, according to the U.S. News & World Report.

Graduate students who earn an Ed.S. degree in school psychology can step into career pathways at public and private schools, colleges, and universities, as well as mental health centers, residential hospitals, and juvenile justice centers. After three years of working experience in a public school, graduates can also take the Licensed Educational Psychologists exam, which enables them to begin private practice.

Getting a NASP-Approved Graduate Degree

The School of Education at APU offers a school psychology program that is approved by the National Association of School Psychologists (NASP), and graduates are eligible to become Nationally Certified School Psychologists. As one of only three faith-based universities in California with NASP approval, APU’s faculty are not only highly knowledgeable in student mental health issues but active in the field and aware of the ever-changing trends. “Each year, APU is approached by districts looking to obtain our interns to serve within their schools,” Salce notes. “The School of Education has developed a reputation of a quality program that produces knowledgeable and prepared candidates.”

As students increasingly face complex challenges that threaten to hinder their learning and personal development, the need for school psychologists will likely only continue to grow. If you’re interested in helping today’s youth become tomorrow’s leaders, focusing on student mental health and pursuing a degree in school psychology is a great place to start.

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