Best Online Master’s Programs in School Psychology

Become an expert in helping students reach their potential with a school psychology master’s online degree. Identify the best master’s programs, learn what they can do for your career, find out how long they’ll take, and get tips on paying for your degree in this guide.

Students who are successful in school are more likely to be successful in life. But not every child comes to school ready to succeed. Students whose home situation is unstable, who are bullied, who have an undiagnosed learning disability, or whose parents can’t support their learning are going to have a more difficult time. The school psychologist, school counselor, and academic social worker are members of the school staff who can help turn that around. A master’s in school psychology online degree puts you in a prime position for any of those jobs and many others as well.

Earning a school psychology master’s degree online is a major investment. Before applying to programs and choosing a school to attend, you’re likely to have plenty of questions. What does it take to get into a program? What can you expect from your classes? Where can you find the best program? Where can your new degree lead after you graduate? This guide will answer all of these questions and many others, helping you take that all-important first step toward earning your master’s degree in school psychology.

College Spotlights: Best School Psychology Master’s Programs Online in 2021

There are plenty of school psychology online programs to choose from, but finding the best ones can be tricky. To jumpstart your search, we found three accredited, best-in-class programs that stand out in terms of affordability, learning flexibility, and educational quality. These schools are part of a larger list of ranked school psychology programs that will be released later this year, so check back to learn about other top-rated academic school psychology offerings.

National University

San Diego’s National University is a private university with nonprofit status. With more than 50 master’s degree programs to choose from, National’s Master of Science in school psychology program stands out from many other schools’ programs in several ways. The 90 quarter-credit curriculum prepares students to obtain their pupil personnel school psychology credential so they can practice as school psychologists in the state of California. The curriculum consists of both online coursework and in-person training. Specifically, students complete their in-person academic requirements through an on-site practicum and internship, in addition to 16 on-site visits at one of the four California National University campuses.

For better flexibility, classes are very short, only lasting four weeks at a time. This makes it easier to quickly progress through coursework without having to take too many classes at the same time. While much of the curriculum is available online, students can also choose to attend class on campus. All students are assigned an academic program director who ensures they are on course to complete academic requirements–and therefore to graduate—on schedule.

California University of Pennsylvania

California University of Pennsylvania’s master’s in school psychology hybrid program consists of 36 credits and is available to students on full-time or part-time tracks. The full-time track requires classes each semester and 300 practicum hours, allowing students to earn their master’s degrees in two years. While much of the curriculum must be completed on-campus, some academic elements can be completed online. In earning their master’s degree, students will take courses such as:

  • Advanced Tests and Measurements
  • Advanced Psychology of Learning
  • Psychopathology of Childhood
  • Fundamentals of School Psychology
  • Seminar in Behavior Modification

The master’s program alone will not result in eligibility to become a licensed school psychologist. Students must also complete a 33-credit post-master’s graduate certificate and a 1,200-hour internship under the supervision of a certified school psychologist. Once this is complete, graduates can take the Praxis II exam and apply for certification as a school psychologist.

Wayne State University

The Master of Arts school and community psychology program at Wayne State University is approved by the National Association of School Psychologists (NASP) and takes three years to complete. During the first two years, students take courses mostly online in a synchronous format and gain hands-on field experience at approved sites local to the student. Completion of this portion of the program results in a Preliminary School Psychology Certificate and a master of arts degree. Students also are eligible to have a temporary limited license in psychology.

The third year consists of a paid internship at a school. Once this is complete, students earn their advanced graduate studies certificate in school psychology and are eligible to become certified school psychologists and earn their nationally certified school psychologist credential.

Advantages of Earning an Online Master’s in School Psychology

Attending a school psychology master’s program online offers many advantages compared to attending a traditional program or settling for a bachelor’s degree. Let’s look at three of the biggest benefits of earning your school psychology master’s degree online.

  1. Flexible academics

    Most school psychology master’s online programs contain some in-person learning elements. Usually, these come in the form of practicums. However, some programs allow students to complete some or most of their classroom requirements through online coursework, thus making obtaining this degree much more convenient.

  2. Professional credentialing

    To become a licensed school psychologist or other related professional, a master’s degree is usually the minimum degree required. Most master’s in school psychology online programs are combined with another academic offering, such as a graduate certificate or Education Specialist (EdS) credential. Taken together, graduates become eligible to be fully licensed school psychologists.

  3. Specialized training

    While school psychology is a fairly specialized area of practice, there are additional opportunities for greater levels of specialization as you earn a school psychology master’s online. For example, students can take specialized classes to prepare them to work with certain types of students, such as children from different cultural backgrounds, children with learning disabilities, or children of a certain age group.

What You’ll Learn in Master’s in School Psychology Online Programs

The curriculum in a master’s degree school psychology online program will vary to some extent based on your specialization. However, most programs cover the same core concepts and include the practicums necessary for students to apply their knowledge and experience in a real-world setting. Here are some common classes you’re likely to encounter.

Popular Courses

  • Research Methods and Techniques

    Psychology places great importance on understanding statistics and how to conduct and interpret research. This class teaches students about research methods that make use of the scientific method as they apply to the academic context and student subjects. Students will also receive instruction relating to the critical analysis of completed research.

  • Behavioral Principles of Learning

    In this core class, students examine experiment-based psychological concepts that relate to learning. This includes classical conditioning, operant behavior, stimulus, motivation, schedules, and parameter-based behavior.

  • Human Developmental Psychology

    Humans develop through their entire life spans, but much of this development occurs during childhood, especially in school. This class takes modern research and classical theories about how people grow mentally and change psychologically from birth into adulthood, with a special focus on human development of school-aged individuals.

  • Ethics, Standards, and the Practice of Psychology

    This class covers three common moral challenges that many psychology practitioners face in the course of working with clients. Skills taught in this class include how to identify and handle the legal questions, ethical challenges, and professional issues commonly encountered by psychologists.

  • School Psychology Practicum I

    This is the first of two practicums in which students learn about the school setting and how they can apply their expertise. Students work under the supervision of a licensed school psychologist and observe how academic processes occur at the administrative and classroom level.

Specialization Options

At the master’s level, online school psychology programs are usually a concentration within themselves. However, some school psychology programs offer further areas of specialization. By taking a few more courses, you can gain additional knowledge and skills to more effectively work with certain types of students. To give you an idea of what’s out there, we’ve identified specialization options sometimes found in school psychology programs.

  • Bilingual

    The bilingual specialization is intended for students who possess fluency in a language in addition to English and wish to work with students who also speak languages in addition to or in place of English. By completing the courses in this concentration, students will be eligible to obtain relevant linguistic certifications as provided by their state.

  • Multicultural

    This specialization is intended for educators with an interest in working with children who come from various cultural and linguistic backgrounds but who are not bilingual. Students learn how to work with these children in a culturally sensitive manner.

  • Early Childhood

    This comprehensive training gives graduates the foundations they need to effectively work with infants, toddlers, and preschoolers, plus their parents. Courses cover concepts on how to teach and assess young children.

  • Applied Behavioral Analysis

    Applied behavioral analysis (ABA) uses the principles of operant conditioning to modify an individual’s behavior to improve their social interactions. This specialization prepares students to obtain certifications so they may apply ABA principles when treating school-aged students.

  • Autism

    The past few decades have brought far greater awareness and understanding of autism spectrum disorders. This specialization provides a broad overview of autism, how it can affect student learning, and how best to work with autistic students.

Accreditation for Master’s in School Psychology Online Programs

Accreditation refers to an independent review of a school or program to ensure it provides a quality education. Attendance at an accredited institution is often required to receive financial aid. It’s also necessary to ensure employers and other schools recognize the degree a student has worked so hard to earn.

There are two main types of accreditation. Institutional accreditation applies to an entire school. Most institutionally accredited schools receive their accreditation from regional accrediting bodies. Programmatic accreditation applies to a specific program. The primary programmatic accrediting body for master’s in school psychology online programs is the National Association of School Psychologists. But only a few universities have programs with NASP accreditation. Instead, many universities have schools or departments that have Council for the Accreditation of Educator Preparation accreditation and offer a school psychology master’s level program that is recognized or approved by the NASP. Additionally, some programs may receive programmatic accreditation from the appropriate state education agency for their state, such as a teacher credentialing commission.

What You Can Do with a Master’s in School Psychology

School Psychologist

School Psychologist

School psychologists use theories and concepts from psychology and apply them to the academic setting to assist students in their learning and behavioral challenges. These professionals generally need licensure or certification to practice; to obtain either of these credentials, you’ll usually need a master’s degree plus a graduate certificate or EdS credential.

10th Percentile Median Annual Pay 90th Percentile
$45,240 $78,200 $132,670

Source: Bureau of Labor Statistics, 2021

School Counselor

School counselors work with students and teachers to improve the academic performance and social growth of students. Most states require school counselors to have a master’s degree. The online master’s in school psychology can help school counselors not only meet the eligibility requirements to practice, but also provide applicable training to help students learn as effectively as possible.

10th Percentile Median Annual Pay 90th Percentile
$34,380 $57,040 $96,090

Source: Bureau of Labor Statistics, 2019

Counseling Psychologist

Counseling psychologists use various methods to treat clients dealing with challenges in their everyday lives. Some counseling psychologists focus on treating individuals who are struggling in school. A master’s degree in school psychology can make counseling psychologists far more effective in this task.

10th Percentile Median Annual Pay 90th Percentile
$45,240 $78,200 $132,670

Source: Bureau of Labor Statistics, 2019

Developmental Psychologist

Developmental psychology involves the study of how individuals grow and develop through their life spans. Due to the rapid cognitive, social, emotional, and behavioral development that occurs in children and adolescents, many developmental psychologists focus on school-aged children. Formal training in how students learn in a school setting provides important background information when working as a developmental psychologist.

10th Percentile Median Annual Pay 90th Percentile
$46,100 $101,790 $129,530

Source: Bureau of Labor Statistics, 2019

School Social Worker

School social workers are highly trained professionals who work with students, parents, and teachers to help students overcome challenges they face in school. The master’s in school psychology online degree can serve as a perfect academic complement for individuals with a bachelor’s degree in social work who would like to work as school social workers.

10th Percentile Median Annual Pay 90th Percentile
$30,870 $47,390 $78,230

Source: PayScale, 2019

Costs and Financial Aid for Online Master’s Degrees in School Psychology

Before applying to various school psychology master’s online programs, you need to figure out how you’re going to pay for your degree. Some forms of financial aid need to be paid back, such as school loans. Others do not need to be paid back, like grants, fellowships, scholarships, and work-study. Then there are some forms that don’t need to be paid back, but have special conditions, such as an employer tuition reimbursement program. Figuring out your financial aid options can be confusing, but we have a financial aid page that explains all the different types of aid.

What Your Online Master’s in School Psychology Could Cost

School Name No. of Credits Cost/Credit Est. Total Tuition Cost

Fort Hays State University

66

$298.55

$19,704.30

University of Southern Maine

84

$432 (in-state) and $1,186 (out-of-state)

$36,288 (in-state) and $99,624 (out-of-state)

Alliant International University

60

$747

$44,820

Frequently Asked Questions About Online School Psychology Master’s Degrees

What are the admissions requirements for an online master’s in school psychology?

The best school psychology master’s programs online have a unique set of requirements for incoming students. These often reflect the administration’s philosophies and policies concerning how to educate their student body. However, there are many similarities in admission requirements, with most programs asking applicants to submit the following:

  • Application
  • Application fee
  • Official transcripts showing completion of a bachelor’s degree in psychology or education with a minimum GPA and completion of certain prerequisite courses
  • Letters of recommendation
  • Statement of intent

Some programs also require applicants to submit GRE or MAT scores. Others only require these test scores if the applicant doesn’t meet other requirements.

How long will it take to finish my master’s in school psychology?

The time it takes will depend on whether you decide to complete classes on a full-time or part-time basis. Most full-time students can earn their master’s in school psychology online degree in about two years. The biggest variable is which academic track you choose.

To become a licensed school psychologist, simply completing the typical 36 credits of a master’s program will not be enough. That’s because students usually only complete a few hundred hours of field experience under the supervision of a licensed school psychologist. Most states require the completion of 1,500 supervised hours.

Many school psychology programs include a post-master’s academic track, which will usually consist of 30 or so credits. This will culminate in a graduate certificate or an EdS credential, as is the case with Fort Hays State University. Either way, students gain the opportunity to complete the 1,000+ hour supervised experience requirement with an internship while they complete their post-master’s program.

Students who become fully credentialed school psychologists will take three years of full-time study plus field work to complete their respective school psychology online programs.

Can I earn a master’s in school psychology 100% online or do I need to visit campus?

Most master’s in school psychology online programs follow the hybrid model and cannot be completed fully online. Some programs allow students to complete some of the coursework through distance learning. However, due to the real-world experience requirements necessary to become a licensed school psychologist, most programs require students to complete a number of practicums and field work experiences to earn their master’s degree. After the degree program, students enroll in a post-master’s program to complete an internship and obtain the remaining hours necessary to meet their state’s school psychology licensing requirements.