What is a School Psychologist

A school psychologist is a psychologist who focuses on students and their education; specifically, they work to improve the education of the students they work with, helping with the inter-personal aspects of academics, as well in the mental, social, and emotional aspects of school life. They assess students for learning disabilities, aid in social and mental problems, and develop methods for children to become successful in their education.

Work Environment

School psychologists often work, unsurprisingly, in schools. These can be many and varied in environments; some schools have comfortable, serene environments, while others can be rough and chaotic. From public to private schools, to colleges and universities, to daycares, juvenile detention centers, and orphanages, the potential work environment runs the gamut.

In ideal circumstances, the psychologist will have a dedicated office in which to meet with students and evaluate them. However, not all schools are so fortunate, and some psychologists may find themselves working in unused classrooms between periods, sharing an office with another teacher, or, in extreme cases, working in an used storage area.

Work Schedule

Most school psychologists will work a standard teaching day, often from eight to four or nine to five, with some extension of that time for finishing the administrative end of evaluations and meeting with parents. Occasional overtime may be required, especially during emergencies. The continued rise in traumatically violent events in schools has created an extra need for psychologists to pull overtime, especially in neighboring districts.

Mean Annual School Psychologist Salary

The average annual school psychologist salary is $72,710. The average salary is calculated by adding all the wages within the occupation and dividing that value by the total number of employees. Individuals who fall in the lowest 10% of all psychologists can expect to make less than $39,020 each year whereas others with more experience in the top 10% can expect well over $112,380 each year.

School Psychologist Salary: Quick Summary

2013 Mean Salary$72,710 per year
$34.96 per hour
Top 10% Salary$112,380 per year
$54.03 per hour
Bottom 10% Salary$39,020 per year
$18.76 per hour
Number of Jobs, 2013104,480

School Psychologist Job Outlook and Prospects

The expected job outlook for school psychologists is promising, though there are potential caveats to that. There is an expected 12 percent job growth in the coming years, primarily caused by retirements among those currently working. There are, however, potential political issues interfering with this job growth, as ideological conservatism dominates in some states, leading to cutbacks in funding of mental health. As such, the job outlook will be highly dependent on the state one wishes to work.

School Psychologist Salary: Factors of Influences

The mean annual salary for a school psychologist is $72,710. This is impacted by a number of factors, including the industry worked, the experience of the psychologist working, and the state in which they work. Education is fairly consistent for most psychologists, though pursuit of a specialization may bring a slightly higher wage.

Education and Specialization 

A school psychologist needs at least a master’s degree in psychology, as well as completion of a 1200-hour internship and a license or certification to practice. Those with a specialist degree or doctorate, with the more advanced knowledge, may find somewhat higher rates of pay, though this is dependent on the organization hiring.

Some specializations, such as the age level at which one wishes to focus (such as elementary or secondary), will not bring great differences in salary. The topic of specialization, however, can lead to some improvements; behavioral disorders, developmental disabilities, crisis counseling, and psychological assessment are all areas of focus than lead to higher wages.

Experience and Position 

Experience is one of the main factors affecting school psychologists’ salaries, with those who have worked longer in the field earning significantly more. This is due in part to unionized pay raises with the education system, as well as to the proper reimbursement for the greater skills of an experienced psychologist. A starting school psychologist will earn an average of around $40,000, while one who has worked for twenty or more years can see a wage of more than $100,000, depending on the degree they hold.

Position is less of a factor; many school psychologists tend to be the only one, or one of two or three, on staff. In these cases, work is generally shared, rather than overseen. A psychologist working at the board level, however, will see significant salary improvements. 


While all school psychologists work in the education industry, where they do so can dictate the wage they earn. Those working in elementary or secondary schools have an average of $71,840, while those who work in specialty hospitals earn $86,070. The best wages are found in scientific research and development services, at $91,990.


The state worked has one of the highest impacts on a school psychologist’s salary, with those in Puerto Rico earning an average of $35,450, while those in Alabama can earn $85,800. In Rhode Island, the wage is even better, averaging $93,710, while Hawaii tops the chart at $102,990.

At the metropolitan level, the top ten list is dominated by California. New York, New Hampshire, and Massachusetts squeak in to the eighth, ninth, and tenth positions respectively. The best wage on this level is in San Luis Obispo-Paso Robles, California, at $114,560.

School Psychologist Salary: Top 5

Top Paying Metropolitan AreasTop Paying StatesTop Paying IndustriesStates with Highest Employment Level
Allentown, PA: $117,050Rhode Island: $92,580Business Schools and Management Training: $100,310California: (17,550 jobs) $79,520
San Luis Obispo, CA: $111,420Hawaii: $90,420Employment Services: $94,290New York: (10,610 jobs) $84,850
Boulder, CO: $109,260New York: $84,850Assisted Living Facilities: $92,550Pennsylvania: (5,730 jobs) $73,620
Birmingham, AL: $107,310New Jersey: $83,870Scientific Research and Development Services: $83,960Texas: (5,390 jobs) $63,100
Bakersfield, CA: $101,570Alabama: $80,430Specialty Hospitals: $83,070Illinois: (5,030 jobs) $68,100

School Psychologist Salary State By State