School Counselor vs. School Psychologist

“School Counselor” and “School Psychologist,” the job titles sound similar: so what’s the difference between these two types of professionals?

Generally speaking, school psychologists are required to earn a Ph.D., while school counselors may become qualified to practice by earning a master’s degree. Ph.D. programs emphasize a course of study based on the analysis and creation of original research, while master’s degree programs typically focus on training students in the practical application of known psychological theory.

School Psychologist Overview

What do school psychologists do?

School psychologists consult with teachers and families to provide counseling, assessment, crisis intervention and outreach to students. They may also serve on interdisciplinary teams, conduct research, and develop psychoeducational programs for students and staff. Most of their time is spent on delivering counseling services to students. School psychologists are also mandated reporters, which means they are ethically and professionally obligated to report abuse or neglect.

School psychologists are typically funded through special education budgets. That means their main job responsibilities often involve supporting students who have been identified as at-risk, or who have disabilities.

Where do they work?

School psychologists are primarily employed in public and private primary and secondary schools, and at universities. Some school districts hire one psychologist to serve the entire district, while other districts have one school psychologist or school counselor per school. Other career options for school psychologists include writing, consulting, policy development, and advocacy. They may also teach and conduct research at the university level.

What are the educational requirements for school psychologists?

School psychologists must earn a Ph.D., earning a Ph.D. generally requires five to seven years of study. Most programs also require students to complete an internship and submit a thesis or dissertation.

School Counselor Overview

What do school counselors do?

School Counselor Salaries
One of the primary differences between school counselors and school psychologists is that school counselors are more likely to work with the school’s general population, as opposed to only special education students. That said, each school and district differs in their hiring approaches, and the job responsibilities of school counselors and school psychologists may be very similar. School counselors provide direct counseling services and may provide classes to help students develop social skills. School counselors also work to connect students with community resources that may help them better manage their lives. Another one of the school counselor job responsibilities may include staff development. They are less likely to conduct research than school psychologists. However, they’re more likely than school psychologists to offer career coaching and college counseling. Most of their time is spent providing direct service to students. Like school psychologists, school counselors are mandated to report any abuse or neglect.

Where do they work?

Like school psychologists, school counselors work in public and private schools at the K-12 level, as well as at universities. They may also be employed by community clinics or the government.

What are the educational requirements of school counselors?

School counselors are usually required to earn a master’s degree in school counseling or a related mental health field. Masters programs usually require students to complete 2 years of full time study or several years of part time study and an internship. This can be an on-campus program or an online school counseling program. The typical school counselor curriculum does not include extensive training on special education populations.

View Masters in School Counseling Programs