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President's Message

What is a School Psychologist? Protecting and Promoting Practice and Title

By Patti L. Harrison

The job title "school psychologist" appeared as early as 1915, and the earliest state credentialing began in the mid-1930s (Fagan & Wise, 2007). Professionals in school psychology are credentialed in all states, and 90% of states use the specific title of "school psychologist" in the state education agency credential. According to current estimates, over 35,000 credentialed school psychologists work in the United States with over 29,000 practicing in public schools (Charvat, 2008). The Bureau of Labor Statistics of the U.S. Department of Labor (2007) and U.S. News and World Report (Nemko, 2008) identified critical functions of school psychologists and a strong job outlook.

A priority initiative for NASP in 2009–2010 is to equip school psychologists to protect and promote practice and title. NASP has an essential voice at the national level and assists school psychologists at the state and local levels in advocating for their services and title. One of NASP's most valuable resources is our standards for graduate preparation, credentialing, ethics, and practice. As major policy documents of the association for defining school psychology services and qualifications of school psychologists, the NASP standards provide strong, clear positions about practice and title for school psychologists. NASP's current standards documents were approved in 2000, and a revision of the documents for a 2010 adoption will be a major activity in the coming year. NASP standards provide a unified set of national principles to guide professional practices, ethical behavior, graduate education, and credentialing of school psychologists.

Another comprehensive activity for NASP in 2009–2010 will be responding to potential threats to practice and title. NASP will advance our advocacy tools related to potential state impacts from proposed revisions to APA's Model Act for State Licensure of Psychologists and possible removal of the exemption for school psychologists who are credentialed by state education agencies and practice in public school settings. The school psychology community, including NASP (2009a), has developed position statements and supporting documents related to maintaining the school psychologist exemption in APA's model act. Thousands of school psychologists, as well as state and local education agencies and major education organizations, submitted comments during two APA public comment periods over the last year and recognized the value of school psychologists. APA's revised model act is scheduled for adoption by the APA Council of Representatives in 2010, and the status of the school psychologist exemption is unknown at this time. It is important to note that APA's model act is intended to serve as a prototype for drafting state legislation regulating the practice of psychology and, thus, any future impact could relate to state credentialing of school psychologists.

Additional critical issues in school psychology and our services for children relate to the economic environment, job security, credentialing, roles and functions, and other factors and require school psychologists' vigilance in promoting and preserve our competence and capacity. Children, families, and schools are experiencing an increasing need for the services of school psychologists. NASP (2009b) has numerous resources to assist school psychologists in meeting needs of children, families, and schools, as well as responding to possible state impacts of APA's model act and other threats to our credentialing and practice. Fortunately, school psychologists have many strengths to ensure children's continued access to our services and promote the future of our field. During over 30 years in school psychology, I have been asked the question "What is a school psychologist?" many times, and I know that most school psychologists receive this question frequently.

Although school psychology has a long history and school psychologists are recognized widely in state credentialing and through their professional functions in schools, school psychologists must continue to promote who we are and what we do. I invite you to join me in increasing awareness about school psychology and preserving practice and title of school psychologists.


Bureau of Labor Statistics, U.S. Department of Labor. (2008). Occupational outlook handbook, 2008–09 edition. Retrieved August 18, 2009, from http://www.bls.gov/oco/ocos056.htm

Charvat, J. L. (2008). Estimates of the school psychology workforce. Bethesda, MD: National Association of School Psychologists. Retrieved August 18, 2009, from http://www.nasponline.org/advocacy/SP_Workforce_ Estimates_9.08.pdf

Fagan, T. K., & Wise, P. S. (2007). School psychology: Past, present, and future (3rd ed.). Bethesda, MD: National Association of School Psychologists.

National Association of School Psychololgists. (2009a). NASP response to APA's Model Act for State Licensure, 2009 Revisions. Retrieved August 18, 2009. from http://www.nasponline.org/standards/apamla.aspx

National Association of School Psychololgists. (2009b). Advocacy news. Retrieved August 18, 2009, from http://www.nasponline.org/advocacy/advocacynews.aspx

Nemko, M. (2008, December 11). Best careers 2009: School psychologist. U.S. News and World Report. Retrieved August 18, 2009, from http://www.usnews.com/articles/money/careers/2008/12/11/best-careers-2009-school-psychologist.html

Patti L. Harrison, PhD, NCSP, is a faculty member in the University of Alabama's school psychology program and an Alabama certified school psychologist.