Professionals working or holding a graduate degree in related fields with interest in seeking graduate preparation and credentialing as school psychologists through respecialization could bolster the efforts of addressing the current shortage of school psychologists. While the definition and route of respecialization may vary among programs, respecialization generally refers to a process by which an individual with experience or graduate preparation in a related field expands their current knowledge and skills through formal school psychology programming in order to achieve a degree or credential as a school psychologist. A school psychology program would apply “systematic evaluation procedures and criteria to grant recognition of candidates’ prior courses/field experiences and to identify additional graduate courses and experiences necessary for candidates to meet school psychology program requirements.” (NASP, 2010, p. 4)
Many certified teachers, school counselors, school administrators, social workers, mental health counselors, clinical psychologists, and other psychology and education-based professionals have foundational knowledge in one or more of the NASP Domains of Practice. While many of these working professionals express interest in becoming school psychologists, the key to their transition, their respecialization from their current career to that of a school psychologist, can be wrought with concerns around accessing quality programing, scheduling conflicts, logistical challenges, and interference with family commitments. Effective and accessible respecialization pathways consider times, locations, and modalities that attend to a working professional’s schedule and unique needs.
Additionally beneficial, respecialization programming could recruit professionals with comparable training and prior experiences in regional areas of high need, including rural areas. This practice offers greater likelihood of those individuals staying in communities where other qualified candidates might be less likely to relocate due to regional isolation. Respecializing is feasible in many areas of our nation where school psychology programs are not easily accessible.
- Encourage practicing school psychologists to reach out to related professionals in their district. Practitioners should be encouraged to educate others in their respective districts about the benefits of respecializing in school psychology. Approximately 43% of school psychology graduate students report that they had been employed the year before entering their school psychology program (34% in a related field; 9% in an unrelated field), suggesting that working professionals comprise a significant pool from which to recruit future school psychologists (Bocanegra, Rossen, & Grapin, 2017). Practitioners should be prepared to provide information, support, and mentorship to colleagues interested in pursuing this career path.
- Encourage school psychology programs to capitalize on technological innovations (e.g., online and distance learning) that increase access to graduate education. This may allow prospective students who are not proximal to institutions with school psychology programs to pursue graduate coursework. Graduate educators also may capitalize on local mentorship by providing remote consultation to field supervisors who are available in the student’s immediate environment. NASP has created a document titled Considerations for Distance Education in School Psychology.
- Encourage school psychology programs that offer flexible options for completing graduate preparation. These options may include evening classes and summer courses that allow for daytime employment during the academic year as well as streamlined program requirements for individuals who already have graduate degrees in related fields.
- Cater to individuals in fields that are experiencing overproduction. For practitioners in fields that are experiencing overproduction (e.g., clinical psychology), respecialization may be a viable and logical option.