Respecialization and Professional Retraining

Professionals working or holding a graduate degree in related fields with interest in seeking graduate preparation and credentialing as school psychologists through respecialization or professional retraining (RPR) could bolster the efforts of addressing the current shortage of school psychologists. While the definition and route of RPR may vary among programs and states, these terms generally refer 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 credential as a school psychologist. Respecialization applies to individuals holding a graduate degree in another area of applied psychology, while professional retraining applies to those who hold a graduate degree in a related field.  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 demonstrate competencies of professional school psychologists."  (NASP, 2020, p. 18) For a detailed overview of the RPR process, please refer to Guidance for Respecialization and Professional Retraining (2020). It is noteworthy that NASP promotes completion of a specialist level graduate program in school psychology as the preferred means for entry into the profession of school psychology. However, given the shortage of school psychologists, a well-designed RPR program of study can serve as an effective alternative pathway to certification as a school psychologist. 

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 successful RPR 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 RPR pathways consider times, locations, and modalities that attend to a working professional's schedule and unique needs. Additionally, RPR provides an opportunity to recruit professionals with related 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.

In order to address shortages by promoting RPR, school psychology practitioners, graduate educators, advocates, and administrators can:

  • 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 RPR 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), RPR may be a viable and logical option.

  • Encourage school districts to offer "Grow Your Own" incentives for RPR. School districts may offer to fund their current employees to pursue RPR. This funding is contingent on the recipient committing to stay in the district, and may include a process of taking courses on evenings or weekends and even completing the internship in the same district. See this example from Iowa, as well as presentation handouts from a webinar given by the Michigan Association of School Psychologists on innovative Grow Your Own program strategies.


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    Recruitment refers to strategies that help attract professionals into positions that are otherwise hard to fill or at a level where demand exceeds supply. … more