Roles of School Psychologists & School Social Workers

Updated April 17, 2017

Combine the presence of bullying, drugs, peer pressure and teenage pregnancy in schools with home and internal issues of divorce, death, depression and sexuality. Students face a great deal of pressure in their lives which can have a negative effect upon their abilities to focus on schoolwork. This is where the roles of the school psychologist and school social worker become increasingly important.

School Psychologist

School psychologists provide a positive atmosphere for students by giving them the emotional support they need to perform well in school. The National Association of School Psychologists (NASP) explains in detail the role of school psychologists on its website. They consult with students, teachers and parents to find positive ways to strengthen these important relationships. They evaluate students to determine if they have learning difficulties or are academically gifted. They intervene when problems at home or in school interfere with academic performance and provide counselling when a crisis situation occurs. Finally, school psychologists must research the effectiveness of teaching techniques or school programs and offer a plan to create a better academic environment for the school.

School Social Worker

While school psychologists focus more on the mind and human behaviour, school social workers focus on the social health of students. According to the School Social Work Association of America (SSWAA) website, a school social worker is a specialised field within the social work profession. These workers are hired by school districts to create harmony between a student's home life, school and community in order to foster positive academic achievement. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, a school social worker's job is similar to that of a school psychologist. They counsel students on how to handle social and psychological issues that may affect their schoolwork. They are the link that connects a student's family with the school by advising teachers and parents on how to handle difficult situations such as disobedience, teenage pregnancy, domestic violence and single parenting. School social workers often refer students and parents to school, federal or community programs that can offer help and support. Many also provide a healthy classroom environment through teaching classes themselves.


According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, most states require school psychologists to hold a specialist degree (Ed.S.) in psychology, which is obtained by completing a minimum of three years of graduate school as a full-time student and a one-year internship (also full-time). Each state has different protocols that must be followed for licensure to practice as a psychologist in that particular state. According to the bureau, licensure, certification and registration requirements vary from state to state for school social workers as well. School social workers must earn at least a bachelor's degree in social work, although many choose to obtain their master's or doctorate degrees.


The Bureau of Labor Statistics explains that the designation as a Nationally Certified School Psychologist (NCSP) is an honour bestowed by The National Association of School Psychologists (NASP) which is obtained by meeting certain educational requirements and passing the National School Psychology Examination. According to the bureau, as of December 2007, the national organisation is recognised by 29 states which do not require NCSPs to take their state's particular certification exam. Credentials may be obtained for school social workers on a voluntary basis by the National Association of Social Workers, the bureau states.

Job Outlook and Pay

The Bureau of Labor Statistics states that the demand for school psychologists is expected to grow at a faster than average rate. The average salary of elementary through high school psychologists was £39,838 in May 2006. According to the bureau, the demand for school social workers is expected to increase by 19 per cent from 2006 to 2016. These suspected increases in demand are due to an emphasis on integrating disabled students into regular classroom environments and the need to deal with more crowded classrooms. Elementary through high school social workers earned an average of £31,434 in May 2006.

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About the Author

Leonor Crossley has been a graphic designer and writer since 1995, with entertainment and other articles written for "Max Magazine" in Jacksonville, NC, and various websites. She has a Bachelor of Fine Arts, cum laude, from Kutztown University in Pennsylvania.