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5 in 5! with a School Psychologist

October 27, 2010

5 Questions. 5 Minutes. 1 Employer.  This week: a school psychologist who wishes to remain anonymous ;,,)

1. What do you look for when you hire an intern?

The school psychologist situation is a bit different than most in that an internship is required (1200 hours) in order to be granted one’s graduate degree. The bulk of potential interns come from a psych or education background and most programs have students go through as a cohort taking the same classes in the same progression, so there isn’t always a lot of diversity to set people apart from one another. So depending on the demographics of the districts where they’re looking to intern, I would say bilingualism gives some interns a leg up and any “above and beyond” certifications like being a Board Certified Behavior Analyst is a bonus too. Oh, and enthusiasm plus a willingness to adapt to new things even in an established field like psychology.  Especially because of crazy changes in legislation, someone with a good grip on the “new” way of doing business in this field would probably be snapped up fast.

2. How did you get started in the industry?  How can I get started?

I got started by thinking I wanted to be in a “helping” profession and not some cog in the wheel.  For a student who wants to get started in school psychology, I recommend you take the GRE’s, find a NASP approved program,  and of course jump through the requisite hoops during your education.

3. What is the future of your industry?
Uncertain. Legislative changes, budget crunches, and a completely redefined way of disability determination and the general day-to-day goings on have changed school psych to the extent that some people think it could go the way of the dinosaur. It really depends on national and local advocacy and what the individual district finds value in funding.

4. What is one main thing an intern can do to make a favorable impression?

Have enthusiasm without going overboard (it’s happened) and have clear view of how they can contribute to a school/district’s success in the “new” way.

To make a negative impression?

Have a “millennial' vibe… I hate to say this, but there are still many near-retirement types running the field and most schools, and that milennial vibe doesn’t always go over so well. Some people have taken casual to a new level (even for the school system) in terms of physical presentation, including nose rings and their style of dress, as well as how they communicate. The queen’s English isn’t required, but speaking in a manner that doesn’t sound like you’re hanging out in a parking lot when discussing someone’s child would be nice.  We’ve had young interns that still act like they’re talking with their peers and relating to a parent in that way just doesn’t work.

5. Give us a positive intern story? An intern horror story?

In general the interns who do well in a field like this have a genuine desire to help children with behavioral problems to adapt.  But, it’s important to note that you have to also be able to function in a bureaucracy and not get frustrated by budget changes, systematic paperwork, legislative changes, more experienced coworkers who are set in their ways, etc.  It’s a rewarding job, but there are still a fair amount of challenges to work through.

An intern horror story would be any time an intern acts in a way that is not mature and befitting a professional when dealing with coworkers as well as parents and students.  Interns have to learn to deal with frustrations in a mature fashion – just like in life itself.  Once, we had an intern who walked out on the job and started yelling out of frustration outside the Dept head’s window. Needless to say, this kind of behavior is not acceptable and isn’t exactly the example to be setting for kids with behavioral problems. It’s always key to keep a cool head even when things move slowly.

Thanks! Interested in psych? Start your search for psychology internships.

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