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School Psychologist vs. School Counselor: What Are the Differences?

Learn about the two careers and review some of the similarities and differences between them.

School psychologists and school counselors are both helping professionals who work with students to improve their academic and social functioning. While their job duties may overlap, there are some key differences between these two positions. In this article, we compare and contrast school psychologists and school counselors, including their job duties, educational requirements and average salaries.

What is a School Psychologist?

School Psychologists work with students, families and school staff to create a supportive learning environment for all students. They collaborate with teachers to identify and address academic, social and emotional issues that may be impacting a student’s ability to succeed in school. School Psychologists also work with families to provide support and resources. They may conduct psychological assessments to diagnose learning disabilities or emotional disorders. School Psychologists use their findings to develop individualized treatment plans and behavior intervention plans. They also provide counseling services to students and families.

What is a School Counselor?

School Counselors work with students in a school setting to help them overcome challenges and succeed academically, socially and emotionally. They develop individualized plans to support each student’s needs and strengths. School Counselors collaborate with teachers, parents and other school personnel to identify and address barriers to learning. They also work with students on college and career planning, and provide guidance on how to manage stress and other personal issues. School Counselors typically have a master’s degree in counseling or a related field, and they must be licensed by the state in which they work.

School Psychologist vs. School Counselor

Here are the main differences between a school psychologist and a school counselor.

Job Duties

School psychologists conduct evaluations to determine which educational programs or interventions will best help students address their learning challenges. They also develop behavioral intervention plans for students with discipline issues and provide counseling to students experiencing emotional or social difficulties that affect their academic performance. School psychologists may also work with teachers to identify students with learning disabilities so they can receive the proper accommodations while still achieving academic success.

In contrast, school counselors typically focus on providing counseling services to students. They often assist students in developing college applications, finding post-secondary education options and managing stigmas associated with receiving government assistance. School counselors also provide career counseling to students and help them find jobs after graduation.

Job Requirements

School psychologists typically need to earn a doctorate in psychology, which can take up to seven years to complete. During their doctoral program, they must complete an internship and a dissertation. Some states also require school psychologists to have a license.

School counselors usually only need to earn a master’s degree, which can be completed in two to three years. During their master’s program, they must complete an internship. Some states also require school counselors to have a license.

Work Environment

School psychologists and school counselors typically work in different environments. School psychologists usually work in a school’s main office or guidance department, where they can meet with students to assess their needs and refer them to the appropriate resources. They may also travel between classrooms to observe student behavior and provide support for teachers.

School counselors often work in a school’s counseling center, which is sometimes located within the school’s main office. They may also visit classrooms to help students develop positive coping skills and build healthy relationships. School counselors may also spend time at after-school programs or extracurricular activities to assist students who need additional support outside of the classroom.


Both school psychologists and counselors need to have excellent communication skills. This is important because they will be working with students, parents, teachers and administrators on a regular basis. They also both need to have strong organizational skills to keep track of their caseloads and manage their time efficiently.

School psychologists need to have research skills so that they can collect data and analyze it to inform their recommendations. They also need to have assessment skills to administer tests and evaluate results. School counselors do not need to have as much of a focus on research and assessment, but they do need to have counseling skills to provide support to students. They also need to have good collaborative skills so that they can work effectively with other members of a student’s support team, like teachers and parents.


School psychologists earn an average salary of $78,120 per year, while school counselors earn an average salary of $56,891 per year. Both of these salaries may vary depending on the state in which you work, the school district you work for and the level of education you have.


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