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School Psychologist vs. Counselor

by Dr. Nesa Sasser

While the teachers look to the principal for academic leadership, they look to the school counselors and school physiologists to be a listening ear for students. School counselors help with parent-teacher conferences, testing coordination and teaching test strategies. Psychologists do not have any expanded duties other than attending to the mental health needs of students and testing them for disorders that may interfere with their academic achievement in school. Both roles have special licensure and advanced educational requirements.

School Counselors

School counselors play a vital role in the lives of students and parents. Counselors may be asked to assume administrator duties such as participating in teacher-parent student conferences or serving as test coordinators. Their main duties are to offer guidance in study habits and ensure that students are career- and college-ready. They guide students through troubled peer relationships, grief and academic goal-setting. Counselors also partner with community advocates in bringing in mentoring programs and solicit donations from community businesses to fund school programs.

School Psychologists

School psychologists mainly assist students with mental health issues that affect their achievement in school. They act as school liaisons between parents, teachers and school administrators. U.S. News reports that psychologists are the researchers who define whether or not students need special education services. School psychologists test students and research the results to identify disorders such as depression, dyslexia and other learning or mental disabilities that may be hindering a student's education. Psychologists conduct individual student evaluation sessions or refer students to family medical doctors.

School Duties

School counselors are assigned extra duties such as lunchroom duty, assisting with test coordination, bus duty, hall monitoring, or assisting with tardy student intake, but school psychologists generally are not asked to serve in these roles. Both assist in assessing the needs of students who have mental health issues. Both work closely with the special education department and explain testing procedures to parents, students and teachers. They offer help to students who may need educational learning aides such as glasses or hearing aids. School psychologists' duties are mainly clinical -- centering around student mental health needs. Unlike school counselors, who generally staff a single campus, school psychologists visit several schools a day on an as-needed basis. Psychologists can be employed by school districts, but may also work in residential treatment centers or own a private practice.

Education and Licensure

Both roles require advanced graduate degrees. Some states require counselors have at least a master's degree and obtain specific licensure in school counseling and some require a bachelor's degree with required counseling courses. School psychologists must have an advanced degree and have a state school psychologist license. School psychologists may be required to have a doctorate in psychology or an EdS designation. School counselors are generally required to have a state school counseling license. It is estimated that the number of practicing school counselors will increase by 11 percent and school psychologists by 14 percent by the year 2018.

About the Author

Dr. Nesa Sasser has served as teacher, school counselor, principal, and college professor. She earned a BBA in accounting from Texas A&M University; an MS in counseling; and an Ed.D. in educational leadership both from Texas A&M Univeristy-Commerce. Her dissertation related to Teacher Quality and Alternative Certification in Texas.

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