Graduate school is tough; there's no doubt about that.
Yet, even after you've earned an advanced degree in school psychology, you still need find the right employer. It should be pretty obvious that the real career work is just beginning. This page is is specifically targeted to help graduate students in school psychology training programs know how to prepare for their first school psych job interview.
Often times, interviewees think that the job interview is a one way street. In fact, the opposite is true. The job interview is a time for an employer to find a good potential employee who meshes well with the professional goals of the agency, and vice versa. Knowing what types of interview questions may be asked of you as a future school psychologist will help you prepare for the interview. You'll need to bring your own set of interview questions to the interview in order to make an informed decision about the employer. Asking your own questions also makes an interview team know that you've come prepared; you've done research and there are some things you need to have answered.
When a potential employee comes with good questions in mind, it changes the vibe of the interview committee from "no thanks", to "when can you start?" In more than one recent interview, I was not impressed with a candidate's responses to our prepared questions, yet their follow-up questions positively impacted my overall impressions of those candidates. Consider that free career mentoring advice.
A good candidate can nail some interview questions with practice. A good candidate can also bomb an interview (I know I have!) However, a great candidate will come to the interview prepared with questions that indicates they want to make a difference with the school. They already know some of the problems with the system and have solutions in mind. A great candidate will be able to pick up on cues from the interview and follow up on those when given the chance: "You asked me about my experience working with novice teachers, will I able to develop relationships with both new teachers and experienced teachers if I were to be offered a job?"
This is a professional career; the employer and the employee need to be committed to each other. Answering questions up front is the best way to be on the same page. You can fill in the minor details as the relationship blossoms, but don't be afraid to ask the big questions during the interview. Some employers will automatically refer you to their website to appropriate pages for the answers, while others will give you an oral answer or handouts during the interview. Whatever the response, you'll get the answer because they want you to have the information you need. Don't be afraid to ask -- this is a critical misunderstanding of the way that educational interviews work. (In some corporate settings these direct questions may be frowned upon, but not in educational careers.)
When I originally created this website things looked differently; I was in graduate school myself, virtual school psychology wasn't available, and the average salary of starting school psychology in my state (Kansas) was around $45,000. I'm now a supervisor for a team of school psychologists, I offer our starting school psychologists $62,000, and COVID-19 has made remote work common for teachers and related service providers across the nation.
I would encourage any new school psychologist to think about the type of employer for which they may want to work. I could write a full overview of each of the pros and cons of each of these below; the quick bullet points below are just to get you thinking about the differences from a school psychologist's point of view.
A few of the most common types of employers of school psychologists are as follows:
School districts (ISDs, USDs, counties, etc)
These are local jurisdictions that are overseen by boards of education who control most local educational decisions. Working for a local school district means that the school psychologist would be a direct employee of the school system which they work.
This is most commonly seen in urban/suburban settings.
Shared services agreements (cooperatives, interlocals, regional service centers, etc)
These are groups of school districts that network resources together to pool their community resources. In the early days, they often shared expensive technology resources (such as shared VHS libraries). Today, these shared partnerships often pool their human resources (and still more expensive assistive technology) to offset the cost of these resources between all partnering member districts.
Working as a school psychologist in one of these agencies is more common in rural or physically remote geographic locations.
Traveling school psychologist
A lesser known career option for school psychs, yet it offers flexibility in contract length and allows a great way to see the world. Traveling school psychs are able to use their training to amass licensing in multiple states and work in unique locations.
Some contracts now allow for fully virtual/remote work. You would from your desk at home and be a school psychologist in Washington (state) or Washington, D.C..
Its often a fun way to start a career for a new school psych (or recently-retired school psych). Many people know about traveling nurses; this is the equivalent in the school psychology profession.
Questions to Ask the Interview Team:
Tell me what you’re looking for in a school psychologist.
What roles do you expect a school psychologist to fill?
What type of supervision or mentoring will be available to me?
In what type of schools do you predict I would serve?
What method does the school use to identify students with disabilities?
Would this be an itinerant position?
Do you support ongoing professional development?
What is the chain of command within the agency or buildings where I would be working?
Who will be my supervisor?
What role does the principal play in special education supervision and implementation?
Will I be engaging in direct counseling or other mental health provision with students?
Will I be a member of any general education teams or committees? What will be my role within those teams?
Questions/Prompts to Expect from the Interview Team:
What would you like to tell me about yourself?
Why did you apply for this position (our school specifically)?
What are your career goals?
What are your professional interests?
Tell me about your experience with collaborative groups.
Tell me about your experience with evaluating English-Language Learners (ELLs).
Tell me about your knowledge of multiculturalism and experience with diverse cultures.
Share your knowledge of the RTI/MTSS process as a method for evaluation for students with SLD.
Tell me about your experience with your school psychology practicum.
Tell me about your time management and organizational skills.
How well do you handle confrontation?
How would you respond to an experienced teacher who does not respond well to an inexperienced school psychologist?
How do you manage stress in your own life?