Becoming a School Psychologist in PA

In the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania, school psychologists are certified by the Pennsylvania Department of Education (PDE). Pennsylvania issues instructional certificates, educational specialist certificates, supervisory certificates, and administrative certificates. Certificates are initially issued as Level I (temporary). Level I certificates are ultimately converted to Level II (permanent) certificates when certain additional criteria (e.g., years of experience, continuing education requirements) are met. School psychology certificates fall under the category of Educational Specialist.

The requirements for a Level I Instructional and Educational Specialist I Certificate are:

• Complete a Pennsylvania Department of Education approved education preparation program in the area requested (School Psychology), 
• Receive the recommendation of the preparing college/university,
• Meet all PA testing requirements, and
• Meet all Good Moral Character requirements.

In order to be certified as a school psychologist in Pennsylvania, an individual must:

  • Be a United States citizen OR hold a permanent residency visa and file a Declaration of Intent to Become a Citizen form;
  • Attain a grade point average of 3.0 or higher as noted on a graduate transcript;
  • Pass the School Psychology (K-12) Praxis exam (Code 5402) with a qualifying score of 147 or higher;
  • Complete an approved internship experience consisting of at least 1,000 hours;
  • Be recommended by an institution of higher education; and
  • Submit appropriate application forms (via the TIMS online portal) and fees. The non-refundable application fee, as of August 2020, is $200 for applicants trained within the Commonwealth.

Questions on the PDE application form focus on whether or not the applicant has been the subject of a child abuse investigation and related matters. In order to be employed in Pennsylvania schools, applicants must submit three clearances:

  1. PA State Police Criminal Record Check (Act 34)
  2. Department of Human Services Child Abuse History Clearance (Act 151)
  3. Federal Criminal History Record Information (CHRI)

For more information regarding the Praxis Tests, please visit www.ets.org/praxis.
For more information specific to Pennsylvania’s requirements for the Praxis exam, please visit www.ets.org/praxis/pa/requirements.
For additional information specific to the certification application process, visit the Division of Certification Services page on the PDE website.

You may also contact the PDE certification services team directly via email at ra-edcertquestions@pa.gov or via phone at 717-PA-TEACH (728-3224) or 717-787-3356 (Email is preferred).

The following is a list of the Pennsylvania Department of Education approved certification programs at Pennsylvania colleges and universities. 

  • California University of PA
  • Duquesne University 
  • Eastern University 
  • Edinboro University of PA 
  • Indiana University of PA/Main 
  • Lehigh University 
  • Marywood University 
  • Millersville University of PA 
  • Pennsylvania State University/Main 
  • Philadelphia College of Osteopathic Medicine 
  • Temple University/Main 
  • Widener University

Click here for information on how to apply for Pennsylvania certification.
These applicants will must submit:

  • Bachelor and graduate-level official transcripts (used to verify conferral of bachelor’s degree, 3.0 graduate GPA or higher, program completion/required coursework for certification, and required internship experience);
  • A state-issued school psychologist certificate (if certified outside of PA);
  • A School Psychology (K-12) Praxis exam (Code 5402) score of 147 or higher.
    • Applicants must take this PA-required test and meet the PA qualifying score. No other tests can be substituted.
    • Individuals who do not hold a graduate-level degree are also required to take the Praxis basic skills assessments.
  • A recommendation form completed by one’s graduate training program;
  • All appropriate application forms (via the TIMS online portal) and fees. The non-refundable application fee, as of August 2020, is $260 for applicants trained outside the Commonwealth.

The following material has been drawn directly from the official Pennsylvania Code full-text database. 

§ 49.101. General.
The Department will issue Educational Specialist Certificates to persons whose primary responsibility is to render professional service other than classroom teaching. The service shall be directly related to the personal welfare of the learner and may include service for the needs of other professional personnel working with learners. Candidates for Educational Specialist Certificates shall be able to help students achieve under Chapter 4 (relating to academic standards and assessment). Educational specialist certificates will be issued to candidates who meet the following standards: 

  1. The educational specialist understands the central concepts, structures and delivery styles of the professional area in which the educational specialist practices and can foster learning experiences for all students. 
  2. The educational specialist understands how all children learn and develop, and can contribute to the provision of learning opportunities that support their intellectual, social, career and personal development. 
  3. The educational specialist understands how students differ in their ability and approaches to learning and create opportunities that are adapted to diverse learners.
  4. The educational specialist understands and uses a variety of professional strategies to encourage students’ development of critical thinking, problem-solving and performance skills. 
  5. The educational specialist uses an understanding of individual and group motivation and behavior to create a learning environment that encourages positive social interaction, active engagement in learning and self-motivation. 
  6. The educational specialist uses knowledge of effective verbal, nonverbal, and media communication techniques supported by appropriate technology to foster active inquiry, collaboration, and supportive interaction in and out of the classroom. 
  7. The educational specialist plans professional services based upon knowledge of the professional field, students, the community and curriculum goals.
  8. The educational specialist understands and uses formal and informal assessment strategies to evaluate and ensure the continuous intellectual, social and physical development of the learner. 
  9. The educational specialist thinks systematically about practice, learns from experience, seeks the advice of others, draws upon educational research and scholarship and actively seeks out opportunities to grow professionally. 
  10. The educational specialist contributes to school effectiveness by collaborating with other educators and parents, by using community resources, and by working as an advocate for change to improve opportunities for student learning.
The provisions of this § 49.101 amended September 24, 1999, effective September 25, 1999, 29 Pa.B. 4954; amended July 14, 2006, effective July 15, 2006, 36 Pa.B. 3655. Immediately preceding text appears at serial pages (295074) and (260825).

The Pennsylvania Department of Education has further defined the basic competencies that must be demonstrated by candidates for certification in school psychology. These are listed as follows:
I. Knowing the Content
The professional education program provides evidence that School Psychology certification candidates demonstrate knowledge of and competence in providing school psychological services for all children and youth (K-12) including:

I.A. Psychological foundations of practice including:
• biological aspects of behavior (i.e., biological bases of development, neuropsychology, physiological psychology, health psychology, psychopharmacology, etc.),
• social aspects of behavior (i.e., cross-cultural studies, social development, social and cultural diversity, group processes, social psychology, etc.),
• affective aspects of behavior (i.e., personality, psychopathology, etc.),
• cognitive aspects of behavior (i.e., human learning, individual differences, cognitive psychology, etc.),
• human development (i.e., child development, adolescence, human development, etc.)

I.B. Educational foundations of practice including:
• organization and operation of schools,
• exceptional students,
• design/delivery of instruction

I.C. Scientific and methodological foundations of practice including:
• research and evaluation methods,
• techniques of data analysis,
• educational and psychological measurement

I.D. Legal, ethical, and professional foundations of practice including:
• history and foundations of school psychology,
• professional ethics,
• laws and regulations in education and psychology,
• professional issues and standards,
• alternative service delivery models,
• emergent technologies

I.E. Practice roles including:
• theories and methods of assessment and diagnosis,
• theories and methods of direct interventions for individuals and groups including
evaluating the efficacy of direct interventions,
• theories and methods of indirect interventions for individual and groups including evaluating the efficacy of indirect interventions

II. Performances
The professional education program provides evidence that candidates for School Psychology certification are assessed and demonstrate their mastery of the knowledge and skills of school psychology in coursework and supervised clinical and field experiences and a 1,000 hour internship consistent with the goals, objectives, competencies and exit criteria of the program. At least one-half of the internship must be in a public school setting under the supervision of a certified school psychologist(s) with at least five years of experience in the field. The internship requires the candidate to demonstrate knowledge and skills acquired through coursework and practica. It requires the candidate to work with diverse client populations, a range of problems and different settings, using varied intervention methodologies to promote positive education mental health practices in resolving individual, group and system level problems.
III. Professionalism
The professional education program provides evidence that School Psychologist certification candidates demonstrate knowledge of and competence in fostering professionalism in the school and community settings including:
III.A. Professional journals, organizations and other sources of professional development
III.B. Integrity and ethical behavior, professional conduct as stated in Pennsylvania’s Code of Professional Practice and Conduct for Educators; and local, state, and federal laws and regulations
III.C. Collaboration with other professionals
III.D. Effective communication with parent/guardians, other agencies and the community at large to support learning by all students