Becoming a School Psychologist in PA

In the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania, school psychologists are certified by the Pennsylvania Department of Education. 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 (years of experience, continuing education requirements, etc.) 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 an approved education preparation program in the area requested;
• Receive the recommendation of the preparing college/university;
• Meet all PA testing requirements; and
• Meet all health and Good Moral Character requirements

In order to be certified as a school psychologist in Pennsylvania, an individual must be a United States citizen, attain a grade point average of 3.0 or higher as noted on a Bachelor’s or Master’s transcript, pass the Praxis I Pre-Professional Skills (PPST) exam, pass the School Psychology (K-12) Praxis exam (Code 0401) with a qualifying score of 150 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 and fees. The current application fee is $100 and is non-refundable.

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 Public Welfare 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 exams (PPST or S PSY exam), please visit www.ets.org/praxis/pa/requirements.

For additional information specific to the application process, visit www.portal.state.pa.us. From the main page, choose “Education” from the drop-down menu across the top of the screen, then pick “Teachers”. The application forms and fee information can be found on this site.

The Bureau of School Leadership and Teacher Quality Call Center receives incoming calls Monday through Friday from 8:00 am - 4:30 pm. The call center staff is prepared to provide timely and accurate service to the Commonwealth's educational community regarding teacher certification and staffing issues. The call center can be reached at 717-787-3356.

Refer to the references available from the Pennsylvania Department of Education. These include:

• InState Book - This resource includes all instructions for attaining Level I certification for PA graduates. It was most recently revised in July 2010.
• PDE Form 338G - This is the General Application for Pennsylvania Certification to be completed by the applicant.
• PDE Form 338 C - This is the College/University Verification form that must accompany Form 338G.

You can access these documents by visiting the Certifications section of the Pennsylvania Department of Education website.

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

  • California University of Pa 
  • Duquesne University 
  • Eastern University 
  • Edinboro University of Pa 
  • Immaculata University 
  • 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  



If prepared out of state and > 3 yrs of service:

  • A nonrefundable $160.00 U.S. Money Order fee made payable to Commonwealth of Pennsylvania (for each certification area requested)
  • General Application, Form PDE 338 G. (a separate PDE 338 G form and fee must be submitted for each certification area requested)
  • College/University Verification, Form PDE 338 A
  • College transcripts (all undergraduate and graduate) in college-sealed, unopened envelopes from all colleges/universities attended
  • Verification of Experience, Form PDE 338 V (one form for each employer, if applicable)
  • Photocopies of educator certificates or licenses held in other states (grades PreK-12)
  • Praxis I & II in School Psychology
If served 3 out of the last 7 years on a state certificate (at least one year must be served on a full state certificate), and is seeking a comparable instructional certificate in PA (subject area and grade scope):
  • A nonrefundable $160.00 U.S. Money Order fee made payable to Commonwealth of Pennsylvania
  • (for each certification area requested)
  • General Application, Form PDE 338 G
  • College/University Verification, Form PDE 338 A
  • College transcripts (all undergraduate and graduate) in college-sealed, unopened envelopes from all colleges/universities attended
  • Verification of Experience, Form PDE 338 V (documenting 3 years of service on a state-issued certificate)
  • Photocopies of educator certificates or licenses held in other states (grades PreK-12)
  • Praxis I & II in School Psychology

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