Specialist, Master's and Doctoral School Psychology Programs
What is the specialist in school psychology degree and how is it different from a master’s in school psychology degree?
On September 1, 2006, the Texas Higher Education Coordinating Board granted TWU the authority to replace the master's of arts (MA) degree in school psychology with the specialist in school psychology (SSP) degree. TWU became the first public institution in Texas to be granted the authority to award a specialist degree for any discipline. The SSP reflects the level of training that graduate students are receiving from the specialist-level school psychology program. Prior to 2006, TWU, like all other school psychology programs in the state, had to award a master's degree to graduates of the 60+ hour school psychology program. Many master's degrees are awarded to graduate programs of 36 hours of training, not 60+ hours of training. A specialist degree is a graduate degree half way between the master's and doctoral degrees. Most states in the country award some type of specialist degree to graduates of specialist-level training programs. The specialist degree names vary from state to state including Education Specialist (ED.S.), Certification of Advanced Graduate Study (CAGS), and the Specialist in School Psychology.
Because the SSP degree is new to Texas, it will take a few years for school districts in the state to understand how the SSP relates to a master's degree. The important point for graduates of the program and employers to remember is that the SSP degree relates directly to the specialist-level of graduate training which is halfway between the master's and doctoral degrees.
What are the differences between the specialist and doctoral programs?
The specialist in school psychology (SSP) program is modeled after the National Association of School Psychologist's entry-level training standards for the practice of school psychology. Graduates of the SSP program work in the public schools. In Texas, graduates of the SSP Program are able to apply for the Nationally Certified School Psychologist (NCSP) credential from NASP and become licensed as a licensed specialist in school psychology (LSSP) from the Texas State Board of Examiners of Psychologists (TSBEP). The LSSP is a license for practice in the public schools only and does not extend to private practice.
Graduate students in the doctoral school psychology program take many of the same classes as the SSP students in the first 60 hours of their program. However, the doctoral program is a little over 100 semester credit hours. One of the main differences between the SSP and Ph.D. school psychology programs is the increased emphasis on research and added areas of specialization within the doctoral program. Doctoral students take an advanced statistics class in preparation for their doctoral dissertation. Doctoral students also take advanced classes in counseling, consultation, advanced therapeutic interventions, and additional practicum experiences. Many students come to TWU for their doctoral studies to specialize in school neuropsychology. The school neuropsychology specialization is composed on 14 credit hours across five classes: Neuropsychological Assessment Techniques I (4 credit hours), Neuropsychological Assessment Techniques II (4 credit hours), Neurodevelopmental and Genetic Disorders (3 credit hours), and Neuropsychology Supervised Practicum (3 credit hours). TWU's doctoral school psychology program is unique in offering this concentrated area of study in school neuropsychology.
Graduates of the doctoral school psychology program are also eligible to apply for the NCSP and LSSP. In addition, graduates of the doctoral program are eligible to apply for licensure as a psychologist from the TSBEP. Once licensed as a psychologist, career options open up beyond the boundaries of the public schools. Licensed psychologists can work in private practice or work for agencies such as hospitals, mental health facilities, etc.