This paper is written in response to the many hundreds of inquiries we get in relation to becoming an educational psychologist (EP).
This site has a focus, which is to aid those that care for or teach children or adults with SEN. We are very sorry, but we do not have the time to answer individual questions in relation to the day to day work of an EP, nor how to qualify as an EP; I hope the following is of some help. For more information, contact a university where you can read for a PhD in educational psychology.
My route was as follows:
- teaching degree.
- taught for 10 years.
- degree in psychology via evening study three nights per week for four years. I then took one year off and self funded a:
- Masters degree (now a PhD) in educational psychology. Places on these courses are highly sought after, and seek high quality candidates. It is likely to be the hardest year of your life so far.
I was spotted by one of my placements as a likely psychologist and so my first job was not hard to get. I received supervision; which I welcomed, and still ensure this is a part of my practice. It was very obvious that I had gone up several gears from being a teacher; even though I had a fairly high profile, and was a skilled behaviour management specialist.
In the beginning, my skills were yet to be refined. My behaviour management skills gave me vast credibility as I could help schools sort out the difficult and challenging cases. At the same time I was busy getting my head round the myriad difficulties and disorders that EP's deal with daily. Aspbergers, Autism, pre-school developmental difficulties, Scotopic sensitivity, Dyslexia - SpLd, Dyspraxia, Language delay/disorder, ADHD, ADD, Touretts syndrome, ME, selective mutism etc. Don't forget you are the expert to be consulted on these matters and expected to recognise at least that something is not right. You need an excellent relationship with colleagues; the PhD is only a license to begin to learn. Your team will be the real learning context.
As a work a day EP in a Local Education Authority (LEA) you will have a number of schools, plus pre-school children, plus rota work (e.g. children without schools, children in residential schools), plus LEA work, like writing policies on just about every aspect of the job and stuff the LEA has to have polices on, like how it deals with under fives with SEN. You will also need to attend staff meetings. I saw the school work as my practice. It was to be cherished and nurtured. My relationships were the core of my practice. Good relationships meant that we could quickly and easily sort out priorities and I would play to my strengths while the school played to theirs. I take a consultative view; that is to say I reject the expert model, in favour of the multi-disciplinary model. I may be an expert psychologist but, the teacher is expert in their field, and the parent is an expert on the child. Between this team of experts, we will find a way forward. If part of the way forward is psychometric testing, then that is fine, however there will be tasks for all parties. It may be very interesting work, but one must remember that an EP opinion has a lot of prestige and is therefore quite powerful. Not surprisingly, some people will want control of that power; you need to be assertive. Whilst it is a fascinating and rewarding job, it can be a very lonely job in many ways.
If you are looking for praise, don't do this job. If you are in any way good at it, everybody will consider that all the (your) bright ideas are theirs. That the success is as a result of their work, effort and skills. You know when you have practised good psychology when people to say, 'yes, I know that once you have explained it'.
Best job in the world - against a footballer or fighter pilot, probably not - but close!
Hope this has been of interest.