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Thursday, February 18, 2010

To Be or not to be a Ph.D?!?!?!


According to Merrell, Ervin and Gompel, “One of the first decisions that must be considered is whether to pursue training at a doctoral level or at a specialist level.” (2006, pg. 77). To work as a school psychologist, most public schools do not require training past a masters or specialist degree. As the responsibilities of a school psychologist diversify and becomes more demanding, would we benefit from doctoral level training?


There are many obstacles that a graduate student may face when deciding whether or not to continue training past a master’s degree. Many of us do not have the luxury to pursue a doctorate full time. With the unemployment rate in the U.S. reaching double digits those of us who are working are doing all we can to hold on to our jobs to support ourselves and our families. So for those of us who cannot pursue a doctorate, what are our other options? What can we do to help us mature and develop into our roles as future school psychologists? What supplemental courses/classes/training do you think you will need to take after the seventy-four credit requirement of our program?

This Blog was created by Ana Palma, Alarys Medina and Amanda Bisheit

28 comments:

Rebeccca said...

The first question seems to be answered in the second paragraph that we would certainly benifit from a PhD, but that does not mean it is possible for all to obtain one.

In order to make up for this, it would definatley be helpful to receive more training, specifically in counseling styles becuase I feel we have next to no experience with them. We should also focus on multicultural concerns, bullying, suicide prevention, and HIV/AIDS all of which seem to be become more and more of a concern. It is our job as professionals to seek out extra resources even if a PhD is not possible. There are conferences, lectures, research, guest speakers and a host of way to get more info on these topics. One just has to have the desire and the time.

danielle allegra said...

I think we can all agree a doctorate would be beneficial, it certainly wouldn't be harmful, but speaking for myself, i can't do that right after my master's. Maybe later on i life, but I would already have entered my career. I think conferences, researching on our own, talking to colleagues, and even workshops that could be attended to learn things or to brush up on things we learned in the past. Just because one doesn't have a PhD, it doesn't mean they can obtain the knowledge that goes along with it. It's about dedication and the desire to keep learning.

Prattima Kaulessar said...

I agree with Rebecca and Danielle. Doctoral education would certainly benefit any individual in field of school psychology but it is very difficult to accomplish directly after completing specialist-level graduate training. In my opinion, specialist training is more than adequate for the position being asked to fulfill and the income prospective for that position. While school psychologists make a decent living, no one will become wealthy solely upon working in the school setting. Simply put, in my opinion, the monetary compensation would not be adequate enough reason to endure an extra three to five years of additional coursework, internships, and student loans. I would return to school only if my employment was contingent upon completing a doctoral degree. Just because one does not hold a terminal degree does not mean they are incompetent to fill the position when, for many years, school psychologists have been successful in the field with a special-level degree. In my opinion, it is an issue of semantics not ability.

Also, from speaking to many school psychologists, it seems they have learned more from professional practice than theory learned in the classroom. I do; however, feel more should be offered as far as the counseling and testing aspects of the field because those are the bulk of what school psychologists are required to do in the educational setting.

The decision to return to school, as a doctoral student, is a personal one and should be governed by the goals of the individual. If the individual plans to become a faculty member at an educational institution instructing in the area of psychology or to practice privately then the need to return to school is a moot point. It would be necessary based on the person’s long term goals and objectives but it should be left to the person to make that decision.

Mark said...

The posts do make a good point about the supplemental activities and continuing education available to school psychologists. The book and the posts also address many issues that make achieving a higher degree more difficult such as social-economic status, having the time, and also making programs more in touch with already working professionals and families. The Swerdlik & French, 2000) article commented on a "strong need to recruit individuals from underrepresented groups into graduate programs. It becomes frustrating when the higher education system is more for profit and not geared towards an education feasible for anyone.

Ana said...

Pursuing a Ph.D is certainly a personal decision that one must make. It depends on what kind of position you are looking for in the future. Like Prattima said, if you want to become a faculty member in a university you will need a doctorate. Something that may benefit us in our careers can be attending professional development workshops or conferences related to our field. This will help us feel more confident in our careers and also help us stay up to date with new research.

Rebeccca said...

Prattima I agree with you. Part of the problem is that PhD and especially PsyD programs are so expensive. Furthermore, many make the arguement that you would make more with a PhD because you can do outside practice or consultation, but that is not the point. If I wanted to do a different job I would. I also agree with Prattima's comment that during practice you learn more than the theory in the classroom.

They keep telling us to take more and more classes yet so many of the classes we have to take really are useless to the field. If they made us spend our credits more wisely perhaps there would not be such a need for a PhD.

Danielle Muhammad said...

As many of you have already stated, obtaining a PhD/PsyD would be very expensive. At this point in time, majority of school psychology positions require the specialist level rather than the doctoral level of training. So, one would assume that once we’ve completed our current program, we’ve fulfilled the necessary requirements to become a school psychologist. I would like to pursue a PsyD, but I don’t know what the future holds. Pursuing a doctorate may be challenging, but this doesn’t mean that developing professionally should come to an end. Participating in NASP conferences, conversing with colleagues, researching, participating in lectures, blogging, and simply being proactive in the school psychology community are all supplemental resources.

Alaafia said...

Attending conferences, workshops are really good. I believe extra training sessions in CBT, counseling, and other behavior therapies will go a long way. I've determined to go the Albert Ellis Institute in NY in order to be 'hands on' in REBT. Are there other places that we can go to learn more about CBT and other therapies out there?

danielle allegra said...

I agree with Danielle that i believe there are many resoures out there that allow us to be able to become just as "knowledgable" about our field without holding the piece of paper stating we have a doctorate. We could make ourselves obtain more knowledge by having enough drive to go out there and obtain info.

Prattima Kaulessar said...

It is true that workshops, conferences, and active discussion with colleagues are all great ways to gather knowledge and keep abreast of new information within the field of school psychology. Rebecca, I agree that more thought should be given to the graduate curriculum. We should not start with introductory courses; rather, we should delve right into counseling, testing, curriculum, and theory and practice.

Denise said...

I must admit that one of the attractive qualities to our program was the fact that you would be done after 74 credits. Obviously, this isn't the case anymore. Even though this was one of the perks of this field, I had never really made a final decision as whether or not I would continue on past our specialist degree. Now with everything going on with APA it seems we have no choice. I had never ruled out continuing my education but now it seems I am being forced to do so. Let's see what happens.....

Alaafia said...

In response to what Prattima said about adding more courses relevant to what we really need, and eliminating the introductory courses so as to focus on the more relevant ones, it will be a good idea, but I don't see that happening! Adding more courses to a 74-credit program will just be too exhausting for something that is still not worth a PhD/PsyD program and we students will end up complaining of when are we going to complete such a long program, if we are even not complaining already. There needs to be a general overhaul of the program to make it more relevant to what is really happening on the field in real life.

Anel said...

This is a question that I think many of us have considered at one time or another. With the possible APA changes that we have been discussing, it is becoming even more important.

I do agree that there are a number of obstacles (especially financial in nature), that may deter us from continuing beyond the specialist degree.

Some have mentioned that if they felt their career depended on it, they would. And I agree, I would too. But that may mean different things to different people.

Would any of you pursue your doctorate if it meant that you could no longer refer to yourselves as school psychologists, at the specialist level?

If your role remained intact, but you had to assume another title, would it matter then?

Mark said...

I think that Anel's question is a good one. What is in a name? If I can continue with my position despite the title than there would not be a desire or rush to pursue another degree. They can call me "Betty"! If my role is secure and the job market does not drastically change then Ph.D can be on hold.

Rebeccca said...

First of all Mark I like your comment about "Betty".

The idea of the name is not the issue. As we discussed in class, if it really was just a name there would be no problem and people would not fight over it. If they change our name, there will certainly be changes either to what our job entails, what we are allowed to do, and what we get paid.

It may sound odd but The Crucible ends the book with John Proctor saying "Leave me my name" and this is because it stands for what he is and if he loses it he will lose his identity. If they change our name we too will loose our identity and with it what we went to school to be able to do.

Alaafia said...

If our role was the only thing that changed, and every other thing remained intact, I would only because I dream of having my own practice one day. But in real sense, as Rebecca stated, if our title changed, so will our job description, and I believe it's just downhill from there on.

Alarys said...

I have to agree with Alaafia. When changing the title of an educational position there is almost always a change in the responsibilities. I have to admit that I am unsure if I would stay in this career field if this was to happen. I have already begun to research doctorates in educational supervision. If all else fails in this field I will have expertise in something else. Its sad to say that I have not even started as a school psychologist and I'm already looking somewhere else...

Prattima Kaulessar said...

I agree with Alarys. I, too, have been researching alternate careers. It is unfortunate people in the school psychology program are starting to think of alternate careers and have not even begun in the field as a professional. According to research, school psychology is a rapidly growing field and is one of the best professions within the field of education because of the employment prospective, educational requirements, and income potential in addition to the schedule. Personally, I find this whole situation disappointing because the field of school psychology will miss out on great individuals to fill positions because of the exorbitant educational requirements. In addition, I am certain once the title changes, so will the job description which will most likely include a lot more work.

Danielle Muhammad said...

Mark, you can call me "Betty" too, but don't change my pay!
I believe that the shortage of school psychologist would be extreme if a doctorate is required. However, we must do as Dr. Pastor said, and become members of NASP and those other organization that matter. That is the only way our voices and "Betty's" voice will count.

Ana said...

I agree with you Danielle, reminding us that we must join organizations related to our field! Besides the helpful information that Dr. Pastor provides us, it's probably the only way we can possibly keep up to date with any changes relevant to us! Many of us were not aware of the changes APA is considering! Joining these associations and being active in them, is very beneficial for us, both personally and professionally.

AmandaBish said...

Yea there's no way they'd change our title without actually changing our job description. I definitely know that I will be taking supplemental classes ... especially the ones that Rebecca mention (bullying, HIV/AIDS, suicide prevention) but also more training in types of therapy. I understand that most of our growth will happen when we actually start practicing, but supplemental training is a must.

AmandaBish said...

I just want to add that I don't have any idea how to find these supplemental classes... but hopefully I'll learn before I graduate :)

Anel said...

I do agree with what most of you have been stating. There is no way that the title would change, and not the responsibilities. But I thought it best to present both scenarios. And I agree with Danielle, that step one should be our involvement in NASP and other professional organizations so that we can have a voice.

Rebeccca said...

Another problem I just saw this week at work was that three members of the team each proposed to go to a different (day) conference to get more knowledge about certain topics they felt they could improve on.

However, the school denied their claim because they are in a deficit and don't have the money so now the three members have to take a personal day and pay for themselves if they wish to go to the conference. This may occur more and more with the new individuals in charge of this states education system.

Mark said...

You are right Rebecca about the state budget. Even though professional development would ideally benefit our work with students, the days of having room in the budget will be gone. It will be our own responsibility to fund our own continuing education.

Mark said...

I wanted to add for the topic of continuing education and seminars. There is a website called PESI seminars that offer continuing education throughout N.J. I hope that helps you Amanda.

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Gabrielle Walker said...

Of course a school psychologist could benefit from doctoral level training! I sure they would gain more knowledge and learn more innovative ways to better aid their students. But today it is extremely difficult to pursue a doctorate full time because of the state of the economy. In addition, college is becoming more and more expensive and students are graduating from undergrad with more loans than ever before. But on the other hand many school psychologist's may need to obtain doctoral level training just to be able to compete for the best jobs in today’s market. I think a student should review their finances and future career goals before making the decision to get a doctorate. In some instances, it may be necessary to gain a PH.D such as in the research setting or to become a professor but in other cases it may not be mandatory. I think school psychologists who do not obtain a doctorate should go to counseling seminars and lectures to keep up with new research and to learn more ways to become more effective at their job. All psychologist should also join organizations and stay in contact with other colleagues in the field.