Best School Psychology Grad Programs in California

Explore the best online and on-campus school psychology programs in California and learn about the different pathways available for you to become a licensed school psychologist.

Last Updated: 09/13/2021

School psychologists are key members of the California education workforce. As one, you’ll be able to improve learning outcomes by addressing behavioral issues, enhancing curriculum plans, and using other tools. California school psychologists continue to be in-demand and median earnings exceed the national average by almost $30,000.

Aspiring school psychologists in California must obtain licensure by graduating from an accredited and state-approved graduate program. This guide will help you identify the program that’s right for you and start your path to becoming a school psychologist. You’ll find a list of this year’s top-ranked online and on-campus programs, a breakdown of the different types of school psychology programs available, a step-by-step guide on the CA licensure process, and much more.

2021 Rankings: Best Accredited School Psychology Programs in California

The best school psychology programs in California have the curriculum, flexibility, and student support you need to become a skilled school psychologist. To help jumpstart your search, we’ve identified three of the best schools meeting those criteria. These programs set themselves apart through affordable, accredited programs that prepare you for state licensure. See who stands out in 2021 and stay tuned for our full ranking arriving later this year. 

1

Loyola Marymount University

Loyola Marymount University offers three school psychology programs in California:a Master of Arts, an educational specialist degree (Ed.S.), and a pupil personnel services (PPS) credential. The school administers these in-person courses of study from campuses in Los Angeles and nearby Playa Vista. Graduates are fully eligible for national certification and state licensure as school psychologists. Loyola Marymount uses a cohort-based model, enrolling approximately 20 new students each year.

Applicants must hold undergraduate credentials in psychology or education or possess at least 18 credits in those areas. Coursework for programsstudy program evaluation and statistical methods of research, group counseling and individual intervention, behavioral assessment, professional ethics, and family systems theory. In the final stages of study, students complete nearly 2,000 hours of hands-on fieldwork in supervised settings at area schools. Most graduate in about three years fully qualified for work as school psychologists in K-12 contexts.

2

National University

Headquartered in La Jolla, National University is best known for its arts and sciences online degrees but also offers hybrid and campus-based programs that include psychology programs. Its Master of Arts in school psychology requires 90 credits and includes a PPS credential. Students who already have a master’s degree in counseling or psychology can earn the PPS credential alone by completing 15 courses in school consultation, cognitive assessment, and crisis response.

These California school psychology programsuse 4-week terms for increased flexibility and accommodation. Students may also have hybrid options in core courses like developmental psychopathology and learning theory that provide key knowledge and skill foundations. Both programs teach you to employ systematic approaches to schooling that support data-driven decision-making and conclude with capstone practicum requirements in applied settings that enhance future employment opportunities.

3

California State University Long Beach

Designed for working professionals already employed in K-12 settings, California State University Long Beach’s school psychology program leads to an Ed.S. degree and a PPS credential. It holds programmatic accreditation with the NASP and state approval from the California Commission on Teacher Credentialing. The curriculum includes 60 credits of core instruction and hands-on learning. Most students complete the program in 3 years of full-time study, including 1-2 years of coursework and 1-2 years of internship and practicum experiences (over 1,500 hours in total). 

CSU-Long Beach boasts a 100% Praxis pass rate over the last four years and offers student resources like school psychology-specific financial aid, student research initiatives, and regular peer and faculty networking opportunities. Students complete courses in psychoeducational assessment, collaborative consultation in school settings, development risk and resilience, and statistics for educational practice. Qualified applicants must satisfy prerequisites in developmental learning and classroom management. 

Top Online School Psychology Programs in California

Accredited California school psychology programs with online or hybrid formats provide additional flexibility for busy students and working professionals to advance their careers. Below we spotlight some of the top-ranked psychology programs in California providing a range of options to match your background and long-term goals. Some offer fully online programs, while others use hybrid delivery with in-person fieldwork requirements. Either way, expect to receive material and interact with content using interactive tools like videoconferencing and discussion boards. Many of these programs continue to use cohort models for their online programming to encourage additional support and collaboration. See our guide to online school psychology programs for more information on what you can expect.

1

Alliant University Meridian University

San Diego-based Alliant University operates six affiliates across the Golden State and offers three accredited, fully online school psychology programs. Its 60-credit Master of Arts in education offers graduate-level training in school psychology and allows you to earn the PPS credential in the process. Qualified learners can also pursue the PPS credential as a standalone course, focusing either on mental health or applied behavior analysis. Another option is the 78-credit Ed.S. degree in those same concentration areas. With each educational path, aspiring professionals graduate in 3 years and meet all eligibility requirements for licensure.

Unlike most campus-based school psychology programs in California, Alliant University uses convenient online tools to deliver all course content. This usually means a blend of synchronous and asynchronous elements designed to make programming more convenient and accessible. The school also offers one-day weekend residencies each term. Before graduation, all students also complete hands-on internship and practicum experiences in K-12 facilities. 

2

Brandman University

A standout among the best accredited school psychology programs in California, Brandman University administers several fully online paths to completion, including master’s, PPS, and Ed.S. options. Its standard Ed.S. program involves 72 total credits and includes instruction in core courses and applied capstone experiences. The program offers school psychology Ed.S. specializations in autism, applied behavior analysis, and English language learning. Students interested in earning a master’s degree or PPS can do both at Brandman, either together or as standalone courses of study.

The school uses online and hybrid learning methods for each of its California school psychology programs and delivers its curriculum using a competency-based course sequence that makes it easy to build an accommodating schedule that fits your unique circumstances. Along with individual field placements, students receive many opportunities to practice the Praxis exam during their studies. Graduates also complete an exit interview with faculty to facilitate professional development and enhance networking skills. 

3

Fresno Pacific University

Fresno Pacific University administers two online school psychology programs from its main campus in the Central Valley. The MA/PPS course of study in school psychology and the dual school psychology/school counseling program both result in the same credentials and use small class sizes for collaborative and individualized learning experiences. The MA/PPS in school psychology requires 73 credits and the dual program requires 93. These offerings stand out from other California school psychology programs by integrating courses in applied behavior analysis as a part of their curriculums. 

The school uses hybrid delivery methods that include traditional, classroom-based instruction and options for flexible online learning resulting in a blended experience. Core courses build key skills in assessment and intervention, learning theory, and group counseling techniques. During their third year of study, all students complete hands-on fieldwork experiences that include at least 1,200 hours of supervised work in applied K-12 settings.  

Types of School Psychology Grad Degrees in California

There are several different types of school psychology programs at the graduate level, and the right one for you will depend on your specific career goals and previous education and professional experience. Each degree type is discussed in detail below, followed by a list of accredited California universities that offer it, to help you find the program that’s best for you.

School Psychology Master’s Degree Programs in California

One of the most common paths to attainment, a master’s degree in school psychology typically takes 2-3 years to complete. These programs prepare students with a bachelor’s degree for applied work in primary and secondary school contexts. They offer foundational instruction in methods of intervention and psychoeducational assessment and typically conclude with supervised fieldwork experiences that synthesize acquired knowledge and skill. 

Depending on the program, obtaining a master’s degree in school psychology might also involve earning the Pupil Personnel Services (PPS) credential concurrently. These programs do not require a bachelor’s degree in counseling or psychology, but applicants from other fields may need to complete course prerequisites.

Examples of Accredited California Universities Offering This School Psychology Program

Humboldt State University: Master of Arts in School Psychology 

  • City: Arcata
  • Delivery: On-Campus
  • Accreditation: CCTC approval 

California Baptist University: Master of Science in School Psychology 

  • City: Riverside
  • Delivery: On-Campus
  • Accreditation: CCTC approval  

University of La Verne: Master of Science in School Psychology

  • City: La Verne
  • Delivery: On-Campus
  • Accreditation: CCTC approval; CAEP accreditation 

San Francisco State University: Master of Science in School Psychology

  • City: San Francisco
  • Delivery: On-Campus
  • Accreditation: CCTC approval  

California State University-Los Angeles: Master of Science in Counseling (option in School Psychology)

  • City: L.A
  • Delivery: Online/On-Campus/Hybrid
  • Accreditation: CCTC approval; NASP and CAEP accreditation  

School Psychology Ed.S. Programs in California

An educational specialist degree (Ed.S.) qualifies you for the same roles as a master’s in school psychology but with increased specialization. Ed.S. degrees take about the same time as a master’s program (2-3 years) but use a different structure. Programs like the ones listed below offer specialized training in the school-based challenges many students face and some offer concentrations in areas like mental health and applied behavior analysis. 

Most Ed.S. programs are administered as post-graduate courses of study, which means you need a master’s degree in counseling, psychology, or a related field. Others may extend opportunities to earn a master’s degree along the way. In those cases, aspiring professionals should plan for their studies to take a bit longer and require extra prerequisites. 

Examples of Accredited California Universities Offering This School Psychology Program

Fresno State University: The Educational Specialist (Ed.S.) School Psychology 

  • City: Fresno
  • Delivery: On-Campus
  • Accreditation: CCTC approval; NASP 

California State University, San Bernardino: Education Specialist Degree in School Psychology

  • City: San Bernardino
  • Delivery: On-Campus
  • Accreditation: CCTC approval; NASP 

San Diego State University: Ed.S. in School Psychology 

  • City: San Diego
  • Delivery: On-Campus
  • Accreditation: CCTC approval; NASP 

University of the Pacific: Educational Specialist in School Psychology

  • City: Stockton
  • Delivery: On-Campus
  • Accreditation: CCTC approval  

Alliant University: Ed.S. in School Psychology 

  • City: San Diego
  • Delivery: Online
  • Accreditation: CCTC approval 

Ed.S./Master’s Dual Degree School Psychology Programs in California

California school psychology programs with this pathway combine master’s and Ed.S. instruction in a single course of study. The result is a dual degree and an additional PPS credential in some cases. Like other offerings, these programs usually last several years and include core coursework and capstone practicum components to meet licensure requirements. 

Curricula for dual degree programs emphasize group theory, personality dynamics for school-aged children, and program evaluation. Because these programs provide specialized training in addition to graduate-level instruction, many offer concentrations in subjects like clinical mental health and applied behavior analysis. Specialization may extend your timeframe for completion. 

Examples of Accredited California Universities Offering This School Psychology Program

Chapman University: Ed.S. in School Psychology Dual Degree Program

  • City: Orange
  • Delivery: On-Campus
  • Accreditation: CCTC approval; NASP, CAEP

Azusa Pacific University: School Psychology Ed.S. with embedded Educational Psychology MA ED, and School Psychology credential

  • City: Azusa
  • Delivery: On-Campus
  • Accreditation: CCTC approval; NASP, CAEP

University of the Pacific: Education Specialist in School Psychology + MA in Counseling Psychology

  • City: Stockton
  • Delivery: On-Campus
  • Accreditation: CCTC approval 

La Sierra University: Specialist in Education in School Psychology (with MA in Counseling) 

  • City: Riverside
  • Delivery: On-Campus
  • Accreditation: CCTC approval;  

Brandman University: Ed.S. in School Psychology and Master’s in Educational Psychology

  • City: Irvine
  • Delivery: Online/On-Campus/Hybrid
  • Accreditation: CCTC approval; NCATE 

School Psychology Doctoral Programs in California

These programs lead to the highest degree attainable in school psychology, usually a Ph.D., though there are some Ed.D. and Psy.D. programs out there. Designed for working professionals interested in positions as researchers, postsecondary educators, and school psychology experts, doctoral programs usually take around 5 years to complete. They include core coursework and a research-based dissertation or thesis project that broadens the horizons of the field.

Graduates also complete PPS-based internship experiences. Depending on the program, you may be able to complete specialized studies in applied counseling or clinical psychology. Key courses include learning development, personality adjustment, career planning and professional development, and cultural diversity.

Examples of Accredited California Universities Offering This School Psychology Program

University of California, Santa Barbara: Ph.D. in School Psychology 

  • City: Santa Barbara 
  • Delivery: On-Campus
  • Accreditation: CCTC approval; APA 

La Sierra University: Doctor of Education in School Psychology 

  • City: Riverside
  • Delivery: On-Campus
  • Accreditation: CCTC approval

University of California, Berkeley: School Psychology, Ph.D

  • City: Berkeley
  • Delivery: On-Campus
  • Accreditation: CCTC approval; APA, NASP 

Alliant University: Online Psy.D. in School Psychology

  • City: San Diego
  • Delivery: Online
  • Accreditation: CCTC approval  

University of California, Riverside: School Psychology Ph.D. Program 

  • City: Riverside
  • Delivery: On-Campus
  • Accreditation: CCTC approval; APA, NASP 

Pupil Personnel Services (PPS) Credential Programs in School Psychology

In California, PPS programs offer an additional way for aspiring school psychologists to obtain their credentials without completing another degree. Schools with these programs administer a post-graduate course of study and expect applicants to hold master’s degrees in clinical disciplines like counseling, social work, or psychology. Some also call for course prerequisites. 

Students usually finish their PPS course of study in about 3 years, completing key courses and around 1,500 hours of supervised fieldwork. Classes look at motivation and achievement in K-12 students, family systems theory, methods of statistical research, counseling technique, and behavioral adjustment. 

Examples of Accredited California Universities Offering This School Psychology Program

Saint Mary’s College: Post-Master’s, School Psychology PPS

  • City: Moraga
  • Delivery: On-Campus
  • Accreditation: CCTC approval 

Azusa Pacific University: PPS, School Psychology Credential

  • City: Azusa
  • Delivery: On-Campus
  • Accreditation: CCTC approval; CAEP

Loyola Marymount University: PPS Credential in School Psychology 

  • City: L.A.
  • Delivery: On-Campus
  • Accreditation: CCTC approval 

Alliant University: PPS Credential in School Psychology

  • City: Irvine
  • Delivery: Online
  • Accreditation: CCTC approval  

San Francisco State University: PPS Credential, School Psychology Authorization 

  • City: San Francisco
  • Delivery: On-Campus
  • Accreditation: CCTC approval

Accreditation and State Approval for School Psychology Programs in California

Schools with psychology programs in California should possess some form of institutional accreditation, regional or national, granted by agencies recognized by the U.S. Department of Education or the Council for Higher Education Accreditation. This ensures that high levels of quality and rigor back the degree you earn. 

Beyond the institutional level, California school psychology programsshould hold approval from the California Commission on Teacher Credentialing (CCTC). This is especially important because the CCTC sets licensure eligibility requirements, including mandatory education standards. If you plan to work as a school psychologist in a K-12 setting in California, you need to complete an approved program. 

Other organizations like the American Psychological Association (APA), the National Association of School Psychologists (NASP), and the Council for the Accreditation of Educator Preparation (CAEP) also accredit California school psychology programs. These agencies recognize schools and programs that meet field-specific standards in psychology, school psychology, and education. 

Financial Aid for School Psychology Grad Students in California

Scholarships, grants, and other financial aid opportunities can help you pay for your education. Professional organizations like the California Association of School Psychologists offer awards to their members in addition to other advancement benefits. School psychology students are also typically eligible for broader opportunities in psychology like those listed by the APA

Many of the best California school psychology programs offer scholarships and other awards to their students. At the graduate level that usually means research or other service-based fellowships often including professional development components. For example, California State University Long Beach and Alliant International University both extend financial aid opportunities to school psychology students. For more information on financial aid for school psychology and grad students, see the STEPS scholarship listing and financial aid guide

How to Become a School Psychologist in California

If becoming a licensed school psychologist in California is your main goal, you’ll need to complete some additional steps beyond the necessary education before you can begin work. The California Commission on Teacher Credentialing (CCTC) oversees this process and establishes eligibility requirements. An overview of those steps is provided below.

Step 1

Complete an Approved Program

The first step is to complete an approved education and training program like the ones discussed above. This could be a master’s program, an Ed.S. course of study, a PPS program, or some combination of the three. The CCTC only requires that the course of study consist of at least 60 credits beyond the undergraduate level. It also keeps a useful directory of approved programs. 

Step 2

Obtain PPS Recommendation

Once you graduate from a CCTC-approved school psychology program in California, you must obtain a proper recommendation. The CCTC requires that new candidates for licensure procure recommendations from an approved program with a PPS program in school psychology. Most applicants receive recommendations from the school they have graduated from. 

Step 3

Complete a Basic Skills Assessment

Under California education codes and regulations, new licensees must also complete a basic skills assessment. A computer-based exam, the California Basic Educational Skills Test (CBEST) measures competency in key areas like reading, writing, and mathematics. The test usually takes around 4 hours to complete. Preparation materials are available through the state of California.

Step 4

Submit Fees, Fingerprints, and Application

After steps 1-3 are complete, you’re ready to apply for PPS licensure as a school psychologist. Begin by submitting live fingerprints with the California Department of Justice and the Federal Bureau of Investigation. Once you pass the criminal background check, submit a licensure application and pay any applicable fees.

Step 5

Maintain Your Credentials

Licensed school psychologists must renew their credentials periodically to remain compliant with California laws and regulations. The specifics vary depending on your background, work history, and gained experience, but they sometimes involve another application and updated fingerprint records. Licensure renewal ensures that working school psychologists keep their skills and knowledge up to date. 

Job Outlook for School Psychologists in California

Employment (2018)New Jobs Created (2018-2028)Job Growth Rate (2018-2028)Average Annual Openings (2018-2028)
California17,4002,30013.21,530
United States162,00023,80014.7%14,600

Source: Projections Central; Data reflects job outlook for Clinical, Counseling, and School Psychologists 

School Psychologist Salaries in California

10th PercentileMedian90th Percentile
California$57,730$107,470$172,580
United States$46,410$79,820$138,550
Bakersfield, CA$70,530$107,120$140,590
Chico, CA$57,960$91,660$118,050
Fresno, CA$64,050$117,870$159,040
Hanford-Corcoran, CA$92,210$114,940$139,430
Los Angeles-Long Beach-Anaheim, CA$58,950$107,470N/A
Madera, CA$68,570$120,730$145,560
Merced, CA$61,970$102,710$140,150
Modesto, CA$61,910$115,360$158,790
Napa, CA$92,800$123,940$141,940
Oxnard-Thousand Oaks-Ventura, CA$48,860$103,930N/A
Riverside-San Bernardino-Ontario, CA$60,660$104,220$163,010
Sacramento–Roseville–Arden-Arcade, CA$51,650$112,920$159,870
Salinas, CA$47,620$104,810$139,040
San Diego-Carlsbad, CA$69,560$102,510$206,920
San Francisco-Oakland-Hayward, CA$47,450$101,900$167,110
San Jose-Sunnyvale-Santa Clara, CA$69,660$112,790$159,010
San Luis Obispo-Paso Robles-Arroyo Grande, CA$85,510$125,330$143,340
Santa Cruz-Watsonville, CA$43,090$76,000$145,760
Santa Maria-Santa Barbara, CA$55,730$119,610$158,480
Santa Rosa, CA$88,850$131,740$181,890
Stockton-Lodi, CA$57,620$107,590$145,700
Vallejo-Fairfield, CA$82,560$120,230$153,660
Visalia-Porterville, CA$85,230$118,410$154,740
Yuba City, CA$46,070$79,510$104,770

Sources:  Bureau of Labor Statistics, May 2020; Data reflects job outlook for Clinical, Counseling, and School Psychologists