Typically, the term “child psychologist” refers to doctoral-level clinical psychologists who specialize in children. “School psychologist” specifically refers to professionals who bridge psychology and education to address school-related issues, including those that concern children, teachers, parents and families, as well as school organizations.
Both school psychologists and child clinical psychologists need strong backgrounds in child development and psychology.
Clinical psychologists' training generally does not include study of school organization, instruction, classroom management, special education or special education law and ethics. School psychologists' training does include study in education and special education, but compared to clinical psychology, there likely will be less emphasis on psychopathology and long-term therapy. Most states will only license private practice at the doctoral level, while most states credential school psychologists at the specialist level (60 graduate semester credits).
School psychologists typically are found in school settings although a few may work in clinic or hospital settings that specialize in treating school-age children and school-related problems. Child clinical psychologists typically are found in hospitals, mental health centers, and private clinic settings. The school psychologist is much more likely to be involved in services intended to prevent mental health problems and severe behavior disorders, or to intervene at early stages to prevent more serious problems. They are also far more likely to work with teachers and parents to improve instruction in the classroom.
The job outlook is very promising for school psychology nationwide. It is believed that a significant proportion of current practitioners will reach retirement age within the next 10 years, hence opening the door for a new generation of school psychologists. According to the Occupational Outlook Handbook of the Bureau of Labor Statistics, employment of psychologists is projected to grow 12% from 2012–2022, and one of the groups with the best job prospects will be those with specialist or doctoral degrees in school psychology.