Tuesday, April 23, 2024

Department of Educational Psychology to offer new Ph.D. program in school psychology

Department of Educational Psychology to offer new Ph.D. program in school psychology

FEBRUARY 2, 2022 — The UTSA College of Education and Human Development today announced that its Department of Educational Psychology will launch a new Ph.D. program for school psychologists beginning in the fall of 2023. The new program will be the first of its kind in the San Antonio area and is designed to address the chronic shortage of licensed practitioners, researchers and faculty within the field of school psychology.

“There are more school psychology faculty positions open than there are graduate students able to fill those roles. We are contributing to that pool of future academic faculty members,” said associate professor Victor Villarreal, who will be graduate advisor of record for the new program. “From an actual applied perspective, school psychology has been experiencing a shortage of practitioners in the field. Our local school districts across the state and across the nation need more highly qualified and trained school psychologists in the field working with kids and families in schools, so we’re also meeting that need by getting our graduates out to do that.”

“We are contributing to that pool of future academic faculty members.”

According to Villarreal, the need for mental health professionals — especially those trained to work with children — has been increasing in the Bexar County community for several years and has grown exponentially since the COVID-19 pandemic.

In addition to meeting these critical community needs, the new program is UTSA’s 26th doctoral program, supporting the university’s recent designation as a Carnegie R1 institution.

“When it comes to research, one of the things that is considered is the number of Ph.D. graduates that we have, so we are contributing to that vision by creating another program to help move the university in that direction,” Villarreal said.

Additionally, the doctoral program will also expand the department’s ability to offer services to UTSA students and will attract additional researchers and educators to bolster work led by the department’s faculty.

Students, too, will reap the benefits of the program’s design. Enrolled students will be able to choose between several different concentration tracks, each representing an area of high need within the field. These areas include behavior analysis, working with non-native English speakers and a research track for students pursuing academic careers.

Students in the program will benefit from the department’s well-established partnerships with many of the area school districts which will prove invaluable to students in the program, all of whom are required to complete at least 600 practicum hours working as a school psychologist. Afterward, they must complete a year-long fulltime internship in a setting that reflects their interests and aspirations, whether that be in a school, a clinic, or children’s hospital.

Throughout their studies, students will focus on identifying and working with learning and mental health challenges, navigating the mental health and school systems, and research. Topped off with a dissertation requirement, Villarreal says this program is more intensive than the typical doctoral program, but that this will ultimately aid students professionally.

“Our program is rigorous, but the applied experiences are critical components of training and will help students jumpstart their professional careers and ensure that they meet licensure standards,” he explained.

The program is expected to begin accepting applications this fall for admission in fall 2023. The program is designed to accommodate students with a bachelor’s degree only; a master’s degree is not a prerequisite.


After the program launches, Villarreal said, the department will track student progress and outcomes so that that program can earn accreditation with the American Psychological Association.

“Accreditation is important because it signals our commitment to high training standards and program quality, and it ensures that our students are prepared for licensure. Accreditation also helps us to recruit top students and faculty.”

Christopher Reichert

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