Professional Development

ABPP board certification in school psychology

The value of achieving ABPP certification in school psychology is discussed.

By Michael E. Tansy

The American Board of Professional Psychology (ABPP) was incorporated in 1947, with the support of the American Psychological Association, as the primary organization for specialty board certification in psychology. Its mission includes consumer protection through the examination and certification of psychologists who demonstrate competence in approved specialty areas in professional psychology. ABPP is comprised of14 specialty areas of professional psychology, including school psychology, each with its respective examining board. ABPP's school specialty board is the American Board of School Psychology (ABSP). ABPP certification in school psychology occurs at the doctoral level through an examination by the ABSP. Successful completion of the ABSP examination allows a school psychologist to be recognized as a fellow of the American Academy of School Psychology (AASP).

What Is the Value of Achieving ABPP Certification in School Psychology?

Over the years, AASP fellows have been polled several times regarding the value of becoming ABPP-certified. Responses include:

  • The attainment of an independent, rigorous verification that the standards and competencies required in a specialty area of psychology have been achieved.
  • Possession of a credential that is increasingly valuable for its recognition by universities, hospitals, health service systems, agencies, and the public.
  • Listing as a board certified specialist in the online directory and in a number of ABPP academy directories available as guides to the public, third parties, and colleagues.
  • Supporting qualification as an expert witness.
  • Inclusion in a directory of certified specialists with easy, online, public access (by geographic area) to certified specialists in psychology.
  • Verification as currently maintaining the certification requirements of the school specialty.
  • Additional recognition in the APA membership directory and the National Register of Health Service Providers in Psychology as being board certified.
  • Fellowship in the Academy of School Psychology (AASP), which provides continuing education, advocacy activities, recruitment, improvement in the quality and accessibility of specialty services, participation in specialty board examination, and the election of specialty board members.
  • Receipt of , and opportunity to publish in The ABPP Specialist, the online newsletter of the ABPP.
  • Receipt of and recognition in the Journal of Applied School Psychology, the official journal of the American Academy of School Psychology.
  • Invitation to attend and participate in the ABPP's national convocation held during the APA national convention.
  • Recognition by most licensing jurisdictions of ABPP board certification as an endorsement for reciprocity of licensure.
  • Growing recognition by employers such as the U.S. Public Health Service and the U.S. Department of Defense for salary bonus benefits.
  • Eligibility for significant reduction of liability practice insurance through the American Professional Agency.
  • An opportunity to support and participate in the advancement of the specialty practice of psychology at the local, state, and national levels through the governance of the ABPP and the AASP.
  • Automatic receipt of 10 APA-approved CE credits from ABPP for completion of the process.
  • The satisfaction of demonstrating that you have met this professional standard when offering specialty services to the public.

Once you are board certified, you are encouraged to participate in the AASP, a group of broadly trained and experienced school psychologists who are dedicated to the application of the science and profession of psychology to issues related to the protection and promotion of children and youth. Participation in the AASP provides school psychologists the opportunity to work closely with other fellows on the promotion of the specialty practice of school psychology at its highest level.

How Does a Licensed Psychologist Become Board Certified by ABPP?

ABPP certification in school psychology is accomplished by application to ABPP, with subsequent examination by the ABSP.ABPP recognizes three types of applicants—early entry, regular, and senior candidates—each with slightly different examination processes. The early entry program allows qualified students and other pre-licensure individuals to begin the steps toward board certification in professional psychology early in one's career, and starts the process of mentoring and progression toward board certification through ABPP at a reduced fee. Submission of the early entry application starts the process and ABPP banks your credentials as you complete your training and experience, allowing the candidate to avoid the need to gather materials over the years.

Senior-option candidates are applicants with 15 or more years of experience following licensure. Typically, these applicants are distinguished practitioners and have a more developed portfolio of practice in school psychology. As such, the ABSP offers a more flexible application and examination process.

For all applicants (early entry, regular, and senior), the ABPP board certification process includes three major phases: a credential review, a peer-reviewed portfolio, and an oral examination conducted by board certified school psychologists. The application form, which may be obtained at, is the primary information base upon which eligibility for candidacy is determined. When you complete your application, you must verify that you possess general and specialty-specific academic training, supervised experience, and professional standing requirements. Following a review of your application, you are notified of the results. Applicants meeting generic and specialty requirements become candidates, and are eligible to progress to the specialty examination process.

After being admitted to candidacy you are asked to develop a portfolio that includes your C.V., a personal statement describing your practice, two practice samples, and narratives discussing your practice samples for review by an examination team. You are provided a mentor from among the AASP to assist in the development of your portfolio. After you have completed your portfolio and it has been approved by the ABSP, a 3-hour oral examination is scheduled and conducted by an examination team of three trained AASP fellows. The examination is a collegial discussion of your practice, evidenced by the portfolio, that seeks evidence of the presence of specific competencies adopted by ABPP (Fouad, et al., 2009; Kaslow et al., 2009).

What Competencies Are Assessed During Your ABPP Examination?

During your examination, the examination team is seeking evidence that you possess foundational (cutting across specialties) and functional (specialty and practitioner-specific) competencies. Foundational competencies are assessed in all candidates for ABPP certification, and include professionalism, reflective practice/self-assessment/selfcare, scientific knowledge and methods, relationships, individual and cultural diversity, ethical and legal standards and policy, and interdisciplinary systems. Functional competencies (those competencies that may be specific to the individual and influenced by your practice as a school psychologist) include assessment, intervention, consultation, research/evaluation, supervision, management, and advocacy.

How Do I Get Started?

To be eligible for board certification by ABPP, you need to be a doctorallevel psychologist licensed by a state psychology board and have 1 year of post-licensure experience as a practicing psychologist. To get started, you need to complete and submit an application (available at accompanied by two letters of endorsement and your doctoral transcripts. These documents are sent to the ABPP central office. After your application is submitted, reviewed, and approved, the AASP Director of Mentoring assigns you a mentor to assist you through each step of the examination process. Your mentor is a helpful AASP fellow who can explain each step of the process, answer questions along the way, review your portfolio, and provide advice on the oral examination.

The steps to becoming board certified in school psychology are not unrealistically time consuming. Completing the required practice samples is straightforward, as they come directly from your practice and require additional effort only to prepare a rubric-guided interpretation of them, along with a self-statement about your practice as a school psychologist. The oral examination is a personally rewarding, collegial experience in which you explain your own perspectives on the field of school psychology. The whole process is confidential and applicants find the process professionally stimulating. To learn more about becoming an ABPP Board Certified Specialist in School Psychology go to the ABPP website (


Fouad, N.A., Grus, C.L., Hatcher, R.L., Kaslow, N.J., Hutchings, P.S., Madson, M.B., … Crossman, R.E. (2009). Competency benchmarks: A model for understanding and measuring competence in professional psychology across training levels. Training and Education in Professional Psychology, 3, S5–S26.

Kaslow, N.J., Grus, C.L., Campbell, L.F., Fouad, N.A., Hatcher, R.L., & Rodolfa, E.R. (2009). Competency assessment toolkit for professional psychology. Training and Education in Professional Psychology, 3, S27–S45.

Correspondence concerning this review should be addressed to Michael E. Tansy, PhD, NCSP, ABPP 4140 E. Baseline Road, Suite 101 Mesa, Arizona 85206; Office Phone: 480-966-9337 ; Fax: 480-704-4181; E-mail:

Note: This article was also published in the Jan/Feb 2013 issue of the NASP Communique.