PhD Program in School Psychology


The doctoral program in school psychology includes a five-year course of study with a year-long internship. Time to degree completion varies (see program outcome data). Typical time to completion without a master’s degree is 6 to 7 years. Applicants who have earned bachelor’s, master’s, and specialist levels are considered for the program. The first two years of the PhD program roughly parallel the specialist program. Students without an advanced degree also typically earn a MS degree after the first year of the program. The doctoral program also yields school psychology certification and is designed to qualify graduates for licensure as a psychologist.

Program Philosophy and Social Justice Statement

The program is designed to prepare professional psychologists with educational expertise who can function in a variety of diverse, educationally-related settings. The program’s training model and philosophy espouse commitments to (a) diversity and social justice, (b) evidence-based practice, and (c) school-based practice. These views foster the conception of the school psychologist as broadly capable of conducting research and practicing effectively with clients, in addition to considering the ecological complexity in which the child exists. The assessment of children and adolescents as well as planning for interventions necessitates this broader conceptualization of childhood problems. The program integrates social justice perspectives throughout its training sequence and focuses on evidence-based practices in working with school-aged youth. The program emphasizes a balance between psychological and educational theory as well as applied practice.

Training Model

Our training model, pictured graphically here, consists of five domains that are interrelated and fully grounded in: (a) a commitment to social justice, (b) understanding that various systems affect children’s functioning (e.g., home; school; community), and (c) an advocacy role for psychologists working on behalf of children. Professional Conduct (Domain I) and InterpersSP_TrainingModel_Aug2013onal Competence (Domain II) are emphasized as core components of professional training that impact learning and practice related to professional practice, research competencies, and mastery of foundational knowledge. Within Domain I, the Program training model emphasizes the critical roles of developing a professional identity as a psychologist and a lifelong learner, understanding diversity, behaving ethically, exhibiting self-care, and committing to professional work behavior. Within Domain II, the Program training model emphasizes the goal to develop students’ interpersonal competence through fostering empathic behavior, engaging in appropriate interpersonal relationships, communicating effectively with others across various settings, and building awareness and commitment to interpersonal competence throughout students’ professional development. The arrows extending from the core reflect Program faculty and students’ beliefs that professional conduct and interpersonal competence impact all other aspects of professional training. Within Domain III (Professional Practice Competencies), the Program training model reflects a commitment to training students in delivery of professional services with strong evidentiary base. Within Domain III, the Program training model reflects its deep commitment to the scientist-practitioner model within respect to professional practice. Program training emphasizes evidence-based practices in four core professional activities: (a) assessment, (b) intervention, (c) consultation, and (d) supervision. Within Domain IV (Foundational Knowledge), the Program training model identifies foundational content that is critical for both professional practice and research. The placement of Domain IV at the base of the training model reflects the Program’s belief that science and practice must be grounded in understanding psychological, scientific, practice, and educational foundations and methods of professional psychology. As the arrows indicate, the training model emphasizes that mastery of foundational knowledge undergirds training in both the science and practice of psychology. Within Domain V (Research Competencies), the Program training model identifies the Program’s commitment to sound research training of its students.

Goals, Objectives, and Competencies

To prepare effective practitioners to work with children, families, schools, and other systems, the faculty has organized doctoral training around five main goals.

  1. Students demonstrate professional conduct.
  2. Students demonstrate interpersonal competence.
  3. Students demonstrate evidence-based practice competencies.
  4. Students master foundational knowledge of psychology as a science and profession.
  5. Students demonstrate research competencies.

These goals are sub-divided into distinct objectives and competencies subsequently evaluated by a number of student skills or outcomes. These competencies are measured regularly via multiple methods, including but not limited to: annual feedback throughout student’s doctoral training, master’s exam, program of studies, Praxis exam, preliminary exam, practicum evaluations, research portfolio, qualifying exam, dissertation proposal, and the dissertation defense. These evaluative components assure that students are meeting competency benchmarks expected of them at their various stages of training; inform student advisement, provide on-going feedback, and extend the faculty-student relationship that will help the student make progress and succeed in the program; and provide data for the faculty as to whether the training students receive in the doctoral program is effective in achieving these competencies and to use this information as formative feedback for program monitoring and continual improvement.

The PhD program handbook provides a complete description of all doctoral program goals, objectives, and competencies, and student evaluation measures. Program documents and forms are linked on the right of this page.

Student Performance and Feedback

The program handbook describes the formal feedback, sequence, competency benchmarks, and timeline for completion for doctoral students’ successful completion of the school psychology PhD program. The handbook also provides the written policies and procedures of the program and institution. Students receive, at least annually, written feedback on the extent to which they are meeting the program’s requirements and performance expectations via multiple modes of assessment.


The Doctor of Philosophy program in School Psychology is fully accredited by the American Psychological Association (202-336-5979, 750 First Street, NE, Washington, DC 20002-4242; accredited since February 18, 1986) with decision effective April 7, 2015–the next accreditation review will occur in 2019. The program is approved with conditions by the National Association of School Psychologists (NASP).

Questions related to the program’s accredited status should be directed to the Commission on Accreditation:

Office of Program Consultation and Accreditation
American Psychological AssociationAPA
750 1st Street, NE, Washington, DC 20002
Phone: (202) 336-5979 / E-mail:

For specific questions about the Program, please contact:

Alicia Fedewa, PhD, NCSP
Associate Professor and School Psychology Program Chair
170H Taylor Education Building
University of Kentucky
Lexington, Kentucky 40506-0017
Phone: (859) 257-9338