Staying Afloat Financially While in Graduate School

By Esposito, Gregory L. | National Association of School Psychologists. Communique, November 2012 | Go to article overview

Staying Afloat Financially While in Graduate School


Esposito, Gregory L., National Association of School Psychologists. Communique


As a graduate student, I am no stranger to the seemingly impossible task of sustaining myself financially while completing my degree. This feat seems especially difficult during the practicum and internship years when students often work for free. With the economy still on the mend and school budgets dwindling more each day, financial stability during graduate school may seem like a thing of the past, and is quickly becoming a growing concern for future professionals. Speaking with prospective school psychology students about financing their education, I found that their biggest concern was their ability to work while fulfilling their 1,200-hour internship. For many people, not maintaining an income for a year is simply not an option.

Unfortunately, the most complementary work opportunity for an intern's schedule is in food service (i.e., serving food or bartending). While these jobs may be satisfactory in fulfilling monetary needs, they do nothing to further our knowledge of schools or prepare us for working within one.

There is much experience to be gained by working in schools in a capacity other than as a school psychologist. For instance, substitute teachers learn how difficult it is to stand and teach in front of a class while maintaining order. This can be an important experience for school psychologists because it helps build empathy for how difficult a teacher's role can be. Working one-on-one with a child with autism or helping implement behavioral plans for students with special needs can also have a profound impact on future decision-making as a school psychologist.

In hopes of finding resources that someone in our unique situation could take advantage of, I queried 16 recent Rowan University alumni. I sent out a questionnaire concerning their work experiences, average salaries, and level of difficulty in balancing the job with school and field experience. Their experiences and suggestions are outlined below.

EMPLOYMENT OPPORTUNITIES THAT ENHANCE LEARNING

Working within an early intervention program is a viable option for graduate students who want to complement their preparation as a school psychologist. Some of the responsibilities of interns include: working one on one with children with autism, employing applied behavioral analysis techniques, and monitoring intervention effectiveness. This position is optimal because much of the one-on-one time is completed in the child's home, which allows for some flexibility with hours and scheduling. It was reported that working in this position paid about $450 biweekly, depending on how many hours the person worked. Although working in early intervention programs was reported to be a great experience, it was also reported to be difficult to balance with the responsibilities of school and internship. Work as an applied behavior analysis therapist can also be found through a school district, and allows therapists to visit the child's home to administer services. These positions are often posted on a district's website under the employment section. You can also use your college or university as a resource for employment.

EMPLOYMENT OPPORTUNITIES WITHIN YOUR UNIVERSITY

Several surveyed alumni, including myself, worked at their universities in order to supplement their incomes. Obtaining a position as a graduate assistant within your college or university can be a lucrative and rewarding experience. Although not necessarily in a classroom setting, working for a professor who is involved with educational research can provide knowledge of the latest educational interventions and access to cutting edge educational literature. While working for a professor, graduate assistants can learn about the most recent developments in areas such as: response to intervention, autism research, and the emerging best practices in the field by assisting with literature reviews and research projects. Furthermore, many universities and colleges offer graduate students funding for courses and other educational expenses. …

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