How to Become an Educational Psychologist
| Psychology.org Staff Modified on April 25, 2022
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An educational psychology career best suits those interested in helping schools or other organizations promote learning.
Many people confuse the job duties of school psychologists and educational psychologists. School psychologists primarily encourage psychological well-being. Educational psychologists help the school support learning and work with students based on individual needs, such as learning disabilities.
This guide explores how to become an educational psychologist, typical educational psychology career paths, and educational psychologist's salary ranges.
What Is Educational Psychology?
If you enjoy exploring effective education methods and applied psychology, an educational psychology career is a great way to combine these two fields. Educational psychology uses knowledge from cognitive psychology, organizational psychology, and educational theory and practice to help schools and teachers support learning outcomes.
Educational psychologists may diagnose learning disabilities, design and manage student individualized education plans (IEPs), and educate and advise teachers and families on learning.
Educational Psychology Salaries
The Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) does not give specific data for educational psychologists. However, their figures for general psychologist salaries can give professionals an idea of expected income.
While the typical educational psychologist salary is almost twice the national median, graduates may very likely have extensive education loans to pay off in addition.
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How Do I Become an Educational Psychologist?
Educational psychology jobs generally require a doctorate, either a Ph.D. or a Psy.D., if you want to practice as a licensed psychologist. Once you earn your doctorate, most states require that you spend at least two years practicing under a licensed educational psychologist before you can practice independently.
Education for Educational Psychologists
Educational psychology careers require at least a master's degree. To call yourself an educational psychologist, you also need a doctorate in most states.
You can earn an educational psychology degree or a general psychology degree as an undergraduate to enter a master's program, which typically takes three years to complete. A doctorate takes an additional 3-5 years, including a final internship. You must also complete a doctoral thesis based on your research.
For your doctorate, you can earn either a Ph.D. or a Psy.D. The Ph.D. focuses on educational psychology. Most educational psychologists looking for an academic career choose this option. A Psy.D. focuses on practice. Either degree is valid for earning a state license. You must also pursue continuing education to maintain your license. You can do this by attending conferences, taking classes, or reading designated materials and passing a test on the reading.
Licensure for Educational Psychologists
Each state has different licensing requirements for educational psychology jobs. The Association of State and Provincial Psychology Boards (ASPPB) offers a full listing of requirements by state. Fortunately, most states hold similar requirements, and many accept different professional board certifications as a license by endorsement.
States generally require a doctorate and that you pass a jurisprudence examination (an exam on legal aspects of practicing psychology in that state). Many states also require a passing grade on the ASPPB's Examination for Professional Practice in Psychology (EPPP). In most states, you also need to work under the supervision of a licensed psychologist for two years before practicing independently.
License reciprocity is not common for educational psychology jobs. However, because many states either accept different board certification as licensing by endorsement, this is a close equivalent for educational psychology careers.
Board Certification for Educational Psychologists
There is not yet a specific board certification for educational psychologists, but you can earn the ASPPB's Certificate of Professional Qualification in Psychology (CPQ). The CPQ requirements include:
- A doctorate in a psychology discipline from a regionally accredited institution with at least one year of continuous residency
- At least five years of independent professional practice
- A current license in an ASPPB member jurisdiction
- No disciplinary action against your license.
- Passing the CPQ examination
One advantage of this certification is that some states accept it as a license by endorsement option. Unlike many other board certifications, the CPQ does not require renewal. However, most states require continuing professional education to maintain your license.
Pre-Professional Experience for Educational Psychologists
During your master's program, you participate in fieldwork, typically during your second year. Your pre-professional experience becomes more intensive in your doctoral program, as doctorates generally require a one-year internship in your final year. In this internship, you work with an increasing level of independence under the supervision of a licensed educational psychologist. You begin by observing the psychologist with clients and gradually participate in sessions, though always under the psychologist's supervision.
Not all internship applicants are matched to an open position. In addition, matches may not be available at your preferred organization or geographic region, due to more applications than openings. Your academic advisors can give you expert guidance on maximizing the chance of a match and making the most of it.
Frequently Asked Questions About Educational Psychologists
Are educational psychologists the same as school psychologists?
While some parts of educational psychology jobs overlap with school psychology jobs, educational psychologists focus on learning and education, while school psychologists focus on psychological well-being.
Can educational psychologists diagnose learning disorders?
Yes. Educational psychologists receive training in administering tests to diagnose learning disorders, including dyslexia, dysgraphia (difficulty in writing), and dyscalculia (difficulties in math).
Is it hard to become an educational psychologist?
Most educational psychology jobs require at least a master's degree, and you need a doctorate in most states to practice as a psychologist.
What can I do with an educational psychology degree?
While you need a doctorate to practice as a licensed psychologist in most states, you can also apply an educational psychology degree to careers in organizational learning or professional education.
What Does an Educational Psychologist Do?
Most educational psychologists specialize in youth education and work in K-12 schools or colleges and universities. Others work in private practice.
Educational psychologists may also specialize in adult learning and then work in organizations that provide professional training. These include large employers or professional organizations, educational publishers, software companies, or companies that design and deliver education to their workers.
In a school, educational psychology jobs may include:
- Working with students experiencing difficulty learning
- Diagnosing learning disabilities or other causes for the student's difficulties
- Working with the student, family, and teachers to address the problem, usually through an IEP
- Measuring the student's progress and adapting the IEP as needed
- Providing training for teachers and administrators on educational psychology topics and how to apply them to support learning
- Collaborating with school administrators on educational strategy
In other settings, educational psychologists collaborate with colleagues and provide expert knowledge on learning design and effective educational methods. For example, educational psychology careers with publishers or software companies call for working with designers and subject-matter experts to optimize materials for learning, either online or in print. This involves designing the material to make it visually appealing and to make it easier for the learner to understand and retain information.
Whatever kind of educational psychology career you pursue, you must be an expert collaborator and communicator.
Skills and Competencies
Educational psychology careers call for a deep understanding of both education and psychology. It draws from several disciplines within psychology, including motivation, behavioral psychology, cognitive psychology, and neuropsychology, as well as from educational disciplines like learning disabilities, working with gifted children, and educational design. Educational psychology jobs combine ideas from multiple disciplines and perspectives.
As scientists and researchers discover more about the neurology and psychology of learning, you have to be a lifelong learner yourself to keep current with education and psychology research. You must also be able to demonstrate cultural competence when you work with students and families and communicate well with students, families, teachers, and administrators.
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