Educational psychology examines how individuals learn and retain information. Educational psychologists may work with a variety of populations, including adults with learning disabilities and gifted children, to optimize learning. This guide covers important information for prospective educational psychologists, including degree options, licensure requirements, and potential careers.
What is Educational Psychology?
Educational psychology studies how people learn and retain information. Educational psychologists work with diverse populations to improve learning outcomes. Clients include gifted learners and people with learning disabilities such as dyslexia. These professionals may work with people of any age.
Educational psychology dates back to Ancient Greece, when Plato and Aristotle discussed the role of the teacher and the student. Throughout the past centuries, philosophers have proposed theories about how people learn; in the 18th century, thinkers like Jean-Jacques Rousseau emphasized the value of experience in learning. Modern day educational psychologists apply these philosophies and others to their own research and practice.
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How to Become an Educational Psychologist
Educational psychologists need a Ph.D., supervised work experience, and a license to practice. This section covers the requirements for becoming an educational psychologist.
To become an educational psychologist, candidates need a doctorate in psychology or a related field. To obtain a doctorate, most students need a bachelor’s and master’s degree, so educational psychologists may spend 10 years in higher education preparing for their profession.
Educational psychology programs often require supervised work experiences. Learners in educational psychology usually pursue internships in settings such as schools, child psychiatric centers, and youth service centers. Internships give students hands-on experience in the field and help meet the supervised work experience requirements for licensure in most states.
All states require practicing psychologists to hold a license. Although each state’s requirements vary, most candidates need a doctorate in psychology and 1-2 years of supervised experience. Applicants also need to pass a 225-question exam from the Association of State and Provincial Psychology Boards, which evaluates candidates on their general psychology knowledge.
Many educational psychologists do not need a certificate to practice, but certification indicates a high level of expertise that makes candidates more competitive in the job market. The American Board of Professional Psychology provides several certification opportunities, including school psychology and clinical child and adolescent psychology. Certification candidates need a doctoral degree and a state license to apply.
Educational Psychology vs. General Psychology
General psychology and educational psychology degrees share several differences and similarities. In some cases, universities offer educational psychology as a concentration in a general psychology program rather than as a standalone program. The following sections outline the commonalities and differences between general and educational psychology.
General psychology and educational psychology programs typically feature the same core courses. During a bachelor’s degree, most psychology students enroll in courses such as introduction to psychology, research methods, developmental psychology, and cognitive psychology.
Both general psychology and educational psychology graduate programs require learners to complete research projects, such as a master’s thesis or doctoral dissertation. Students in both programs also participate in supervised work experience.
Candidates applying for a license to work as an educational psychologist must meet the same licensure requirements as prospective general psychologists. Both types of psychologists need a doctorate, supervised work experience, and passing scores on the Examination for Professional Practice in Psychology.
General psychology programs cover many aspects of psychology, while educational psychology programs focus on theories of learning and schooling. After finishing foundational classes, educational psychology students take courses on topics such as theories of learning, psychology of the exceptional individual, and adult learners.
Because of this difference in curricular focus, educational psychology majors typically work in educational settings, such as schools. They may also help adults and children with learning disabilities at hospitals or clinics. Graduates with a general psychology degree may work as psychologists for a variety of populations, including people with emotional, behavioral, or developmental disorders.
What can You Do With an Educational Psychology Degree?
Students who want to work as a licensed professional psychologist need a Ph.D. in psychology. Ph.D. graduates may also find jobs in higher education as professors or in the private sector as researchers. Graduates with only a bachelor’s or master’s degree can find related jobs, such as guidance counselor or behavioral analyst. The following section outlines several common occupations for each educational psychology degree level.
Educational Psychology Degree Programs
Undergraduate Educational PsychologyPrograms
Bachelor’s degrees traditionally consist of around 120 credits, which full-time students can complete in four years. Students who study part time may take five or six years to graduate, while students with transfer credits and learners in accelerated programs may graduate in less than four years. Bachelor’s degrees in educational psychology often include a practicum course or capstone project. These programs may also include internship requirements.
Careers This Degree Can Prepare You For
- Behavior Analyst Behavior analysts assess behaviors in individuals and develop plans to fix harmful behaviors. They often work in schools, where they help teachers understand how to handle challenging children. They may also work at mental health clinics, aiding people with behavioral struggles.
- Guidance Counselor Guidance counselors usually work in middle schools and high schools, helping students reach their full potential. They may assist students with applying to colleges and overcoming personal or educational challenges.
- College Counselor College counselors work in higher education institutions, helping students schedule and plan coursework and find employment after graduation. They may also work as admissions counselors, answering questions from prospective students.
Educational Psychology Master’sPrograms
Master’s in educational psychology programs typically feature 32-36 credits. Learners usually graduate in 1-2 years, although this timeline depends on factors such as full-time versus part-time enrollment. Master’s in school psychology programs often require students to complete a master’s thesis and fieldwork experiences.
Careers This Degree Can Prepare You For
- School Counselor School counselors work in elementary, middle, and high schools. They assist students struggling with mental disabilities, behavioral problems, and difficulties with schoolwork. These professionals provide direct counseling to students and give advice to teachers on how to manage challenging students.
- Educational Researcher Educational researchers may work in diverse settings, such as universities, information technology companies, education groups, and government agencies. They often work in laboratories or with human subjects, studying how to optimize learning through quantitative and qualitative methods.
- Rehabilitation Counselor Rehabilitation counselors help clients with mental, behavioral, and developmental challenges to live and work independently. They evaluate clients’ interests and abilities, locate appropriate resources, and help clients adjust to changes.
Master’s in Educational Psychology
Educational PsychologyDoctorate Programs
Educational psychology Ph.D. programs typically require 60-90 credits. Many students spend 4-5 years pursuing a doctorate. Some schools offer joint master’s-Ph.D. programs, which usually allow students to earn both degrees in about six years. Ph.D. students often complete internships and dedicate at least two years to completing a dissertation.
Careers This Degree Can Prepare You For
- Training Director Training directors manage continuing education, professional development, and general training programs at companies. They set goals, establish policies and procedures, and evaluate the effectiveness of educational programs.
- Educational Psychologist Educational psychologists work with individuals to overcome learning challenges. They may work with students in academic settings or with adults at public agencies. They might also find jobs at child psychiatric centers.
- College Professor College professors teach lectures, lead seminars, and conduct their own research. They often present their research findings at conferences and publish articles in scholarly journals.
Ph.D. in Educational Psychology
Online Educational Psychology Programs
Online educational psychology programs offer flexibility and convenience. Many online programs allow students to study at their own pace, which particularly appeals to students balancing school with work and family obligations. These programs also allow students to attend top programs without relocating.
Many online educational psychology programs require some in-person components, such as field experiences. However, online students can often meet these requirements at approved sites near their homes. Students should research each prospective program to ensure that they can meet any in-person requirements.
When Selecting a Program
Reach Out to Current Students
Typically, current students can provide more well-rounded information about a school than admissions representatives. Prospective students should consider reaching out to current students to gain insight into what it’s like to attend the school.
Review School Statistics
Universities usually publish useful statistics for prospective students, such as average class sizes, retention rates, and graduation rates. These statistics provide insight into a school’s academic quality and how well the program prepares students for relevant careers.
Research Financial Aid Options
Students should review financial aid opportunities, including loans, scholarships, and work-study programs. Graduate students should also search for research or teaching assistantships, which often come with tuition waivers and living stipends.
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