What is Educational Psychology?
Educational psychology applies the tools, research, and methodologies from psychology to education and the process of learning. Educational psychologists observe how students learn and work with teachers and administrators to improve instructional methods. They may work directly for a school system, local government, private school, or college. Educational psychologists may also function as consultants for schools. These psychologists regularly confer with teachers, administrators, parents, students, and other professionals to ensure students receive a quality education.
Most educational psychologist roles require at least a master's degree plus one or two years of internships and licensing requirements. The work directly benefits children, college students, and educators at all levels. Educational psychologists are particularly helpful to students with behavioral challenges or developmental delays. Prospective students seeking more information about educational psychology can check out this informative guide at Psychology.org.
Educational Psychology vs. School Psychology
The terms "educational psychology" and "school psychology" are often used interchangeably, but they don't mean quite the same thing. School psychologists are more client-facing, focusing on individual students and their learning environments. They borrow heavily from behavioral psychology and clinical psychology and get to know students during their time together. School psychologists work at every level of learning, ranging from kindergarten through adult education.
Educational psychologists concern themselves with the learning process as a whole. This macro-level field focuses on learning systems and large-scale changes. In addition to coaching teachers to become more effective in the classroom, educational psychologists also work with school administrators to consider changes to the curriculum. Their work is backed by empirical data and new research.
Can You Get a Degree in Educational Psychology Online?
Many psychology programs are available online and in traditional campus settings. Online degrees in educational psychology are vetted by the same accreditation processes as on-campus programs, meaning that online educational psychology degrees meet the same academic and professional standards as their on-campus counterparts. Students engage regularly with their professors and peers, watch lectures, read relevant texts, take tests, and complete projects.
Most coursework is completed remotely, but online educational psychology programs do require students to complete in-person internships and clinical hours. Most online programs allow students to complete these requirements locally. When compared to on-campus programs, online psychology degrees offer more flexibility and accessibility. All degree-seekers have access to quality programs, regardless of location. In some cases, online education is more affordable than an on-campus program.
Are Practicums and Internships Required in an Online Educational Psychology Program?
To receive and maintain accreditation, online educational psychology programs must adhere to requirements set forth by state licensing boards. Consequently, nearly every psychology program requires some sort of internship or practicum, regardless of degree level. Psychology is especially client-focused, so it is important to ensure students gain practical experience in a supervised setting.
Practicums and internships typically become more intensive as students progress through their education. Students in a bachelor's program may need to complete a semester of experiential learning, while students in master's or Ph.D. programs often spend a year or more working with clients.
Some students may worry that the practicum or internship component will be more difficult for an online program, but most online schools provide ample support before, during, and after the practicum or internship. Many online schools maintain relationships with sites for completing required hours, making it easy for learners to review a list of options and pick one that suits their interests. Even students located across the country from the school's location should receive support.
How Do I Become an Educational Psychologist?
The first step is to choose a program that best fits your interests and career goals. Cost is also a major concern, especially when pursuing an advanced degree. Tuition rates vary by region and school. Some schools with higher tuition rates grant larger financial aid packages, reducing overall costs. Students should also expect additional costs for room and board, living expenses, textbooks, and transportation. Those who pursue a bachelor's or master's in educational psychology online avoid transportation costs and higher living expenses.
The second step is to complete any internship or practicum requirements. This is especially important for graduate students pursuing licensure. Licensure requirements are different between state's, so students should contact prospective schools to ensure that their program will help meet them. Full-time learners can expect to spend between six and seven years completing educational requirements and an additional year or two for internship and practicum experiences.
Online Bachelor's Degree in Educational Psychology
To become an educational psychologist, applicants must hold a master's degree. While there are some positions that only require a bachelor's degree, they are rare and usually require extensive experience in education. Online students should use their four-year degree as a foundation for graduate study. Educational psychology programs aren't that common at the baccalaureate level, but related degrees can help prepare students for graduate study. The most closely-aligned program is psychology, but some schools offer counseling or educational instruction degrees as well.
Students who want to learn more about coursework, concentrations, and the differences between traditional and online learning can take a look at this comprehensive guide at Psychology.org.
Online Master's Degree in Educational Psychology
A master's degree is the most common educational route for individuals pursuing a job in educational psychology. A graduate degree enables future professionals to gain state licensure and certification. While more educational psychology degrees are becoming available, the most common option is still a master's of psychology with an emphasis in educational psychology. Both degrees meet licensing requirements. Students interested in other fields of psychology may opt for a standard master's program since it allows them to easily change careers down the line.
An online educational psychology master's degree allows students to enroll in the top programs without having to change residency. Courses are often available in an asynchronous format, so students can complete assignments and view lectures on their own schedules. Many students are able to maintain family and work obligations while pursuing this degree online.
Online Ph.D. in Educational Psychology
Professionals who want to teach at the college level or conduct research may benefit from earning a doctoral degree. A Ph.D. in educational psychology is especially helpful to students interested in academia. The degree provides the advanced skills needed to teach others or to gain a coveted role at a research laboratory. A Ph.D. is also useful for students interested in diagnosing disorders and counseling students.
A Ph.D. in educational psychology online allows professionals to continue working full-time while pursuing higher education. Online doctoral students can often complete clinical hours and practicum requirements at a school near their home.
Required Licenses and Internships to Become an Educational Psychologist
Although some positions require only a bachelor's degree, most jobs in educational psychology require a master's degree and a relevant license. Depending on the role, some employers may require a doctoral degree. After completing a graduate degree at an accredited school and finishing practicum requirements, students should look over the steps for licensure in their state. In most cases, new graduates must spend at least one year interning at a school or educational organization. A few states may require two years of interning.
Several states also require candidates to apply for certification through the National Association of School Psychologists. Candidates may take the National School Psychology Examination at three different points throughout the year. Individuals living in places that don't require the exam can apply directly for licensure in their state. Graduates planning to work in public schools may need additional certification from their state's department of education.
Careers for Educational Psychology Degree Holders
Graduates of online educational psychology degree programs have many career opportunities, depending on the exact degree attained and where they hope to work. Some educational psychologists prefer to work in K-12 settings, while others focus on supporting college students. Regardless of location, educational psychologists often meet with teachers and administrators to enhance teaching and learning. They also frequently observe classrooms to gain a sense of what strategies are most effective. The following list describes five careers students can pursue with an educational psychology degree.
- Behavior Analyst
- Working in with teachers, teaching aids, and parents, behavior analysts develop and implement plans to improve student behavior. They create curricula that encourage positive behaviors and therapeutic environments. Some behavior analysts are former teachers with bachelor's degrees, while others hold advanced diplomas. Most work regular school hours, but may travel to several different locations throughout the week.
- School Psychologist
These professionals ensure that students receive the best possible education based on their needs.
- Educational Consultant
- Educational consultants work with school districts, local governments, or private educational organizations to develop new curricula and implement best practices. Strong relationships with teachers, administrators, and parents are important, as consultants are constantly gathering information about how changes in the curriculum may benefit learning outcomes. Some consultants have bachelor's degrees, while others pursue higher education to obtain senior positions.
- Educational Psychologist
- Educational psychologists tackle the macro level issues children and administrators face. By taking a look at overarching systems, educational psychologists make recommendations to improve learning outcomes for all students. They often conduct their own research and review recent data from the field. Educational psychologists work in primary and secondary schools, colleges and universities, and adult learning centers. They must possess at least a master's degree and a relevant license.
- Training Director
- Training directors don't work in schools. Instead, they oversee ongoing training and continuing education opportunities for companies, nonprofits, and governmental agencies. Whether creating a training curriculum or bringing in professionals to teach about a specific topic, training directors enjoy varied and busy days. Most hold a bachelor's or master's degree, but some who work in large, international corporations may have a doctorate.
Salary for Educational Psychology Degree Holders
Salaries in educational psychology vary based on a number of factors, but are generally about the same or higher than the annual median income of $59,039. The biggest factor in how much an educational psychologist makes is the level of degree they hold and what type of licensure and certifications they have. Continuing education can also help increase annual income. Another factor to consider is location. An educational psychologist in San Francisco makes far more than one living in a rural area due to different costs of living. Experience also plays a big role; recent graduates don't command the same salary as professionals who have worked in the field for several years. The following table includes median annual salaries for educational psychology professionals.
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