Educational psychology – degrees, programs, and careers


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Introduction to educational psychology

There’s still much to learn about how people learn. What influences a person’s ability to retain information? How about technology, the time of day, culture, and factors such as age? Does any of it, or all of it, influence a person’s ability to learn new information? Do we all process information the same way with these outside factors at play?

If these questions fascinate you, then you may be an ideal candidate to study educational psychology.

While many of these questions remain unanswered, interest in educational psychology is increasing. Brilliant, curious minds are at work in real-life settings to find solutions to many of these quandaries. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) job opportunities for educational psychologists are predicted to rise 14% from 2018-2028.

One central question that has been answered with certainty is whether or not all people learn or respond to external stimuli in the same manner. The answer to this question is clearly no. We all learn and respond differently. This can explain the challenges and rewards of the work of an educational psychologist. It is within their job description to unearth the puzzle pieces and discover how specific individuals best absorb information.

With the rapidly changing education system in the United States, many learners are left behind with a “one size fits all” style of teaching. The field of educational psychology analyzes this vital issue. It helps to create strategies to streamline education and yet make it accessible for all students regardless of their learning process and needs.

What is educational psychology?

Educational psychology teaches you the intricate details of how we, as humans, learn and retain knowledge. The primary focus is on how learning occurs in a group setting, such as in the classroom. It covers the methodology behind teaching and testing students that promote maximum learning potential in a classroom environment. This field of psychology looks at behavioral, social, and learning obstacles present in student populations, and how they prevent some children from gaining an education.

If you’re considering a degree in educational psychology, know that it can lead to numerous career choices.

Educational psychology can be summarized as the study of these primary topics:

  • Analysis of teaching, learning, and perception in various educational settings
  • Social and cultural processes of learning
  • Computers and technology as effective study tools
  • Inclusive education for students from all backgrounds and capabilities
  • Evaluation of current learning and teaching strategies
  • Understanding the intricate relationship between human development and education
  • Community and family involvement in education
  • Developmental psychology
  • Learning differences
  • Human development
  • Educational assessment
  • Behavior assessment
  • Counseling theory
  • Cognitive theory within the learning process

Admission requirements

alt"clipboard-list" Bachelor’s program requirements

The minimum requirements to gain admission to an undergraduate program or pathway includes, but isn’t limited to, some of the following:

  • A high school diploma or an undergraduate degree that meets the minimum GPA requirements for the specific program you wish to apply for
  • Letters of recommendation from teachers
  • Standardized test scores, like ACT or SAT
  • Personal statement of intent
  • Your English language level has to meet the minimum TOEFL score of 55

The typical coursework you’ll complete as part of an undergraduate program will include topics such as:

  • Educational psychology
  • Educational research problems
  • Early childhood development
  • Statistical methods
  • Human development across the lifespan
  • Field experience and educational research

alt"clipboard-list" Master’s program requirements

To apply for a master’s program, you need a bachelor’s degree from an accredited university or college, with a minimum GPA typically between 3-3.3. Individual universities may even require a specific B.S. in psychology or education. Each institution will have its own set of admission requirements listed on their website.

If you have an active teaching license or relevant professional experience, submit these details with your application in the form of a resume. Write a cover letter to accompany your application that outlines your personal and professional achievements and goals.

You’ll have to submit GRE scores unless you have extensive professional experience. In that case, you may apply for a waiver of the GRE score submission. If you do have GRE scores, attaching them to your application can boost your chances, even if it’s not a requirement. Note, some schools will require alternate test scores.

alt"clipboard-list" P.hD. program requirements

Step one in applying for a doctoral program is to have either a minimum of a bachelor’s degree, although most programs will require a master’s degree. Typically, the minimum acceptable GPA for entrance into a Ph.D. program in educational psychology is 3.0. You can also expect to submit your GRE scores together with a portfolio, an essay, and letters of recommendation.

Online master’s in educational psychology

Each school has its directives to follow when considering an online master’s in educational psychology. Typically such an online degree will require 30 to 36 credits. These are standard 2-year programs. You can expect courses to include motivation and self-regulation strategies, lifespan development, measurements, and testing.

The core focus of these classes is to establish the fundamental knowledge you’ll need to foresee potential issues, understand primary human processes, and create a constructive learning environment for students from all backgrounds.

You’ll learn to develop effective educational strategies while observing both institutions and students to advise on potential problems. With further certification, you could pursue a career as a student counselor or educational psychologist.

Ph.D. in educational psychology

Once you’ve successfully completed your master’s degree in educational psychology, you can consider pursuing a Ph.D. program. Successfully earning your Ph.D. will offer you a high earning potential in psychological research or as a faculty member at an institution for higher learning. According to the American Psychological Association and the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the annual remuneration for educational psychologists with a Ph.D. ranges from $60,000 to more than $129,000.

A Ph.D. in educational psychology focuses on the advancement of applied research regarding all areas of educational psychology. The program prepares you to develop expertise in modern theoretical issues and the historical development of the field. You can obtain your Ph.D. in educational psychology within 3 to 7 years. The duration of your program is determined by various factors including the nature of your research, program format, and personal commitments.

Is accreditation necessary?

The American Psychological Association (APA) Commission on Accreditation is the national accrediting authority in the U.S. for psychology education and training. It’s essential to study at accredited institutions to maximize your potential career, income, and further education opportunities after graduation.

Suppose you complete a master’s in educational psychology. You’ll qualify for a career as an educational researcher, a teacher at specific colleges, an educational psychologist, or a career and college counselor. These particular positions help institutions develop strategies to teach students with behavioral or learning issues effectively.


Cost of a degree

You’ll need to plan your finances well in advance, as your studies to become a qualified educational psychologist can take up to 10 years. It could be a while before you’re ready to enter the workforce and earn an income.

Undergraduate fees that include tuition, room, and board are estimated at an average of $17,797 at public schools, up to $46,014 at private non-profit institutions, and around $26,261 at private for-profit schools.

Depending on which school you attend, the cost can range anywhere from $8,000 to $60,000 per year for a bachelor’s degree. Public schools are more affordable than private schools, and some prestigious institutions can cost well over $140,000 per year.

The average cost of graduate programs sees some large variations depending on the school, state, and program, but most sources estimate an annual cost of between $30,000-$34,000.

Financial aid

The cost of a college education has increased tremendously over the last few decades, and students often need assistance to afford tuition, room and board, textbooks, meals, and other hefty expenses. Fortunately, you can easily apply for financial aid by completing a FAFSA form.

The Free Application for Financial Student Aid (FAFSA) will allow you the opportunity to apply for government-funded scholarships to complete your degree at an accredited university or college. It’s a good idea to start exploring these options early on and secure financial aid before commencing your studies on campus. Also available on the website for federal student aid is information about applying for scholarships, grants, and loans.

Prospects for continuing education

Once you have your master’s degree in educational psychology, many nationally accredited providers offer courses for continuing education. If you pursue additional classes for continuing education, always ensure that the APA endorses them.

Some beneficial course topics to consider that may advance your career include:

  • Young adults in therapy
  • Attention-deficit and hyperactivity disorder
  • Ethics
  • PTSD & trauma counseling
  • Suicide prevention
  • Addiction
  • Eating disorders
  • Mental health

Graduate certificates are an excellent stepping stone toward obtaining your degree. They also help you better understand the field of study you’re entering and can help you determine whether it’s the correct career path for you.

Licensing and certification

Graduates with degrees in educational psychology will need to fulfill the state requirements for licensure before they are able to begin working. To do this, you will need to complete at least one year of practical experience, generally in the form of an internship, although some states

stipulate 2 years. As part of the licensing process, psychologists also need to pass the Examination for Professional Practice in Psychology, or EPPP test.

Information about compulsory certification for educational psychologists is available from the American Psychological Association.

Career options

With a B.A. in educational psychology, you may qualify to work as:

  • School career counselor

As a school career counselor, you’ll help students discover their potential through self-assessment techniques and classes. The average salary for a career counselor is $45,641.

  • Childcare worker

With a bachelor’s in educational psychology, you can work as a partial care worker in the psychology field in after-school programs, daycare, or other child care settings. The average salary for a childcare worker is $45,700.

Combining your B.A. in educational psychology and a teaching certificate opens many doors to work as a special ed teacher. You’ll be able to teach at every level of school education. The average salary is $58,852.

With an M.A. in educational psychology, you may qualify to work as:

  • Student development specialist

Student development specialists study a student’s behavior during classroom activities as well as during playtime to evaluate their social development, health, and wellbeing. The average salary per year is $45,809.

  • Human resource development specialist

Human resource development specialists work in public, government and private businesses and organizations. The annual average salary is $60,350.

  • School psychologist

Your main concern as a school psychologist is to help children to learn and also to process social issues like LGBTQ status, bullying, disabilities, and low self-esteem. The average annual salary for a school psychologist is $75,090.

With a Ph.D. in educational psychology, you may qualify to work as:

  • Researcher for government or higher education

You will be conducting tests and research on patients to find solutions to educational questions. The earning potential is between $95,000 in the public sector and $130,000 in the private sector.

  • College professor

As a psychology professor you’ll get to teach the brilliant minds of tomorrow and receive an average yearly salary of $88,977.

  • Leading corporate employee programs

This position pays the highest salary in the private sector and can reach up to $141,000 per year, depending on your job description.

The American Psychological Association

This is the most prominent accrediting organization with its core focus on psychology education in the U.S. You’ll need approval and accreditation from the APA for all school, clinical, and counseling psychology programs.

The National Association of School Psychologists (NASP)

This association offers graduate programs with a strict devotion to school psychology aimed at preparing students for work in a school environment. NASP reviews and accredits graduate candidates.

Psychological Clinical Science Accreditation System (PCSAS)

This accreditation agency has received recognition from the Council for Higher Education Accreditation as an accredited non-profit body. They provide Ph.D. accreditation for clinical psychology.