How to Become an Educational Psychologist

Why Do We Need Educational Psychologists?

Educational psychologists are trained in the field of education psychology, which is the study of how our brains learn and retain knowledge. We need educational psychologists because they are equipped to support and enhance education opportunities for people, both young and old.

Education gives humans the opportunity to expand their knowledge and develop the ability to read, write, and speak, as well as many other key skills we need in life. Our society places a tremendous value on education for all, which makes the role of an educational psychologist all the more important.

Many educational psychologists work in educational settings. They look at and study the learning that takes place in educational institutions, such as schools. They are often involved in evaluating existing learning programs using a variety of tools, as well as developing new and improved learning programs. They might also provide training to teachers on how to implement teaching programs. Evaluation and development of these teaching programs helps ensure that our school and education systems are effective so that students can get the most out of them.

The work of an educational psychologist can be focused on people of all ages. Most of the time, the focus is on school-aged children. Students may be affected by learning disabilities or behavioral problems that impact on their ability to receive a good education. Educational psychologists are essential for helping students overcome these learning difficulties and facilitating suitable teaching methods.

Additionally, educational psychologists may take part in important research that can help uncover what we don’t know about learning, and can pave the way for improved education methods.

What Does an Educational Psychologist Do?

Educational psychology revolves around the application of psychological techniques to support learners and facilitate their social and emotional development. Typically, educational psychologists work with children, adolescents, and teenagers who have a learning disability, social difficulties, or emotional problems that negatively impact their ability to learn. When working with students, educational psychologists will assess their functioning and level of performance through classroom observations, interviews with the child and direct psychological testing. Based on their findings, educational psychologists will often devise a program that seeks to improve the child’s functioning and manage any behavioral or emotional problems through therapeutic interventions.

Educational psychologists also work directly with families in order to help them develop strategies for supporting their child’s learning. Oftentimes, this includes consulting with parents or guardians about creating a home environment that has a positive influence on the child’s growth and development. Educational psychologists may connect families with local resources that can help their child, and also often serve as a liaison between the school and the family.

Related: What is the Difference Between School Psychology and Educational Psychology?

An educational psychologist conducts research about how children learn best, identifying educational programs, teaching methods, and testing methods that are efficacious, as well as those that are not appropriate for challenged learners. Educational psychologists use this data to devise learning materials and teaching strategies that increase the likelihood that a child can achieve his or her potential. In this regard, educational psychologists work with whole schools as well as individual educators to employ these strategies in the classroom, serving as a consultant to improve the educational process. They might be involved directly in the classroom-based learning process, or they might conduct in-service trainings to acquaint educators with the latest interventions for troubled learners.

Because educational psychology serves as a bridge between the world of education and the world of psychology, workers in this field typically have extensive knowledge of educational policy, psychological theory, and child development. Keeping up-to-date with the latest educational best practices and psychological interventions is a key component of the duties of an educational psychologist as well. Much of their time not spent working directly with children or consulting with educators or families is spent in research.

The work of an educational psychologist is not all done with children in a school setting, however. Some educational psychologists make inquiries about learning throughout the lifespan, investigating topics like memory and memory loss, teaching, learning, and motivation. How these processes interact with one another, and their impact at various stages of life, are a central area of examination.

Where Does an Educational Psychologist Work?

Educational psychologists generally work in the the following environments:

  • Elementary and secondary schools
  • Government and private research centers
  • University and college faculty
  • Consulting services for educational software companies
  • Companies developing educational tools
  • Health care organizations
  • Psychometric testing
  • Private practice

What are the Requirements to Become an Educational Psychologist?


To become an educational psychologist, it is necessary to complete coursework up to Ph.D. level. The first step to this is to obtain a B.A. – most useful majors are psychology and education.

To begin the journey towards any career in professional psychology is to complete a bachelor’s degree. Any degree that allows for entry into a choice grad school may work, but a B.A. in psychology with some coursework in education is ideal.

It is not easy to pick a grad school for those who desire to be educational psychologists.  The field is typically research based, and a great Ph.D. program will be important to thrive post-graduation. During a doctoral program you might study following subjects and topics:

Talk to professors or professionals: Ask professors which schools are producing the best graduates. Professors can also offer advice based on personal experience about their alma-mater, especially if the school has an educational psychology doctoral program. Professionals who are already in the workplace can also be great assets – ask them which schools have the best reputation amongst the educational psychology community.

Talk to admissions counselors: After you have interviewed professors and professionals, you should have an idea of which graduate schools you might apply to. Don’t be afraid to call admissions personnel or to visit. They can give you information that you might not find on their website, perhaps a few ways to make your application stand out amongst so many others.


A research internship will be important to anyone pursuing an advanced degree in educational psychology. However, internships are not always easy to get. Every Ph.D. candidate must complete an internship, but there are more students than available internships. To win an internship, a student goes through a “match” process using They must interview at several agencies that have intern positions and rank them according to desire to work at the location. It is possible to not match during this process – the student would have to wait until the next year to proceed with his internship.

Licensure Hours

To become a fully licensed, an educational psychologist must eventually complete an average 3,000 supervised hours of practice. This figure changes depending on the state. Graduated doctoral students can collect these supervised hours via a combination of internships and entry level positions.

What Can You Do With a M.Ed. in Educational Psychology?

A M.Ed. (Master’s in Education) in EP (Educational Psychology) can prepare an individual to do educational testing, or counseling in a school setting, as a School Psychologist. A School Psychologist is a position, or job title, to be differentiated from a Psychologist, who is a holder of a state license to practice psychology. School psychologists operate exclusively within elementary, middle, and high schools.

Another option with an M.Ed. is educational consulting, such as developing tests, or intervention programs for at risk students. Teaching psychology or education courses at a community college, or with experience, at a four year college are other possibilities.

In some jurisdictions, if specific coursework has been a part of the degree, or if supplemental graduate courses and an appropriate internship are completed, a M.Ed. in EP may qualify the holder to sit for the state licensing exam to be a mental health counselor.

What are the Career Opportunities for New Graduates?

Many recently graduated education psychologists may find work in a school system, assessing teaching methods and acting, in some cases, like a school psychologist working with students with behavioral problems. Jobs in research are also offered to freshly graduated educational psychologists – working on studies that focus on learning and development at universities or agencies that specialize in educational psychology.

Educational psychologists can also serve as consultants to education-based business –such as companies that create learning materials or provide adult or online education – advising on how best to ensure learning through the process.

What Skills and Qualities are Needed for an Educational Psychologist?

Individuals interested in a career as an educational psychologist will need to have skills and qualities that support their function as both a psychologist and as an educator. The skills and qualities required for this career are quite extensive because of the diverse range of duties as well as the diverse range of people with whom educational psychologists must work. Although children and adolescents are typically the bulk of an educational psychologist’s clientele, they must also be able to work closely with parents and guardians, as well as a variety of stakeholders within the educational system.  In terms of skills, educational psychologists must be:

  • Highly effective communicators
  • Excellent listeners
  • Able to develop rapport with diverse age groups
  • Empathic and sensitive to the needs of others
  • Trained in psychological and educational assessments
  • Able to observe others’ behavior, collect and analyze data, and design treatments and interventions based on the data collected
  • Effective mediators
  • Able to relate to children, adolescents, and young adults
  • Committed to confidentially

There are a variety of personal qualities that educational psychologists must also embody:

  • A commitment to organization
  • Dependability, trustworthiness, and honesty
  • Approachability, openness, and friendliness
  • A commitment to professionalism and ethical practice
  • An ability to self-reflect
  • Desire to improve oneself and help others improve themselves

Although they must have a large number of skills and personal qualities, at the heart of it, educational psychologists must be able to build relationships, observe behavior, interpret data, and devise treatments that will facilitate the academic, social, and emotional growth of their clients.

Educational psychology is always changing and developing. A successful person never stops learning, and that is especially true in a field that concerns itself with learning. It is important for professionals in this field to maintain current knowledge – attending conferences for professionals in educational psychology is a great way to do this and to network with other educational psychologists.

What is the Salary for an Educational Psychologist?

According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, a school psychologist – similar to the educational psychologist – makes a median salary of $85,340, as of May 2018.

As Americans are becoming more and more competitive with the global education system, educational psychologist are becoming increasingly important. To improve the US learning system as a whole is a big challenge for this branch of psychology; the goal is to study how the brain works when it is learning and apply it to make learning easier for the majority of students.

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