What is the Difference Between School Psychology and Educational Psychology?

Of the many various areas of psychology, school psychology and educational psychology emerged to add value to the schooling and learning experience of children. The school, the learning environment and the learning process are of high importance when it comes to a child’s education.

It is important for all variables to work to create a conducive and productive environment for the child. This need gave birth to school psychology and educational psychology.

At first glance there may seem to be little difference between the two. While the two fields of psychology work holistically to address an area of academic concern, the two are quite dissimilar in many ways.

School Psychology Vs. Educational Psychology

School psychology focuses on supporting students’ educational, social, and emotional needs within school settings, while educational psychology studies learning processes and educational practices to improve teaching and learning. School psychologists directly assist students, whereas educational psychologists primarily conduct research and inform educational policy and practices.

School psychology uses the learning environment such as classrooms, parents, and teachers to recognize and address the learning needs of students. Proponents of this field of psychology combine its principles with areas such as developmental psychology, behavior psychology, and clinical psychology in order to develop a successful schooling experience for children and adolescents.

Education psychology revolves around studying the human learning process itself. It studies how the brain functions and how the cognitive abilities of a student impact the learning process and outcome. The use of quantitative testing and measurement methods is quite common here.

Related Reading: What Can You Do With an Educational Psychology Degree

Work Environment

The work environment of a school psychologist is not much different than that of an educational psychologist, however their approach is slightly different and involves the use of a greater number of psychological tools and outcomes. In fact, the list of services offered by a school psychologist are quite vast and detailed when compared to those of an educational psychologist.

Setting guidelines for school curriculums, crisis management, consultation, policy intervention, academic program analysis, development of teaching methods, student orientation, special needs policies, and so on are just some of the areas a school psychologist can add value to. So you can imagine the environment you would be submerged in over your years of practice.

Since a major component of educational psychology is facilitating the learning processing in students of various age groups, as a proponent of this field, you may find yourself working closely with students. The purpose of working with students is to develop programs, learning aids, teaching aids and assessment programs with the help of their input.

Much of what you do will be applied in classroom setups, curriculum design, and other areas of schooling – so you may frequently visit schools and work in close coordination with teachers and parents.

The Road to Get There

If you are thinking about becoming a school psychologist, you better be ready to put in some serious study time. To gain entry into this field of school psychology you need to have at least a master’s degree or an education specific degree. If you wish to enter the field of researching or academia, then you must invest in a doctorate.

Needless to say, you must have some interest and an innate desire to positively influence the early learning of children. This is not a line of work someone chooses without wanting to make a difference in the lives of children. At times school psychologists have a background in teaching as well.

Many psychologists discover that their strengths and interests are found in the field of education – more precisely, human learning. These go on to enter the field of education psychology and become educational psychologists. Such psychologists also possess a background in using quantitative tools and methods to draw statistical inferences.

There are many different perspectives to educational psychology such as developmental, behavioral, social, cognitive, constructivist and so on. Therefore psychologists that have a background in any one of the above can eventually develop strengths in the field of educational psychology.

Which One Should You Select?

This is indeed a tricky one. Both specializations revolve around improving the teaching and learning outcome for school students. However the approach and tools used by each discipline are different.

As a school psychologist you will find yourself spending time with teachers, parents, students, other psychologists and many other stakeholders of the education sector. Basically there will be a high degree of coordination, correspondence and collaboration with others. If you enjoy this fast paced environment with plenty of networking and project management, then perhaps you should go down this path.

You should choose to become an educational psychologist if you enjoy sticking to the principles and quantitative methods of psychology that can be used to improve the human learning process itself. Much of your time maybe spent developing quantitative testing and other designs to work with the psychological learning processes.

If you enjoy working with students, children and adolescents with the intent of understanding their learning needs and improving them, then an educational psychologist might be the ideal career for you.

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