Earning a master's in educational psychology online can prepare you for rewarding careers in service to teachers and students alike. This degree attracts recent college graduates, experienced teachers passionate about improving the education field, and those interested in counseling and psychology. Most full-time students can earn a master's degree in two years, while part-time learners might need three years or more, depending on work and family responsibilities.
Continue reading to learn more about the educational psychology field, potential careers, typical graduation requirements, and finding the best program for you.
What Is Educational Psychology?
Educational psychology is a subfield that focuses on learning and human development. In the early 20th century, psychologists such as Alfred Binet and Jean Piaget performed groundbreaking research and developed theories that made a significant impact on modern teaching. In the mid-1950s, professor Benjamin Bloom classified learning objectives by their rigor and emphasized skill development over rote memorization. Primary and secondary school teachers still use Bloom's taxonomy to create meaningful assessments.
While pursuing a master's in educational psychology online, you will delve into the history of and breakthroughs in the understanding of how children's biological development and environments affect learning. You will also study modern educational psychology topics, such as the role the internet plays in cognitive development. Finally, you'll gain advanced research, writing, and analytical skills that are essential for pursuing a doctoral degree.
Visit our program page to learn more about the top online master's degrees in educational psychology.
What You Can Do With a Master's in Educational Psychology
A master's degree in educational psychology is the minimum education requirement for certification or licensure in this specialization. By earning a master's, you can pursue licensure to practice as an educational psychologist. You can also qualify for nonclinical, entry-level jobs in research or academia. Students who aspire to become clinical or counseling psychologists go on to pursue a doctoral degree. Below are a few of the common career paths for graduates with a master's degree in educational psychology.
- School Psychologist
Similar to educational psychologists, school psychologists work with children and adolescents with behavioral or academic issues in a school environment. These professionals must earn a master's degree in school psychology and obtain state licensure. They may also pursue additional voluntary credentials as a nationally certified school psychologist.
Median Annual Salary: $79,010
Projected Growth Rate (2018-28): 14%
- Postsecondary Teacher
Postsecondary teachers in the subject of educational psychology provide a solid foundation in crucial psychology concepts, theories, and techniques. Some professors also become published scholars in their area of expertise. Postsecondary teaching positions usually require a doctoral degree and work experience, though some schools hire candidates with master's degrees.
Median Annual Salary: $78,470
Projected Growth Rate (2018-28): 11%
- School or Career Counselor
School and career counselors advise those enrolled in school or embarking on a professional career on how to best use social and academic skills to their advantage. To earn mandatory state licensure, school counselors must hold at least a master's degree in school counseling or a related field and have work experience. While career counselors typically need a master's degree, only some states require licensure for this specialization.
Median Annual Salary: $56,310
Projected Growth Rate (2018-28): 8%
- Social Worker
Social workers assist clients in navigating the everyday effects of emotional, financial, and health-related issues. Clinical social workers can also diagnose and treat behavioral and mental health conditions. State licensure requirements for nonclinical social workers vary, but clinical social workers must obtain licensure in their state of practice.
Median Annual Salary: $49,470
Projected Growth Rate (2018-28): 11%
Our career page contains information on selecting the best master's in educational psychology online today and concentrations for your career path.
What to Expect in a Master's in Educational Psychology Program
Learning outcomes for those who earn a master's in educational psychology online include the ability to create student-centered instructional programs, advise policymakers, and ensure that all learners receive a quality education regardless of learning style. These programs convey many transferable skills for a variety of human service occupations. In addition to gaining entry to the counseling field, graduates can become education administrators, operations research analysts, or governmental advisors, among other occupations.
Although the number of required credits varies among programs, prospective students planning to become a licensed psychologist should expect to complete 60 or more credits. Many programs offer concentrations or allow degree-seekers to create a custom concentration through electives. Additionally, program often require either a research project or a traditional master's thesis. Either experience can take up to one year to complete and typically involves outside research or an internship.
The list below covers five courses common to many online educational psychology master's programs.
- Perspectives on Diversity: Diversity presents both opportunities and challenges for educators. In this class, degree-seekers examine how students' cultural differences affect the classroom and learn best practices for teaching in multicultural settings.
- Research Methods for Education: This course emphasizes essential research skills and ethics that learners need to succeed as educational psychology professionals.
- Lifespan Development: Lifespan development encompasses how people develop physically and mentally throughout life. Much of the curriculum involves case studies in which students analyze different topics within biology and sociology.
- Neuropsychology: Neuropsychologists study how brain disorders or injuries can affect behavior and cognition. This course introduces students to brain anatomy, medical conditions, and ethical issues in brain research.
- Cognitive Psychology: In this course, students analyze how psychologists have studied the human mind over the past century and learn popular theories and research best practices.
Laura Swanlund, Ph.D.
Laura Swanlund, Ph.D., is a licensed clinical and school psychologist currently serving as the assistant director of research and systems and the coordinator of psychological services for Palatine School District 15, located in suburban Chicago. She received her doctorate in school psychology from Loyola University Chicago and has master's degrees in educational psychology and educational leadership.
- Why did you decide to pursue a career in educational psychology? Was it something that always interested you?
I decided to pursue a career in educational psychology because I was very interested in the factors that contribute to learning. I majored in psychology as an undergraduate at the University of Illinois-Chicago. As an undergrad, I volunteered as a tutor for both college students and children in the area. This experience as a tutor, especially working with a variety of individuals and learning styles, was very impactful. This is why I chose to focus my graduate studies in educational and school psychology.
- What did your career trajectory look like after you graduated? How did you end up in your current position?
After I graduated, I entered a doctorate in school psychology program at Loyola University Chicago. The program included a master's in educational psychology for the first two years, followed by the Ph.D. in school psychology. School psychology teaches applied work in schools and requires both practicum and internship experiences.
After graduating, I worked as a school psychologist in a K-8 school district for seven years. I then chose to pursue a master's in educational leadership, which lead to my current district-level leadership position. My role utilizes both educational and school psychology skills in that I coordinate the school psychologist department, oversee research for the district, lead systems-change projects, and lead the positive behavior supports (PBS) systems for the district. I have also continued to teach graduate-level courses within the educational research and school psychology departments at Loyola.
- What do you love about working in educational psychology and more specifically as a school psychologist?
I love working within a school district where I can positively impact the learning environment for students, teachers, staff, and families. My passion is in reducing achievement gaps so that all students learn and grow. School psychology focuses on supporting students who have unique needs, and I find the applied nature of the work to be very rewarding. It is great to take the research and science behind educational psychology and apply it daily to the school and classroom, especially for students who benefit from different and/or unique strategies to support their learning. At times the work can be challenging, but school psychology is a wonderful field where you see results every day and you have an impact on the lives of students and families.
- What does continuing education look like in the field of educational psychology? What degrees and certificates were required for your current position?
Continuing education requirements depend on how you choose to utilize educational psychology. I chose an applied focus and became a licensed school and clinical psychologist, as well as an educational administrator. Therefore, I am required to have the license and certificate for a school and clinical practice, and I also have a national school psychology certification. Each of these has continuing education requirements to maintain the license or certification. Most are on a two- to three-year timeframe for renewal.
- What advice would you give to individuals considering pursuing a degree and a career in educational psychology?
Educational psychology is a great field and can provide a variety of career options. Pursuing a master's is a good starting point, especially for individuals interested in both education and psychology. From there, students can choose a more applied focus in psychology or systems-level work through research and consultation. As an example, I am practicing both applied and systems-level work.
- What are some of the skills someone considering pursuing a career in educational psychology must have to be successful?
To pursue a career in educational psychology, you need a master's degree. Typically, students focus on psychology or education during undergraduate studies. In my case, I chose to pursue doctoral training in school psychology, so I ultimately expanded on the master's I received in educational psychology.
- Any final thoughts for us?
We currently have a shortage of individuals who work in schools as educational/school psychologists. There is a lot of need, and we provide a great deal of mental health and learning-based support for students. Therefore, for anyone who is interested in working with children or adolescents, school psychology is a great option. Many school psychology programs will include a master's in educational psychology or are structured so the first year of study involves a strong focus on educational psychology.
How to Choose a Master's in Educational Psychology Program
When researching earning a master's in educational psychology online, ensure that each school on your shortlist is accredited by one of the six regional accreditation bodies (based on location).
Additionally, consider programmatic accreditation. The American Psychological Association and the National Association of School Psychologists accredit the best educational psychology doctoral programs but do not evaluate master's degrees. However, when a program boasts accreditation at the doctoral level, you can expect similar academic excellence in any associated master's program.
Here are some other factors to consider.
Preparation for Licensure
Ensure that any online master's in educational psychology programs of interest meet your state's educational and experience requirements for licensed psychologists.
Online master's programs, whether fully asynchronous, synchronous, or hybrid, should enable you to complete a practicum or internship. These hands-on experiences are a requirement for gaining state licensure and make you more competitive in the job market.
Student Support Services
When researching prospective schools, verify that distance learners can access the same student support services that on-campus students enjoy (e.g., IT help, counseling, tutoring).
Master's in Educational Psychology Program Admissions
Each school has its own admission criteria, and many programs extend conditional admission to some applicants who do not meet every requirement. However, competitive applicants share many similar traits.
Read below to learn more about three prerequisites that online educational psychology master's programs may expect you to meet.
- Bachelor's Degree in Education or Psychology: Few master of education in counseling psychology programs require you to hold a bachelor's in psychology or education. However, admissions counselors may prefer applicants with a degree in either of these fields.
- Professional Experience: Some programs may offer admission only to those who possess an active teaching license or work in a school or other education setting.
- GRE or GMAT Scores: Although some online programs no longer require standardized test scores, submitting GRE or GMAT results can improve your chances of admission for the most competitive programs.
- The vast majority of schools require you to complete an web-based application. Tools like GradCAS can help streamline the process by allowing you to fill out one online application for multiple colleges.
- Graduate programs require you to provide official transcripts for all previous college coursework. You can arrange for transcripts to be sent from one school to another by submitting a transcript request and paying any associated fees.
- Letters of Recommendation
- Though this requirement varies by school, you should be prepared to supply 1-3 letters of recommendation with your master's program application. Ideal sources include former teachers, counselors, or mentors. Be sure to give your recommenders at least two months of advance notice.
- Test Scores
- Some master's in educational psychology programs require you to submit GRE scores. In addition, some schools may also require GRE psychology test scores.
- Application Fee
- Application fees for graduate psychology programs range from $65 to $125. Schools may waive the fee for students who demonstrate financial hardship.
Resources for Master's in Educational Psychology Students
Especially helpful to students who will ultimately pursue licensure or certification in school psychology, ETS.org offers comprehensive test prep for the Praxis II school psychology exam. The site also provides free test prep materials for Praxis test takers and special alerts for students in states with complex credentialing requirements.
This site explores the art of teaching educational psychology and reinforces many of its fundamental concepts and principles through content published by scholars in the field.
Inside Teaching provides a virtual community space for educators and researchers in the field of education. The site offers a multimedia collection of lesson plans, curriculum ideas, practitioner reflections, and student work, plus a reading room of written works. Visitors can also contribute their ideas to the perspectives section and join the virtual workspace on the site.
Ideal for students developing a thesis and scholars aspiring to publish their research, Questia offers one of the largest collections of publications and articles on educational psychology online. Visitors may search by author or general topics in the field or delve into a selection of subcategories, including learning disabilities and learning style and theory.
This special section of the National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine comprises public policy initiatives and scholarly publications in topics such as education, teaching and assessment, and behavior and cognition.