Pursuing a career as an educational psychologist, school psychologist, or school counselor requires a master's degree in educational psychology. This unique specialty of psychology enables students to explore how people learn, incorporating fundamental elements of cognitive development, teaching and learning styles, and aptitude assessment and evaluation. Graduates of educational psychology master's programs may specialize in areas including applied behavior analysis (ABA), special education, or research and evaluation.
Practicing educational or school psychologists must hold a master's degree to qualify for licensure or certification through their state board. Some states also require additional work experience in the field of education or school psychology. The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) projects psychologist positions to increase 11% by 2026 and reports a median pay of $77,030.
Should I Get a Master's in Educational Psychology?
Many schools offer online master's in educational psychology programs, often as a concentration of general psychology, or as a master of education in counseling psychology. Some online degrees require an in-person component, such as a final project presentation or on-campus coursework. Still, this research-focused master's degree can be found in an online format. Students should note the differences between majors in educational psychology and school psychology, though, since many mistakenly assume they are interchangeable. Certification as a school psychologist typically requires either a postmaster's education specialist degree or a master's degree in school psychology, both of which include a field experience component.
As one of many specializations in the field of psychology, educational psychology programs cater to a wide range of aspiring professionals in the field. Each student can choose the format that works best to serve their needs. Students already working full time in education or education research can pursue advanced positions or make a career change by completing an accelerated degree online, which can also potentially save tuition, transportation, housing, and childcare costs. Conversely, recent bachelor's graduates might prefer an on-campus program to maximize networking and job placement opportunities. Regardless of the delivery format, master's degrees in educational psychology qualify graduates for initial certification or licensure in this specialization.
What Can I Do With a Master's in Educational Psychology?
As the minimum education requirement for certification or licensure in this specialization, educational psychologists can select between many careers. Master's graduates might pursue credentials to practice as educational psychologists, and may pursue nonclinical, entry-level jobs in research or academia. Aspiring clinical or counseling psychologists in this specialization can go on to pursue a doctoral degree to qualify for more advanced positions in the field. Below are just some of the common career paths for graduates with a master's degree in educational psychology.
- Educational Psychologist
Educational psychologists study the environmental and biological factors affecting learning and motivation for children or adult learners of any age. These professionals typically need a master's degree and work experience for entry-level jobs, though advanced or clinical positions require a Ph.D.
Median Annual Salary: $97,740
Projected Growth Rate: 11%
- School Psychologist
Similar to educational psychologists, school psychologists work with children and adolescents with behavioral or academic issues in a school environment. Students must earn school psychology degree at the master's level and obtain state licensure. They may also pursue additional voluntary certification as a nationally certified school psychologist.
Median Annual Salary: $75,090
Projected Growth Rate: 14%
- Postsecondary Teacher
Postsecondary teachers in the subject of educational psychology provide a solid foundation in crucial psychology concepts, theories, and techniques, and teach college students how to become professionals in the field. 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: $76,000
Projected Growth Rate: 15%
- School/Career Counselor
School and career counselors advise clients on how to best use social and academic skills to their advantage, whether enrolled in school or embarking on a professional career. School counselors must hold at least a master's degree in school counseling or a related field, as well as work experience, to earn mandatory state licensure. While career counselors should also have a master's degree, only some states require licensure in this specialization.
Median Annual Salary: $55,410
Projected Growth Rate: 13%
- Social Worker
Social workers assist clients with the emotional, financial, and healthcare-related issues affecting their everyday lives. Clinical social workers can also diagnose and treat behavioral and mental health conditions. All social workers should hold at least a master's degree in social work to enter the field. State licensure requirements for nonclinical social workers vary, while clinical social workers must always obtain licensure in their state of practice.
Median Annual Salary: $47,980
Projected Growth Rate: 16%
How to Choose a Master's Program in Educational Psychology
As the primary credentialing requirement for field practitioners, students should weigh several key factors of prospective master's degrees in educational psychology. Students should consider these programs' length, location, and cost, and decide whether to pursue an online or on-campus program. Student should also plan accordingly for any unique residency requirements included in their degree.
Accreditation should be at the forefront of the decision-making process. Make sure your prospective schools hold institutional accreditation through a national or regional agency. Students should not expect a master's-level program in psychology to receive programmatic accreditation, but students pursuing a master's degree in educational psychology may encounter programs accredited by the National Council for Accreditation of Teacher Education (NCATE).
Students may also need flexible study schedules, including the option to study part time. Part-time students can usually hold a full-time job while completing their degree. Both part- and full-time options can provide students with the opportunity to save money through accelerated or individual courses, and online programs can help students avoid expenses related to housing and transportation.
A school's location also factors heavily into a students' decision about where to complete their master's degree in educational psychology. Online learners may not have to attend courses on campus or complete local internships, but both on-campus and online students should research their schools' surrounding areas to assess cost of living, employment options, and quality of life.
What's the Difference Between a Master's in Educational Psychology and a Master's of Education in Counseling Psychology?
Whether students pursue a master of arts (MA) in educational psychology or a master of education (M.Ed.) degree depends primarily on their career aspirations. An MA in educational psychology serves students interested in research-based careers, or who wish to pursue doctoral studies following their master's degree. An M.Ed. helps aspiring practitioners begin their professional careers in fields such as teaching or special education.
Most MA in educational psychology curricula emphasize research and the theoretical study of psychological principles and conclude with a thesis or independent research project. An M.Ed. in psychology typically requires a practicum and internship, sometimes culminating in a seminar and/or graduate portfolio. Most students can complete their master's or M.Ed. degree in two years. Graduates of an MA degree qualify for careers involving the acute study of psychology in education, in a non-educator role, including at a nonprofit or government agency. The M.Ed. prepares students for careers as educators or practitioners within academia.
Programmatic Accreditation for Master's Programs in Educational Psychology
When considering a master's degree in educational psychology, students must begin by selecting from only accredited schools. A school may receive national or regional accreditation, according to the standards set by the U.S. Department of Education. Regional accreditation is more common, and in many cases, considered more prestigious by the agencies governing programmatic accreditation and/or professional licensure in an area of expertise. While the American Psychological Association (APA) does not accredit bachelor's or master's degrees in psychology or psychology specializations, in some cases an M.Ed. degree in educational psychology may receive accreditation through NCATE.
Master's in Educational Psychology Program Admissions
Applying to a master's in educational psychology involves several major prerequisites, though the program generally welcomes applicants from all undergraduate majors. Most schools today offer, and sometimes require, online applications. The following section represents some of the most common prerequisites and admissions materials for master's in educational psychology programs, but requirements vary between schools, as do the programs themselves.
For example, most master's degrees in educational psychology do not require a practicum, though some programs strongly recommend that students obtain field experience while completing their degree. While different for each student, experts suggest leaving enough time between graduate school admissions cycles to prepare an above-average application. Students should also consider applying to five to six schools.
- Bachelor's Degree: Most master's degrees in educational psychology require a bachelor's degree for admission, though most programs do not require that students complete their undergraduate degrees in educational psychology or a related field. Programs may also award partial credit for previous graduate work unrelated to psychology.
- Professional Experience: Most master's programs in educational psychology do not require professional experience, as the graduate degree is the minimum requirement to earn the credentials to practice professionally in the field; however, some programs prefer candidates with work experience.
- Minimum GPA: While GPA requirements vary from one school to another, the majority of master's degrees in educational psychology require a minimum final undergraduate GPA of 3.0, or at least a 3.0 for coursework completed during the last couple semesters of their bachelor's degree.
- Application: Applications vary in length, and each student needs his or her own method of thoroughly completing a graduate application. Tools like GradCAS can help streamline the process for many students, allowing them to fill out one application for multiple. Through GradCAS, students can save time on the tedious, repetitive, data-entry parts of their application.
- Transcripts: A master's in educational psychology program requires submission of bachelor's degree transcripts, delivered directly from the student's previous school. Students can arrange for transcripts to be sent from one school to another by submitting a free transcript request; students are responsible for mailing costs.
- Letters of Recommendation: Though this requirement varies by school, students should arrange for between one and three letters of recommendation to submit with their master's degree application. Ideal sources include former teachers, counselors, or mentors. Students should make their requests for recommendation letters at least two months in advance.
- Test Scores: Some programs in this major require GRE scores for admission. While less common, some schools may also require students to submit their GRE psychology test scores as a condition of admission.
- Application Fee: Application fees for graduate psychology programs range from $65 to $125, though some applicants may meet low-income requirements to waive the application fee.
What Else Can I Expect From a Master's Program in Educational Psychology?
Educational psychology master's programs meet certification and licensure requirements for aspiring researchers and educators in this specialization of psychology. While some master's degrees in educational psychology are available as a concentration of psychology or education, other graduate degrees in this specialization offer their own concentrations, enabling further study in subcategories like applied behavior analysis, research and evaluation, and learning and assessment. See below for some of the most popular specializations in this field.
|Educational Psychology||The educational psychology concentration explores graduate-level coursework in learning theory, cognitive development, and human motivation. Students master skills in ethics, research, and tests and measurements specific to educational psychology.||Curriculum developer, training specialist, education program manager|
|Learning and Assessment||Students specializing in learning and assessment learn to apply a critical eye to research into methods of teaching and evaluation. Coursework often emphasizes a broad spectrum of tools for application in a variety of educational settings.||Educator, special educator, school psychologist|
|Applied Behavior Analysis||A common concentration among educational psychology programs, ABA curriculum explores methods of assessing and applying behavior-modification treatments to clients, especially to address developmental disabilities, mental illness, and learning difficulties.||Board certified behavior analyst, ABA therapist, psychological assistant|
|Research and Evaluation||The research and evaluation concentration prepares students for administrative careers in an educational or nonprofit setting. Students explore methods of designing and developing assessment tools, collecting data to determine the efficacy of such tools, and improving educational initiatives within an organization.||School administrator, school district administrator, education grant developer|
|Special Education||Educational psychology programs focused on special education teach students to develop curricula and apply nontraditional learning methods for at-risk children and adults, as well as students with learning, physical, and/or mental disabilities. Coursework may include postsecondary transition, literacy support, and intervention techniques.||Special educator, art therapist, music therapist|
Courses in a Master's in Educational Psychology Program
Graduate coursework in educational psychology synthesizes teaching, counseling, and human development concepts, exploring diverse theories in the study of learning. Some programs focus on educational psychology specific to children and adolescents, while many other high-level master's degrees provide research, teaching, and learning skills for all populations. Typically, coursework also prepares students for careers in educational psychology in academic, alternative, and clinical settings. The following courses represent a small sampling of common courses.
- Psychological Learning Theories
This course reframes fundamental concepts of psychology, including cognitive theory, motivation, and information processing in the context of education. Students explore past and current research into the psychology of learning, reinforcing a solid foundation in the core principles of both education and psychology.
- Child and Adolescent Psychopathology
Coursework in child and adolescent psychopathology explores a broad selection of mental disorders within these populations, including behavioral, emotional, and psychological abnormalities. Topics include etiological factors, disorders specific to childhood and adolescence, and developmental outcomes of such disorders in adulthood.
- Behavior Assessment and Intervention
This course enhances a graduate student's foundational knowledge of behavior analysis, emphasizing behavior analytic theory and the crucial stages of social development. Many courses in this subject incorporate service-based curriculum, culminating in an applied project.
- School Based Counseling Theories
Students in this course explore various methods of treating children and adolescents for learning disabilities, or for mental health issues affecting their academic performance. Topics cover psychotherapeutic play-based, cognitive-behavioral, group, and individual treatments, training students to provide therapeutic services in a school setting.
- Psychosocial Contexts of Learning
Often recommended to students in interdisciplinary majors combining psychology, sociology, and education, a course in the psychosocial contexts of learning examines the process of receiving an education in the U.S. in terms of its social and cultural implications. This course encourages students to turn a critical eye to the functions and responsibilities of the public school system in America.
How Long Does It Take to Get a Master's in Educational Psychology?
Most students can complete a master's in educational psychology in two years, though some schools may offer accelerated online formats. Each student should consider their own course of study in terms of how many credits their program requires, how much time they can commit to their coursework, and other family or work obligations. Many online educational psychology master's programs prioritize flexibility for working students, enabling them to take only the credits they need. This saves students tuition expenses and, in some cases, allows them to graduate in less time than a traditional degree.
How Much Is a Master's in Educational Psychology?
The cost of a master's degree in educational psychology varies radically from one school to another. Students must consider a variety of factors when estimating the cost of their degree, including the program's completion time, the type of school hosting the program, and whether they enroll in on-campus or online courses, which may affect the student's residence-based eligibility for financial aid. On-campus programs tend to charge higher tuition rates to out-of-state learners than to state residents, but some online programs offer the same rate to all students, regardless of where they live. Online programs may also promote discounts in the form of laptop vouchers or distance learning scholarships.
A school's public or private status, and its variable tuition rates for in- and out-of-state students, also affect its overall cost of learning. The 2016, APA-administered Graduate Study in Psychology Summary Report estimated the cost of a master's degree at a public institution at $8,640 for in-state students, and just under $20,000 for out-of-state learners. The average cost of earning a master's in educational psychology at a private college or university is about $30,000 per year.
Certifications and Licenses a Master's in Educational Psychology Prepares For
- Licensed School Psychologist
School psychology is unique among other APA-recognized psychology specializations for its credentialing requirements. Each state holds its own set of standards for school psychologists, but all require some form of licensure for workers in this specialty through either the state board of education or certification from the National Association of School Psychologists (NASP). Both pathways require similar steps toward obtaining school psychology credentials, including a master's or education specialist degree, supervised work experience, and passing the Praxis II school psychology exam.
- National Certified School Psychologist
Some states allow students to obtain voluntary NASP certification through the National School Psychology Certification System in addition to a state-issued license, while others require it in place of a state license. This credential requires completion of a graduate degree in school psychology; a supervised practicum experience; and a 1,200-hour internship, at least half of which must occur in a school setting. Applicants must also pass the Praxis school psychologist exam.
- Board Certified Behavior Analyst
Independent practitioners providing behavior-analytic services may apply for voluntary BCBA certification. Applicants may choose from three certification options, two of which require at least a master's degree in a qualifying area of education, behavior analysis, or psychology, as well as a supervised practicum. Candidates must also receive a passing score on the BCBA exam to obtain certification from the Behavior Analyst Certification Board.
Resources for Graduate Educational Psychology Students
Especially helpful to students considering pursuing licensure or certification in school psychology, ETS.org offers comprehensive test prep for the Praxis II school psychology exam. The site also provides special alerts for students in states with complex credentialing requirements, and free test prep materials for Praxis test takers.
Through its content, which is published by field scholars in this area of expertise, the site explores the art of teaching the subject of educational psychology, and also reinforces many of educational psychology's fundamental concepts and principles. The site offers a unique perspective on the crucial role of educational psychology teachers in the field.
Inside Teaching provides a virtual community space for educators and researchers in the field of education. Touted as a "living archive," the site offers a collection of lesson plans, curriculum ideas, practitioner reflections, and student work through multimedia, 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 acute subcategories, including learning disabilities and learning style and theory.
A special section of the National Academies Press, the Division of Behavioral and Social Sciences and Education encompasses advocacy initiatives and scholarly publications in topics such as education, teaching and assessment, and behavior and cognition.
Professional Organizations in Educational Psychology
For students completing a master's in educational psychology, professional organizations can provide the opportunity to network with experienced field specialists, attend conferences and conventions, explore continuing education courses, and even find a job. As an area of psychology focused on scholarly research and lifelong learning, professional organizations can also facilitate collaboration and advocacy among peers in the profession. Befitting master's-level programs in this specialty, many professional organizations also tailor their benefits to accommodate members in the process of switching careers or obtaining initial licensure or certification in the field.