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Educational Psychology vs. School Psychology: Roles, Responsibilities, & Requirements

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Published on: 08/14/2023
Last Updated: 08/29/2023
9 minute read

Students can find school challenging in emotional and physical development when they are involved in multiple timelines, learning projects, and assessment plans. As guiding lights, educational psychology and school psychology professionals can foster leadership in schools to help students on their chosen path.

But how do these two fields differ? And what roles do they embody in professional settings? 

Educational psychology and school psychology are both essential spheres in the educational system, helping to enhance and improve the learning experience for all. However, each profession has its distinct roles and requirements. This blog will explore the differences between educational psychology vs. school psychology, including responsibilities, educational requirements, and job opportunities.

What is Educational Psychology?

Educational psychologists study one major process: how individuals learn. By studying the emotional, social, and cognitive processes in learning, these experts can improve the learning process in any school setting.

As you can imagine, educational psychology is a complex field. After all, learning is a complex process. Typically, educational psychologists focus on one population of students, such as elementary school children. It is vital to discover key differences in teaching or working in a middle school vs. elementary school setting to better understand child developmental goals. In this career, many professionals will apply a blend of the following sciences to investigate their subjects:1

  • Cognitive psychology – how instinct, memory, emotions, and cognition impact learning
  • Experiential theory – how life experiences impact learning
  • Behavioral psychology – how conditioning impacts learning
  • Developmental theory – how life stages, aging, and development impact learning
  • Constructivist theory – how social and cultural influences impact learning

Overall, educational psychology is a collaborative, observational, and future-thinking profession. By forming a “big picture” of a population’s learning process, educational psychologists can help students and institutions of all kinds improve their learning. 

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What is School Psychology?

School psychologists are invested in helping individual students achieve their academic goals. Similarly to education psychologists, they study and analyze how students learn. However, rather than working with populations, school psychologists work one-on-one with students to foster academic success.

School psychologists generally work “on the ground” in an educational setting, interacting with students, parents, and educators daily. Depending on the location, school psychologists may handle any of the following issues with individual students:2

  • Learning disabilities and academic challenges 
  • Behavioral issues (aggression, conduct, social skills, etc.)
  • Bullying and peer relationships 
  • Crisis intervention
  • Special education needs
  • Attention and executive functioning conditions
  • Cultural and diversity issues 

Typically, school psychology is considered a more person-forward field. By treating the issues of individual students, school psychologists enable them to reach their full potential in school and in life. 

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Roles and Responsibilities

In the world of educational leadership, both educational psychologists and school psychologists stand out as pillars of support. In fact, these two professions may often collaborate to help students achieve academic harmony. However, each role has its unique place in a school setting. 

Educational psychologists tend to work on the “macro” level of a learning environment, however a Licensed Educational Psychologist can also see students in a private practice setting. On the other hand, school psychologists work on the “micro” level with direct face time with students. In any school district, you need both approaches to foster success among the student population.

Educational Psychologist Roles and Responsibilities

Consider educational psychologists the architects of learning experiences. Armed with a wealth of knowledge, they bring an analytical and “big picture” approach to the inner workings of the learning process. 

Educational psychology is a collaborative and research-heavy profession. While one-on-one interactions with students are limited, these experts must interact with school staff and professionals to address educational needs. Educational psychologists often handle these tasks to help a student population:3

  • Conduct research on learning theories and instructional methods
  • Assess and analyze learning difficulties and behavioral problems in students
  • Develop and implement strategies to enhance motivation and engagement in learning
  • Design educational programs that accommodate individual learning styles
  • Provide professional development and training for educators
  • Collaborate with school staff to create a positive and supportive learning atmosphere

School Psychologist Roles and Responsibilities

School psychologists have personal interactions with students, assisting from person to person. They support individual students to better their learning processes. By addressing personal issues, they can help students find an academic path that’s engaging and fruitful.

If you prefer working up close with people rather than studying subjects from afar, then school psychology is more your style. School psychologists work alongside students, teachers, parents, and administrators, ensuring every student receives the support they need to flourish. 

Typically, school psychologists cover these tasks:4

  • Conduct psychological assessments to identify learning and behavioral challenges
  • Assist with individualized education plans (IEPs) for challenged students
  • Monitor student progress and adjust learning plans
  • Offer counseling to students facing emotional or behavioral difficulties
  • Promote a safe and inclusive school culture
  • Connect families with community service providers when necessary
  • Create service plans at the district, building, classroom, and individual levels

Educational Requirements

Both educational and school psychology are rigorous academic subjects that require dedication, analytical thought, and hard work.

Let’s consider the educational path for both professions, from coursework to recommended degrees.

Educational Psychology Education

Academia is the foundation of educational psychology. To practice in this field, you’ll need to dive deep into your educational program.

A bachelor's degree in any applicable subject—psychology, education, social work—is essential. Afterward, it’s advisable to earn one of these graduate degrees to enter the world of educational psychology:5 

  • Master’s degree in educational psychology – A master’s degree (which typically requires two to three years) will provide the specific knowledge and experience you need to enter this field. Most of these programs will cover advanced theories, assessment techniques, and instructional strategies that shape the educational experience.
  • Doctoral Degree (PsyD or EdD) – If you want to enter a higher-level role or research career, then you’ll likely need a higher education with a doctoral degree in educational psychology. Lasting five to seven years, these degrees dive deep into research, theory, and clinical practice, asking students to contribute to the scholarly understanding of educational practices through a doctoral thesis.

School Psychology Education

To become a school psychologist, one must be compassionate, observant, and an adept listener. However, these skills must also be paired with academic knowledge to help students.

Like with educational psychology, you must earn a bachelor’s degree in psychology or a closely related field to lay the groundwork for this field. After a bachelor’s degree, it’s recommended to earn the following degrees:6

  • Master’s degree in school psychology – After completing a bachelor’s degree, this two or three-year program will expand on the foundations of psychology, as well as psychological assessment, child development, counseling techniques, cultural competence, and psychological research.
  • Specialist’s degree – If you want to practice as a credentialed school psychologist, you’ll need to earn a specialist degree—either an education specialist (EdS) degree or a master of education (MEd). Both of these degrees typically include 60 credits of coursework and a minimum 1,200-hour internship or capstone practice, which are the requirements in most states to become licensed.
  • Doctoral degree in school psychology (PhD or EdD) – A doctoral degree is a rigorous postgraduate degree involving more research and analysis. This five to seven-year program typically includes 90 credits of coursework and more internship hours than a specialist degree. 

In California, you must have a master’s and specialist’s degree to qualify for the school psychologist credential.

Jobs and Opportunities

It may seem like studying educational psychology or school psychology comes with a one-track future. However, both of these fields offer a myriad of potential opportunities, within professional organizations, for those eager to improve learning for students of all kinds. 

Educational Psychology Jobs and Opportunities

Educational psychology is all about improving the systems, theories, and practices of learning—and that covers a wide range of professions. 

Learning doesn’t only happen in schools, so educational psychologists don’t only work in schools. An educational psychologist could work in any of the following settings to improve learning processes:

  • Grade schools
  • Colleges and universities
  • Government research centers
  • Community organizations
  • Learning centers
  • Corporations and offices

Typically, job roles for educational psychologists are broken down by the type of educational environment, focus, or student population. While not a rule, they tend to be more research-heavy and removed from day-to-day student life. 

Some types of educational psychology careers include:7

  • Educational policy advisor
  • Educational researcher
  • Educational technology researcher
  • Special education teacher or coordinator
  • Curriculum developer
  • Academic instructor
  • Psychometrician

School Psychologist Jobs and Opportunities

As the name suggests, those who study a school psychology program, primarily become school psychologists. In fact, according to the National Association of School Psychologists, about 81% of school psychologists work in public schools.8

However, school psychology students aren’t limited to one job. With their background in mental health, learning, and social structures, their skill set lends itself to many potential roles.

Compared to educational psychologists, positions in school psychology are more person-forward and interactive. To help students reach their greatest academic heights, studying school psychology can open the door to any of these careers with additional schooling, credentialing, or licensing:9

  • School psychologist (primary, secondary, or collegiate)
  • Behavioral health specialist
  • Psychotherapists
  • Crisis intervention specialist
  • Special education coordinator or director
  • School culture advocates

Explore a Path in Special Education at Alliant International University

Students of all kinds deserve a quality education. Both educational and school psychology experts make this dream a reality, steering institutions, schools, and students toward academic success.

If you’re interested in guiding students towards a better future, then either of these career paths may be in your future—and that starts with earning a brilliant education yourself. 

At Alliant International University, our School of Education offers many paths toward educational and school psychology careers. 

From a master of education in school psychology to a PsyD in educational psychology, our school is ready to give you practical coursework, hands-on experience, and expert guidance to enter your future with compassion and confidence.

Make your education count—learn more about our School Psychology programs today. 


  1. Cherry, Kendra, MSEd. “What Is Educational Psychology?”. November 8, 2022. Verywell Health. Accessed July 27, 2023.
  2. National Association of School Psychologists. “Who Are School Psychologists”. N.d.,  National Association of School Psychologists.…. Accessed July 27, 2023.
  3. PsyDPrograms. “Educational Psychology vs. School Psychology Differences”. N.d., PsyDPrograms.…. Accessed July 27, 2023.
  4. American Psychological Association. “School Psychology”. N.d., American Psychological Association. Accessed July 27, 2023.
  5. Perry, Christin. “What Is Educational Psychology? Theories, Degrees And Careers”. November 21, 2022. Forbes. Accessed July 27, 2023.
  6. Grey, Cheryl. “How To Become A School Psychologist: Salary, Education Requirements And Job Growth”. August 1, 2022, Forbes. Accessed July 27, 2023.
  7. Cherry, Kendra, MSEd. “What Is Educational Psychology?”. November 8, 2022. Verywell Health. Accessed July 27, 2023.
  8. National Association of School Psychologists. “A Career in School Psychology: Frequently Asked Questions”. N.d., National Association of School Psychologists.…. Accessed July 27, 2023.
  9. National Association of School Psychologists. “Who Are School Psychologists”. N.d.,  National Association of School Psychologists.…. Accessed July 27, 2023.

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