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Today’s school systems are increasingly complex. While teachers do their best to provide students with a comprehensive education, not every child learns the same way. And the time it would take to develop individualized lesson plans for each student would be overwhelming. 

That’s where educational psychologists come in. 

Educational psychologists have the expertise to recognize a learning disability and enhance learning environments so students are set up to succeed and reach their full potential.

Considering a career in Educational Psychology? Click here to learn more about our PsyD in Educational Psychology at Alliant. 

Defining Educational Psychology

Educational psychology is the scientific study of human learning. Educational psychologists research a plethora of topics relating to the learning process, like cognition, memory, motivation, and intelligence. 1 To align with the standards set by the American Psychological Association, some educational psychologists have completed an APA-accredited CEU Psychology program. They then use their findings to improve educational environments.

Even though learning is a lifelong process, most educational psychologists focus on school-aged children. They study how children learn, absorb, and retain information at their school or educational environment. They look beyond the scope of the classroom or the educational settings and also consider a child's home life, social life, and stage of development.

 Educational psychologists are interested in the following subjects: 

  • Teaching and testing methods
  • Classroom environments
  • Gifted learners
  • Learning disabilities
  • Academic outcomes
  • Social impacts on motivation and learning
  • Behavioral problems that may impact learning

What is the Goal of Educational Psychology?

Put simply, educational psychologists’ goal is to enhance the effectiveness of a learning institution and their educational settings. Educational psychologists possess a deep understanding in psychological principles and child development. They employ research methods to determine the success rate of a school's educational programs. They may have completed an EdS in School Psychology or other related programs in their aim to improve learning outcomes for students of various backgrounds and learning abilities.2 

What’s The Difference Between a School Counselor and an Educational Psychologist?

Many career paths are available to those who earn an educational psychology degree, including becoming a school counselor or an educational psychologist. While the goals of these two professions overlap, their roles are quite different in practice:

  • School Counselor – School counselors primarily work with students directly through counseling sessions and organized school programs. While they support students academically and advocate for positive change in the learning environment, they’re also focused on students’ emotional and social well-being. They are well-versed in counseling psychology. Their scope of duties is broad and they work directly with students each day.
  • Educational Psychologist – Rather than supporting students with emotional guidance and advice, educational psychologists examine schools on a macro-level. Their goal is to observe, analyze, and improve these systems. They use their educational leadership skills and insights to modify the school's teaching, testing methods, and classroom management so students can learn and succeed.

Children that struggle academically will benefit from the work of both school counselors and educational psychologists, just in different ways. Thus, schools should strive to employ both types of professionals to optimize their success.

What Do Educational Psychologists Do? 

Schools hire educational psychologists to observe and analyze their learning environments. After conducting an assessment, educational psychologists will then guide the teachers and administration on how to enhance learning outcomes for students or address a learning disability when needed.

Here are some of the specific functions of an educational psychologist:

  • Research – If an educational psychologist has a doctorate, they’re qualified to conduct educational research. To grow the available body of information, they study learning and its related topics. For example, they might research dyslexia, ADHD, or gifted learners. They use this research to develop new learning methods and teaching tactics for schools. 
  • Educational evaluation – Some schools hire educational psychologists to analyze their teaching methods and to test their students’ comprehension of the material. Due to their expertise, educational psychologists may be able to pinpoint areas that need improvement. They will then help teachers and administrators implement these changes. 
  • Instructional Design – Educational psychologists are also trained to develop new teaching and testing methods, including textbooks, lesson plans, exams, and the like. They construct these tools with students' learning capabilities in mind. For instance, they might create a new type of test that’s better suited to children with learning disabilities. They may also explore how new technologies, like electronic games, can enhance the learning experience.
  • One-on-one sessions – To assist specific students with behavioral, emotional, or learning-related concerns, educational psychologists may examine them through one-on-one sessions. From their observations, and with the support of the child’s teachers and parents, they can determine a plan to help the child learner improve and succeed academically. 

What Skills Do Educational Psychologists Need?

To lead successful career in educational psychology, you must have important capabilities, including:

  • Critical thinking skills
  • Problem-solving skills
  • Data analysis skills
  • Research abilities
  • Technological know-how
  • Interpersonal skills
  • Being a good listener and observer
  • A sound code of ethics

With these competencies, you’ll be well-suited for a career in educational psychology. 

How to Become an Educational Psychologist

If you want to become an educational psychologist, you need to get the required education and licensure. Here’s how:

#1 Earn Your Bachelor’s Degree

First and foremost, you need a bachelor’s degree. While any bachelor’s degree will suffice, it’s beneficial to get one in psychology or a related field. This way, you’ll enter your master’s and PsyD educational psychology program with a relevant foundation of knowledge. 

#2 Earn Your Master’s Degree in School Psychology

Once you’ve completed your undergraduate degree, you need to get your master’s degree in school psychology. In this program, you will learn fundamental information about:

  • Theories of learning
  • Counseling methods
  • Child and adolescent psychology
  • Developmental psychology
  • Behavioral psychology
  • Cognitive psychology
  • Special education
  • Learning assessment
  • Research and evaluation
  • Ethics

Armed with an understanding of these topics, you’ll be able to observe school settings and derive valuable analysis on their success. 

Consider Getting a Doctorate

While a master’s degree is the minimum requirement to become an educational psychologist, you might want to continue your higher education with a doctoral program. Then you will have a valuable PsyD, Doctor of Psychology in Educational Psychology.

#3 Acquire the Proper State Licensure

After you’ve completed your education psychology, it’s time to get licensed in your state. This will enable you to practice as an educational psychologist. 

While the specific licensure requirements vary state-to-state, they generally include:

  • Earning your master’s degree in school psychology 
  • Fulfilling a specified amount of supervised professional experience through an accredited school psychology program
  • Fulfilling a specified amount of full-time experience as a credentialed school psychologist
  • Completing a background check with fingerprinting
  • Passing the Licensed Educational Psychologist (LEP) written exam
  • Requesting your official LEP license

Once you’ve accomplished these steps, you will be a licensed educational psychologist. At this point, you’ll be ready to start your career. 

What Are the Career Prospects For an Educational Psychologist?

What Are The Four Career Sectors of Educational Psychology?

There are four main career sectors of educational psychology. Depending on the direction you’d like to take your career, you can pursue any of the following:

  • Program development and implementation – One of the best strategies to improve students’ learning outcomes is to develop and implement new educational programs. In turn, students can learn more productively and achieve better test scores. Job titles for this role include:
    • Program Development Specialist
    • Programming Consultant
    • Special Programs Consultant
  • Teacher Training – If you’d like to work directly with teachers, you can instruct them on how to implement your suggested programs. This will be especially beneficial for teachers that have less experience, work with children with special needs, or are employed at an understaffed school. Job titles for this role include:
    • Education Training Specialist
    • Programs Implementation Coordinator
  • Psychometric Assessments – Through psychometric testing, educational psychologists gather valuable data on students to understand how well they’re learning. If a school has substandard test scores, it will seek an educational psychologist’s services to boost student performance. Job titles for this role include:
    • Programs Assessment Specialist
    • Student Testing Specialist
    • Student Outcomes Analyst
  • Instructional Design – Educational psychologists use their expertise to develop innovative educational materials, such as online courses, specialized exams, games, and state-mandated testing packets. Job titles for this role include:
    • Educational Design Consultant
    • Production Consultant
    • Instructional Design Consultant

As an educational psychologist, you can explore each of these sectors during your career or stick with one if preferred. Each sector is interconnected and important to the overall improvement of an educational organization.5 

Psychology Internship

Internships are usually done in six months to two years that often come with working for clients directly or indirectly. In an indirect supervision, the intern is not accompanied by their supervisor but reviews the intern’s psychological assessments and treatments for therapy.  Direct supervision entails the intern to sit with the licensed psychologist and their patients. They meet with their supervisors to review and discuss their observations together. As they progress, the supervisor may hand them tasks to complete. 

Students get school credit but typically not pay during their psychology internships. Internship sites may include schools, hospitals and clinics, government agencies, and educational services.   

Alliant International University: Earn Your Educational Psychology Degree

If you’re ready to take the steps to become an educational psychologist, explore the educational opportunities at the California School of Education (CSOE) at Alliant International University

Alliant International University offers a wide range of psychology master’s programs, including school psychology. You can earn your master’s degree or educational psychology PsyD at one of our California campuses or online.

At our psychology school in California, you will receive the hands-on experience you need to prepare yourself in the industry. Most importantly, Alliant International University is accredited, so you will get the level of academic rigor, training, and practicum experience from one of the best educational psychology graduate programs in California to successfully obtain your license.

Educational psychologists studying at a psychology school in California research a plethora of topics relating to learning, like cognition, memory, motivation, and intelligence. 

Learn more today


  1. Published by Alliant International University, and Published by Alliant International University. “A Guide to the Different Types of Counseling Careers.” Types of Counseling Careers | Alliant Intl University. Accessed November 22, 2021.
  2. Published by Alliant International University, and Published by Alliant International University. “A Guide to the Different Types of Counseling Careers.” Types of Counseling Careers | Alliant Intl University. Accessed November 22, 2021.
  3. “How to Become an Educational Psychologist.” | Psychology's Comprehensive Online Resource. Accessed November 23, 2021.
  4. “Psychologists : Occupational Outlook Handbook.” U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics. U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics. Accessed November 23, 2021.
  5. “Psychologists : Occupational Outlook Handbook.” U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics. U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics. Accessed November 23, 2021.

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