Understanding how we learn isn’t just important to educational psychologists - it’s important to teachers, principals, students, and anyone who wants to teach others new information. Educational psychologists are uniquely positioned to study and disseminate these concepts due to their specialized training in understanding the cognitive, behavioral, and emotional aspects of learning.
Day in and day out, they employ research methodologies and psychological theories to dissect how individuals absorb and retain information. Their insights contribute to the academic field and have practical applications, guiding educators in crafting more effective teaching strategies and creating learning environments that cater to diverse student needs.
If education and psychology are your passions, consider a career in educational psychology. You may find that there are more opportunities for you to indulge in these passions than you might think!
What does an Educational Psychologist Do?
Educational psychologists study how people learn and retain information to improve how information is taught. Their work occurs in and out of the classroom, in research facilities, and in the community, using a blend of cognitive, behavioral, and social psychology.
Educational psychologists' work may change how schools administer tests, teachers plan their lessons, or employers structure training sessions. Not all learning occurs inside a physical classroom, giving educational psychologists room to share their expertise with various organizations.
To become an educational psychologist, a substantial level of education is imperative. While some may conflate the roles of an educational psychologist with that of a school psychologist, it's essential to note the distinction. An educational psychologist typically focuses on researching the broader learning and teaching processes, often at a macro level. In contrast, a school psychologist mainly works within schools, addressing the psychological needs of students and aiding in creating a conducive learning environment.
Those aiming to work as research assistants in the field might only need an undergraduate degree. However, pursuing a doctorate is crucial if you aspire to lead your research projects or be acknowledged as a practicing psychologist. Obtaining this degree sets you on the trajectory toward state licensure. It's worth noting that the prerequisites for this license can vary across states. Moreover, additional licensure might be mandated depending on the specific institution or organization where you intend to work.
Knowledge is power - understanding how knowledge is obtained and stored is power, too! It’s not uncommon for educational psychologists to earn six figures. This is a highly desired but still niche field of psychology. A strong understanding of education and experience studying these topics can earn you six figures.
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Schools for Educational Psychology Degrees
Eager to delve into the world of educational psychology? Here's a list of top-tier institutions offering esteemed programs in this discipline:
- Stanford University (Stanford, CA): As one of the world's leading research institutions, Stanford boasts a comprehensive educational psychology program focusing on advanced research methodologies and a strong foundation in cognitive sciences.
- The University of Michigan - Ann Arbor (Ann Arbor, MI): Renowned for its rich history in psychology, UMich offers interdisciplinary training that bridges the gap between theory, research, and practice in educational settings.
- University of Wisconsin - Madison (Madison, WI): With a commitment to diversity and equity, UW-Madison's program emphasizes the study of learning across various sociocultural contexts.
- Vanderbilt University (Nashville, TN): At Vanderbilt's Peabody College, students can engage in collaborative research projects, leveraging the institution's extensive partnerships with local schools.
- Michigan State University (Lansing, MI): MSU offers an integrative approach, fostering collaborations between departments to explore the multifaceted nature of educational psychology.
- University of Illinois - Urbana-Champaign (Champaign, IL): With a rich legacy in psychological research, UIUC provides students with hands-on experiences in urban and rural educational settings.
- University of Maryland - College Park (College Park, MD): UMD emphasizes the application of psychological theories to real-world educational problems, ensuring that graduates are prepared to make tangible impacts in the field.
- The University of Texas - Austin (Austin, TX): UT Austin's program is lauded for its combination of rigorous academic coursework with applied experiences, facilitating a comprehensive understanding of the subject.
- University of California - Berkeley (Berkeley, CA): Situated in a hub of innovation, UC Berkeley's program is at the forefront of exploring the intersection of technology and educational psychology.
- University of California - Los Angeles (Los Angeles, CA): UCLA's focus on social justice and equity in education ensures that students can address the diverse challenges of today's educational landscape.
Choosing any of these esteemed institutions will provide a robust foundation in educational psychology, opening doors to myriad opportunities in academia, research, and applied practice.
Companies That Hire Educational Psychologists
Most educational psychologists work in schools, whether in grade school districts or colleges and universities. But learning doesn’t always take place in classrooms. Educational psychologists may serve as consultants for various organizations that have goals to teach customers, employees, or the people they work with and serve. Educational psychologists may also work with companies that work directly with schools. As an educational psychologist, you might find job opportunities with:
- Government agencies
- Private prisons
- Healthcare providers
- Learning centers and testing facilities
- Community-based education providers
- Research facilities
Interviews with an Educational Psychologist
Want to follow the typical day in the life of a school psychologist? Head to YouTube! In this video, Dr. Charles Barrett describes his typical day.
You can also hear plenty of educational psychologists speak on the research they have conducted and the topics they study by watching Ted Talks. Olympia Della Flora, for example, shares what she has learned about how kids can succeed in school through different practices and strategies.
Famous Educational Psychologists
Educational psychologists' work has directly impacted the tests you take, the way you study for tests, and the policies that community leaders make. As you embark on a career in educational psychology, these are some pioneering figures whose contributions have significantly shaped the field:
- Howard Gardner: Active primarily in the late 20th century to the present, Gardner is best known for his theory of multiple intelligences. Have you ever taken a test to determine if you lean toward visual, musical, or kinesthetic intelligence? You can thank Gardner and the many educational psychologists who expanded upon this topic after him.
- Jean Piaget (1896-1980): This Swiss psychologist is renowned for developing the Four Stages of Cognitive Development. His groundbreaking work in the mid-20th century gave educators a better understanding of children's cognitive progression and informed teaching strategies that best resonate with various developmental stages.
- Robert M. Gagné (1916-2002): Active during the mid-to-late 20th century, Gagné introduced the Conditions of Learning, expanding the conception of what it means to “learn” and how instruction can be optimized for diverse learners.
- Nadine Lambert (1926-2006): A major figure in the latter half of the 20th century, Lambert focused much of her research on optimal learning strategies for children with ADHD. Beginning her career as a kindergarten teacher, she founded the school psychology program at the University of California - Berkeley.
- Maria Montessori (1870-1952): An Italian physician and educator active in the early to mid-20th century, Montessori is best known for developing the Montessori method of education. Montessori schools worldwide adopt her unique approach to instruction, emphasizing self-directed activity, hands-on learning, and collaborative play.
With their innovative theories and methodologies, these pioneers have left an indelible mark on educational psychology, influencing generations of educators and learners alike.
Educational Psychology Examples
As an educational psychologist, you can also shape how students learn, teachers teach, and communities grow together. In your career, you might:
- Research different learning methods.
- Consult with testing facilities on questions, answers, and how to facilitate tests in a way that is fair to all students.
- Teach college classes on concepts in educational psychology
- Develop a new method of teaching