What is Educational Psychology?
Educational psychology is a field that studies how children and adults learn in educational settings. People who work in this field examine the effectiveness of intervention tools, the role of teachers and social factors in schools. By applying theories and concepts, educational psychologists try to understand how human development, personal motivation, and assessment improve learning and teaching.
Generally, the goal of educational psychology is to identify general principles that can be applied in diverse educational settings and with diverse learning groups. Research in this field is designed to uncover answers to relevant questions such as: What motivates people to learn? How do certain groups of people learn? What factors, if any, can interfere with learning?
Typically, educational psychology does not look for specific prescriptions for educators. The field acknowledges that the process of teaching and learning is optimized with a few set standards.
Educational Psychology Education and Training
Perhaps the quickest route to become an educational psychologist is to enroll in a master’s in educational psychology (M.Ed.) degree program. This type of program introduces students to the field with a robust curriculum. Students may study human learning techniques, human development, research methodology and cognition.
Upon graduation, students are prepared to conduct basic levels of research studies. They may consult with private and public schools to evaluate current program structures. Most may decide to pursue a doctoral degree to broaden opportunities and increase their earnings potential.
With a Doctor of Philosophy (PhD) or Doctor of Education (Ed.D.), an educational psychologist is equipped to participate in advanced research studies. Most doctoral degree programs include developmental specialties and curriculum to hone research skills. This degree program also examines human development and behavior that impacts how well, or poorly, students learn in educational settings.
Educational Psychologist Salary
Salaries for educational psychologists may vary depending on their specialization, years of experience, geographical location and employer. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the median salary for an educational psychologist working in a clinical or school setting was $66,810 during 2010. Average annual salaries for these positions range between $39,000 and less to over $108,670. Educational levels may explain this broad disparity in salaries.
Typically, an educational psychologist with a master’s degree who works in an elementary school could average just over $71,000 annually. With a doctorate, some educational psychologists can expect a starting salary of $91,000 annually.
What Do Educational Psychologists Do?
Generally, educational psychologist may work in the private sector, for school districts or with government agencies. In either setting, most are involved in developing instructional materials and methods. They may also evaluate existing programs to determine which ones are working and the ones requiring improvement.
Most educational psychologists work directly with educators. They provide training to help educators improve teaching methods. Some educational psychologists also develop tests and lesson plans.
Specific duties often depend on the specialized area in which educational psychologists work. Specializations such as school psychology, human development or learning sciences may dictate the focus of a typical work day. For example, duties for an educational psychologist may overlap with counseling services for students.
Educational psychologists may work with teachers, parents and students to resolve behavioral or learning problems. It is common for educational psychologists to specialize in a particular learning problem such as dyslexia. Those who specialize in special education may work directly with students with learning disabilities, social problems or autism.
Working for government education agencies, educational psychologists may help with developing regulations that affect public schools. They may also conduct studies with universities on educational tools and techniques to offer recommendations for improvement. These studies may examine the role culture and diversity has in the classroom.
In addition to evaluating educational resources, educational psychologists might develop new resources to improve the learning capacity of certain groups. Some of the resources educational psychologist might prepare include instructional videos, textbooks, worksheets and lesson plans.
Most educational psychologists specialize in the learning capacity and development of specific groups. Some might focus on the unique needs of adult learners. Others focus on the educational needs of children and teenagers.
Educational Psychologist Resources
The following resources are available to educational psychologist. Some organizations conduct annual conferences and provide peer-reviewed journals.
Association for Psychological Science: This is a nonprofit organization that represents the advancement of scientific psychology.
Education World: This resource includes a wide range of resources for educational psychologist and other educators. Resources available include lesson plans, information on integrating technology into learning, features and employment listings.
Electronic Journal of Research in Educational Psychology: This journal is available in English and Spanish with current research material on educational psychology.
American Psychological Association: This association represents the largest membership of psychological professionals in the United States.
American Education Research Association: This national research organization is a useful tool for educational psychologist while promoting research as a discipline to improve education.