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According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, 31 percent of professional psychologists employed in 2014 worked in educational services. A master's degree in educational psychology is one of the minimum entry-level degrees in the field, and several types of degree exist for those looking to get into the profession:

  • Master of Education (M.Ed): The standard professional master's degree in educational psychology, this degree is a required credential in some states. The curriculum features advanced coursework in applied educational psychology specialties such as school counseling and curriculum development. Check out the Guide to Master of Education Degrees to help you decide whether this degree fits your career goals.
  • Master of Science (M.S.): This is the traditional academic master's degree. The curriculum generally includes both advanced foundational and specialized elective courses, culminating in a research capstone project or master's thesis during the second year of the program.
  • Master of Arts (M.A.): This degree is broadly the same as the M.S., though it is more likely to emphasize a master's thesis grounded in qualitative as well as quantitative research.
  • Educational Specialist in School Psychology (EdS): This is a brief, focused career training module that can be added to the master's degree program. This professional practice program is required in many states as part of the National Certification as a School Psychologist (NCSP).

While a master's degree in educational psychology will suffice for certain positions, some careers may require an educational psychology degree at the doctoral level. Doctoral degrees typically consist of three to four years of study and a period of intensive research that culminates in a dissertation.

Path to a master's degree in educational psychology

No matter which master's degree you pursue, you have the opportunity to specialize in a specific research area or applied practice field. Academic M.S. and some professional M.Ed. programs structure the specialized component of the degree as a research project, while other professional programs allow students to focus their studies by taking advanced elective courses.

Here are a few of the type of courses available to students in educational psychology degree programs:

  • Curriculum management
  • Counseling and psychotherapy
  • Ethics of psychology
  • Cognitive processes
  • Teaching diverse populations
  • Personality theory
  • Instructional design
  • Lifespan development

Students who enroll in M.Ed. programs for their degree in educational psychology typically take additional courses on pedagogy and educational theory, while those in M.S. programs may take on more psychology-oriented coursework.

What can I do with a PhD in educational psychology?

Careers in many of the specializations available to graduates with a master's degree in educational psychology require a license or professional certification to practice legally. Licensing and certification details tend to differ from state to state, so prospective students should check with their state board of education or a professional organization in the area for specific requirements.

Here are a few examples of academic educational psychology specializations:

  • Early childhood development
  • Learning theory
  • Psychology of reading and literacy
  • Adolescent development
  • Learning disorders and exceptional learners
  • Learning styles

Careers can also be found in applied educational psychology specializations:

  • School counseling
  • Therapeutic interventions
  • Curriculum development
  • Education policy
  • Instructional strategies
  • Program evaluation

Students who choose the right specialization while earning their educational psychology degree have the potential to come away from their education well-prepared for positions in many fields that require a master's degree:

  • Mental health counselors help people cope with mental and emotional disorders. They also work with other psychology professionals when providing treatment to clients.
  • Industrial and organizational psychologists enhance the quality of work life and help to solve workplace problems. They address such issues as employee productivity, dispute mediation and morale.
  • School counselors can be employed at the elementary, middle and high school levels and provide individual and group counseling to students. They often help students develop productive study habits and deal with social or behavioral problems.

Whether it's earned on campus or online, a master's degree in educational psychology can open doors to a range of careers. Contact a counselor or registrar and learn more about how to earn a living helping students and the educational system change for the better.

Sources:

  • "Psychologists," U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, http://www.bls.gov/ooh/life-physical-and-social-science/psychologists.htm#tab-3
  • "School and Career Counselors," U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, http://www.bls.gov/ooh/community-and-social-service/school-and-career-counselors.htm
  • "Mental Health Counselors and Marriage and Family Therapists," U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics,http://www.bls.gov/ooh/community-and-social-service/mental-health-counselors-and-marriage-and-family-therapists.htm
  • "Masters Degrees in Education Psychology," North Carolina State University, http://ced.ncsu.edu/academics/departments/cice/educational-psychology/masters

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