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How Do I Become an Educational Researcher?

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For those interested in a rewarding career that has a true effect on generations to come while challenging the self, educational research work may just be that ideal career. But what exactly is this line of work all about, and how does one become a professional educational researcher in function? Continue reading below for answers to these and other questions about this profession.

Educational Research Work: The Basics

In countless academic institutions today, there are professionals who study teaching plans and other educational parameters and tools and then look for ways to improve them or even make completely new ones altogether. The benefits of this type of work are many including much-improved academic methods, student outcomes, and more. The benefits here are so great, in fact, that, in many cases, outside organizations employ educational research endeavors so as to then help the actual institutions in need of said improvements.

Educational researchers use their skills to apply research and statistical methods to answer educational problems. Some examples include studying the effects of summer vacation on educational performance, the so-called summer slide, to determine if there are any quantifiable benefits to year round school. Another study might address the role of drawing in absorbing educational material. Studies may be performed to investigate the roles of different types of teaching, visual vs. auditory for example, on educational outcomes. Another study might seek to answer whether boys and girls learn math differently or whether differences in math performance between boys and girls are based on social constructs. Educational researchers may also conduct studies of the effects and benefits of art education in schools.

Educational researchers confront questions and problems in education by designing studies and experiments to generate data to answer educational questions. Use of these studies, provides concrete answers to promote learning and overcome long held myths in education. This data can also aide in developing training methods for educators that better prepare them to teach effectively. The data can also be used to develop effective testing and overcome bias in educational testing. Educational researchers use their skills to apply scientific methods to determine and develop more effective educational policies and methods, benefiting students and teacher alike. Educational researcher may also use these methods to fine tune teacher traing and education.

At its core, educational research work is all about finding the best way to facilitate teaching and learning. Because of the possible complexities of human learning, in terms of teaching, learning, subjects, curriculum and policy, there are many areas and topics to cover. There are many great minds needed and welcomed into the world of educational research. The following are some of the types of pathways and graduates we see commonly accepted into the field right now.


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Sociology graduates do well in many educational research roles because they are masters of how the human mind works in terms of human-to-human and societal interactions. This social science uses lots of investigative techniques to understand humanity in general. With this insight, unique pathways to learning can be established that may be elusive otherwise.

Sociology educational research investigates the effects of social forces on education. Schools and society interact with each other in complex ways. Sociologists are uniquely qualified to study these effects in a quantitative way and come up with suggestions and solutions for improvement. Carefully designed studies and experiments can shed light on some of these complex interactions and provide real world solutions and suggestions for policy changes. Studies may include how education affects educational practices and learning outcomes. Research can be done on how gender and racial policies in education may affect gender and race in society as a whole. Sociologists may study the effects of student-teacher interaction on learning outcome and provide solutions for teacher training to improve these interactions and outcomes. There are many questions in educational research that sociologists may be able to answer. Do racial and gender differences affect the way teachers interact with students, and if so, what impact does that have on learning? Do class structures in education reflect the class structures in society or are those structures created by socio-economic differences in education? In what ways can teacher training be changed to avoid bias in education and testing?

Sociology students interested in a career in educational research may want to consider an advanced degree in Sociology in Education. This curriculum will dive deeply into policies and programs that address race, gender, ethnicity and social class in our schools. Students will also gain a greater understanding of the effects of organization and structure of schools on learning outcomes. Students may receive hands-on training in qualitative and quantitative research procedures through independent study, either within the university or in the community. Coursework may focus on education policies and procedures, the sociology of schools, social stratification in schools, urban education and curriculum organization and design. Graduates of these programs will be uniquely qualified to enter the world of educational research.

Students with an advanced degree in sociology in education have a number of avenues open to them as they pursue their career. Graduates will be qualified for positions as specialists or leaders in organizations devoted to educational research, policy making, educational consulting and educational management. Students may also be qualified to work in higher education institutes either in research or teaching.


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Psychology is the study of the human mind and its behaviors. This is a very similar study to that of sociology but is not as focused wholly on societal elements throughout its work with the mind. Understanding the mind is arguably the key to all educational research goals and theories, thus psychology majors are duly welcomed and qualified.

Psychology graduates can also help to design statistical methods and experimental research to study human development through early childhood, adolescence and on to adulthood. These studies shed light on the effectiveness of education strategies at each stage of development and can help guide educational programs that are most effective for a given age group. Understanding how the human brain develops can help researchers understand how children learn and consequently guide education policy and procedures to improve learning outcomes. An understanding of, for example, how children develop spatial relationships can guide teachers to utilize age-appropriate learning methods. Also, within each age group, psychology can study the variations in terms of giftedness and developmental disabilities and develop effective targeted educational procedures for each group. One example of this from the field of psychology that has implications in education research is stereo typing. Teachers that tend to stereo type students based on gender, race, or other factors can lead to lowered expectations and therefore lower performance by some students. Understanding this phenomenon can help develop teacher training that minimizes the impact of stereo types.

Psychology graduates interested in educational research may want to consider either a master’s or doctoral degree program in Educational Psychology with a concentration in Educational Research. These programs allow the student to dive more deeply into psychological factors and their effects on education. These may include biological, social, contextual and psychological factors and their effects on education. Coursework may include early childhood and adolescent development, motivation, bullying, cognition, statistical analysis, development of self-determination, role of emotions in learning, rural education, urban education, peer relations, ethics in assessments, survey design and linear modeling. These programs also offer the opportunity for hands-on research in school and community settings allowing experience in designing studies, collecting and analyzing data, publishing or presenting findings, and writing grant proposals.

Graduates of these programs have many career opportunities open to them. They may work for universities either in teaching or research. Other opportunities exist in educational research institutes, school district offices, state departments of education or as consultants. There may also be opportunities at private or public institutes of applied education research.


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While psychology and sociology are as important as ever to unlocking new ways to teach and learn, so too is the study of communications. Communications sciences delve into the intricacies of all messaging produced and received by humans. Education is itself a practice of message broadcasting and receipt between educators and students. Subsequently, anyone with experience in the communications discipline is an inherent benefit to the educational research industry.

Educational research benefits from the study of Communication particularly the study of how different types of communication and media affect learning. Experiments may be conducted to evaluate the effectiveness of certain types of communication in education. Studies may compare the differences in learning using various methods of communication such as face to face verbal communication as compared to digital media or online communication. This type of research is particularly important with the continual development of new modes of communication and media. Research may also be done on the effects of exposure to certain forms of media, such as screen time and social media, on learning. These communication studies can help educators to develop programs that make effective use of new and emerging technologies to increase learning. Knowing which forms of communication are effective for which students is essential in today’s high-tech world.

Students with a background in communications who are interested in pursuing a career as an educational researcher may want to consider an advanced degree in communication in education. This degree would allow study of research methods that allow for analysis of the history and cultural impacts of new technology as it pertains to education. Students will also develop a deeper understanding of the ways in which meaning and learning are changed by different methods of communication. Graduates of these programs will develop and understanding of communication issues in education and be able to conduct research and advise on the use of communication in education. Communication studies are essential to effective educational research.

Graduates with an advanced degree in communication in education can go on to careers in a variety of places. This degree would open up a potential career in higher education as a researcher or teacher. Graduates may also work in museums finding new ways to use emerging technologies for effective and educational communication. Also, graduates may find jobs in government or non-profits shaping education policy as it pertains to education.


At its core, statistics is the science of preparing and analyzing data, facts and figures. At the core of educational research is also the endeavor to research, compile facts and then grow from them. As a result of this acute similarity in focuses, statisticians, and those otherwise educated in statistics specifically, are always valued in educational research.

Statisticians use quantitative mathematical methods to analyze and interpret educational policies and practices. Statistics are important to education research studies. They aid in quantifying and presenting data in a way that is easily understood and compared among studies. Statistics help to guide education methods and policies by providing concrete analyses of data. Instead of using anecdotal data to determine if a certain educational method is effective, for example, statistics can provide evidence of success or failure. These methods are valuable to determine the effectiveness of teaching methods and policies on educational outcomes.

Students with a background in statistics who are interested in educational research, should consider pursuing an advanced degree in Educational Statistics. Students in these programs would pursue coursework in many topics including statistical computing, experimental design, mathematical statistics, linear modeling, educational testing and research methods. Students would also obtain real world experience by being involved with research and design of experiments. There are opportunities in these programs to apply statistical analysis to actual data. Students in these programs will develop a deeper understanding of the various methods for designing experiments and analyzing and interpreting the resulting data.

A degree in educational statistics would open up career opportunities in higher education and academic institutions. Some careers may also be available in research and policy institutions. Jobs may be available as a statistician or statistical assistant. Careers may also be available in research or teaching at higher education institutions. Students may also pursue a career as a data analyst or research assistant. A degree in statistics opens many doors to a fulfilling career in educational research.

While the goal of educational researchers is singular, to improve teaching and learning processes, the ways into such a career are rather multidimensional. This is great not only for those just now starting a college path, but also for those looking for a career change later in life. In conclusion, for even more direction in the world of educational research work today, the American Educational Research Association is a leading authority on the subject and should be contacted by anyone interested in the field of educational research.

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