People who complete master’s degrees in educational psychology can pursue a wide range of careers. The field of educational psychology focuses on studying how people learn, which can be applied to many different types of careers. Graduates can focus on jobs in education, research, or public policy. Typical settings where educational psychologists work include schools, health care facilities, business, and government offices. Typically, a master’s in educational psychology will take around two years.
A significant course that those who wish to earn a master’s in psychology must take, according to gradschoolhub.com, is, not surprisingly, educational psychology. Specifically, this course teaches about “science-based theories of learning,” and what effect these theories have on the day-to-day process of learning in the classroom. Some other courses include quantitative methods & instruments for assessment, lifespan development, and learning & behavior. These classes give graduates with a master’s in educational psychology the skills they need to be successful in a career. Some of the most common jobs for graduates with master’s degrees in educational psychology are discussed below.
Both public and private schools employ school psychologists. In this role, graduates with degrees in educational psychology work closely with administrators to create an environment in which students can learn and thrive. Their work often involves applying research to create school-wide policies, procedures, and protocols. School psychologists can help teachers address issues with student behavior. They also work with individual students and parents to address emotional and psychological factors that may affect learning.
According to bestpsychologydegrees.com, one trait that makes someone a good school psychologist is an approachable personality. Many times, children will be talking with the school psychologist about deeply personal issues, and most children will not immediately want to put their confidence in an adult that they don’t know. Another good trait for school psychologists is the ability to handle childrens’ or adolescents’ emotions without getting emotional themselves. Children may react in anger, sadness, or withdrawal, and the school psychologist must know how to deal with these emotions and begin to determine what the root of them is.
A large part of the work of school psychologists is also training adults. They train parents and teachers to be aware of the problems that children face. According to the article, “4 Issues School Counselors Confront,” school counselors must often deal with difficult issues, including bullying. Often, children do not know how to react to being bullied, yet, according to the article, 90 percent of children are bullied while in elementary school. At the same time, 60 percent say that they act as bullies themselves. The counselor must help the child being bullied, while often also needing to find out why the bully is behaving the way they are.
Something else that school counselors must deal with is home issues. If a student’s life at home is stressful, a school counselor may be the only one that can help them. In some cases, this involves dealing directly with parents. Other times, simply talking through the issues with the children themselves is enough. School counselors also deal with darker issues, such as substance abuse and suicide threats. This is why, in addition to an approachable personality and the ability to deal with emotions, school counselors need to have a good deal of courage and a commitment to helping others.
Many educational psychologists work in university settings, offering counseling services to students. Such counselors offer support to students who may be struggling with personal or academic difficulties. Some specialize in helping students who are having trouble with academics. The student may be on the verge of dropping out of the university or failing a class. One way that a college counselor can help at-risk students, according to edutopia.com, is by helping them revise their goals to be more realistic. If a student is pursuing goals that are unrealistic and they begin to realize their goals are unachievable, they may begin to see dropping out as the best option. Another way to help at-risk students is by encouraging them to be more engaged with others and to form more connections with other people.
College counselors also deal with first-generation college students. First-generation college students may struggle with a feeling that they have changed their family structure, according to Linda Banks-Santilli, who was once a first-generation college student and is now a professor. She states that the students may feel that they have two different lives: one at home and one in college. They may also lack resources and the support of their family. For example, they may need to fill out financial aid forms on their own. Also, first-generation college students might feel that there is a negative association with being the first one in their family to go to college. They might feel that others look down on them because their parents did not go to college. College counselers help first-generation students as they figure out for themselves how college works.
College counselors also assist returning students with their challenges. Often, it is difficult to return to the mindset of studying, says an article on emeraldgrouppublishing.com. Once someone has stopped learning for years, they may have to “learn how to learn again.” There is also the work-life balance. Mature students may find that they have far more responsibilies now than they would have had as an 18-year-old. They may have work, family, or other things that demand much of their time. On the other hand, mature students are often motivated in their studies. Counselors help to harness the motivation of returning mature students to help them reach their goals.
College counselors may also work with students who are living with disabilities. According to bestcolleges.com, students with disabilities often feel they cannot tell anyone about their disability or people will think they are not intelligent. On the contrary, they are often highly intelligent people who need the content they are learning to be presented in different ways. College counselors can help them to deal with interpersonal issues, academic accommodations, and other areas they might struggle with. Educational psychologists may work as part of academic support services, within student health centers, or as part of specialized counseling centers.
After completing a master’s degree in educational psychology, graduates can find employment as an educational researcher. They can do educational research in many different settings. Local, state, and federal government departments concerned with educational policy hire researchers. Non-profit foundations and NGOs focused on education often have educational researchers on staff and sponsor large-scale research projects. Companies involved in educational services, such as those offering course management software, online learning platforms, or for-profit education, may also employ researchers with master’s degrees in educational psychology.
According to topeducationdegrees.org, someone who wants to be an educational researcher must hold at least a master’s degree. Relevant work experience is also helpful; an educational researcher should have the personal experience of teaching in a classroom. Educational researchers often work with a team of academic researchers, using their skills with design and measurement tools to come up with new solutions for learning. They work to eliminate issues in the system and ensure that it runs as smoothly as possible. They are responsible for supporting the professional development or further learning of teachers and administrators.
While teaching at a four-year university requires a doctoral degree, graduates with master’s degrees can obtain positions teaching at two-year or community colleges. Also, graduates who have completed a master’s degree may obtain paid research or teaching assistantships if they choose to continue on to their doctorates. In the article “What do Education Professors Do?” some of the everyday activities of college professors are listed. These include keeping students’ academic records, grading students’ exams and papers, conducting research in their field, and teaching in the classroom.
Ideal characteristics for a college professor, according to this article by Russell L. Herman, include a willingness to invest in students’ lives, resourcefulness for teaching, confidence, passion for the subject, enthusiasm, and the capability of challenging and motivating students. College professors must be prepared, informed, and organized. Also, they must be familiar with technology and how to use it.
University and School Administration and Services
A master’s degree in educational psychology may also be a path to work in academic administration and student services. In many universities, educational psychologists may work in areas such as assessment. Assessment refers to the process of testing. It is a way of seeing how well students are grasping materials. Educational psychologists may work to improve assessments at the college level.
Educational psychologists in university administration may also work with those who have disabilities. Instead of working directly with the student, as college counselors do, administrators may work to ensure that students with disabilities are given the accommodations they need.
Residential life is another area that educational psychologists working as administrators for a university may work in. Residential life involves students who are living in the dorms. This is a job that might have quite a lot of paperwork, as students fill out forms and other paperwork. It might also mean being called to solve problems. An administrator dealing with residential life often works with RAs, or resident assistants. These are college students, who, for a discounted dorm price, help to run the dorm and ensure that any problems are taken care of. If problems arise that are greater than they can deal with, they may contact the administrator for help.
Someone working in university administration might help run study skills centers and other support services for students. According to skillsyouneed.com, study skills include time managment, organization, and prioritizing. Study skills centers help students who are struggling in these areas, because studying is an essential part of education, especially at the university level. While everyone has their own approach to studying, study skills centers can make all the difference to students who need help with their study process. A university or school administrator with a master’s degree in educational psychology might help run these study skills centers.
University administrators might also work with faculty to improve the quality of teaching. Since students usually come to college for an education, it is important that professors are giving students the education they are paying for. Educational psychologists in this setting must know how to assess whether or not a teacher is teaching well, and how the teaching could be improved.
Another area in which educational psychologists may work is the area of online education. In 2020-21, many schools were thrown into online learning. Educational psychologists helped with this process. As many universities offer online classes regardless of current events, there is a need for educational psychologists. They may work at developing instructional strategies for online learning, which can include both synchronous classes and asynchronous classes.
Synchronous classes take place at a set and specific time, usually over a video call, while asynchronous classes can be completed whenever the student has the time. In asynchronous classes, students must determine when to complete work; this demands a great deal of motivation. Educational psychologists may help determine which learning format is best for the classes in question. Also, they may offer support to remote students. Online learning is not always easy, and this means that students often need help.
Final Thoughts on Becoming an Educational Psychologist
A master’s in educational psychology can lead to a wide range of careers in both the for-profit and non-profit sectors. One can work in healthcare settings helping struggling students, in government departments concerned with educational policy, or in schools or universities. Positions can focus either on research and educational design or on working directly with students. Do you prefer abstract concepts and working with numbers, or speaking directly to individual students? The answer to this question might help you to determine which of these careers you wish to pursue.
ABA Staff, May 2021
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