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5 Traits of Educational Psychologists

  • Empathy
  • Good Listening Skills
  • Good Problem-Solving Skills
  • Ethical
  • Good With Children

Image of an educational psychologist helping a young girl

The most important characteristics of an educational psychologist are the ones that help the psychologist relate to and communicate with others, analyze, and make contributions that will improve the field and the lives of students. Educational psychologists may study learning disabilities, student outcomes, how students learn and more. While most educational psychologists work with children or adolescents, some areas of educational psychology focus on lifelong cognitive processes.


Empathy is an important characteristic for an educational psychologist because they need to be able to understand what others are feeling and react in a nuanced way. That empathy must have appropriate boundaries that allow the psychologist to identify with what another person is feeling without taking on those emotions. What is sometimes called “intuition” is often good observational skills mixed with knowledge, and a strong sense of empathy for other people is important in developing this intuition.

Good Listening Skills

This is a necessary characteristic for an educational psychologist because they must have accurate information to proceed with research or treatment. Listening does not just involve sitting and hearing what a person is saying although that is one element of listening. Being a good listener also means picking up on body language, noticing when the person is hesitant or struggling and even being able to identify when the person is not being entirely truthful. In addition, good listeners should clearly convey that they are hearing and understanding through body language, comments and follow up questions if necessary.

Good Problem-Solving Skills

As the Bureau of Labor Statistics points out, having good problem-solving skills is another important characteristic for all psychologists. Solving problems is essentially the essence of what an educational psychologist does by gathering and analyzing information and applying it to a situation. Examples of problems an educational psychologist might solve include why a student is struggling with a particular concept or teaching style, what level of education is appropriate at certain developmental stages or how to better serve students with a certain learning disability.


A rigorous code of ethics is essential for an educational psychologist. They are working with confidential information and making decisions that can have a profound impact on a person’s life. As a result, it is important that they adhere to the ethics of their profession as well as their own ethical code and a commitment to help rather than harm the individual they are working with.

Good With Children

This is perhaps the most important characteristic of all since the above qualities will do an educational psychologist little good if the psychologist cannot work effectively with the most likely target group. Working with children is fundamentally different from working with adults, and it requires a psychologist to extend respect to children and allow them some autonomy while also recognizing that developmentally they are at a very different stage from adults and from other children at different ages. An educational psychologist must be able to built a trust and rapport with children in order to be effective.

Educational psychology is a young but growing field within the larger field of psychology. Educational psychologists may work on improving test scores within a school, counseling students and parents, or working with staff and teachers among other duties and specializations. With the above characteristics, educational psychologists can work effectively in their field and improve outcomes for students at all levels of education.

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