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What does an Educational Psychologist do?

Tricia Christensen
Updated Jan 26, 2024
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What an educational psychologist does depends very much on where that psychologist lives since there are two potential definitions for the term. In the US, the educational psychologist is concerned, usually at the institutional level (school, college, district) with how well present learning programs are serving the various populations in the school and what can be done to improve these. In the UK, this definition may also apply, but the term can also mean school counselor, which is more generally understood in the United States as a person who counsels individuals at a school.

This difference in definition is important and in the US, some of the main work could be to assess how effectively a school is addressing the needs of a total school population. This could be tracked in numerous ways. These psychologists might test a variety of students for factors like IQ, language learning ability and other matters, or they might study standardized tests administered by a school. They may also identify populations (racial groups, language learners, gifted students, learning disabled children) of a school that don’t seem to be served by present learning strategies.

Given the theories studied on education and the ones most endorsed, the educational psychologist can then look at ways to improve the performance of the school to serve all populations. They make recommendations about implementing new teaching styles, curricula, or ways that a school or a school district could provide greater support to populations that are underserved. Should a school accept the recommendations of the educational psychologist, goal will be to evolve material to give to teachers to create changes in teaching methods, or to actively instruct teachers and other staff on how to implement suggested changes. It should be noted that not all suggestions are accepted, though most schools that hire an educational psychologist do so because they want to improve learning strategies.

There are also instances when an educational psychologist will perform this work on an individual basis, particularly in conjunction with learning disabled students. They might work observing students and administering testing to determine in what areas a student needs greater support. Such information could be presented at a meeting between parents and school administrators along with recommendations on ways the student could be helped to improve. This still wouldn’t be traditional counseling because meetings with the student would be of short duration and have more of an observational bent.

In the UK, educational psychologist can mean school counselor, in which case these psychologists would meet with students and might work for several months or more with individuals to help them on specific issues like school performance, behavioral issues at school, or other problems. Usually in the US this is called a school counselor and the two roles are seen as very different, though with permission, a school counselor might assist in meetings set up to determine individual education plans (IEPs).

There are several different degrees a person might need to become an educational psychologist. This is one instance where people can get a master’s degree in psychology, though they are typically better served if they hold an Ed.D or a PhD in psychology. Bachelor’s level work is good preparation for this field, but usually not enough to justify employment.

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Tricia Christensen
By Tricia Christensen , Writer
With a Literature degree from Sonoma State University and years of experience as a WiseGEEK contributor, Tricia Christensen is based in Northern California and brings a wealth of knowledge and passion to her writing. Her wide-ranging interests include reading, writing, medicine, art, film, history, politics, ethics, and religion, all of which she incorporates into her informative articles. Tricia is currently working on her first novel.

Discussion Comments

By Sunny27 — On Sep 22, 2010

Oasis11-I had to find an educational psychologist for my daughter in order to have her tested for a gifted program.

The psychologist performed the WISSPI assessment which is an IQ test that was given to determine if the child was gifted.

There are batteries of test that include putting together puzzles as well as vocabulary questions. There are about 10 tests and the whole testing takes about 45 mins or more.

Generally the more intelligent the child the longer the test is. These tests usually cost about $250 to $400 depending on the psychologist.

Usually educational psychologist earn from $65,000 to six figures depending upon where they work. Many educational psychologists work in a clinical setting and in private practice, while others work in a school setting or even perform educational research in a lab.

By oasis11 — On Sep 22, 2010

Comfyshoes-Educational psychologist jobs are abundant in the school system. Many school psychologists are assigned a few schools to oversee.

They generally are paid the salary of a teacher with the same credentials and usually work from 9:00 AM to 4:00 PM.

These educational psychologists often perform evaluations regarding learning disabilities. An educational psychologist will perform a battery of tests to determine if a learning disability is at play.

Sometimes the child is gifted and needs a different level of intensity in their curriculum. They also diagnose behavior problems and provide action plans in order to help the child overcome their problems.

This often requires a holistic approach in which the psychologist will meet with the child’s parents in order to gain further understanding of the child's problems.

By comfyshoes — On Sep 22, 2010

Moldova- Another way that an educational psychologist training occurs is by seeking a PsyD.

This is a doctorate in clinical psychology that allows the psychologist the opportunity to offer therapeutic sessions and counseling.

Some licensed educational psychologists have PhD’s which enables them to conduct research and perform evaluations, but not offer therapy. Most psychologist jobs require a doctorate level of study in order to receive the most job opportunities.

Usually these psychologists specialize in child psychology and then become a child psychologist.

By Moldova — On Sep 22, 2010

Educational psychology revolves around the cognitive and developmental needs of children in a school setting.

Often a school psychologist will either seek an EdS which is a specialist degree, but not a doctorate. This advanced degree allows a graduate to seek educational psychologist jobs in a school setting.

This degree comes from the school of Education and most of the graduates that have an EdS degree also have considerable training in the field of psychology.

Some have their undergraduate degrees in psychology, while others have obtained a minor study in the discipline.

Tricia Christensen

Tricia Christensen


With a Literature degree from Sonoma State University and years of experience as a WiseGEEK contributor, Tricia...
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