School Psychology vs. Educational Psychology

School and education are closely related, but not synonymous; the same goes for school psychology and educational psychology. One may get a certification-qualifying school psychology education through a program termed “educational psychology” — but this isn’t always the case. Some schools offer separate tracks in school psychology and educational psychology.

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School psychologists are usually state-certified to deliver services to students through the school system; duties can include administering IQ tests and other assessments as well as counseling and planning interventions. Some school psychologists pursue higher levels of education and/or licensing to deliver similar services outside traditional employment.

Educational psychology is a broader field, and a person who opts for an educational psychology program may or may not plan to practice as a school psychologist.

Graduate Programs in Educational Psychology

Individuals may pursue doctoral education in educational psychology because they are interested in the science of learning and want a career in research. It is possible to go through a doctoral program carrying out research, evaluating programs or policy, publishing, presenting, and generally distinguishing oneself in the field – all without completing the school-based internship that would be required to be certified as a school psychologist in most jurisdictions.

A professional may pursue educational psychology at the master’s level for various reasons. School district employees are typically on a set salary scale that rewards experience and education; an educator may have many options when it comes to selecting a master’s program. Teachers have good reason to be interested in the science of how people learn!

Notably, an educational psychology master’s program may be significantly shorter than the educational specialist program necessary to qualify for school psychology certification.

Different Types of Educational Psychology Programs

Different programs will have different areas of emphasis, and the organization of the state educational system will have some bearing on the offerings. It is common for school psychology students to earn a 30-semester hour master’s en route to an educational specialist degree. In some locales, the master’s will be in psychometry; in some, it may be in educational psychology.

Here is a look at two educational psychology programs that are not, in and of themselves, license-qualifying:

Ball State University offers educational psychology programs at the master’s and doctoral levels; these are separate from the school psychology track. The university cites several reasons a person might pursue educational psychology at the master’s level: The program may appeal to professionals who work with youth and want to deepen knowledge. Some may use the degree as a stepping stone to a doctorate. The program may also include coursework for add-on credentials like high ability/ gifted. (The requirements for these add-on credentials vary a good deal from location to location.)

Indiana State University of Pennsylvania notes that their short educational psychology master’s program is designed primarily for students who will continue on and earn school psychology credentialing at the post-master level. The educational psychology master’s represents the initial stage of a credential-qualifying program but may also be appropriate for entry-level work in other areas, including administration.

License Qualifying Programs in Educational Psychology

Some programs termed “educational psychology” do include the coursework and fieldwork necessary for credentialing as a school psychologist. That’s why one will sometimes see language like “educational psychology with a specialization in school psychology” listed as a license-qualifying option. The National Association of School Psychologists notes that a degree may be titled something other than “school psychology” and still be school psychology.

An individual who plans to work as a school psychologist should make sure, at the minimum, that the program is license-qualifying in that jurisdiction (or articulates into a program that is). Ideally, the program will meet the generally recognized standards of the profession. The expectation in most U.S. jurisdictions is that a student will do at least 1,200 hours of internship, with no fewer than 600 in a school setting. Internship generally follows practicum experiences; the student practices, among other things, administering assessments.