Earning a PhD in Educational Psychology Online

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October 3, 2019

Should I Pursue a Ph.D. in Educational Psychology Online?

Educational psychologists devote their attention to improving student learning. These counselors help students navigate social, emotional, and mental health issues affecting their performance in school.

The ideal candidate for a Ph.D. in educational psychology displays a keen interest in emotional and mental development, dedication to helping others, and a love of learning. Some educational psychologists work in schools as onsite counselors or psychologists. A Ph.D. can also open doors to academia, training, and management positions.

Students should always consider whether online learning or campus learning works best for them. Online learners typically have more scheduling flexibility and sometimes lower tuition costs. However, online students generally spend less time interacting with their peers than onsite learners.

All Ph.D. programs offer different course schedules and specific requirements. Prospective students should research schools and programs carefully before applying.

Employment Outlook for Ph.D. in Educational Psychology Graduates

Most educational psychologists put their degree to use in education, working in schools, school districts, or educational organizations that help students. Doctoral degree-holders can also work in government roles, shaping education policy on a broad scale, or open a private practice to provide services to students and their families individually.

Ph.D. graduates should consider whether their career goals involve working one-on-one with patients or working to effect change on a bigger scale. Those who prefer a deeper, interpersonal connection should look into becoming a counselor, either in a school or in private practice. Those who prefer dealing with theory and policy should consider government or school district work.

Postsecondary Psychology Teacher

Average Annual Salary: $48,480

A postsecondary teacher works at an institution of higher learning, teaching classes on psychology at an advanced level. Teachers must plan classes, administer tests, and mentor students. Many postsecondary teachers must conduct their own research, contributing to the repertoire of knowledge within the field.

School Psychologist

Average Annual Salary: $60,307

A school psychologist works within a school, consulting with parents and teachers. These professionals diagnose learning disorders and resolve behavioral problems. While some schools require only a master's degree in educational psychology for this position, Ph.D.-holders often receive a higher salary for this position.


Average Annual Salary: $75,956

Psychologists typically work in private practice to provide diagnostic interviews, testing, and counseling for patients. An educational psychologist specializes in learning disorders, mental health, and behavioral issues. In a private practice, psychologists can set their own hours, but may need to travel to different locations to provide consultations.

Director of Program Management, Education

Average Annual Salary: $67,347

A program management director oversees school programs and facilitates coordination with faculty, students, and organizations. These directors can work for just one school or several schools. Generally, program management directors need familiarity with fundraising, marketing, curriculum development, and learning outcomes for students.

Consulting Psychologist

Average Annual Salary: $77,145

Consulting psychologists provide specialized psychological knowledge to individuals or organizations. These consultants can work for school districts, government agencies, or nonprofits in education. They provide advice for individual student diagnosis and treatment. They also help shape school policies addressing student learning and mental health issues on a broad scale.

Source: Payscale

What Can I Expect From an Online Ph.D. in Educational Psychology Program?

The sections below provide a sampling of courses students can expect to find in a Ph.D. program for educational psychology. Course titles and descriptions vary by program and institution, as do overall course and credit hour requirements.

Prospective students should review the following list of certificates and licenses often held by professionals with a doctorate degree in educational psychology.

Curriculum for an Online Doctorate Degree in Educational Psychology

Psychology of the Exceptional Individual

This course examines the outliers in education — either students with disabilities (physical or learning) or gifted students. The class teaches how to approach these exceptional students and provide the best learning methods for them, with an emphasis on inclusion and diverse learning environments.

Ethics of Psychology

Students in this class discuss ethical dilemmas that plague academia, individual counseling, and professional contact with diverse communities. Students learn the best approaches to ethical problems and prepare to accept their moral responsibilities as a psychologist.

Theories of Learning

This class provides excellent material for aspiring school psychologists or educational psychologists who want to help shape policy in school districts or government. Students explore major theories of learning, such as behaviorism, cognitivism, constructivism, and humanism.


Most Ph.D. programs require students to complete a research-based dissertation in order to earn their doctorate. Graduate students work closely with a faculty advisor to decide on a topic, research, write a thesis, and defend their thesis to a faculty committee. Candidates for doctoral degrees must select a relevant topic and make an original contribution to the field.

Lifespan Development

This class provides relevant material for all educational psychologists, regardless of future profession. Lifespan development explores key milestones occurring in prenatal, childhood, adolescent, adult, and late-adult stages of life. Students also examine the impact of genetic and environmental factors on human development, and review various methods of promoting healthy growth.

Certifications and Licenses a Ph.D. in Educational Psychology Prepares For

Professional Organizations & Resources

Professional organizations provide access to current research, best practices, continuing education opportunities, conferences, and peer networking options. Members of these organizations receive numerous benefits, including career advancement opportunities.

Many of these organizations offer job boards, career advice, and options for professional development. Psychologists looking to advance their careers or change jobs can find assistance and resources to help them through the process.

Professional Organizations

American School Counselor Association

This organization supports school counselors and psychologists working to promote academic, career, and emotional development in students. ASCA gives members access to publications, research, advocacy, and professional development resources.

American Psychological Association

As the world's largest organization of psychologists, APA focuses on peer networking and facilitating communication among psychologists. Members can find resources, research, and discount programs online.

Association of Educational Therapists

AET dedicates itself to providing leadership, certification, and training to educational psychology professionals. Part of AET's mission involves promoting collaboration between professionals in the field and increasing public access to educational therapy services.

Association for Psychological Science

As a leading international organization in advancing scientific psychology across disciplines and geographic borders, APS promotes research through professional journals and conventions, and fosters global connections among its membership.

The National Association of School Psychologists

NASP represents more than 25,000 school psychologists, graduate students, and related professionals internationally. The organization provides guidance on school psychology issues, such as assessment, school safety, grade retention, ADHD, and racial and ethnic disproportionality in education.


American Board of Professional Psychology

The ABPP provides professional certification to educational psychologists. This organization offers examinations, continuing education opportunities, and specialty certification for psychologists across several disciplines.

American Educational Research Association

As a national research society, AERA advances knowledge about education and promotes research to improve educational methods. Students interested in practicing school psychology or shaping school policy should consider joining this organization.

American Psychology Association for Grad Students

A division of APA, this organization provides resources specifically for graduate students. Perks include career opportunities, early-career benefits, and sponsored scholarships, grants, and awards.


As part of APA, PsycARTICLES offers electronic access to a vast catalog of research published by APA and affiliated scientific journals. Students can use this database to research educational psychology issues, while professionals can stay current on methodology.

Society for the Teaching of Psychology

This online organization provides resources for educational psychologists who teach their craft. STP offers journals, awards, and grants. Students gain access to teaching-specific resources and conferences for psychology professionals.

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