Educational Psychologist

The ability to learn, acquire knowledge and grow in understanding and intellect is the basis for a fulfilling and productive life. In fact, learning is arguably one of the most important mental processes for humans. Education, and the ability to learn, allow us to communicate with one another, read, write, calculate, analyze, evaluate and make rational decisions. Gaining an education enables us to develop the skills required to pursue a career and maintain productive relationships.

Educational psychology focuses on how people learn and retain knowledge - specifically within educational settings. Educational psychology includes the study of emotional, social, and cognitive learning processes. Areas of specialized study within the field of educational psychology include teaching methods, classroom learning, educational environment, as well as social and behavioral issues that may impede the ability of individuals to learn and process new information.

Today, the vast majority of research, study and practical application within the field of educational psychology is oriented toward children, from infancy through adolescence. Millions of children throughout the United States struggle with learning disabilities. As a result, there is a growing need for trained professionals with specialized skills to help educate these children. Educational psychologists conduct research and set up programs designed to help children with learning disabilities.

However, due to a growing trend in adults returning to school to continue their education, educational psychologists and researchers have begun to focus on adult learners as well as children. Like children, adult learners face their own set of obstacles, including learning disabilities.

While the majority of us take the ability to learn and attend school for granted, for others, classroom learning isn't that simple. For these people, a traditional classroom setting is fraught with frustrations, annoyances and distractions that inhibit their ability to learn. Educational psychology helps people understand and adapt so they can better learn in a traditional classroom environment.

Many educational psychologists supervise classroom instruction in order to develop effective teaching strategies. They also sit in on classes to observe specific children and determine the reasons they are struggling, which could include personal problems, mental health problems, or other issues. From these observations, educational psychologists make recommendations for teachers, parents, and school administrators.

Most school districts employ at least one educational psychologist. Since the student body in a school district is quite diverse, educational psychologists must develop programs to integrate children from different cultures struggling with similar learning disabilities. To do this, they often place children with similar disabilities in groups. This is just one method educational psychologists can use to help students and address problems.

In addition to classroom observation and developing programs for children with learning disabilities, educational psychologists work with organizations dedicated to assisting troubled children and teenagers. Educational psychologists also work with communities and encourage community members to donate money to, and support these organizations. The research conducted by educational psychologists is already improving the quality of education nationwide. It is also enabling children with learning disabilities to overcome their problems and achieve their personal and academic goals.

Careers in Educational Psychology
The following are a few of the career opportunities for students who complete their studies in educational psychology.

  • Teaching. Educational psychologists have the opportunity to become involved in all aspects of teaching and teacher education. They're often involved in developing classroom management, teaching practice and teacher education programs. With respect to classroom management, educational psychologists create postive teacher-student and student-peer relationships, develop students groups to optimize behavior, and employ couseling and other psychological techniques to assist students who continue to present a problem.

  • Counseling. In addition to working as consultants in developing educational programs, they may also conduct student assessments, behavioral intervention, teacher consultation, crisis intervention and one-on-one counseling with students. Educational psychologists who provide counseling services and intervention typically have doctorate degree in psychology.

  • Research. Educational psychologists are often employed by private universities and research institutions to perform research. Education psychologists who plan on pursuing a career in research should earn a research oriented doctoral degree (Phd) in psychology.

How to Become and Educational Psychologist
If you want to become an educational psychologists, be prepared for several years of undergraduate and graduate study at an accredited university. Including both undergraduate and graduate degrees, most educational psychologists are required to complete 8 to 10 years of post-secondary education.

The first step to becoming an educational psychologist is to earn a bachelor's degree in psychology, or a closely related field of study. While some graduate psychology programs will accept applicants with diverse educational backgrounds, it's recommended that graduate school candidates have a very strong background in psychology or behaviorial science. A bachelor's degree in psychology provides a strong foundation in psychology and prepare students to move pursue a graduate degree in psychology. At the undergraduate level, recommended areas of study include educational psychology, developmental psychology, and early childhood education.

Upon completion of a bachelor's degree program, students are required to complete either a master's or doctoral degree in educational psychology. Those interested in a career in teaching at a university, performing research, or practicing psychology are required to have a doctoral degree in psychology. Practicing psychologists must obtain a state license. Educational psychologists who plan on working in the public education system are typically required to have at minumum a master's degree, but most school districts prefer to hire educational psychologists with a doctoral degree.

Work Environment
A traditional career path for educational psychologists is working with children at schools and educational institutions. In the arena of public education, educational psychologists may work directly with students, provide administrative oversight, develop curriculum, or help improve learning systems. Education psychologists also work with community organizations and learning centers, government agencies, private research institutions, and at unvirsities as teachers and researchers.

Salary and Pay
According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, the median annual salary for psychologists, including education psychologists, was roughly $74,000 a year as of May 2014. Those working in elementary schools earned slightly less at $72,000 a year, while those working with individual and family service organizations earned $70,000 a year. How much an educational psychologist can earn is influenced by level of education, experience, location and employment position.

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