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Difference Between Educational and School Psychology

More information on Educational Psychology + School Psychology

At Emporia State, we offer four different master’s programs in psychology: Experimental Psychology, Clinical Psychology, School Psychology, and Educational Psychology. A frequent question is how to tell the educational and school psychology programs apart.

While there is a spectrum of overlapping interests between Educational Psychology and School Psychology, these are two distinct fields in terms of the primary career paths and training focus. Hopefully you will come away with a better understanding of the programs' differences after reading the information below.

Educational Psychology is the study of human learning (this includes development, learning, motivation, assessment, and instruction) in both formal and informal learning contexts. Many students who choose educational psychology for their graduate studies are looking to continue to a PhD program, or want to participate in research in educational settings.

In addition, many teachers find that they are interested in how learning happens in the classroom and how they can create environments that enhance learning. At ESU, teachers can earn their MS in Psychology/Educational Psychology concentration which will broaden their base of knowledge about how and why learning happens, enhancing the work they are doing in the classroom.

By contrast, School Psychology is a practitioner-based field and therefore the program is designed to lead to licensure as a School Psychologist. To be eligible for the school psychology license from the Kansas State Department of Education, students must first complete the MS in Psychology/School Psychology Concentration and then the EdS in School Psychology. This MS+EdS program includes both practicum and internship components in order to prepare students for careers as School Psychologists.

Unless they are already a classroom teacher, students who complete educational psychology programs do not have a specific role in K-12 settings, but often contribute to the successes in classrooms by participating in research that is shared with educators or by coordinating educational programming for students in settings outside of schools.

A few examples of differences between Educational Psychology and School Psychology are as follows:

ESU Educational Psychology

Training - Mainly for research and some applied uses

Potential jobs depending upon level of training - Researchers, professors, educational consultants, directors of learning in institutions such as museums

Areas of Research - Learning, motivation, assessment, development, individual differences, instruction

Target Population and Setting of Research/Practice - All ages, both inside and outside of traditional school settings

License - At ESU, the educational psychology program does not lead to any licensure.

ESU School Psychology

Training - Research and clinical training (requires practicum and internship)

Potential jobs depending upon level of training - School psychologists, professors, clinical psychologists (with additional experiences and appropriate license)

Areas of Research - Similar. Emphasis on testing, consultation, and intervention

Target Population and Setting of Research/Practice - Tends to be school-aged children within traditional school settings

License - Usually state-certified to deliver services to students through a school system. Duties can include administering IQ tests and other assessments, as well as counseling and planning interventions.

Here are a few examples of professional goals common for a master's-level educational psychology specialization:

  • Continuing as a classroom teacher with a broader base of knowledge about learning and motivation.
  • A position within a university, working in instructional and faculty development and evaluation, and conducting institutional research.
  • A position in university student services or student advising.
  • A position doing research, evaluation, and staff development for a university, research institute, or school district.
  • A position designing training programs and conducting training research in a business, government, or non-profit institutional setting.
  • A position doing general administration for a university or vocational training center.
  • A position in human resources development, in business, government, or non-profit institutional setting.
  • Develop a private consulting business working with a variety of individuals and/or organizations challenges and issues related to human learning and development.

Adapted for Emporia State University’s Psychology Department from content developed by the 2016-2017 American Psychological Association Division 15 Membership Committee.

Explore our Programs

Clinical Psychology

Master of Science

This generalist training program is taught by faculty who have extensive real-world clinical experience in a variety of settings. You will have considerable latitude to pursue areas of interest, especially while on internship. This degree prepares you for a professional career in clinical psychology or to enter a doctoral program in psychology.

Psychology, Educational Psychology Concentration

Concentration, Master of Science

This 30-credit hour online program focuses on how psychology influences learning and how practitioners can use motivation, cognition and research to improve their practice.

Psychology, Experimental Psychology Concentration

Concentration, Master of Science

This concentration is offered within our MS Psychology program, and has been developed with both online and on-campus coursework focusing on research-oriented psychology.

Psychology, School Psychology Concentration

Concentration, Master of Science

This 30-credit hour program offers coursework both online and on campus, emphasizing a diverse range of topics addressing student needs. The Master of Science in Psychology program requires 15 credit hours of core curriculum, with an additional 15 credit hours in the school psychology concentration.