Doctorate in Educational Psychology Online

Earning a doctorate in educational psychology online leads to diverse career options, such as educational psychologist, school counselor, developmental psychologist, and postsecondary teacher. Students can pursue a research-based Ph.D. or clinically based Psy.D., with each degree featuring different curricula and requirements and leading to different career paths.

This guide covers important information about earning a doctorate in educational psychology online, including potential careers, degree options, and application requirements.

Should I Earn an Online Doctorate in Educational Psychology?

Earning a doctorate in educational psychology online offers many benefits. Career growth represents one of the biggest potential benefits for aspiring psychologists. The Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) projects jobs for school psychologists to grow 14% through 2026, which is significantly more than the national average for all jobs.

Potential salary represents another benefit of earning a doctorate in educational psychology online. According to the BLS, general psychologists earn a median salary of more than $100,000 per year. Though educational psychologists average lower salaries, approximately $75,000 per year according to PayScale, the top 10% earn more than $118,000 per year.

Graduates of educational psychology doctorate programs also benefit from diverse career options. Graduates can work in academia, private practice, and elementary and secondary schools, or pursue leadership positions in diverse industries.

What Can I Do With an Online Doctorate in Educational Psychology?

After earning a doctorate in educational psychology online, graduates enjoy diverse career opportunities. They may work in academia, research centers, elementary and secondary schools, or settings outside of the traditional psychology industry. According to the BLS, 27% of psychologists work in elementary and secondary schools. Self-employed workers represent 24% of psychologists, while 18% work in ambulatory services. The government employs 10% of psychologists, and hospitals employ 7%.

In addition to traditional psychology careers, educational psychology doctoral degree graduates possess the skills and training to pursue careers in other industries. For example, graduates may apply their leadership and interpersonal skills to management positions in business or manufacturing.

The following list outlines common careers for doctorate in educational psychology graduates.

Educational Psychologist

Educational psychologists help students and families understand and manage learning issues. These professionals may also work with school boards or administrators to help design programs or performance plans.

School Psychologist

School psychologists provide assistance and support for students and their families in elementary and secondary schools. They assess learning or behavioral issues and suggest methods for overcoming them.

Clinical Psychologist

Clinical psychologists treat psychological issues in diverse settings, including hospitals, clinics, and private practice. They evaluate patient needs and develop treatment plans. Clinical psychologists need a doctorate and state license.

Child Psychologist

Child psychologists work with children under the age of 18, diagnosing and treating mental health issues. They examine the child's stressors and help manage psychological and behavioral disorders.

Postsecondary Teacher

Postsecondary teachers work in colleges or universities, teaching students, conducting research, and publishing scholarly work. Postsecondary teachers need a doctorate for tenure-track positions.

Source: Bureau of Labor Statistics, 2019

Educational Psychology Ph.D. Program Overview

Before pursuing a doctorate in educational psychology online, students should research types of degrees, application requirements, and curricula to ensure they choose a program aligned with their goals and interests.

Types of Doctoral Degrees in Educational Psychology

Educational psychology offers two types of doctoral degrees: Psy.D. and Ph.D. The two degrees feature different curricula, focuses, requirements, and career outcomes.

Ph.D. programs typically focus on research and culminate with a dissertation. Psy.D. programs focus more on clinical and applied psychology, and they may include a practicum in addition to a dissertation or alternative research project.

Psy.D. programs tend to emphasize theory-to-practice courses. Conversely, Ph.D. programs include more research-based courses, like statistics, research methods, and ethics. While Psy.D. programs typically require more credits than Ph.D. programs, Psy.D.s usually take less time to complete due to less extensive research requirements.

Ph.D. programs typically lead to careers in academia and research, whereas a Psy.D. leads to clinical psychology careers; so, students should consider their career goals before choosing a program.

Application Requirements and Admission Criteria

Application requirements and admission criteria vary by school, but there are several components that are common among programs. Most applicants need a master's degree with a minimum 3.0 GPA. Though many schools accept students from non-psychology disciplines, candidates may need some psychology prerequisite courses. Programs also commonly request GRE or GMAT scores from applicants.

Many schools request letters of recommendation. These letters usually come from former employers or teachers and speak to the applicant's readiness for the doctoral program. Applicants may also need to submit personal letters addressing their interest in the field and potential research topics. Some schools also require interviews with doctoral candidates.


Degree requirements vary, but most programs require between 60-75 credits. A Ph.D. usually requires about 60 credits and takes 5-7 years to complete. Psy.D. programs often require around 75 credits but feature shorter completion times due to less extensive research requirements.

In a typical Psy.D. program, students dedicate half of their credits to a psychology core, which may include psychology courses and clinical requirements. Many programs require students to complete around 1,000 clinical hours. Students apply the remaining credits to electives and research efforts.

The typical Ph.D. program features a fairly even split among core, elective, and research credits, culminating in a dissertation rather than clinical requirements. The following list outlines common courses found in educational psychology doctorate programs.

  • Education Pedagogy: Students study educational systems, exploring methods of instruction and considering potential improvements.
  • Educational Program Evaluation: Students learn how to evaluate and assess educational programs. They also examine individual learning plans and discuss how to improve them.
  • Psychosocial Disorders: This course explores psychosocial disorders and their impact on education. Students study causes, symptoms, and treatment options for various disorders.
  • Group Counseling: Students learn about group counseling, exploring common benefits and drawbacks of the practice. For educational psychology students, this course often relates to group counseling in schools and child programs.
  • Cognitive Development: In this course, students learn about the cognitive development process. They examine memory, perception, attention, and problem-solving abilities, connecting these to educational concerns.
  • Child and Adolescent Development: This course explores the development of children and adolescents, examining common developmental issues and how to manage them.
  • Social-Emotional Development: Students learn about the social skills, needs, and emotional capabilities of children -- and how they factor into education and learning.
  • Advanced Theories of Psychology: Students review current debates, theories, and discussions in psychology -- and how they apply to practice.

Program Outcomes

Doctorate in educational psychology graduates enjoy strong job growth potential. According to the BLS, there's an increasing need for mental health professionals in schools. An educational psychologists' understanding of how mental health impacts education and vice versa make them great resources for students, families, teachers, and school administrators.

Graduates who earn a doctorate in educational psychology online can also pursue licensure and open up their own private practice. Earning a doctorate in educational psychology online also provides the advanced research skills and knowledge needed to pursue jobs in academia. Furthermore, the leadership skills acquired during these programs equip graduates to work in management positions both inside and outside of educational psychology.

Accreditation for Online Educational Psychology Doctorate Programs

Students pursuing a doctorate in educational psychology online should consider the accreditation status of prospective programs. Regional accreditation verifies that an entire institution meets high professional and educational standards while expanding employment, financial aid, and educational opportunities.

Psychology programs may also receive programmatic accreditation. Major accrediting bodies for psychology programs include the American Psychological Association, the National Association of School Psychologists, the Council for Accreditation of Counseling and Related Educational Programs, and Psychological Clinical Science Accreditation System. Each of these institutions holds programs to high industry standards. Employers, states, and licensing organizations may prefer one programmatic accreditation over another, so students should research their needs beforehand.