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What is the Difference Between an Educational Psychologist and a School Psychologist?

The primary difference between an educational psychologist and a school psychologist is the demographics of the target audience. The educational psychologist is trained to work with all levels of students from young learners to college-age students along with the academic and non-academic teams that interact with these students. The focus of the school psychologist is the specific needs of students starting from the early learning stage up to secondary school.

Functions of Educational Psychologists

Educational psychologists may be focused on the same mission as school psychologists, but their perspective is more large-scale and community-oriented than school psychologists working directly with children. The job of an educational psychologist entails a lot of research to support educational advocacy, assess existing pedagogy and to generate innovative methods of educating diverse populations. The training includes mastering research methods, assessment administration and designing interventions for classroom and school district issues.

The educational psychologist may be an educator and a policy advocate with advanced credentials, but they may not be in a position to provide diagnostic services to schoolchildren. However, they may be tasked with examining the data generated from individual assessments to generate a report about the school or the school district’s performance. Educational psychologists may find a career niche as psychometricians, research specialists, faculty and expert advisors in educational policy.

Functions of School Psychologists

The school psychologist works directly with students in various capacities, including counseling, test administration, behavior modification and ability testing. School psychologists are often expected to act as a liaison between students and their families, extending supportive services to families to ensure that students can thrive in the educational system.

Some academic programs may offer educational psychology with a concentration in school psychology. According to the National Association of School Psychologists, a degree in school psychology may be referred to under a different name, but graduates may still be considered school psychologists if they meet the licensing requirements. This means that the coursework should meet the minimum requirements to qualify for licensing to be able to diagnose and treat mental conditions and learning disabilities, provide interventions for cognitive, behavioral, and emotional problems and provide other child and family therapies as needed. In most cases, the program will include 1,200 hours of internship, about half of which should be spent in a school setting performing functions relevant to the tasks of a school psychologist. A practicum or capstone project may be part of the requirements to earn this degree.

Academic Preparations

Whether one is interested in a career as an educational psychologist or school psychologist, the preparation is intense. You must be complete a four-year course in psychology, behavioral psychology or a related degree. A master’s degree with the required licenses will enhance the chances of landing a lead position in schools, school districts or educational corporations. The licensing requirements for educational psychologists will not be as stringent because of the research and community-focus of their functions.

Related Resource: Top 25 Online Master’s in Educational Psychology

The study of how people learn and how the learning process can be enhanced will always be a priority in societies that put a premium on education. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the demand for psychologists involved in the educational system will increase by 14 percent over a 10-year period between 2016 and 2026, which is faster than average for all occupations. The difference between an educational psychologist and a school psychologist may not be much for those who are interested in a non-teaching career in education. Both specializations will be fulfilling whether one chooses to work with students directly or with the school system in general.

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