The Best Online Doctorate in Educational Psychology Programs 2021

| TBS Staff

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Whether you want to work with young people or adults, a Ph.D. in educational psychology will give you the practical and research skills to help you succeed.

During a Ph.D. in educational psychology, doctoral students study theories of learning, lifespan development, and psychology research methods. Doctoral programs build strong research abilities while also focusing on practitioner skills required for psychologist careers. Degree-seekers specialize their education through focused coursework and research.

Educational psychologists work in careers that require a doctorate, like school psychologist or psychology professor. These fields offer above-average salaries and the opportunity to work with children and adults. With advanced training in educational psychology, professionals can also pursue opportunities in training and development, education, and research.

The American Psychological Association does not accredit any fully online psychology Ph.D. programs. However, several accredited programs are offered partially online, and those top online doctoral programs in educational psychology are the ones listed here, ranked alphabetically.

This article also covers program selection advice, common coursework and graduation requirements, and educational psychology career paths.

The Best Online Doctorate in Educational Psychology Programs

Regent University true View School Profile Virginia Beach, VA 59% 80% 91% Regent University is regionally accredited by the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges (SACSCOC).

A Christian university founded in 1977, Regent offers an online doctor of education in educational psychology. Students must complete at least 61 credits to graduate.

Required courses include advanced human learning and motivational development, advanced research review in educational development, psychological underpinnings of learning, and advanced educational psychology.

Applicants must hold a master's degree to qualify for admission. Students can apply for one of eight different start dates. Students do not need to submit standardized test scores. Students with an Ed.S. degree may enter the program with advanced standing.

Regent University is regionally accredited by the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges (SACSCOC).

The Chicago School of Professional Psychology at Chicago true View School Profile Chicago, IL 6% The Chicago School of Professional Psychology is regionally accredited by the WASC Senior Colleges and University Commission (WSCUC).

A private college founded in 1979, The Chicago School offers an online doctor of philosophy in counselor education and supervision. Students can complete the program in about three years.

Students take courses such as advanced counseling theories and advanced group counseling. Learners must also complete extensive internship practicums.

Applicants need a master's degree and licensure to apply. Those without licensure can apply for admittance on a case-by-case basis. The department prefers students to possess at least two years of work experience.

University of Georgia true View School Profile $$$ Athens, GA 86% 35% 12% University of Georgia is regionally accredited by the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges (SACSCOC).

A public university founded in 1785, UGA offers an online specialist of education in educational psychology, gifted and creative education. Although not a doctoral degree, this post-master's degree allows students to further specialize their education in just 31 credits with no dissertation.

Students take courses such as characteristics of gifted children and youth, assessment of gifted children and youth, methods and materials for the gifted, and programming and curriculum for the gifted. Learners pass a comprehensive exam to satisfy program requirements.

Applicants need a master's degree with a minimum GPA of 2.6 to qualify for admission. Students must also submit GRE or GMAT scores (waived through 2021).

University of Georgia is regionally accredited by the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges (SACSCOC).

University of Missouri-St Louis true View School Profile $ Saint Louis, MO 56% 29% 29% University of Missouri Saint Louis is regionally accredited by the Higher Learning Commission (HLC).

Founded in 1963, UMSL offers an online doctor of philosophy in education with a concentration in educational psychology. Students complete 90 credits of post-baccalaureate courses solely online.

Required courses include statistical analysis for education research, directed readings in education research literature, building socially just and ethical education committees, and a course series specifically for educational psychology. From there, students complete a dissertation, a comprehensive exam, and a research internship.

Applicants must possess a minimum GPA of 3.5 with either a bachelor's degree (90 credits) or a master's degree (60 credits). Students must also submit GRE scores.

Best Online Doctorate

Online Doctorate in Educational Psychology Programs Ranking Guidelines

We ranked these degree programs based on quality, curricula, school awards, rankings, and reputation.

The motto of TheBestSchools.org is Finding the best school for you. Here is how we do it:

The value of any ranking list of schools and/or degree programs depends on having a methodologically sound assessment of each school’s/program’s characteristics, especially insofar as these can be objectively measured. A college or university is a complex entity, with numerous factors to consider, and distilling these down to the place where meaningful comparisons can be made to form a defensible ranking list becomes part science and part art.

To meet this challenge—and thereby provide you with the most useful and insightful educational rankings on the Internet — TheBestSchools.org formulates our rankings based on five informational categories (six, when considering online schools). The major metrics and qualities for which we rank are these (with expanded, detailed considerations and weights listed):

1. Academic excellence based on a school’s curriculum generally or within the selected discipline [weight = 25%]

  • Weighs school against known leading schools in that discipline
  • Weighs number of core curricula listed as advanced courses within that discipline and compares against introductory courses
  • Weighs school’s curriculum against known knowledge needs of major employers in that discipline
  • Considers number and types of specializations offered within that discipline
  • Considers faculty expertise in that discipline
  • Considers range of electives within that discipline
  • Considers quality of online environment offered to students (if applicable), particularly within that discipline

2. Strength of faculty scholarship [weight = 25%]

  • Considers education background of the faculty
  • Considers years of faculty experience both inside and outside of academia.
  • Considers faculty membership and leadership within relevant, prominent associations
  • Considers academic papers published by faculty in relevant, prominent periodicals
  • Considers awards and recognitions given to faculty members from prominent organizations and from other sources

3. Reputation [weight = 20%]

  • Considers a school’s reputation among academic peers and employers regarding the following:
    • Faculty
    • Curriculum
    • “Freshness” of academic knowledge
    • Adaptability to changes in employment sectors
    • Suitability of graduates for the workplace

4. Financial aid [weight = 10%]

  • Mandatory: Requires full accreditation from an agency endorsed by the U.S. Department of Education and listed on the federal register to accept student federal financial aid
  • Considers range of school-sponsored financial aid such as scholarships and grants

5. Range of degree programs [weight = 20%]

  • Considers range of degree levels: associate’s, bachelor’s, master’s, and doctoral and professional
  • Considers range of degree subjects offered, such as art & design, computers & technology, education & teaching, criminal justice, and business

6. Strength of online instruction methodology (if applicable) [weight = 25%; subtract 5% from each of the above for online schools/programs]

  • Considers the following of the online classes:
    • Types of online technology used to deliver content
    • Pedagogy style: asynchronous, synchronous, or both (depending on the degree)
    • Extent and quality of the online, community learning environment, including options for communication, interactivity, and collaboration between students and also between students and instructors
    • Variety, breadth, and depth of coursework, and its support, including project options and online tutoring
  • Considers the following of instructors:
    • Extent of training for teaching within an online learning environment
    • Amount of timely, consistent feedback to students
    • Extent of collaboration with prospective employers to ensure suitability of instructional materials for achieving desired skills
    • Ratio to number of students in a class
  • Number and quality of internships in a student’s geographical area for applicable degrees

Because students tend to review a variety of information when choosing a school, the weight a student gives any one criterion will vary. For instance, it’s not enough to offer a carefully constructed ranking of great schools if many are too expensive or too difficult to get into.

To better serve the needs of prospective students, we are therefore increasingly offering filters that help you better use our rankings to find the schools that match your specific needs. These supplement our ranking criteria and include:

  • Accreditation
  • Public or private status
  • Acceptance rate
  • Retention rate
  • Graduation rate
  • ACT/SAT requirements
  • Cost in-state / out of state
  • Undergrad, grad, or both offered
  • Region
  • State
  • City

Get the best rankings here AND get them to suit your personal needs. That’s TheBestSchools.org advantage!

If you have any questions about our ranking methodology, please contact us.

Citations: For a broader account of our ranking methodology, especially as it relates to TheBestSchools.org's underlying educational philosophy and, in other ranking articles, looks beyond academic excellence (as here) to such factors as return on investment or incidental benefit, see our article "Ranking Methodology: How We Rank Schools at TBS." Reputation of schools and degree programs can at least in part be gauged through the school or department's publishing activity, citations, and desirability. At TheBestSchools.org, we keep track of such social and peer validation: "Making Sense of College Rankings." For nuts-and-bolts information about colleges and universities, we look to the National Center for Education Statistics and especially its College Navigator. Insofar as salary and inflation data are relevant to a ranking, we look to the Bureau of Labor Statistics. Finally, nothing beats contacting schools and degree programs directly, which our researchers often do, with the result that all the entries in this article should be considered as belonging to this citation!

Featured Online Doctorate in Educational Psychology Programs

What Is an Online Ph.D. in Educational Psychology?

A doctoral program in educational psychology provides advanced training in psychological methods, research, and practice. Graduate students study the process of human learning, including how we understand things, communicate new information to others, and create new knowledge. They conduct original research, write a dissertation, and complete an internship or practicum to prepare for roles in psychology practice.

During a doctoral program, educational psychology students strengthen their research and analytical skills. By blending the fields of psychology and education, graduate students build the skills required for career paths in psychology, research, and education. For example, a doctorate meets the requirements for academic roles, such as psychology professor. Graduates can also work in research, training and development, school psychology, and instructional development.

Earning a doctorate requires a significant investment of both time and money. Before considering a doctorate in educational psychology, prospective students should make sure they meet admission requirements.

Some Ph.D. in educational psychology programs require a master's degree for admission, while others admit applicants with a bachelor's degree. Programs may expect candidates to have a psychology degree or meet course prerequisite requirements to enter the program. Applicants with a master's degree may qualify for a fast track within their doctoral program. Admission requirements often include a minimum GPA and standardized test scores.

Choosing an Online Doctoral Educational Psychology Program

Finding the right educational psychology program will affect a doctoral student's education and career opportunities. Prospective applicants should carefully research their options to ensure they make the right choice. Factors such as cost, program length, and delivery format can help applicants narrow their options and find a good fit for their schedule and academic needs.

Applicants should consider questions like: Does the program offer specializations in the their area of interest? Does the program emphasize practice, research, or both? What options will doctoral students have for faculty advisors? Considering these issues will help doctoral students find the program that best meets their needs.

Accreditation for Online Educational Psychology Degree Programs

Prospective applicants should always choose an accredited educational psychology program. Regionally accredited schools and programs meet the highest standards for educating students in psychology. Accredited universities can also distribute federal financial aid to students, and they are more likely to transfer credits from other accredited institutions.

Many psychology careers require an accredited degree. For example, licensed psychologists must attend a psychology doctoral program accredited by the American Psychological Association (APA) to apply for a license. The APA does not currently accredit any fully online doctoral psychology programs, though several accredited programs offer coursework partially online. Learn more about why accreditation matters in our accreditation guide.

What Else Can I Expect From a Ph.D. in Educational Psychology Program?

An educational psychology degree emphasizes research and analytical skills. During a doctorate in educational psychology, graduate students take courses in human development, theories of learning, and the instructional process. They design and implement research studies and analyze the results to write a dissertation.

Doctoral candidates focus their training through specialized courses in areas like educational technology, the psychology of motivation, and instructional design. Many programs also incorporate practicum requirements, which provide experience in educational psychology for doctoral candidates considering careers in psychology practice.

This section introduces common educational psychology courses and the requirements for earning a doctorate.

Common Courses for an Online Doctorate in Educational Psychology

  • Lifespan Development: Students explore developmental milestones that occur in the prenatal, childhood, adolescent, adult, and late-adult stages of life. They examine the impact of genetic and environmental factors on human development, as well as strategies and interventions used to promote and sustain healthy developmental processes.
  • Human Motivation: Educational psychologists must understand what forces drive students' behaviors in order to support academic achievement and social and emotional development. This class provides an overview of the diverse historical and contemporary theories behind human motivation, with a particular emphasis on children and adolescents.
  • Theories of Learning: The best educational psychologists understand the full range of how student learning takes place. This class covers theories of learning, including constructivism, behaviorism, cognitivism, gestalt, information processing, and humanism. It also reviews theories of cognitive processes, such as language and memory.
  • Psychology of the Exceptional Individual: Educational psychologists often work with students who deviate significantly from the norm in behavior and achievement. This can mean counseling students with physical or learning disabilities, or it can involve working with exceptionally gifted or talented students. The course emphasizes the importance of inclusion and diverse learning environments.
  • Ethics and Standards of Psychology: To prepare students for the realities of their profession, many online Ph.D. in educational psychology programs feature coursework on ethics and professional standards. Students confront the ethical dilemmas that often arise in academia, individual counseling, and when working within diverse communities. This course also introduces students to ethical questions they may face if a client becomes involved in the legal system.

How Long Does It Take to Complete an Online Doctorate in Educational Psychology Program?

Earning a Ph.D. in educational psychology online usually takes 3-7 years, but this can vary depending on a few factors.

The first stage in earning your doctoral degree is completing required coursework. Students often take these classes as part of a cohort, meaning they learn alongside their peers as they progress through the program together. However, some programs may be self-paced, allowing students to proceed at their own speed. Most full-time students finish their coursework in 2-3 years.

The second stage of earning a psychology doctoral degree is completing a dissertation. Generally speaking, students work with a faculty advisor on their dissertations, but they do the majority of their research and writing independently and at their own pace. When finished, students defend their dissertation in front of a faculty committee. Most full-time students complete the dissertation process in 1-4 years.

Paying for Your Online Doctorate in Educational Psychology Degree

The first step toward earning an educational psychology Ph.D. online is completing the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA). The FAFSA connects eligible students with various kinds of financial support, including grants, loans, and work-study opportunities.

Students do not need to pay back federal grants or work-study wages, but they do need to repay loans. However, federal loans have relatively low interest rates, and the federal government may also forgive all or a portion of a loan if a student works in public service for a set period of time.

Many states and private organizations offer scholarships to students based on academic achievement, community service, or financial need. Teachers looking to transition to a career as an educational psychologist may also qualify for discounted tuition or tuition reimbursement, depending on the program and their employer.

Finally, students can apply for private student loans. While these loans can be helpful in financing a part of the total cost of education, students should avoid taking out private loans to cover the majority of their tuition and other expenses. Private loans typically have higher interest rates than federal loans, and private loan organizations usually do not forgive loans for public service.

Educational Psychology Jobs

A Ph.D. in educational psychology prepares graduates for a variety of careers. While many work directly in the field of educational psychology as researchers or academics, a doctorate can also lead to opportunities as a training and development manager, school psychologist, or student development director. Educational psychologists can also work in private practice or pursue roles in instructional design, educational coordination, or counseling.

Learn more about the job description, median salary, and job outlook for common educational psychology jobs below, and then check out our page on careers with a psychology degree.

true Training and Development Manager $113,350 7%

Training and development managers oversee the development of an organization's human resources. They conduct assessments to determine training needs, design programs to meet those needs, and manage training and development specialists. They also evaluate programs and instructors, manage training budgets, and update current training programs. A background in educational psychology helps training and development managers create programs and instructional methods.

true School Psychologist $80,370 3%

School psychologists use their understanding of human behavior to support student learning. They may help students address emotional problems, design and implement plans to boost a student's academic performance, or collaborate with teachers and administrators to develop broader teaching and learning strategies. Most school psychologists hold a doctoral degree, like an online educational psychology Ph.D.

true Postsecondary Teacher in Psychology $79,540 9%

Postsecondary teachers instruct and advise students at trade schools, colleges, and universities. They also conduct psychological research or write about topics in educational psychology. While a master's degree may be sufficient for jobs at community colleges, most professorial jobs require a doctoral degree.

true Instructional Coordinators $66,290 6%

Rather than working with individual students, instructional coordinators design, implement, and assess school curricula and teaching standards. Instructional coordinators often need an advanced degree, and online educational psychology Ph.D. programs can help students develop the skills and knowledge necessary to create strong learning experiences for students.

true School Counselor $57,040 8%

School counselors support the academic and social-emotional development of students. They evaluate a student's abilities or aptitude through various assessments; work to address issues that affect school performance; and help administrators create programs and policies meant to curb bullying, drug use, or other problems. School counselors usually hold an advanced degree.

true Substance Abuse, Behavioral Disorder, or Mental Health Counselor $46,240 25%

After earning an educational psychology Ph.D. online, some graduates may work exclusively with students who struggle with behavioral or mental health issues. These professionals often collaborate with schools and educational organizations, but they may also work at treatment centers or in private practice. These positions typically require an advanced degree.

Educational Psychology Professional Organizations

Professional organizations help doctoral students connect with educational psychologists and prepare for the workforce. Many offer networking opportunities, cutting-edge research in the field, and professional development resources. Members can also benefit from mentorship opportunities, career support, and access to job boards. Professional organizations often offer discounted student memberships.

APA is the leading scientific and professional organization for psychologists of all backgrounds. Two divisions within the organization provide resources specifically tailored for educational and school psychologists, respectively. ASCA works on behalf of school counseling professionals around the world. It offers a wealth of online professional development opportunities, a web-based networking platform, and a magazine featuring the latest research news in the field. NASP establishes standards of practice for school psychologists that improve students' learning, behavior, and mental health. In addition to its expansive collection of research, practitioner guides, and policy briefs, NASP also administers a national certification exam for school psychologists. Founded in 1916, AERA promotes research into the educational process. Members can access professional advancement information, publications, and specialized education research through the organization's divisions and special interest groups. AERA also hosts events and meetings that offer networking opportunities.

Frequently Asked Questions

true What Do Educational Psychologists Do?

Educational psychologists research how people absorb new information and learn. They conduct research and work with children and adults to understand the process of educating people.

How Do You Become an Educational Psychologist?

Educational psychologists often hold a doctorate in their field, which meets the requirements for roles like school psychologist, educational psychologist, and psychology professor.

What Is the Difference Between School Psychology and Educational Psychology?

School psychologists focus their training on working with children, while educational psychologists work with adults and children. Educational psychologists also approach learning from a broader perspective.

How Many Years Does It Take To Become an Educational Psychologist?

Earning a Ph.D. in educational psychology typically takes at least three years, with many programs running over five years. Depending on the dissertation process, earning a Ph.D. can even take up to seven or eight years.

How Much Money Do Educational Psychologists Make?

According to PayScale, educational psychologists make over $75,000 per year on average. Similar roles, like school psychologist and psychology professor, may pay higher salaries.

Do You Need a Ph.D. to Be an Educational Psychologist?

Many advanced roles in educational psychology, including researcher and professor, require a doctorate, though some positions may hire candidates with a master's degree and relevant experience.

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