Ph.D. in Educational Psychology – Everything You Need to Know in 2024

By Staff Writer

Our career guides are produced by staff writers in conjunction with our expert career coaches. We may earn a referral fee from some links.


A PhD in Educational Psychology is an advanced degree focused on the study of how people learn and the psychological processes involved in education.

This field blends principles from psychology and education to explore cognitive, emotional, and social aspects of learning, as well as effective teaching strategies and interventions. Graduates are typically equipped to conduct high-level research, develop educational programs, and apply psychological theories to educational practice.

The duration of a PhD in Educational Psychology typically ranges from 4 to 6 years, depending on the student’s prior educational background, the specific program structure, and the time taken to complete dissertation research. The initial years usually involve rigorous coursework covering foundational topics such as learning theories, cognitive development, educational assessment, instructional design, and research methodologies. As students progress, they engage in independent research projects, culminating in a dissertation that contributes new knowledge or insights to the field of educational psychology. Many programs also require students to gain practical experience through internships or assistantships in educational settings.

Throughout the program, students explore a variety of topics, including the psychological foundations of education, motivation and engagement in learning, special education, educational technology, and the impact of socio-cultural factors on learning. Additionally, students are trained in advanced research methods and statistical analyses to equip them with the skills necessary for conducting empirical research. Graduates of a PhD in Educational Psychology often pursue careers in academia, conducting research and teaching at universities, or take on roles in educational policy, school psychology, instructional coordination, and educational consulting, where they apply their expertise to improve educational practices and outcomes.

Why get a PhD in Educational Psychology?

Completing a PhD in Educational Psychology is an opportunity to make a significant impact on the field of education. As a doctoral student, you will work closely with leading scholars in the field and conduct cutting-edge research that addresses critical issues related to learning and development. The PhD program in Educational Psychology provides students with the opportunity to develop advanced research skills, gain expertise in a specialized area of study, and prepare for a career as a researcher, educator, or practitioner in the field of education. Additionally, a PhD in Educational Psychology can lead to a wide range of career opportunities, including academic positions, research roles, or consulting positions in education, government, or industry.
Dr. Jennifer Woolf, a professor of Educational Psychology at the University of Texas at Austin

Career Advancement

A PhD in Educational Psychology can open up a range of career opportunities, particularly in academia and research. Graduates may go on to become professorsresearchers, administrators, or consultants in a variety of educational settings.


Educational Psychology research has the potential to make a significant impact on education and learning. PhD students in this field have the opportunity to conduct original research that can contribute to the development of new theories and practices, and ultimately improve educational outcomes.

Career Prospects & Earning Potential

A PhD in Educational Psychology opens up a plethora of career opportunities as well as significantly boosting your earning potential over your career. We cover some of the jobs open to you later in this guide but each command salaries in excess of $70,000 per year. It is worth noting that if salary is the most important factor for you then pursuing a PhD in Organizational Psychology or Psychiatry may be more suitable.


Educational Psychology is a specialized field of study that allows students to develop expertise in a particular area of interest, such as cognitive development, educational technology, or learning disabilities.

Intellectual Challenge

Pursuing a doctorate level program generally can be intellectually challenging and rewarding. Students are exposed to cutting-edge research and theory, and have the opportunity to engage in critical thinking and problem solving.

What do you cover in a PhD in Educational Psychology?

A PhD in Educational Psychology typically involves coursework and research in a variety of areas related to human learning and development.

  • Human Development: This may include courses on cognitive, social, and emotional development across the lifespan, as well as developmental theories and research methods.
  • Learning and Cognition: This may include courses on learning theories and principles, memory, attention, problem-solving, and creativity.
  • Educational Research Methods: This may include courses on experimental design, statistical analysis, and research ethics.
  • Motivation: This may include courses on the psychology of motivation and how it affects learning and achievement.
  • Assessment and Evaluation: This may include courses on measurement theory, assessment methods, and evaluation of educational programs and interventions.
  • Instructional Design: This may include courses on the design and implementation of educational interventions, curriculum development, and instructional technology.
  • Special Education and Inclusive Education: This may include courses on identifying and addressing the needs of students with disabilities, as well as promoting inclusive education practices.
Pursuing a PhD in Educational Psychology is an exhilarating journey of discovery, scholarship, and personal growth. The program is designed to immerse students in a culture of intellectual curiosity, where they work with accomplished scholars to develop deep expertise in topics that will impact students and education at large. The journey is demanding, requiring dedication, persistence, and creativity, but it is also highly rewarding. As students engage in coursework and research, they develop a sense of identity as scholars, and gain critical research and analytical skills that will serve them well in academia, industry, and other professional settings. The PhD program in Educational Psychology offers an extraordinary opportunity to work on important educational issues and contribute to the advancement of knowledge in this important field.
Dr. Laura L. Namy, a professor of Psychology and Education at Emory University

The actual curriculum of a PhD in Educational Psychology may differ based on the program but here is a sample curriculum to give you a sense of how a PhD in educational psychology program might be structured:


First Year

  • Introduction to Educational Psychology
  • Developmental Psychology Across the Lifespan
  • Learning and Cognition
  • Quantitative Research Methods in Education
  • Qualitative Research Methods in Education
  • Elective Course

Second Year

  • Educational Measurement and Assessment
  • Psychology of Motivation and Achievement
  • Instructional Design and Technology
  • Introduction to Special Education
  • Elective Course
  • Research Apprenticeship

Third Year

  • Advanced Seminar in Educational Psychology
  • Seminar in Educational Research Methodology
  • Research Apprenticeship
  • Elective Courses (to support research interests)

Fourth Year

  • Advanced Research Apprenticeship
  • Dissertation Proposal Development
  • Elective Courses (to support research interests)

Fifth Year

  • Dissertation Research and Writing
  • Dissertation Defense

Entry Requirements

  • Bachelor’s Degree – A bachelor’s degree in psychology, education, or a related field.
  • Master’s Degree – Often preferred or required, especially if the bachelor’s degree is not directly related to psychology or education.
  • Minimum GPA – Typically a minimum GPA of 3.0 to 3.5 on a 4.0 scale.
  • Letters of Recommendation – Usually three, preferably from academic or professional references familiar with your academic work and research potential.
  • Personal Statement – A statement of purpose outlining your research interests, career goals, and reasons for pursuing a PhD in Educational Psychology.
  • Research Experience – Demonstrated research experience through undergraduate or master’s thesis work, research assistant positions, or published papers.
  • Resume – Detailing academic, research, and professional experience.
  • Interview– Some programs may require an interview as part of the admissions process.
  • Writing Sample– Often required to showcase your writing and research capabilities.
  • Prerequisite Coursework – Completion of certain courses in psychology, education, statistics, and research methods may be required.

How much does a PhD in Educational Psychology cost?

According to data from the National Center for Education Statistics (NCES), the average tuition and fees for doctoral degree programs in psychology and counseling was $16,840 per year for in-state students at public institutions and $37,150 per year for private institutions during the 2020-2021 academic year.

However, it’s important to note that this is an average and tuition can vary significantly by program and institution. For example, the University of Pennsylvania or Harvard University, have annual tuition and fees for PhD programs in the range of $50,000-$60,000 per year.

What jobs can you do with a PhD in Educational Psychology?

The career opportunities available to individuals with a PhD in Educational Psychology are diverse. We have 700+ educational psychology jobs on our board currently.

  1. Professor or Researcher – Many PhD graduates in Educational Psychology go on to work as professors or researchers at colleges and universities. They may teach and conduct research in areas such as human learning and development, educational technology, motivation, assessment, and evaluation.
  2. Educational Consultant – Educational psychologists with a PhD may work as consultants, providing guidance and support to schools, school districts, or other educational organizations. They may help with program development, evaluation, or assessment, or provide professional development training for educators.
  3. Assessment and Evaluation Specialist – Educational psychologists with a PhD may work in the development and validation of educational assessments or evaluations, such as standardized tests, educational surveys, or program evaluations.
  4. Education Researcher – Educational psychologists with a PhD may work in research organizations or educational institutions, conducting research on issues related to learning and development, such as improving educational outcomes, reducing achievement gaps, or promoting social-emotional learning.

Government or Non-profit Organization

Educational psychologists with a PhD may work in government agencies or non-profit organizations, such as think tanks or research centers, conducting research, analyzing policy, or developing educational programs.

Private Industry

Some educational psychologists with a PhD may work in private industry, such as educational technology companies, training and development firms, or publishing companies. They may be involved in product development, research, or consulting.

How much can you earn with a PhD in Educational Psychology?

Here are the average annual salaries for a few common careers that someone with a PhD in Educational Psychology might pursue:

  1. Professor – $80,370 per year
  2. Researcher – $79,000 per year
  3. Educational Consultant: $72,000 per year
  4. Assessment and Evaluation Specialist: $74,040 per year

Get more salary insights in this guide.