Earning a Ph.D. in Educational Psychology Online

Online Ph.D. programs in educational psychology prepare psychologists to use their expertise to enhance student learning outcomes. Graduates can anticipate strong job prospects; the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) projects a 14% increase in clinical, counseling, and school psychology jobs between 2016 and 2026.

Pursuing a Ph.D. in educational psychology online is a convenient and affordable way for busy professionals to advance their careers and salaries. This overview covers important information about earning an online Ph.D. in educational psychology, including financial aid options, curricula, and career and salary prospects.

Why Get an Online Ph.D. in Educational Psychology?

Deeper Knowledge and Specialization

A Ph.D. in educational psychology provides the advanced research skills and comprehensive knowledge of human development, learning, and motivation needed to provide expert guidance on educational policy, programs, curricula, and learning plans at government, community, and school levels.

Career Advancement Opportunities

An online Ph.D. in educational psychology allows professionals to obtain more lucrative and prestigious positions in the field. For example, this degree qualifies educators and school counselors to take on leadership positions, such as school administrators or training and development managers.

Exposure to Online Learning Technology

As technology rapidly transforms every industry, online learners keep pace with these changes while in school and graduate with a solid foundation in relevant online tools. Pursuing an educational psychology Ph.D. online offers exposure to cutting-edge technologies that graduates can use in supervisory, educational, and counseling capacities.

What's the Difference Between a Ph.D. in Educational Psychology and a Doctor of Psychology in Educational Psychology (Psy.D.)?

Both Psy.D. and Ph.D. degrees typically take 4-7 years to complete, but they feature different curricula and foci. A Psy.D. focuses on clinical training and practice, preparing students to become practicing psychologists, while a Ph.D. emphasizes research, with graduates often taking positions in academia. However, Ph.D. graduates may also work as practicing psychologists. Both degrees are the highest in the field and result in similar potential salaries.

Prerequisites for Online Ph.D. in Educational Psychology Programs

Although requirements for Ph.D. in educational psychology online programs vary by school, the following list details some common ones.

  • Master's Degree in Educational Psychology or a Related Field From an Accredited College Many schools require online Ph.D. in educational psychology applicants to hold an accredited master's degree. For a list of the U.S. Department of Education's approved accrediting agencies and accredited schools, click here.
  • Exemplary GPA Schools often require applicants to possess a minimum 3.0 GPA from prior learning. Applicants must contact prior institutions to obtain official transcripts demonstrating their GPAs.
  • Curriculum Vitae or Resume Many schools require applicants to submit a current resume or CV demonstrating relevant education and work experience. This guide offers helpful advice for creating an effective CV.
  • Professional Writing Sample and Statement of Purpose Depending on the school, applicants may need to submit an essay and/or a professional writing sample. The essay often asks applicants to detail relevant interests and prior experience, but it may consist of a more formal research statement outlining the student's project ideas or goals.
  • Availability for In-Person Practicum While online doctoral programs allow students to complete coursework online, students also need to fulfill in-person practicum requirements, usually at a site near their home. Before applying, prospective students should research the program's practicum requirements to ensure that they can meet them.

How Much Can I Make With an Online Ph.D. in Educational Psychology Degree?

Obtaining an online Ph.D. in educational psychology qualifies graduates for lucrative roles with high responsibilities. According to the BLS, professionals with this degree make an average annual salary between $70,000-$100,000. The following list outlines potential careers for graduates with this degree.

Potential Careers

Career Stats Description

School Psychologist

Median Annual Salary: $76,990

School psychologists create and implement plans for improving student learning and behavior. These professionals usually work directly with students, but they may also assist administration and faculty in analyzing and developing programs, methodologies, and teaching strategies that produce successful teaching and learning outcomes.

Postsecondary Teacher in Psychology

Median Annual Salary: $76,710

Postsecondary teachers in psychology usually work as academic professors in psychology departments. In addition to teaching, student advising, and some administrative tasks, these professionals typically conduct original research and contribute to scholarly publications.

Training Director or Development Manager

Median Annual Salary: $111,340

Employed by government agencies, nonprofits, or companies, training directors and development managers plan, organize, design, and evaluate trainings and other educational materials. While some hold lower degrees, many training directors in major international corporations hold doctorates.

Paying for an Online Ph.D. in Educational Psychology Program

Students pursuing a Ph.D. in educational psychology online often save money compared to on-campus students thanks to savings on expenses like transportation and housing. To determine their eligibility for federal loans, grants, and work-study programs, students must submit the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA).

Students should seek low-interest federal loans before pursuing private loans, which typically feature much higher interest rates. Some professionals may receive tuition discounts or reimbursements from their employers, and graduates who work in public service for several years sometimes qualify for federal loan forgiveness. Students also enjoy access to scholarship opportunities.


Many students qualify for scholarships based on factors like academic merit, financial need, and demographics. The following list outlines potential scholarship opportunities for Ph.D. students.

What to Expect From an Online Ph.D. in Educational Psychology Program

An online Ph.D. in educational psychology typically requires 60-69 credits and takes 5-7 years to complete. Students usually complete courses online with a cohort of peers who progress through the program together, although some programs allow self-paced formats.

Major Milestones

Online educational psychology Ph.D. programs include several components, including coursework, a dissertation, practicums, and licensure preparation. Ph.D. students can expect to experience the following milestones when earning their degrees.

  1. Completion of Capstone Coursework

    For the first 1-2 years of their online educational psychology Ph.D. programs, students complete courses on major educational psychology topics and research methods.

  2. Dissertation Proposal and Defense

    Some programs require students to conduct preliminary research, write formal proposals, and garner feedback from professors through proposal defenses. Dissertation proposal and defense typically takes place during the year after coursework completion.

  3. Practicum

    Many programs feature 1-2-year practicum requirements, which students complete in tandem with their dissertation research and writing. Online Ph.D. programs assist students with placement at a site where they can gain supervised experience working directly with clients.

  4. Dissertation Completion and Defense

    Students typically research and write dissertations — often with the help of dissertation research courses and input from a faculty advisor — over a period of 1-4 years. Students must defend their dissertations before a faculty committee in order to graduate.

  5. Internship

    To gain licensure, most educational psychology Ph.D. students must intern for a year or more at an educational organization or institution. This internship usually takes place after completing the dissertation.

  6. Licensure or Certification Exams

    After completing their internships, educational psychology Ph.D.s must pass a state licensure exam to earn their licenses to practice. Some states also require certification from the National Association of School Psychologists (NASP), which means certification candidates must pass the NASP exam. Those planning to work in public schools often need to apply for additional certifications through the state.


Although curricula vary by school, online Ph.D. in educational psychology schools typically offer specialized electives, research methods courses, and foundational courses on topics like human development, learning, motivation, and exceptionality. The following list introduces three common foundational courses in online Ph.D. in educational psychology degrees.

Human Motivation

This course surveys past and current human motivation theories, focusing primarily on child and adolescent motivation and its relationship to learning.

Lifespan Development

This course examines major milestones in human development, including prenatal and adult stages, analyzing genetic and environmental influences and studying various strategies that encourage healthy development.

Learning Theory

This course introduces major theories and approaches to human learning: behaviorism, cognitivism, and constructivism.

Professional Organizations and Resources

Ph.D. in educational psychology students and graduates can benefit from joining professional organizations. Professional organizations offer networking, professional development, and employment opportunities, as well as access to psychology-related literature. They may also help prospective doctoral students find the best programs for their career goals.

  • American Psychological Association: As the leading professional psychologist organization, APA provides current research, education, and career resources for psychologists. It offers nine membership options, as well as two divisions that focus on educational psychology and school psychology.
  • National Council on Measurement in Education: This organization creates and evaluates programs, tests, and other assessment tools. NCME seeks to stimulate, spread, and apply scientific research on measuring education outcomes.
  • National Association of School Psychologists: NASP supports school psychologists and other professionals working in educational contexts. Members can access online professional development opportunities, an annual convention, and up-to-date research. This organization also provides practitioner guides and policy briefs.
  • American School Counselor Association: ASCA provides members with online professional development and networking opportunities, plus a job search tool. ASCA also produces the ASCA School Counselor Magazine and Professional School Counseling Journal.
  • Association for Educational Therapists: AET offers professional development and training opportunities, establishes ethical practice standards, and conducts public outreach to increase community access to therapy.