What are Ed.D Programs in Psychology and Counseling?
Ed.D. programs in educational psychology, counseling, and related fields are doctoral-level psychology degrees that deal with the specific context of educational institutions. They are designed primarily for school psychologists and guidance counselors, though the curriculum is usually also relevant to the needs of administrators, curriculum specialists, and educational technology specialists who approach their respective fields from a psychology-centered perspective.
Types of Psychology and Counseling Ed.D. Programs
Despite the very different names, traditional Ed.D. programs in educational psychology and counseling tend to have roughly the same goals. They usually prepare students to proceed further in their careers as counselors or school psychologists, not as clinical psychologists, and they are usually designed and intended for students who already work in those fields at the time they apply. This is true whether the major is called educational psychology, counseling psychology, school psychology, counseling, or any mix of the above.
But there are some less traditional programs that blend academic study of educational psychology and counseling with study of other complementary fields. Aspen University’s low-residency Ed.D. in Leadership and Learning offers an organizational psychology track, for example, that gives school administrators a psychology background tailored to the needs of educational management professionals. There’s an entire class of Ed.D. programs in organizational leadership and development that attempt to serve a similar purpose. Other programs use specialization tracks to blend educational psychology with curriculum and instruction or educational technology.
There are also a small number of Ed.D. in Educational Psychology programs that are intended for people who want to learn about the field but not necessarily practice it, and these programs may be a good fit for education professionals who intend to work in other areas. Most Ed.D. programs that focus specifically on educational psychology or a related field either require students to meet state licensure requirements, or (in rare cases) are designed to meet those requirements themselves. If a program doesn’t require licensure and doesn’t provide you with any means of acquiring licensure, that’s a good clue that it’s probably designed with the needs of non-counselors and non-psychologists in mind.
A Note About Accreditation
The American Psychological Association doesn’t accredit Ed.D. programs, so the most relevant forms of specialized accreditation available to these programs are offered by the National Association of School Psychologists (NASP) and the Council for Accreditation of Counseling and Related Educational Programs (CACREP). (All programs in our online database also hold regional accreditation, of course.)
Because the majority of Ed.D. programs in educational psychology and related fields do not currently hold NASP or CACREP accreditation, and because many Ed.D. programs already require applicants to be licensed counselors, it can be difficult to assess the relative necessity of NASP and CACREP accreditation at the Ed.D. level. If you intend to work in a position that requires licensure, NASP or CACREP accreditation is required under your state’s licensure requirements, and you don’t already meet those requirements, it stands to reason that NASP or CACREP accreditation is vital. But if you’re already licensed, or don’t need licensure for the work you intend to do, it becomes less important.
Ed.D. vs. Ph.D. in Counseling & Psychology
In most fields, there is relatively little essential difference between Ed.D. and Ph.D. programs. But because the American Psychological Association accredits dozens of Ph.D. programs in school psychology, and never accredits Ed.D. programs, the Ph.D. is an obviously superior choice for students who want to earn a APA-accredited doctorate. APA accreditation is not necessarily vital to educational psychology or counseling in every setting, but students who aim to work in a broad clinical capacity would be wise to consider it.
Earning an Ed.D. in Counseling or Psychology
Counseling & Psychology Prerequisites
You’ll need to hold a relevant master’s degree, usually a licensure-track master’s in psychology or counseling. The University of Western Georgia’s requirement that applicants hold a master’s degree accredited by CACREP or an equivalent organization is a little stricter than average, as Argosy University’s expectation that the program be one that includes “a counseling practicum” is closer to the norm, but in most cases applicants are expected to already be academically prepared to function as licensed counselors, whether they have chosen to pursue that licensure or not.
Some programs may also require a minimum master’s-level GPA, a GRE exam, an autobiographical admissions essay, and/or work experience. A few programs, such as Loyola’s, specifically require that applicants be licensed state-level school psychologists. A relevant Ed.S. often grants advanced placement.
Counseling & Psychology Curriculum
The curriculum of an Ed.D. in Educational Psychology or Counseling blends elements that you might expect to see in an educational leadership program with other elements indigenous to a clinical psychology curriculum. But what stands out about this curriculum is that it tends to be practical, not academic; in most cases, don’t expect to see more than one or two courses about learning theory, the social psychology of classrooms, or other similarly abstract topics. The focus is vocational.
One exception is Andrews University’s Ed.D. in Educational Psychology, which focuses far more on theory than most programs. The core coursework covers the full range of educational psychology theory, from biopsychology and cognitive psychology to psychometrics and theories of learning. There’s certainly a practicum/field work component, but the bulk of the coursework focuses on thick-text psychological theory.
Counseling & Psychology Dissertation or Capstone Project
Some Ed.D. programs allow students to submit a capstone project, rather than a dissertation, at the end of their program. A good example is LaSierra University’s Ed.D. in Educational Psychology, where students submit a portfolio based on field work in lieu of a traditional dissertation.
Counseling & Psychology Internships and Field Work
Because of the clinical history of the field, it’s very uncommon to find an Ed.D. program in educational psychology or counseling that does not have an internship or field work requirement. In the fields of psychology and counseling, this requirement is sometimes called a practicum or residency.
Some programs require as little as a single semester’s practicum, but others require significantly more; Boston University’s Ed.D. in Counseling Psychology requires 7 to 9 semesters’ worth, encompassing almost the full length of the program.
Online Ed.D. in Psychology and Counseling Programs
Are Ed.D. Programs in Psychology and Counseling Offered Online?
Yes. One program that especially takes advantage of the online format is the Chicago School of Professional Psychology’s online Ed.D. in Educational Psychology and Technology, which focuses on cognitive science and human-computer interaction.
Are Any of the Online Psychology or Counseling Programs NASP- or CACREP-Accredited?
A small number of online programs are CACREP-accredited. The University of the Cumberlands’ Ed.D. in Educational Leadership with specialization in counselor education and supervision holds this distinction, as are at least most campuses associated with Argosy University’s online Ed.D. in Counselor Education and Supervision.
No NASP-accredited programs are available online at the present time. All of the programs in our database hold regional accreditation, but NASP’s accreditation requirements do not currently align well with the online format.
It is worth reiterating that no Ed.D. programs in educational psychology or counseling (online or otherwise) hold APA accreditation, as the APA only accredits doctorates that use the Psy.D. or Ph.D. designation.
Online Ed.D. in Psychology and Counseling Residency Requirements
So far, every online Ed.D. program in educational psychology or counseling listed in our database requires some visits to campus. There are no exceptions (at least not yet!).
But that doesn’t mean the residencies are always lengthy. Students in the aforementioned Chicago School program spend a grand total of seven days on campus over the course of two 3-4 day residencies, the first allowing students to cover a wide variety of relevant cutting-edge issues in mini-seminar format, the second consisting of a comprehensive exam.
Educational Psychology and Counseling Careers
Ed.D. in Psychology and Counseling Jobs
There are two primary things one is expected to do with an Ed.D. in Educational Psychology or Counseling: either become a school psychologist or counselor, or supervise school psychologists and counselors. But someone with the appropriate license might choose to open a private psychology or counseling practice instead, and anyone with an Ed.D. degree, regardless of specialty, is a potential school administrator or curriculum specialist.
The Bureau of Labor Statistics classifies psychologists and school and career counselors among the fastest-growing occupations, with 14% and 13% growth projected, respectively, over the 2016-2026 period. But for licensed counselors who choose to work in private practice, these numbers are dwarfed by the anticipated 23% growth over the 2016-2026 period in the category of substance abuse, behavioral disorder, and mental health counseling.
Ed.D. in Psychology and Counseling Salary
The BLS shows a $20,000 gap between the median annual wages of school psychologists ($77,430) and school and career counselors ($55,410). Indeed.com sees the same gap, but estimates lower annual wages in both fields ($62,580 for school psychologists vs. $42,120 for career counselors). Glassdoor.com records an even larger gap: $77,005 for school psychologists, $44,972 for career counselors, and $50,615 for school counselors.
It is important to remember that school psychologists typically hold doctorates, while school and career counselors are more likely to hold master’s degrees. It’s possible that this distinction reflects, at least in part, the additional salary expectations that typically come with a doctorate.
Is an Ed.D. in Psychology or Counseling Worth It?
If you’re already a licensed psychologist or counselor, yes. If you intend to become a licensed counselor and the specific Ed.D. program you’re interested in satisfies licensure requirements in your state, yes. If you never intend to work as a licensed psychologist or counselor, and plan to pursue the program so that you can bring psychology to bear on the administrative, curriculum-related, or technology-related roles that interest you, yes.
But if you’re interested in working as a psychologist or counselor in a school setting, there is something important that you need to bear in mind: meeting the specific licensure requirements of your state and any state you’re likely to live in later on is crucial. The National Association of School Psychologists (NASP) and the American Counseling Association have prepared useful reports addressing licensure requirements in each state, and what one has to do in order to meet those requirements.
If you aren’t interested in working as a psychologist or counselor in a school setting, there are still legitimate reasons why you might benefit from an Ed.D. in Educational Psychology or Counseling. Maybe you want an Ed.D. of some description, don’t need to specialize, and want to bring a deeper understanding of psychology into your work — or simply find these specialties more interesting than the alternatives. But if you’re interested in working in a field that requires a license, making certain that the specific program you’re pursuing meets those requirements is key.
Resources and Organizations
- APA Division 15: Although the APA does not accredit Ed.D. programs, the educational psychology division of the American Psychological Association is the gold standard for academic research and networking.
- American Counseling Association (ACA): The ACA offers membership benefits, career development, continuing education, a magazine, a journal, conferences, public policy advocacy, and other related benefits for people who practice counseling as a profession in every U.S. context, including educational institutions.
- American School Counselor Association (ASCA): The leading professional organization for U.S.-based school counselors, the ASCA promotes public policy initiatives, helps school counselors network and further develop their knowledge base, and publishes a magazine and volumes summarizing the latest research in the field.
- International Journal of Educational Psychology: IJEP covers educational psychology from an international and interdisciplinary point of view. It’s a peer-reviewed open-access journal, with articles available online at no cost.
- National Association of School Psychologists (NASP): In addition to reviewing and accrediting school psychology programs, the NASP offers member benefits, a podcast, a speaker’s bureau, and other features useful to those working in the industry.