I often receive inquiries from aspiring students about what they need to study to become an Educational psychologist. Due to time constraints I cannot answer these inquiries individually so thought to post this article with answers to the questions most frequently asked:
Keep in mind that these are general answers and prospective students are encouraged to contact the Universities where they intend to study for more detailed information.
Is it just one degree?
No, you need to have completed a Master’s degree in order to register as an Educational Psychologist. You will thus have to complete a Bachelors degree then an Honors degree and finally a Master’s degree. Remember that the Honors and Masters courses for Educational Psychology (often called Guidance and Counselling) are usually selection courses. You will thus have to apply for admission to these courses. The selection criteria is generally a minimum academic average and often include selection sessions by a panel of Lecturers. Some Universities also allow their Bachelors students to apply for admission to the BPsych course in their third year. This BPsych course is similar to an Honors is psychology and upon completion students can apply for admission to the MPsych course.
How long does it take?
The period of study depends on several factors, for instance whether you complete your degrees full time or part time; whether you get selected at first application; how quickly you complete your dissertation; etc. I would recommend that you prepare yourself for about 7 years of full time study at least.
What school subjects do I need to be able to become an Educational psychologist?
This depends on which University you plan to attend. In general Universities usually require good marks for languages and mathematics. Students can provisionally apply with their grade 11 marks, but admission usually depends on their results in the final grade 12 examination. Students need to have a National Senior Certificate with university exemption. Most universities also require a minimum APS (Admission Point Score) or M-score and often insist that prospective students write a proficiency test of some sort.
What should I study in my Bachelors degree?
Students applying to the specialised Honors degree need to show a background in psychology and education. Students majoring in either field (thus B.Ed, BA or B.soc.sci) are allowed to apply. If you decide to do an Education degree for your Bachelors be sure to take several relevant psychology modules and similarly if you do a bachelors degree majoring in psychology be sure to take the relevant education modules to give you a thorough grounding in both.
What exactly does the Masters entail?
The Masters degree may include a guidance year during which students are given relevant theoretical knowledge and guided in their completion of a research proposal. Once the research proposal has been accepted students usually have a year or two during which to complete a dissertation of limited scope. Once this dissertation is finished students are required to complete a one year full time internship at an accredited training institution.
Where can I study Educational Psychology?
Most Universities offer the course, but be sure to contact someone in the psychology department at the University where you intend to study and ask the relevant questions before you enroll. Psychology departments fall under the faculty of Humanities.
What happens when I’m finished studying?
When you have completed your Master’s degree (dissertation and internship) you have to write the board exam. Check out the Professional Board for Psychology’s details on the HPCSA’s (Health Professions Council of South-Africa)’s website.
The HPCSA also requires prospective students to register with them first as student psychologists, then as intern psychologists and finally after you have passed the Board exam as an Educational Psychologist.
Some additional notes:
* The course is a hard one! It is super fulfilling as well, but should not be attempted if you are not entirely sure that this is what you what you really want to do.
* The internship year is usually unpaid, some pay very little. Many students complete their studies only to never do the internship year because they cannot afford not to get paid or to receive a significantly lower salary than they are used to. Make sure you plan for this internship year in advance.