What is Developmental and Child Psychology?
Developmental and child psychology is the study of factors that affect mental growth and development of children and how to identify and remedy them. Psychologists and developmental specialists will work with children and parents to ensure that their child develops the appropriate skills by the correct age. Individuals will typically work from schools or private practices, though employment in various local, state or federal agencies is possible.
College graduates having a master's degree or post-master's education may pursue leadership careers in policy, research, or education. Common job titles for a child psychologist include: child therapist, child counselor, child physiologist, child psychiatry specialist, children's psychologist, clinical child psychologist, or child psychopathologist.
How To Become a Child Psychologist
To start a career as a child psychologist, you will be required to step through a series of important academic and professional phases. To help you visualize the steps to become a child psychologist, we have provided a 5 step process to guide your career quest. During this process, you will need to be diligent about your academics, detail oriented, highly organized, and motivated to make an indelible impact on children. The required steps to become a developmental and clinical child psychologist include:
Step 1 – Research Accredited Colleges & Universities
To start the journey to become a child psychologist requires you to perform research on schools. Researching accredited colleges that fit you is goal number one. To be efficient with your time, take inventory of your career objective and personal priorities. Next, you will need to match universities with your goals. To help with this process, take the time to read the following eBooks: College Admissions Guide and Crush the Odds & Get Into Your Top College.
Optimize your time researching colleges that offer child psychology degree programs with our degree finders, proprietary matching portal, and online degree matching system. Requesting information from top ranked child psychology colleges will allow you to assemble key information. Admissions packets help you understand the range of student services, financial aid, curricular design, campus life, cost, and the overall fit of the school without taking a campus tour.
Step 2 – Apply to Accredited Schools
With admissions data in hand, you can narrow your list of best colleges in development and child psychology based on your priorities. After thinning the list of colleges to a manageable number, you will need to apply to each school on your list. Be detail-oriented, organized, and follow all directions on the application carefully.
Spend time to illuminate your extracurricular activities, work experience, memberships, clubs, and volunteer work with children. Ultimately, you want to illustrate your unique passion for child development through your college application. Your ultimate goal in providing such information is to help provide unique, salient information about you to stand out in a competitive pool of college applicants.
Step 3 – Attend College & Complete Your Degree Program
After accepting admissions to your top development and child psychology program, you will need to attend the school’s orientation, meet with your counselor, and register for classes. Most states require a graduate degree to begin work as a child psychologist. Some students will enter the field in a bachelor’s program in child psychology followed by a graduate program or enroll in a program that compresses both together.
Master degrees in childhood psychology will take approximately two to three years to complete after meeting all lower-level academic requirements. A master's degree in child psychology will be conferred as either a Master of Science (MS) or a Master of Arts (MA). The university will dictate which degrees are available given their curricular design, faculty, and school resources.
A doctorate degree in child psychology will be conferred as either a Doctor of Philosophy (PhD) or a Doctor of Psychology (PsyD). PsyD and PhD programs generally take four to six years to complete. This will include the completion of a board-approved dissertation and any required internship programs.
Step 4 – Examinations, Certification, and Licensure
After graduating from an accredited university with a graduate degree in child psychology, you will need address state's guidelines to practice. In general, state-specific guidelines include the requirement to sit for the ASPPB examination. Meanwhile, other states will dictate that students complete a set number of work hours of work experience in an approved supervised practicum program. After meeting your state-mandated requirements, you will need to apply for licensure as a psychologist, clinical psychologist, or child psychologist.
Step 5 – Work, Certification, and Continuing Education
With a degree in child psychology and state license in-hand, you can seek work in the field as part of a team of psychologists or independent practitioner. It is important to know that employers may require clinical psychologists to become board-certified prior to starting work so inquire about certification in advance.
Board-certified candidates will have a PhD from an APA approved college, an active license, qualifying internship, qualifying work experience, and have successfully passed the American Board of Clinical and Child Adolescent Psychology’s examination as dictated by your state. To keep your license active, you will need to take continuing education credits perpetually. Your state will provide a list of approved continuing education classes or you can visit the APA’s website here to learn more about classes.
Top Child Psychology Degrees
As a specialty field of psychology, development and child psychology degree programs can be earned via distance learning or in class. Earning a child psychology degree online or on campus has been proven to have no significant difference in terms of academic quality. To help you better understand your options in child psychology, we have parsed degree options below for your review. Degree programs include bachelor degrees, master degrees, and doctorate degrees in development and child psychology.
Child Psychology Bachelor's Degree
A Bachelor of Science (BS) of Bachelor of Arts (BA) degree in child psychology is the entry-point into the field of study. The 4-year degree program prepares students to work in the field by providing a well-rounded program of liberal arts classes such as philosophy, communications, and sociology with core curriculum.
An overview of core psychology classes can include: research methods, statistics, psychological measurement, cultural anthropology, early childhood education, family systems, educational psychology, counseling psychology, community health, social work, child maltreatment, infant development, adolescent psychology, disabilities, cognitive development, perceptual development, and language development.
Master's in Child Psychology
Earning a master’s degree in child psychology can take 2-3 years to complete after completion of all lower-level courses and conferred as a Master of Arts (MA) or a Master of Science (MS). The upper-level courses in a master’s degree will generally include statistical analysis, quantitative research methods, developmental psychology, social psychology, cognitive psychology, psychopathology, and advanced development psychology. In most cases, graduate students will be required to complete an approved thesis project.
Students earning an online master’s degree in child psychology or campus-based equivalent, will have a variety of specialty jobs to consider. After graduation, students in child counseling can work in the following capacities: post-secondary teacher, research analyst, adolescent program director, executive program manager, human resources manager, service coordinator, or join a doctorate program in child psychology.
Child Psychology Doctoral Programs
Doctorate degrees in developmental child psychology is known in academia as a terminal degree. Terminal degrees are named as such because there are no additional degrees beyond the final degree conferred. Doctoral programs will last 4-6 years to complete for most students. Factors that can accelerate or elongate this time are the number of classes taken at a time and the completion of the dissertation project. Areas of specialty at this level can include forensic psychology, clinical psychology, counseling, behavioral psychology, organizational psychology, developmental psychology, and leadership.
The two primary types of doctorate degrees in psychology are the PsyD and PhD. A PhD degree is conferred as a Doctor of Philosophy and is a research-based degree program. A standard dissertation is required for PhD students at most universities. Alternatively, a PsyD program focuses on clinical training with or without the requirement of a dissertation. All in all, both PsyD and PhD offer immense career options considering teaching, research, and roles as practitioners.
Educational Requirements in Child Psychology
A degree in developmental and child psychology prepares an individual with knowledge and skills necessary to work with children using the methods developed through psychology. Students studying child psychology will have to learn about how internal and external factors can affect a child. In addition, professionals seek to understand hinderances to development and successful means to help each child. Though bachelor's degrees are available in developmental and child psychology, a minimum of a masters degree is required to work as in child development and a doctorate degree is required to work as a child psychologist.
Individuals may choose development and child psychology as their focus when pursuing a graduate level degree as it is one of the many specializations that psychology offers. Programs in development and child psychology will often have a research component, often in a clinical setting and under the supervision of an experienced and practicing psychologist.
During this time, students will learn how to apply treatments and put together research proposals. Psychology students will also learn the methodologies used to conduct such proposals. Additionally, students will find that their education will delve deeper into the issues related to developmental and child psychology and less so with related fields.
Courses in developmental and child psychology may include:
- Crisis Intervention
- Psychology of Addictive Behaviors
- Behavioral and Emotional Assessment
Top Skills of a Child Psychologist
In a recent survey performed by the U.S. Department of Labor, a broad-bases sample of licensed child psychologists from around the country provided insight into their profession. From that list, a list emerged of the top skills of a child psychologists. We have culled the list to help you understand the latent skills needed to successfully perform the job of a development and child psychologist across industries and geography.
- Practice sensitivity towards others
- Quality interpersonal relationship management
- Practice discretion for legal and professional reasons
- Empathy, care, respect for others
- Speaking in small groups or one-on-one situations
- Detail orientation – reports, notes, and conversations
- Exceptional listeners – active and engaged
- Accurately interpret non-verbal communication
- Comfortable with diverse individuals and their respective needs
- Problem solving – analyzing and synthesizing information
Schools Other Students Requested Information From:
Employment Opportunities for Child Psychologists
Individuals choosing to enter the field of developmental and child psychology must obtain licensure from their state once graduated. The process for getting a license will vary by state, so it is important to research your state's requirements. The most common requirements will require graduation from an accredited program, a minimum number of supervised hours and an exam to demonstrate knowledge and competency.
Child psychologists have several options when looking for work. Schools often employ developmental and child psychologists, as do various government agencies at the local, state and federal levels. Individuals may eventually open their own practice, or with other private organizations providing mental health services.
Child psychologists may work with emotionally distraught children and must exercise patience and compassion. Developmental and child psychologists must also be able to manage parent's expectations, offer support and education regarding treatment and therapy.
Top Child Psychologist Careers
A child psychologist is a licensed professional whose concentration of study is the ever-evolving, developing human mind. Psychologists are equipped to work with an array of emotional, behavioral, and social issues as generalist or specialists. to working in a wide array of disciplines and issues. The most common areas of specialty for a licensed psychologist include the following six areas of concentration.
- Developmental Psychologists. Developmental psychologists focus on an individual with a holistic lens to establish a pattern of behavior. DP’s may focus on a defined span of time in the development of a person or a long view of many years to help understand, assess, and provide assistance with behavioral disorders or struggles in the life of a patient.
- Child Psychologist. Child psychologists work with children and adolescents to understand an array of social, behavioral, emotional, and developmental issues. Licensed child psychologists may work one-on-one with children, in small groups, in a school setting, or in a home setting to meet the needs of their clients. Early intervention, analysis, and treatment plans are developed and shared with guardians to chart a path for each child.
- Forensic Psychology. A forensic psychologist works closely with law enforcement to analyze, assess, and provides expert opinion in a wide array of legal matters. Forensic specialists interview and gauge competency, uncover scientific truths, perform psychological evaluations, and render an opinion in open court or in private settings.
- School Psychologists. School psychologists work with students, staff, and school administrators to enhance and foster student stability & learning. A school psychologist spend time with student, student guardians, and teaching staff to understand student-based concerns. Underlying issues faced by students may include developmental, emotional, behavioral, and/or clinical. Trained school psychologists work closely with students to enhance safety, growth, and learning.
- Clinical Psychology. A clinical psychologist partners with family members and patients to accurately identify, diagnose, prevent, and treat mental disorders. Some clinical psychologists can be found working in a large corporation's wellness division or within a school setting. In most cases, clinical professionals will perform one-on-one examinations to understand the scope and depth of the issues at hand.
- Social Psychologists. Social psychologists are trained to identify changes in behavioral trends and/or social shifts within a group of people or designated area of study. A social psychologist will administer pointed surveys, perform deep analysis, examine research articles, and utilize big data in their work. The net result of the data they gather will be to arrive at theories and conclusions about human behavior. Social psychologists can work in private organizations, non-profit organizations, the political arena, or as marketing consultants for multi-national corporations.
- Research Psychologists. A research psychologist will leverage knowledge of the human condition to glean insights into behavior patterns of groups and individuals. Research psychology specialists will gather key data by performing interviews, surveys, tests, and trials. By utilizing empirical data, they can help dissect facts about the human condition using statistical analysis and data.
Child Psychologist Salary & Career Outlook
The average salary for a child psychologist can vary from $66,000 to $89,000 per year based on recent survey results from Payscale. Job growth is expected to grow faster than average over the next decade due to increased interest in child development and increased understanding of how various factors may affect growth and how they may be remedied become more concrete. Individuals with higher levels of education will earn more, as will professionals working in large urban centers or highly populated areas.
Top Employers of a Child Psychologist
- Elementary & Secondary Schools
- Medical Offices
- Individual & Family Services
- Outpatient Care Centers
- Medical & Surgical Hospitals
Individuals interested in developmental and child psychology may also be interested in psychology, school psychology, and clinical psychology. For more information, check out our Career Guide in Psychology on the MatchCollege blog. Further research is available by reading our blog that illustrate the Top Jobs in Psychology by degree type, industry, and specialty.