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. Individuals having pursues higher levels of education may pursue careers in policy, research or education.
How Do You Become a Child Psychologist?
To start a career as a development and child psychologist, you will need to successfully navigate a series of steps we have outlined below. It is imperative to remain organized, detail oriented, and diligently plan your time to optimize your time spend preparing to enter the clinical psychology field. The steps to become a development and child psychologist include:
Step 1 – Research Accredited Colleges & Universities
To begin your journey as a child psychologist, you will need to first begin researching accredited colleges and universities that fit you best. To be economical with your time, take the time to write down your personal priorities and objectives and then find schools that match your goals. We recommend you read the following books to help make the process more efficient: The Complete Guide to the College Admission Process and Crush the Odds by Getting into Your Top College. To efficiently research accredited college programs and schools, you can leverage the information found on this resource page or utilize our proprietary matching portal or online degree matching system. Simply request information from top schools in clinical psychology to learn more about cost, admissions, financial aid, student services, curricular design, and overall fit.
Step 2 – Apply to Accredited Schools
Once you have information from the best colleges in development and child psychology based on your priorities, you will need to take the time to apply to each school on your list. Be detail-oriented, organized, and follow all directions on the application carefully. Spend time to illuminate work experience, clubs, memberships, volunteer work, and extracurricular activities that uniquely describe you and your passion for child development. 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 degree programs are designed to last 2-3 years beyond a bachelor’s degree and are conferred as a Master of Science (MS) or a Master of Arts (MA) depending on the school’s curricular design. A doctorate degree in child psychology or clinical psychology is conferred as a Doctor of Philosophy (PhD) or a Doctor of Psychology (PsyD). PhD programs take students 4-6 years of matriculation to complete including a board-approved dissertation and may include a one-year internship depending on the program.
Step 4 – Examinations, Certification, and Licensure
After graduating from an accredited college or university with a graduate degree in child psychology, you will need to meet your state-specific requirements for licensure. Most states will be required to sit for the ASPPB examination while others require a set number of hours of work experience in an approved supervised practicum program prior to applying for licensure as a practicing child psychologist. 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.
Degrees in Development & Child Psychology
As a specialty field in psychology, development and child psychology degree programs can be earned online or in class. 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.
Bachelor Degree in Child Psychology
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 Degree in Child Psychology
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). Advanced classes found in a master’s degree program may include statistics, research methods, social psychology, cognitive psychology, developmental psychology, psychopathology, and advanced development psychology along with an approved thesis project. Students earning a master’s degree in child psychology online or in the classroom can find themselves in a number of specialty jobs such as: teaching at a college or university, research analyst, program director, child/adolescent program manager, human resources specialist, service coordinator, or on a track to join a doctorate program in child psychology.
Doctorate Degree in Psychology
A doctorate degree in psychology is known as a terminal degree as it is the highest degree conferred in psychology taking 4-6 years to complete dependent upon course load and time to complete a dissertation. Areas of specialty can include clinical psychology, counseling, developmental psychology, forensic, behavioral, leadership, and organizational tracks. There are two primary doctorate degrees in psychology: PhD and PsyD. A PhD degree is conferred as a Doctor of Philosophy and is a research-based degree with a standard dissertation required prior to completion. On the other hand, a PsyD focuses on clinical training with or without the requirement of a dissertation. Both degrees offer a wide range of options for graduates from professional to academic career choices.
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; hinder his or her development and how to work through such issues in order to aid the 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. It is during this time that the student will learn how to apply treatments and put together research proposals, as well as 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:
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 will be working 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.
What Careers Exist for a Child Psychologist?
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. A school psychologist will work with staff, administration, and students to foster & enhance learning and stability. School psychologists invest time with teaching staff, guardians, and parents to unpack student-related questions and concerns. Issues may include behavioral, developmental, or clinical in nature and the associated programs created to help support student learning, growth, and safety.
- Clinical Psychology. Clinical psychologists works with patients and their family members to accurately diagnose, treat, and prevent mental disorders. Some work in a corporate or school setting while many perform one-on-one diagnostic examinations in the comfort of their own private practice.
- Social Psychologists. A social psychologist will work with changes in behavioral trends or social shifts of a group of people or specific area of study. Social psychologists perform deep research, administer surveys, and aggregate data from a range of sources to arrive at conclusions about human behavior. Social psychologists can work in the political arena, non-profit organizations, or as advertising consultants for corporations around the globe.
- Research Psychologists. Research psychologists leverage knowledge of the human condition to study causes of behavioral patterns of an individual or group of people. Research specialists will perform surveys, interviews, trials, and tests with sample groups in an effort to uncover data-driven truths.
Salary and Related Fields
The average salary for a child psychologist can vary $66,000 - $89,000 per year. 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.