Child psychologists can work as part of a health-care team, as behavioral specialists in public or private education, and as professionals in private clinical practice. Clinical child psychologists, as well as specialized school counselors, must commit to years of additional schooling beyond the undergraduate level. Degree requirements will differ based on one’s ultimate goals in child psychology, but individuals pursuing this general career path will encounter similar educational requirements.
Anyone planning to work in child psychology must first earn a bachelor’s degree, preferably in psychology. Though positions as school or clinical psychologist require at least a master’s degree, undergraduates can better their chances for acceptance into competitive graduate programs by distinguishing themselves in college. Some schools -- many of which are available primarily online -- offer bachelor’s degrees in child psychology, which can help qualify students for many nonclinical childcare positions, according to McGraw Hill’s website.
Child psychology professionals traditionally require at least a master’s degree in either school psychology or clinical psychology. Programs at this level can often be completed in two years, and usually involve intensive coursework and a supervised internship/practicum. Individuals hoping to become counselors in public schools will have to make sure their chosen graduate program will offer certification recognized the state they wish to work in. Individuals looking to work with children in a clinical capacity may wish to pursue a master’s degree in clinical psychology. Baylor University indicates that aspiring clinical child psychologists often pursue a master’s in clinical psychology and later choose to work predominately with children, though anyone hoping to work independently as a psychologist must go on to earn a Ph.D, according to the American Psychological Association.
The APA mandates that anyone looking to work as an independent child psychologist must first obtain a doctorate degree, according to the APA. Students can usually specialize in either clinical psychology (with a specialization in children) or school psychology. Doctoral psychology programs usually place a strong focus on supervised internships, and research with dissertation, which a student will pursue after pairing up with a faculty adviser. These programs can take up to seven years to complete, depending on the length of time one needs to complete his dissertation. The Department of Psychology and Neuroscience at Baylor University suggests that child-specific clinical Ph.D. programs are extremely competitive to get accepted into, much more so than school psychology doctoral programs. To practice clinical psychology one must also be licensed and certified to work in his chosen state.
In 2010 psychologist’s earned a media annual wage of $68,640, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics. Employment for this profession is expected to grow by 22 percent between 2010 and 2020, which is faster than average for all professions. Job availability will be greatest for individuals with specialized doctoral degrees in or doctoral degrees in school psychology.
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- Bureau of Labor Statistics: Occupational Outlook Handbook: Psychologists
- Baylor University: Psychology and Neuroscience: Child Psychology
- McGraw Hill: Higher Education: Bachelor in Developmental and Child Psychology
- University of San Francisco: School of Education: Programs in Counseling Psychology
- American Psychological Association: Career Development
- Stockbyte/Stockbyte/Getty Images