Helping Children Through Hard Times: Child Psychology Degree

Child psychology focuses on the social and mental development of children. As other psychologists do, they work to improve lives by changing behavior. They just do it for children only. Child psychologists focus on children’s emotional, mental, physical and social development.

Child psychologists work in a variety of settings, including private practice, or in schools, hospitals, mental health clinics or within the court system. Many child psychologists work in a research setting, conducting tests and analyzing development and behavior. Most child psychologists diagnose mental and learning disorders, perform assessments, work with students struggling with academic problems, counsel clients and parents dealing with social disabilities or issues, administer psychological tests or conduct private or group therapy sessions.

Child psychologists may specialize in a certain age group, or work predominantly with children suffering psychological illness or personality disorders. Others focus on research at a university or work as a school or educational psychologist. All child psychologists work to understand, diagnose, treat or prevent social, emotional, cognitive and developmental issues in children.

Child Psychology Degree Information

Four different child psychology degrees are available depending on how long the student wants to stay in school. For example:

  • B.A. or a B.S. in Psychology - four to five years to finish
  • Masters - Another one to two years
  • Doctorate - Another four to eight years

There's another doctoral degree called the PsyD. This designation is for those who want to open their own practice or work in a mental health facility.

While programs vary in requirements, most degrees in child psychology will require courses in introduction to psychology, research methods, statistics, personality psychology, abnormal psychology, history of psychology, cognitive psychology, social psychology and physiological psychology. A Bachelors of Arts may also require a foreign language component.

Earning a Degree Online

Online degree programs in psychology are available at all levels, including certificate, associate, bachelor of arts or science, master and doctorate. Make sure the program you choose has national or regional accreditation from a U.S. Department of Education-approved accreditation body, such as the American Psychology Association.

Bachelor’s

While jobs in psychology-related fields are not as common at the bachelor’s level as at the master’s or doctorate, many child psychology majors do find work as case managers, school career counselors or rehabilitation technicians. A bachelor’s in psychology gives students a good assortment of skills such as communication skills, accurate record keeping, research and writing and interpersonal skills which can translate into jobs in many fields.

Master’s

People interested in child psychology as a career often go on to graduate school for a master’s or doctorate degree. Some jobs available for students with a Master’s in psychology include clinical psychologist, counselors at educational facilities and mental health clinics and social workers.

Doctorate

People going for a doctorate in psychology usually choose one of two paths, clinical or working with clients or performing psychological research. Ph.D.’s are found in both areas. People wishing to open a private practice or work in a mental health facility usually get the PsyD. degree.

Coursework

Psychology students will need courses in statistics, abnormal psychology, experimental methods and research design, child development, personality development, cognitive psychology, psychological testing and assessment, psychology of learning, physiological psychology, communication, biology, writing, math and advanced statistics. If you’re planning on going to graduate school, be sure and take all required courses for the program you wish to enter.

Career Opportunities

According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), jobs for psychologists at the master’s or doctorate levels will grow by 22 percent or faster than average, depending on specialty. Schools, mental health centers, hospitals and social services will drive this growth from 2010 to 2020. School psychologists are needed to provide help for students with learning disabilities, behavioral issues and special needs. With the growing awareness of the importance of mental health, increased demand from schools, social service agencies and government will drive the overall demand in child psychology. The effects of family life, school, peer pressure and drug abuse on child development will heighten the demand for child psychologists.

Earning Potential

The BLS states the median salary for all psychologists as $68,640 in 2010. Recently certified child psychologists can earn between $55,000 and $80,000. After 10 years on the job, the range can increase from $80,000 to $100,000. Doctorate level child psychologists earn 50 percent more than a psychologist with a master’s degree over a lifetime of practice. Child psychologists working in school settings generally earn less than child psychologists employed elsewhere.

Child Psychology FAQ

What type of jobs can I expect with a child psychology degree?

Training in child psychology allows for the professional to work in a variety of situations. They can work in schools, as a university researcher, as a child psychologist in a hospital or a community non-profit agency. Clinical child psychologists work as school or educational psychologists collaborating with teachers, parents and students or in private practice providing therapy for children and parents. Forensic child psychologists work with the court system, performing evaluations in child custody cases, preparing a child to testify in court, conducting visitation assessments or investigating child abuse reports. Counseling child psychologists provide therapeutic treatment to children with mental health disorders or behavioral issues.

How long does it take to earn a degree in child psychology?

Students can earn a bachelor’s in child psychology in four to five years. A master’s degree program will take another one to three years. A doctorate degree will take at least four years, but usually more than that. These time frames can be shortened if students take courses in the summer or during semester breaks. However, working towards these degrees online means students will work at their own pace, taking as many or as few courses as they want.

Where are the highest paying child psychology jobs?

Clinical and counseling child psychologists can make from $73,000 to $75,000 while school child psychologists generally earn about $60,000. As with many other professions, jobs in New York, Washington, D.C. or California can pay substantially more than child psychologist positions in other areas of the country. Forensic child psychologists working for the federal government can make up to $85,000, although that salary pertains to the top of the profession.

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