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Child Psychology PhD Programs: Info for Doctoral Students

Although differences exist between programs, Ph.D. programs focused on child psychology generally cover issues including behavioral and emotional assessment techniques and developmental psychology. Most programs include a significant research component.

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Essential Information

Although there is a Ph.D. in Child Psychology, most doctoral programs in this field are in clinical psychology with an emphasis, concentration or track in child psychology. In a child psychology Ph.D. program, students choose an area of specialization in which to study and conduct their research. The clinical psychology path takes a year longer to complete. A dissertation is required, as is practical experience in the field. Clinical psychologists must be licensed. Every state has its own requirements, but they generally call for education, experience and passage of an examination. Graduates can take an exam to become board certified in child psychology.


Ph.D. in Child Psychology

Applicants to these programs should have an accredited baccalaureate with a 3.0 or better GPA. Three semesters of undergraduate psychology courses are required, as well as a statistics class. Programs available are first designed to develop researchers and college teachers. The primary research focus is normal human development. Second, the program prepares graduates for the field of applied child psychology (clinical counseling). Students are generally expected to choose a specialty area, such as personality, perceptual or language development, learning or psychobiology. Required courses for all specialties might include:

  • History of child development theories
  • Linear and regression statistics
  • Probability and inferential statistics
  • Processes of cognitive development
  • Processes of emotional development
  • Processes of social development

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  • Child Psychiatry
  • Gerontology
  • Geropsychology

Ph.D. in Clinical Psychology with Focus on Child Psychology

There are numerous Ph.D. programs in clinical psychology that focus on child psychology, most of which primarily accept students who have only a bachelor's degree. The first two years of study are more general and foundational for research and clinical work. Often a thesis is written and a master's degree is earned during those years. The next two years may include further general and child clinical courses and practicum; a one-year internship might be required as a fifth year in the program. Many of these programs allow students to individualize much of their coursework. There are, however, required courses, which may include:

  • Behavior therapy for children
  • Behavioral neuroscience
  • Childhood psychopathology
  • Developmental psychology
  • Intelligence testing
  • Quantitative and qualitative research

Popular Careers

Although school and clinical psychologists, university teachers and researchers are the most obvious career options for child psychologists, other careers include:

  • Developmental psychologist
  • Forensic psychologist
  • Family or community psychologist

Employment Outlook and Salary Information

The U.S Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) does not differentiate between child and adult psychologists in its occupational handbook. A 19% increase in employment for psychologists is predicted for 2014 to 2024, and these professionals earned a median salary of $72,580 as of May 2015.

Continuing Education

Each state has its own laws regarding licensure or certification of psychologists, most often dependent upon training, experience and type of position. State licensing boards usually administer a licensing exam; as a rule, continuing education is necessary for license renewal. The American Board of Professional Psychology (ABPP) gives national certification in a number of areas of psychology, including examination in Clinical Child Psychology. Requirements for taking the exam include being licensed in the state.

Licenses and certifications are not generally required for psychologists who teach only on the postsecondary level or who conduct research. Those who choose to take continuing education courses can find them in colleges and universities, government agencies and through the American Psychological Association.

Ph.D. programs in child psychology cover a wide range of research topics in relation to the behavior and psychology of children. Programs will often allow students to gain clinical experience and internships in their chosen fields.

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