Child Psychology Graduate Programs Options

Learn about the curricula and requirements of graduate programs in child psychology. Find out about professional certification, continuing education, and salary and employment trends for professionals in the field.

Essential Information

Graduate programs in the area of child psychology include masters' and doctoral degrees, and are offered at universities and occasionally online at the master's level. Child psychology may also be labeled as developmental psychology, and may be a specialization at the master's degree level within a psychology degree.

Applicants generally will need an undergraduate degree in psychology or a related field. Master's degrees usually take two years to earn, while doctoral degrees can take around five years. Doctoral graduates typically need to meet licensing requirements to practice child or developmental psychology.

Master's Degree in Psychology

Students may pursue either Master of Science (M.S.) or Master of Arts (M.A.) in Psychology programs with concentrations in child psychology and child development. Child psychology graduate programs expose students to research and clinical components involved in child psychology. Students can learn about intervention techniques, disorders, treatments and programs for children. Courses may provide students with experience working with children who have learning, behavior and social problems.

Educational Prerequisites

Most M.S. and M.A. degree programs in psychology require undergraduate coursework in psychology, sociology, statistics and other liberal arts courses. Students will need a bachelor's degree from any academic discipline; however, a bachelor's degree in psychology is typically preferred. Some schools may require students to provide a writing sample or a portfolio.

Program Coursework

The psychology graduate program may include a thesis component, which provides students with the opportunity to conduct research on a child psychology topic. Furthermore, throughout the program students will typically have a curriculum of advanced psychology courses, such as the following:

  • Child development theories
  • Lifespan development
  • Adolescent personality assessment
  • Research method and design
  • Psychotherapy

Popular Career Options

A master's degree with a concentration in child psychology or development can qualify individuals to work in human services, academics or education. Graduates can also work under the supervision of licensed psychologists in community mental health clinics, psychiatric hospitals and correctional facilities. Potential careers include:

  • Youth counselor
  • Marriage and family therapist
  • School social worker
  • Research assistants

Doctor of Philosophy in Child Psychology

One of the goals of a Ph.D. in Child Psychology program includes developing research and intervention methods for treating children, adolescents and families. Students develop skills in social, biological and cognitive bases of psychology. Beyond research, Ph.D. students also participate in clinical or teaching experiences, depending on whether the programs lean towards clinical or academic emphases. Earning a Doctor of Philosophy in Child Psychology takes approximately five years.

Educational Prerequisites

Basic admissions requirements for graduate schools offering Ph.D. in Child Psychology programs typically include having a bachelor's degree. Some programs may allow doctoral candidates to earn their master's degree during their Ph.D. curriculum.

Program Coursework

In addition, to lecture and research in general child psychology, special attention is also given to cultural diversity, ethnicity, social intervention and the public sector. Students will typically develop a curriculum that covers such topics as:

  • Cognitive development
  • Parent and child relationships
  • Research in child psychology
  • Stages of child development and learning
  • Pediatric and adolescent psychology

Employment Outlook and Salary Information

Child psychologists use their understanding of the human mind and behaviors in environments such as hospitals, schools, government agencies or private practices. Upon earning a Ph.D. in Child Psychology, graduates may qualify to work as independent psychologists in the clinical and counseling spheres. According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), employment for psychologists was expected to grow 12% from 2008-2018 ( The median salary for counseling, clinical and school psychologists was $66,810 in May 2010.

Professional Certification and Continuing Education

The BLS reports that psychologists providing patient care or working in solo or group practices must be licensed. State licensing boards administer standardized tests, which vary depending on the specialty and typically include written and oral answers. Psychologists who need to renew their licenses can do so through continuing education.

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