Degrees in Adolescent Psychology: Overview and Requirements

Adolescent and child psychology is focused on the analysis, diagnosis, and treatment of psychological conditions in adolescents and children. Learn about degree options at the undergraduate and graduate levels, courses, employment outlook, salary, and licensure information.

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Essential Information

Students in a bachelor's degree program complete coursework in psychology and develop their research skills through laboratory courses. Doctoral programs are more advanced and add on to what was learned in a bachelor's program through research. A bachelor's degree and undergraduate coursework in psychology and the social sciences is required or at least recommended by most programs. Internships are often required for these programs.


Bachelor of Arts in Adolescent and Child Psychology

Bachelor's degree programs in adolescent and child psychology combine a core of general psychology courses with more specific sociological, educational, and behavioral perspectives on how adolescents and children develop. Accordingly, these programs are interdisciplinary and include supplementary liberal arts courses in anthropology, linguistics, and cultural studies. Laboratory courses, which train students in research methods and assessment techniques appropriate for their younger clientele, are also degree requirements. Most institutions require ACT or SAT score reports, minimum GPA and high school curricular prerequisites. International students are required to prove their English fluency via an exam, depending on countries of origin.

Program coursework prepares students to understand the theoretical foundations of studying younger populations and to apply that knowledge in practical contexts. Students take courses in the following areas:

  • Behavioral disorders in adolescents, children, and contexts of childhood language acquisition
  • Developmental psychology of adolescents and children
  • Educational psychology and research methods laboratory
  • Prenatal care and infant development
  • Psychopathology and theories of the family
  • Social development of adolescents and children

Doctoral Degree Programs in Adolescent and Child Psychology

Psy.D. programs provide advanced academic and clinical training for potential psychologists. In the specific field of adolescent and child psychology, doctoral students are trained to interview and assess younger patients, intervene and provide therapy in the cases of psychological trauma. These Psy.D. students must also be knowledgeable of conditions particular to their clientele, such as sexuality development and issues, peer pressure, parental divorce, and early substance abuse. Psy.D. programs are structured so students complete most coursework during the first three years of the program. They then defend their dissertations, take department exams, and complete clinical internships during the fourth and fifth years.

Though similar to Psy.D. degree programs, Ph.D. programs are slightly more oriented toward research in order to prepare graduates for careers in teaching and academia. These programs are more interdisciplinary in nature than their Psy.D. counterparts. Some Ph.D. programs also encourage students to take teaching seminars, and in turn teach undergraduate courses. All applicants to doctoral programs must have bachelor's degrees and corroborating transcripts. Students are also be asked to submit Graduate Record Examination (GRE) score reports.

Doctoral students in this field take advanced courses designed to hone their abilities as both scholars and practitioners of the clinical psychological treatment of adolescents and children. Topics include the following:

  • Assessment of adolescents and children and childhood trauma
  • Community psychology and neuropsychology
  • Health and dysfunctional conditions in adolescents and children
  • Interviewing and other diagnostic techniques
  • Quantitative research methods, statistics, and data analysis
  • Psychotherapy for adolescents and children

Popular Career Options

A bachelor's degree in psychology serves as a gateway to a variety of both entry-level and advanced careers. Potential titles include these:

  • Child psychologist
  • Education consultant
  • Family law attorney
  • Elementary school teacher
  • Licensed social worker
  • School counselor
  • School psychologist
  • Special education teacher

Employment Outlook and Salary Info

With doctoral degrees, graduates are most qualified to become clinical psychologists or to work in academia. The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) anticipates that jobs in clinical, counseling and school psychology could see an 20% growth rate in total employment, or much faster than the average for all professions, from 2014 to 2024.

Psychologists with doctoral degrees in adolescent and child psychology often work in private practice, although some work for schools and in the offices of other health practitioners. In May 2015, the BLS stated that the mean annual wage for all such clinical, counseling and school psychologists was $76,040.

Continuing Education and Licensure Information

According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), graduates interested in pursuing clinical psychologist positions must usually obtain doctoral degrees in the field (www.bls.gov). Although master's degree programs are available, many doctoral programs would accept a student with a B.A. and award an M.A. en route to either a Psy.D. or Ph.D. Positions in social work, education and family law require applicants to obtain the additional professional degrees, credentials and licenses appropriate to those respective fields.

According to the BLS, psychologists who work in private practice and/or provide care to patients must be licensed by the U.S. state in which they practice. Although no national standard exists for obtaining licensure, most states require applicant psychologists to have doctoral degrees and several years of professional experience, and to have completed an internship.

Experienced psychologists may be eligible to obtain certifications in specific areas of psychology. Certifications usually require candidates to complete continuing education and postdoctoral training.

Bachelor's and doctoral degrees in adolescent psychology can be earned by students interested in the field. After completion of these programs, graduates have many career options including education consultant, licensed social worker, school counselor, and school psychologist.

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