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Developmental Psychology Education Program Options

Developmental psychology programs focus on human development during different stages of life. Degrees are available at various levels, depending on your future career goals.

Essential Information

A bachelor's degree program will teach you about behavior, development, and issues faced at each life stage, and it may culminate in a thesis project. A bachelor's degree could lead to work as an assistant in the human services field.

In master's programs, study designs are usually flexible and each student works with a primary research adviser to model their training, choosing to specialize in subjects like child development, developmental aging, and family or school counseling. Practical experience and research projects are often a part of this program.

PhD programs encourage students to develop specific sub-specialties, such as social or cognitive development with emphasis on a particular age group, such as children, adults, or the aged. Students will likely need to participate in a teaching assistantship and complete a dissertation. The most qualified doctoral program applicants often hold a master's degree in a psychology field and have research experience.


Bachelor's in Applied Developmental Psychology

A degree in developmental psychology can be either a Bachelor of Science or a Bachelor of Arts. Emotions, identity formation, language, motor skills, personality, and self-concept are just a few of the areas studied in this specialization. Students should be sure the program they choose is accredited by the U.S. Department of Education.

Students in the bachelor's program may be able to fit in classes in child development interventions, pre-counseling, child and family guidance, group dynamics, or other tracks individually developed with their faculty adviser. Labs and field studies can focus on child issues, adolescent problems, and adult concerns. Most undergraduate program courses include:

  • Abnormal psychology and behavior modification
  • Language and conceptual development
  • Child, adolescent and adult development
  • Theories, statistics and applications
  • Interpersonal relationships
  • Social cognition and psychology

Master of Science in Lifespan Developmental Psychology

Even within the field of developmental psychology, emphasis can vary from one school to another; some possible specializations include child development, developmental aging, and family, or school counseling. Typically, graduates complete 32 required credits for this concentration with some combination of courses, directed reading, research, and seminars. The development of highly marketable applied skills is encouraged as educational, health, and enrichment programs are common springboards to employment following graduation.

Core courses in most programs include ramifications of behavior in groups or teams, empirical and theoretical approaches to personality, social bases of behavior, and behavioral chemistry. Classes in neuronal bases of learning and memory, biological bases of human behavior, cognitive science and effects, advanced statistics, and quantitative methods are also possible. The following courses reflect specialty topics:

  • Psychology and the aging individual
  • Developmental psychopathology of the child
  • Developmental disabilities
  • Perceptual and cognitive maturation
  • Social and emotional growth from birth to death
  • History, theory and methods: lifespan development

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Doctor of Philosophy, Lifespan Developmental Psychology

Doctoral candidates cultivate an expansive base of knowledge and a strong statistical background related to research methodologies. Some colleges and universities require that doctoral candidates complete a master's program from the same school as a requirement of admission. Criteria for the selection process include academic qualification, past research experience, and whether applicant and faculty interests complement each other.

Core courses often cover methodological issues, social and cognitive development, and social, emotional, and intellectual changes throughout adulthood and aging. Courses, many offered through a selection process, cover topics much like these:

  • Advanced social psychology
  • Physiological psychology
  • Visual perceptions and cognitive processes
  • Human process of information
  • Advanced developmental psychology
  • Psychological systems in historical context

Popular Career Options

Bachelor-degreed graduates qualify to assist psychologists in mental health or correctional centers. After certification, they can become high school psych teachers or research assistants. A psychology degree is versatile and can also be relevant for sales, marketing, management, and other jobs that require an understanding of the human mind.

A psychologist must earn and receive accreditation in a specialty to prove they meet standards expected from a professional association such as the American Psychologist Association. Once the psychologist obtains accreditation and a state license, work is waiting in private practice, psychiatric hospital units, mental health clinics, and community or government agency programs. PhDs can also teach and conduct independent research in colleges and universities. A degree in developmental psychology can also take graduates in some unexpected directions, such as crafting legislation, defining bilingual education for schools, or designing toys.

Employment Outlook and Salary Info

From 2014-2024, the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics projected that psychologists would see a 19% growth in employment. The mean annual wages for clinical, counseling and school psychologists was $76,040 in May 2015.

Bachelor's, master's, and doctoral degrees are available in developmental psychology, but a doctorate will be necessary to practice as a licensed psychologist. Students will need accreditation in a specialty field if they choose to become a psychologist; other jobs in research and academia are available to graduates without accreditation.


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