While child psychologists typically need a Ph.D. for licensure, some family counselors, youth advocates and daycare administrators need only a master's degree in a field such as child and adolescent development. A master's degree program can also prepare individuals for careers as policy-makers and educators. These programs also normally require a thesis.
Master of Arts in Child and Adolescent Development
Through graduate programs in child and adolescent development, students may examine the impact of culture, family, school and society on the growth and development of children and adolescents. Students may have the opportunity to conduct research in related areas. The program will develop professionals who can act as ethical advocates for children, adolescents and their families. Similar options are available through Master of Arts in Education or Master of Education programs with child and adolescent development specializations.
Admissions requirements typically include a bachelor's degree with an educational background in child and adolescent development or a related field such as education, social work or psychology. Students may complete electives in subjects such as social policy, health, education and community development. Topics addressed in the program might include:
- Multicultural issues
- Social policy issues
- Social and emotional development
- Cognitive and language development
- Infancy and early childhood development
- Middle childhood and adolescent development
Master of Arts in Psychology with a Specialization in Child and Adolescent Development
These programs typically teach students how to analyze and treat mental health issues of children and adolescents. Admissions requires a bachelor's degree and involves taking courses and completing a capstone project such as a thesis. Graduates might qualify for a research career in various settings, including social service agencies, healthcare centers and educational institutions.
Students may have the opportunity to choose specific courses that complement their future career plans. Students could complete coursework focused on evaluation of youth programs, among others. Additional course topics might include:
- Trauma and crisis intervention
- Evaluation and treatment of juvenile delinquents
- Addictive disorders
- Learning and cognition
- Psychology of the exceptional child
Popular Career Options
Graduates of these master's degree programs are commonly prepared to assume roles of leadership, research and policy-making in settings devoted to the well-being and growth of children and adolescents including day cares, preschools, kindergartens, elementary schools, secondary schools and counseling facilities. Some possible career titles could include:
- Day care administrator
- Youth advocates
- Parent educators
Continuing Education and Licensure Information
Upon program completion, students might consider furthering their education by enrolling in a Ph.D. program in child and adolescent development. In some cases, master's degree programs allow students to transfer directly into doctoral programs. Master's degree graduates interested in becoming public school educators at elementary, middle or secondary schools must meet licensure requirements as established by their state Board of Education. These requirements typically include at least a bachelor's degree, a supervised teaching experience and a specified number of education credits.
To work as a licensed, certified psychologist, a doctoral degree is typically required. Students could earn a Ph.D. in child clinical or developmental psychology, or a Doctor of Psychology (Psy.D.), to meet this requirement.
Licensure and certification requirements for psychologists exist in all states but vary among both states and fields of practice. Beyond passing a state examination, psychologists can gain additional certification through an organization such as the National Association of School Psychologists, which offers a designation recognized in 31 different states.
Employment Outlook and Salary Info
According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) the mean annual salary in 2018 for clinical, counseling and school psychologists was $85,340 (www.bls.gov). In addition, the BLS predicted a 14% job growth for all psychologists from 2018-2028.
Students with an undergraduate background in psychology, who are interested in a career working with children and adolescents, can look into a master's degree program in child and adolescent development. Prospective students generally have two degree options to choose from--an M.A. in child development and an M.A. in psychology with a specialization in child and adolescent development.