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Child Psychology Programs: Prerequisites and Requirements

Learn about the education and preparation needed to become a child psychologist. Get a quick view of the requirements as well as details about education options, job outlook and salary statistics to find out if this is the career for you.

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Child psychologists start their educational training with undergraduate work in psychology, or a related field, before they can move into their master's, and, in most cases, doctorate programs. Read on to learn about what it takes to become a licensed child psychologist.

Essential Information

Child psychologists must generally earn a minimum of a master's degree for entry-level work. These programs usually require students to complete a clinical component. To enhance career prospects, individuals may complete a doctoral program where they may perform research or work as teaching assistants. Child psychologists may work in a variety of settings and have a positive employment outlook in upcoming years.

Required Education Master's degree, although a doctorate is required for most positions
Additional Requirements State licensure
Projected Job Growth (2018-2028)* 15% for clinical, counseling and school psychologists
Median Salary (2019)** $68,843

Source: *U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics; **Payscale.com

Master's Degree Programs

The minimum requirement for working as a child psychologist is a master's degree. According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), individuals with master's degrees can work as assistants to psychologists. Some states offer masters-level licensure for psychologists. These programs may offer degree programs in school psychology or child development.

Program Prerequisites

Applicants must have an undergraduate degree in psychology or a related field. Among the coursework students may have taken include neuroscience, statistics and human development. Students may have child psychology credits if such courses were offered. Programs typically require scores for the Miller Analogies Test or the Graduate Record Examination and letters of recommendation.

Program Requirements

Master's programs in child psychology teach students scientific principles and professional psychological techniques to work with children, adolescents and families. These programs may include coursework in topics such as child development, behavioral assessment, psychotherapy and family studies. Students may be required to undergo professional experiences in child centers and schools. The capstone requirement is typically a thesis, although some programs allow students to complete a written comprehensive exam instead.

Doctoral Degree Programs

Individuals who wish to run their own practices or provide patient care in child psychology will need a doctoral degree. They may choose from Doctor of Philosophy (Ph.D.), Doctor of Psychology (Psy.D.) or Educational Specialist (Ed.S.) programs. While research projects are part of all three programs, they prepare students for different career tracks. Individuals interested in research may consider Ph.D. programs, while Psy.D. and Ed.S. programs are practice-related.

Program Prerequisites

Prospective doctoral candidates have two paths to entering these programs. They may enter directly out of a bachelor's program or they may enter after earning a master's and transfer some of their credit hours. Doctoral programs may require applicants to submit past research projects.

Program Requirements

Ph.D., Psy.D. and Ed.S. programs may offer concentration areas, such as neuroscience, memory or learning. Ph.D. programs include courses based in research methods and require students to complete a doctoral dissertation of original research for graduation. Psy.D. programs emphasize therapeutic, diagnostic and assessment skills of practicing child psychology along with a full clinical internship that may last a year or more. Ed.S. programs include coursework in education and psychology and include extensive field experience through practicums or internships.

Employment Outlook and Salary Information

The BLS reports that psychologists in general are expected to see a 14% increase in employment opportunities from 2018 to 2028. The BLS reports that clinical, counseling and school psychologists earned a median annual salary of $76,990 per year as of 2018.

At the undergraduate level, aspiring child psychologists can choose from any psychology-related major. They can then move directly into a doctorate program or go through a master's program first. A master's in child psychology is the obvious choice, while doctoral candidates can choose between a philosophy, psychology, or education specialist doctorate.

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