Childhood is something that stays with a person forever. We feel its impact over a lifetime, and it largely shapes what type of adult a person will become. It is also something that is growing far more complicated as time goes on.
Childhood psychology focuses on a child’s developmental and behavioral wellbeing no matter what life happens to throw at them. It is one of the more frequently studied types of psychology today.
What is Child or Adolescent Psychology?
Child and adolescent psychology refers to individuals’ mental, social, and emotional states as they progress through childhood. The field focuses on encouraging well-being in children and their families through intervention, counseling, and treatment techniques.
Some things under the childhood psychology umbrella include milestones, social skills, behavioral problems, emotional and mental wellbeing, and development. Child psychologists may specialize in educational, clinical, abnormal, developmental, adolescent, or school psychology. They can work as advisors, counselors, or researchers in various settings. Read on to learn more about child psychology and the programs and degrees that will get you there.
How to Become a Child Psychologist
Start with a Bachelor’s Degree
Child psychology requires a master’s degree at the very minimum. However, you’ll need to start with a bachelor’s degree in a related field. Though it may be possible to find a child psychology program in your area or online, it should be noted that there are not many undergraduate programs in child psychology. You will most likely have to focus on general psychology during undergrad.
Go On to a Master’s Degree
If your goal is to own or run a private practice eventually, you will need a doctorate. With a master’s, you can work as a counselor, but you will not be able to do psychological testing.
Complete a Doctorate
If you’d like to go a more research-based route, you’ll need a Ph.D. on top of a master’s. But, if you’d like to pursue a more clinical route, a Psy.D is the approach that will help you advance to the top of your field.
Apply for a State License
To gain state licensure and professional certification, one will need to complete clinical internships, practicum work, and post-internship fieldwork. After those are completed, all that’s left to obtain licensure is to apply and pass a written exam.
Once you’ve passed and gotten licensed, you can begin a fellowship program to prepare you to pass the board examination by the American Board of Clinical Child and Adolescent Psychology (ABCCAP).
After board certification, you’re ready to apply for jobs!
What Can I Do with My Degree?
Graduates with a four-year degree typically qualify to be mental health and behavioral disorder counselors. They could also go a slightly different route and instead create programs to assist children and adolescents with mental health concerns as a social and community service manager. Or, they could go a completely different route and use this information to help make marketing or other decisions regarding children’s products. So, while the doors may be limited with a bachelor’s degree, they’re definitely not closed!
In addition to having a master’s degree, graduates will also typically need to pass state licensing requirements to begin working in the field. With a master’s, one can take on jobs as a family, school, or child therapist. However, most of those jobs still mostly require a doctoral degree. It should be noted that entry-level positions are the ones most geared towards a master’s graduate.
With a doctorate, one can enjoy all the benefits of becoming a clinical psychologist. You will need to be licensed by the state and often need to have completed a fellowship, but it is necessary for advancement in the field.
Job Outlook and Prospects
The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics website predicts that psychology will grow around 3% between now and 2029, which is average. The median pay for a psychologist is currently about $82,180 per year.
Keep in mind that you might also qualify for specific student loan forgiveness programs if you get a job in the public or service sectors.
Professional Organizations for Child and Adolescent Psychologists
On top of the American Psychological Association (APA), some other professional associations that provide certification, development and continuing education opportunities, publications, and more are:
- American Academy of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry (AACAP)
- Association for Behavior Analysis International (ABAI)
- American Educational Research Association (AERA)
- National Association of School Psychologists (NASP)