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Psychology Career Path: Child Development

Potential Job Titles

  • Developmental Psychologist (M.A., Ph.D., Psy.D.)
  • Clinical Child Psychologist (M.A., Ph.D., Psy.D.)
  • Early Intervention Specialist (B.A., M.A.)
  • Child Care Activity Specialist (B.A.)
  • School Counselor (M.A.)
  • Case Worker (B.A.)
  • Child Life Specialist (M.A.:CCLS)
  • Speech Therapist (M.A.: CCC-SLP)

Potential Graduate Programs

  • Child Clinical Psychology (M.A., Ph.D., PsyD)
  • Developmental Psychology (M.A., Ph.D.)
  • Child Life Specialist (M.A.:CCC-SLP)
  • Intervention Specialist (FdS, M.A.)
  • Speech Therapy (M.A., Ph.D.)

Action Steps for Students

To become more involved in child psychology or learn about the profession, here is what students can do:

  1. Visit the websites of professional organizations, such as Division 7 (Developmental Psychology), Division 37 (Child, Youth, and Family Services), or Division 53 (Clinical Child Psychology) of the American Psychological Association. 
  2. Read professional journals, such as Child Development, Developmental Psychology, and Journal of Research in Childhood Education.
  3. Schedule a meeting with a child clinical psychologist, a developmental psychologist, or other professional focusing on working with children and adolescents to discuss their profession.
  4. Obtain an internship or volunteer in agencies serving children.

Students who are interested in pursuing a career in developmental psychology should be sure to work with an adviser to develop an academic plan that is tailored to their interests. The plan should lead to the completion of coursework that is useful for employment in an entry-level job working with children or admission to a graduate program in child clinical or developmental psychology.

What is Developmental Psychology?

Developmental psychology is a sub-field of psychology that focuses on the biological, cognitive, and social development of an individual throughout the lifespan. Some developmental psychologists may specialize in infant or child development, and others may focus their interest on the development of adolescents or adults. The majority of developmental psychologists are involved in research.

Child psychologists conduct research and provide psychological services to infants, toddlers, children, and adolescents. Child psychology places an emphasis on diagnosing and treating children’s psychological problems. Child psychologists also focus on understanding and the prevention of children’s cognitive, emotional, behavioral, and/or family problems. Child psychologists also may work in support of or under the supervision of social workers in a clinical setting.

For employment as a licensed child clinical or counseling psychologist, an advanced degree is required. Psychologists with Ph.D.s are qualified for a wide range of positions, such as teaching, research, clinical, and counseling in universities, elementary and secondary schools, private industry, and government. Potential career directions for individuals trained in child psychology include early childhood intervention, juvenile rehabilitation, and speech therapy.

The purpose of this program is to provide students with a comprehensive understanding of psychology while preparing students for advanced training that is required to practice as a child psychologist, child life specialist, or intervention specialist.

Undergraduate Course Requirements

University and College Requirements

In addition to the suggestions for the child development track, be sure to complete all other university and college requirements, including the foreign language requirement.

The center staff recommend beginning the foreign language requirement in the first year. NOTE: Students may begin with a class higher than 1110 depending on foreign language placement test results. It is possible to place out of the foreign language requirement. Therefore, it is recommended that students take the placement test for any foreign language completed in high school.

Required Courses in Psychology

The following courses are highly recommended for students planning on pursuing a graduate degree in child or developmental psychology:

  • PSY 2420 Educational Psychology (3)
  • PSY 2720 Psychology of Personality (3)
  • PSY 3110 Advanced Statistics (4)
  • PSY 3120 Tests & Measurements (3)
  • PSY 3430 Psychological Disorders of Childhood (3)
  • PSY 3440 Psychology of Gender (3)
  • PSY 3710 Intro to Clinical & Counseling (3)
  • PSY 4410 Prenatal Influences on Development (3)

Additional Recommended Courses

Below are additional courses outside of the Psychology Department that may be relevant to those interested in child and developmental psychology.

  • SW 1000 Intro to Social Work & Social Welfare (3)
  • SW 3213 Child Abuse and Neglect (3)
  • SW 4223 Child Welfare I (3)
  • SW 4224 Child Welfare II (3)
  • HSLS 1080 Intro to Communication Disorders (3)
  • HSLS 3100 Language Development (3)
  • EDEC 1001 Intro to Early Childhood Education (2)
  • EDSP 2710 Introduction to Special Education (3)
  • EDEC 2400 Infant and Toddler Education: Development,Curriculum and Program (3)
  • CFS 2710 Individuals and Families over the Lifespan (3)
  • CFS 4760 Children & Families in Health Care Settings (3)

Students who intend to go to graduate school in child and developmental psychology are encouraged to complete courses in Biological Sciences.

Fieldwork and Research in Psychology

It is highly recommended that students interested in child and developmental psychology participate in research in a psychology lab and engage in fieldwork in settings related to the student’s particular area of interest.

Recommended Minors & Certificates

There are several different Minors and Certificates that are related to the field of child and developmental psychology. A student should discuss with an adviser which minor is most conducive to his or her career goals and plans for graduate school.