Child Psychology Degree Programs
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Getting a degree in child psychology allows you to provide counseling and other psychological services to children and their families. There are many forms of child psychology degree programs that can provide you with the necessary education and training to become a child psychologist or counselor. This page provides an overview of what a child psychologist is and what they do, how to get a child psychology degree, different types of child psychology degree programs, the different routes to become licensed in child psychology, and the jobs that make up the child psychology profession.

When you're ready to learn all about the different child psychology degree programs and want to request information from schools, just click on the "more info" buttons next to the schools or use the quick search box in the upper right to find the best program to begin your child psychology career.

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What is a Child Psychologist and What do They do?

A child psychologist specializes in providing psychological and behavioral health support to children and their families. They focus on helping children develop and learn healthy coping skills to address and resolve mental and behavioral health issues and needs. Even though a child psychologist specializes in working with children, they are also often tasked with the responsibility of providing therapeutic support to the child's parents and siblings. Therefore, a child psychologist has often also received education and training within family therapy in order to provide comprehensive counseling services to the child and their family.

Child psychologists can work in a variety of mental health settings such as outpatient therapy offices, behavioral health/psychiatric hospitals, intensive outpatient therapy programs, schools, and academic university settings. As such, as a child psychologist you can either pursue an academic career as a researcher and/or professor or a clinical career providing long-term and short-term individual, group, and family therapy, as well as diagnostic intakes, assessments, and treatment plans. Additionally, child psychologists can also receive training and be referred to as a developmental psychologists, who specialize in supporting a child's growth and developmental needs including providing treatment to children with developmental disorders such as Autism Spectrum Disorder.

Child psychologists can also work in administrative and supervisory positions such as providing supervision to students, managing and supervising therapists and other psychologists, as well as serve as a clinical or department director within various clinical and academic settings. As you can see, a child psychologist is able to pursue many diverse and unique job opportunities and career paths within the field of child psychology.

How to Become a Child Psychologist

The following are the necessary steps in order to become a child psychologist:

    1. Bachelor's Degree: Complete an undergraduate degree, preferably with an emphasis in psychology or child development, as child psychology degrees are rarely offered at the Bachelor's level.

    2. Graduate Degree: It is important to find a degree program that either provides a specific child psychology track or provides opportunities to receive clinical and academic training within the field of child psychology while in your graduate degree program. To become a child psychologist, you must obtain a Ph.D. within a related field. However, if you complete your education with a Master's degree, you are able to pursue a jobs as a child therapist and still are able to provide counseling services to children and families within the field of child psychology.

    3. Internship and Practicum: The next step in becoming a child psychologist is to complete a practicum and internship that is approved by the American Psychological Association (APA), prior to completing your PhD. The internship often lasts one year and provides options that are more focused on research or clinical experience, depending on the type of child psychology career you choose to pursue. Master's degree programs often include a practicum requirement within local clinical settings prior to graduating. Internships and practicums provide a great opportunity for you to gain real-life experience within the field of child psychology.

    4. Licensure Requirements: Both child psychologists (PhD degree) and child therapists (master's degrees) will need to apply and complete the licensure requirements for the state they are choosing to work within, such as supervised clinical hours (1,000 hours for PhD and 3,000 for master's level) and verification of state education requirements. You have two licensure options if you are becoming a master's level child therapist, either as a Licensed Professional Counselor (LPC), a Marriage and Family Therapist (LMFT), or both.

    5. Board Certification or Licensure Exams: To become a board certified child psychologist, you will need to complete the Examination for Professional Practice in Psychology (EPPP) which is given by the Association of State and Provincial Psychology Boards. If you are becoming a child therapist, then you will complete licensing exams including the National Counselor Examination (NCE) to receive your LPC or the examination in Marriage and Family Therapy (MFT) to become a LMFT therapist. Once these steps are complete, you are officially able to independently practice within the field of child psychology either as a child psychologist or child therapist.

It should be noted: if you are choosing to pursue a career solely within the academic side of child psychology following a PhD program, then you do not have to complete licensure or board certification requirements to become a professor within the field of child psychology. However, if you want to provide counseling and work with clients clinically, then you must be licensed and board certified by the state in which you choose to practice.

Child Psychology Degrees

If you want work as a licensed professional in child psychology, you must complete a Bachelor's degree and a graduate degree to be qualified. Specifically, you must obtain a PhD to become a child psychologist and a master's degree to become a child therapist.

Undergraduate Programs

Psychology or counseling are the two main disciplines to consider when obtaining your bachelor's degree in pursuit of becoming a child psychologist or therapist. Either discipline provides you with an adequate undergraduate education to be eligible for future graduate school.

Psychology Bachelor's Degree Information

When pursuing a bachelor's degree in psychology, you will take a diverse range of general psychology courses and education which can be applied to many career paths and disciplines. Specifically, you will take courses such as social and behavioral psychology, neuropsychology, research design, and statistical analysis. Therefore, a bachelor degree in psychology opens up many opportunities and career options and also provides a great foundation for becoming a child psychologist or therapist.

Counseling Psychology Degree Information

A bachelor's degree in counseling specializes in training you to pursue a career specifically within counseling and working in clinical mental health settings. You will take a variety of courses that will help you gain fundamental counseling skills and knowledge to become a well-rounded counselor in the future. Specifically, you will take courses such as evidence based psychology, theories of personality, trauma and crisis, and multicultural counseling. This degree path would be beneficial to you if you are confident you would like to pursue a future career as a counselor or psychologist, including in the field of child psychology.

Graduate Degrees in Child Psychology

When pursuing a professional career within child psychology, you have different career paths to consider. Specifically, if you would like to become a child psychologist you would have to complete a PhD in psychology related program and if you want to become a child therapist, you would complete a master's degree in psychology related program.

Master's Degrees in Child Psychology

There are several entry requirements for admission into a program related to child psychology. The requirements vary based on the program but typically include completing a personal statement, 2-3 letters of recommendation, a GPA of 3.0 or above, taking the General Record Examination (GRE), and submitting your previous college transcripts. When choosing your program, it is important to select programs that offer education and training or even specialized career tracks within child psychology. That way, you will receive adequate training and experience to prepare you for becoming a child therapist.

Once accepted into a desirable and appropriate program, you will receive clinical and academic education and training related to becoming a therapist, specializing in child psychology. Furthermore, when pursuing your clinical and academic work within the program, you can choose to pursue child psychology related options. Typically, master's degree programs in psychology require you to complete a clinical practicum, often in the last year or months of your program. This experience provides you with entry level experience in a clinical therapy setting, likely working with children in families if you are choosing to become a child therapist.

There are various types of master's degree programs that will help you pursue a career in child psychology. For example, you can consider school psychology programs which would train you to become a school psychologist. You could also complete a degree within a psychology or counseling master's degree program that allows you to become a licensed child therapist, or you could even pursue a degree in experimental psychology which provides a research oriented track that would allow you to become a professional research assistant or coordinator within the field of child psychology.

School psychology and psychology or counseling related programs will require the clinical practicum and specialized clinical training but may not require a master's thesis. On the other hand, if you are in an experimental psychology program, you would complete a master's thesis within your research interest (i.e., child psychology), but may not be required to complete clinical training or a practicum. However, some programs require both clinical training and a research thesis and therefore this should be an important factor to consider when determining the best master's program for you and your child psychology career path preferences.

Doctoral Degrees in Child Psychology

Doctoral degree programs related to child psychology have admission requirements that typically include a personal statement, 3 letters of recommendation, a GPA of 3.0 or above, completing the General Record Examination (GRE), submitting previous college transcripts, and a curriculum vita (CV). However, doctoral programs are typically more competitive than master's degree programs and only accept approximately 10% of their applicants each year. Therefore, your GPA and GRE scores should be competitive and your CV should include a range of relatable experience, especially within research.

When applying and selecting doctoral programs, you will be expected to select a professor within the program that aligns well with your clinical and research interests as they will be assigned as your primary advisor to provide you clinical and research experience throughout the program. Doctoral programs typically provide more extensive research experience and development as you are training to become both a researcher and clinician in the field of your choice (i.e., child psychology) and these programs typically follow what is known as "the scientist-practitioner model," which indicates you will utilize both research and clinical knowledge within your career. Therefore, if you wish to become a child psychologist, you will want to ensure your program offers a specialized child psychology track or your advisor can provide clinical and research opportunities related to children and families.

There are several doctoral program options to consider when pursuing a career within child psychology, including clinical psychology, in which you receive either PhD (typically more research focused) or PsyD (typically more clinically focused) to become a clinical psychologist, a PhD in counseling psychology to become a counseling psychologist, a PhD in developmental psychology to become a developmental psychologist, or a PhD in school psychology to become a doctorate-level school psychologist. All of these doctoral programs provide extensive research experience.

In order to graduate you will be required to write and defend a dissertation. In addition, psychology doctoral programs typically require a clinical internship before awarding your degree. Most programs in clinical or counseling psychology require that your internship be approved by the American Psychological Association (APA) and be completed over the course of a year, prior to graduation.

Child Psychology Licensing Information

Master's level child therapists must pursue licensure within the state they are choosing to practice in order to become a licensed child therapist. Specifically, you must: complete 3,000 hours of post-graduate approved clinical supervision and therapy experience (i.e., typically 1,000 face-to-face client hours and one hour of supervision each week) complete the state's education requirements (master's programs that provide CACREP accreditation typically ensure the necessary coursework to be approved within each state) pass the National Counselor Examination (NCE) to receive your LPC or the examination in Marriage and Family Therapy (MFT) to become a LMFT therapist

Once you have met these requirements, the state will review your application and determine your eligibility for licensure. Following licensure you will be expected to complete continuing education and renewal requirements every two years, though exact requirements vary by state.

Doctoral level child psychologist must pursue both board certification and licensure within the state they are choosing to practice. Specifically, you must: complete 1,000 post-graduate approved clinical supervision and therapy experience complete state education requirements pass the Examination for Professional Practice in Psychology (EPPP) to become board certified and licensed as a child psychologist.

Some states also require an oral examination to complete board certification and licensure requirements. Following licensure, you will be expected to complete continuing education and renewal requirements every two years depending on which state you are licensed in.

It should be noted: if you choose to pursue a solely academic professor track within child psychology, then you would not be required to complete board certification or licensure.

Child Psychology Jobs

There are several job options to consider when pursuing a career in child psychology, the following are the most common:

Clinical or Counseling Psychologists provide psychological and counseling services to children and families within the field of child psychology. You can obtain either a PhD or PsyD in Clinical Psychology to become a clinical psychologist or a PhD in Counseling Psychology to become a Counseling Psychologist within the child psychology profession. Psychologists also often hold many supervisory, director, or teaching positions due to their extensive experience and qualifications in the field. The average salaries are $75,090 annually for both a Clinical Psychologist and Counseling Psychologist (O*Net, 2017).

Mental Health Counselors are often referred to as therapists (i.e., LPC or LMFT) and provide therapeutic services to children and families within the field of child psychology and require a master's degree in psychology or counseling. Mental health counselors often work in psychiatric hospitals, intensive outpatient programs, or outpatient therapy clinics providing individual, group, or family therapy as well as case management services at times. The average salary for a Mental Health Counselor is $46,740 annually (O*Net, 2017).

Developmental Psychologists have a PhD specializing in Developmental Psychology or Child Development and work either academically conducting research within the field of child psychology or as a clinician addressing children's developmental, behavioral, and emotional needs. Developmental Psychologist can often specialize in areas such as working with children who have developmental disorders such as Autism Spectrum Disorder. A Developmental Psychologist's typical salary is comparable to other Psychologist's salaries of $75,090 annually (O*Net, 2017).

School Psychologists have either a EdS (master's level) or a PhD (doctorate level) in School Psychology. EdS School Psychologist typically work clinically within a school setting with students, parents, teachers, and school administrators to support children's social and emotional needs and a PhD School Psychologist typically works at a university in a school psychology department as a professor educating and training future school psychologists. The average salary for a School Psychologist is $75,090 annually (O*Net, 2017).

Psychology Professors have a PhD in psychology and typically work within a university psychology department and teach psychology courses within their specialty (i.e., child psychology). They also can mentor and supervise doctoral and master's students as well as conduct research and become published professionally throughout their career. The average salary for a Psychology Professor is $73,770 annually (O*Net, 2017).