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Child psychologists help children recover from loss or trauma, respond to mental health conditions, and develop healthy coping strategies. This guide explores different child psychology degrees and how to use a child psychology education.
Degrees in Child Psychology
While you need a doctorate to work as a child psychologist, which includes an internship and a period of supervised practice, you can use a bachelor's or a master's degree in related jobs, such as counseling and therapy, administering child care programs, or performing other work with children.
Many schools offer child psychology bachelor's degrees in online, on-campus, or hybrid options. However, you can also earn a child psychology master's degree with a bachelor's in other degrees. These include developmental psychology, education, or related degrees that include coursework in child psychology.
Bachelor's Degrees in Child Psychology
A child psychology bachelor's degree includes courses in introductory psychology, psychology research methods, developmental psychology, cognition, and behavioral psychology. Students can take specialized courses in child and adolescent psychology, child psychology assessment, responding to child trauma or abuse, and family psychology. Other classes include the ethics of child psychology and how to conduct experiments ethically with child subjects.
Master's Degree in Child Psychology
When earning your child psychology master's degree, you can specialize in a particular patient demographic, such as infants or adolescents, or type of mental health condition, such as autism, trauma response, or child life.
All programs, however, include advanced coursework in assessment, child development, and conducting psychology research. Many schools offer online or hybrid programs. A master of arts in child psychology emphasizes research and generally leads to a career in research or teaching, while a master of science degree prepares learners for psychology practice. MS courses include clinical work with children under the supervision of a licensed child psychologist.
Featured Online Psychology Bachelor's Programs
Figuring out where to apply? These top, accredited schools offer a variety of online degrees. Consider one of these accredited programs, and discover their value today.
Doctorates in Child Psychology
To become a licensed clinical child psychologist, you must earn a child psychology doctorate, either a Ph.D. or a Psy.D. However, the Ph.D. is geared toward academia and research, while the Psy.D. emphasizes clinical practice. Both degrees include classes in advanced clinical practice and research and require an internship and a doctoral thesis.
During the internship requirement, students work with an increasing level of independence under a licensed child psychologist. Many child psychology doctorates offer online or hybrid options.
What Does a Child Psychologist Do?
Most child psychologists act as clinical psychologists, diagnosing and treating child mental health conditions and advising parents and family members on how to support their child's mental health. Child psychologists work in hospitals or health systems, private practices, child advocacy and development organizations, or for government functions.
Child psychologists can specialize in a particular field of child psychology, such as recovery from trauma; specific mental health conditions, such as autism or eating disorders; or a specific age or demographic. While rewarding, this work can be very challenging, especially in certain specialties like recovery from abuse or trauma or when working with children experiencing serious mental health conditions.
What Else Can I Do With a Child Psychology Degree?
In addition to work as a clinical psychologist, degrees can apply to any field that involves children or promotes their well-being. For example, you can use your child psychology degree full time or as a consultant in jobs, such as:
- Children's media and publishing, including websites and broadcasting
- K-12 textbook publishing
- Educational toy, software, or game design companies
- Social work
- Child advocacy organizations
- Child care program or school administration
- Foster care and other governmental programs
- Public policy analysis
- Designing programs for organizations like Boys and Girls Clubs or the YMCA
- Child or family counseling or therapy
Frequently Asked Questions About Child Psychology
What's the difference between child psychology and developmental psychology?
Developmental psychologists focus on healthy childhood transitions from one developmental stage to another, such as from pre-teen to adolescent, while child psychologists study a broader perspective.
What is the difference between a child psychologist and a child therapist?
Child psychologists and child therapists perform similar work. However, a child psychologist generally attends school for longer and focuses more on the academia and research aspects of psychology, while a child therapist focuses more on practice.
Is it hard to become a child psychologist?
This depends on your individual strengths. Becoming a clinical child psychologist requires completing many years of higher education, including a doctorate.