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Child Psychology Master's Program Guide

Child psychologists help children struggling with mental, emotional, and behavioral disorders. They conduct research to understand child development, offer counseling sessions as school psychologists, and practice in clinical settings. A master's in child psychology leads to engaging and fulfilling opportunities in the field.

Psychologists earn above-average salaries, with a median annual salary of over $79,000 a year, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS). The BLS also projects strong job growth for psychologists. This guide introduces prospective students to characteristics of a master's in child psychology and the steps necessary for them to become a child psychologist.

Degree Snapshot

Typical Admission Requirements:
A bachelor's degree in psychology or a closely related field; statistics and research methods prerequisites; GRE scores; personal statement; letters of recommendation

Time to Completion:
Two years for full-time students; under two years for accelerated programs

Why Get a Master's Degree in Child Psychology?

Earning a master's in child psychology brings many professional and personal benefits. Among other advantages, the degree leads to fulfilling, high-paying careers in several sectors.

  • Earn a Comfortable Salary

    A master's degree in child psychology can lead to an increase in career opportunities and salary potential. Generally, professionals with a master's degree earn higher salaries.

  • Fulfill Career Qualifications

    Many career paths in child psychology require at least a master's degree. For example, the degree meets the qualifications for a school psychologist license.

  • Build Necessary Skills

    During a master's degree, students strengthen their research training and build counseling skills. The coursework covers vital topics like developmental psychology and abnormal child psychology.

  • Work with Your Schedule

    An online child psychology degree offers a flexible, accessible schedule that helps working professionals advance their career. The degree also offers versatility, with opportunities in education, research, and counseling.

  • Further Your Education

    After completing a master's degree in child psychology, graduates who want to pursue clinical or academic roles can apply to doctoral programs.

Example Courses

During a child psychology master's program, graduate students complete coursework to build their research, analytical, and assessment skills. Many child psychology graduate programs incorporate coursework in research skills, developmental psychology, and ethics for child psychologists. Programs may also offer specialized courses in areas like school psychology or abnormal psychology to prepare graduates for specific career paths in psychology.

The coursework in a master's in child psychology builds critical skills for psychology professionals, including observational abilities, problem-solving skills, and communication expertise. Graduate students build their writing and research skills by conducting experiments and writing research papers. While not all programs offer the following classes, this sample curriculum shows common child psychology graduate courses.

Ethics and Law in Psychology

Many child psychology schools include courses on ethics and law in psychology. Child psychologists provide critical services to children, heightening the role of professional ethics. Graduate students build a foundational understanding of ethics and learn about the laws governing psychology in the course. Students also study how to apply ethical standards and comply with legal requirements.

Developmental Psychology

Developmental psychology classes examine the major psychological theories for understanding human growth and development. The course covers infancy, childhood, and adolescence, focusing on biosocial and cognitive developments. Graduate students also learn about developmental problems and diagnosing abnormal development, which may lead to careers in abnormal child psychology.

Measurement and Assessment

Child psychology programs build research and assessment skills through courses on measurement and assessment. Graduate students study measurement, sources for diagnostic information, and the reliability of results. The course also emphasizes ethical approaches to the assessment process. The class prepares graduates for research careers in psychology or a doctoral degree.

Multicultural Issues in Psychology

Courses on multicultural issues in psychology examine how cultural factors influence individual behaviors, learning styles, and cognitive strategies. The course may cover the role of ethnicity and socioeconomic class on children. Graduate students explore the impact of cultural and social factors on assessment, counseling, and interventions with culturally diverse children.

What Can You Do With a Master's Degree in Child Psychology?

A child psychology degree leads to careers in research, counseling, school psychology, and other fields. Developmental child psychologists research cognitive, behavioral, and emotional development, while school psychologists help children at the K-12 level manage academic and social problems. Some child psychologist career paths require a doctoral degree.


Where Do Child Psychologists Work?

Child psychologists work for the state and local government, private organizations, elementary and secondary schools, healthcare and social assistance services, and as independent consultants.

Career Advancement

Professionals with a master's in child psychology can advance their career and qualify for more child psychology jobs by pursuing a doctoral degree or a psychology license. Some career paths require a doctorate, including psychology professor. A license also helps child psychologists pursue careers in counseling, with opportunities for licensed counseling psychologists.

Doctoral Programs

A doctorate in psychology prepares graduates for clinical, academic, and research positions. Child psychologists can earn a Ph.D. in psychology or a Psy.D. in psychology. The Ph.D. emphasizes research, and the Psy.D. focuses on clinical practice. Psychologists who want to counsel patients can earn a Psy.D. in counseling psychology with a focus on child psychology, for example.

During a doctorate, graduate students specialize their skills. Doctoral students complete coursework and pass comprehensive exams. Ph.D. students typically write an original dissertation, while Psy.D. students complete extensive clinical requirements. Graduates work in counseling, academia, and clinical psychology.

Licensure

Some child psychology careers require a license. For example, psychologists who treat children through counseling must pursue a license to practice. Each state follows different licensure requirements, so prospective psychologists must understand the child psychologist requirements in their state. In general, clinical and counseling psychologists must hold a doctorate and complete professional experience and examination requirements.

Licensure requirements also vary depending on the career path. For example, professionals with a master's in child psychology qualify for counseling licenses in many states. Similarly, school psychologists can pursue a license without holding a doctorate.

Professional Organizations

  • American Psychological Association APA publishes journals, hosts a national conference with networking opportunities, and runs a career center for job-seekers. Psychology students and professionals rely on the APA psychology help center.
  • Society of Clinical Child and Adolescent Psychology A division of the American Psychological Association, SCCAP offers student resources, a career center, and publications for child psychology students and professionals.
  • Society of Pediatric Psychology The Society of Pediatric Psychology offers conferences, a listserv, and special interest groups to connect psychologists. It also publishes the Journal of Pediatric Psychology.

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