A master's in developmental psychology prepares learners for opportunities in counseling, psychology, and education. Professionals with a master's in developmental psychology can pursue careers as childhood education specialists, school counselors, and rehabilitation counselors. The degree also prepares students for doctoral programs in developmental psychology; most states require candidates for developmental psychology licensure to hold a doctorate in the field. During a master's program, developmental psychology students build advanced research and assessment skills, which benefit professionals in several growing fields.
This guide introduces developmental psychology master's programs, including common courses, high-demand developmental psychology career paths, and career advancement opportunities.
Typical Admission Requirements:
Applicants must typically hold a bachelor's degree in psychology or a closely related field and submit a statement of purpose, letters of recommendation, and undergraduate transcripts.
Time to Completion:
Most master's programs require two years of full-time study.
Why Get a Master's Degree in Developmental Psychology?
Master's students in developmental psychology programs strengthen their research and analytical skills. A developmental psychology degree prepares students for several in-demand career paths. Below are some common reasons learners pursue a master's in developmental psychology.
- Increased Earning Potential: A master's degree in developmental psychology can lead to higher salaries. Professionals with a master's degree typically earn more than those with a bachelor's degree.
- Advanced Studies: Individuals with a master's degree can apply for doctoral programs, which aspiring developmental psychologists must complete to qualify for licensure. A doctorate also qualifies developmental psychologists for the highest positions in the field.
- Specialized Skill Set: Most developmental psychology master's students complete advanced training in a psychology specialty. Learners develop research and analytical skills to prepare for careers in psychology research, counseling, and education.
- Licensure: In some states, a master's in developmental psychology meets the educational requirement for a psychologist license, which qualifies professionals to practice.
- Career Advancement: Graduates with a master's in developmental psychology can pursue various careers, including roles as rehabilitation counselors, learning disabilities specialists, and school counselors.
Curricula vary for developmental psychology graduate programs, but all programs include coursework that strengthens core skills in the discipline. Graduate students take classes in cognition and learning, language development, and cross-cultural psychology. Coursework prepares master's students to write a thesis in their focus area and pursue advanced training at the doctoral level.
Many developmental psychology programs incorporate electives or specialized seminars to train master's students in their subfield. Although each program follows a unique curriculum, the classes below are common to many master's in developmental psychology programs.
Cognition and Learning
This class examines the theoretical and empirical basis for learning theory and cognitive psychology. Students explore prominent and recent literature on the topic, and they apply learning and cognitive theory to questions of daily living to prepare for careers in developmental psychology.
Students in this course explore the stages and processes of language development and components of the language system. Learners gain a theoretical framework for the study of language development, including knowledge of theories related to speech and language acquisition. The course prepares students to work with individuals who have disabilities or language impairments.
Students learn about individual, ethnic, and cultural factors that shape psychosocial growth. Learners in this class analyze cultural factors that inform decision making, problem solving, and communication. Coursework covers topics such as cultural bias, cross-ethnic communication, and diversity. This knowledge prepares students to work with diverse populations in various professional roles.
This class explores the relationships between human development, socialization, and moral education. Students examine empirical research, theories on moral education, and the role of cognitive development in moral education. The course explores the educational implications of developmental theories, including moral education at various developmental stages.
What Can You Do With a Master's Degree in Developmental Psychology?
A master's in developmental psychology can lead to careers in research, youth programs, healthcare, and private practice. While practicing psychologists must typically hold a doctoral degree, a master's can qualify graduates for careers as behavior therapists, early childhood education specialists, and adolescent development specialists. Graduates can also pursue developmental psychology jobs like school counselor and rehabilitation counselor positions.
After earning a master's degree in developmental psychology, professionals can advance their career in several ways. Some graduates enroll in a doctoral program or pursue a psychology license, which may require a doctorate. Developmental psychology graduates can also advance their career by joining professional organizations that offer networking opportunities.
A master's in developmental psychology qualifies graduates to apply for doctoral programs in the field. While earning a doctorate in developmental psychology, students complete advanced coursework in their focus area and undertake an original research project under the supervision of a faculty advisor. Developmental psychology doctoral students must also write and defend a dissertation.
A doctorate can qualify developmental psychologists for the top positions in the field, including roles in academia and research. Most tenure-track professor positions at colleges and universities require a doctorate. A doctorate also meets the educational requirement for a psychology license in every state.
Developmental psychologists who work with patients typically need a license to practice. Most states require candidates for licensure to have a doctorate in psychology and supervised experience. However, a small number of states grant psychologist licenses to candidates with a master's degree. To earn a license, candidates must generally provide proof that they meet the educational and experience requirements and then pass an examination. Licensed professionals must complete continuing education to qualify for renewal.
Each state sets unique licensure requirements, so aspiring developmental psychologists should carefully research the requirements and process for the state in which they plan to practice.
- Society for Research in Child Development SRCD offers professional development opportunities for psychologists, including fellowships, mentorships, and awards. The society publishes journals, briefs, and fact sheets.
- Developmental Psychology, American Psychological Association Division 7 The developmental psychology division of APA offers an email list, grant opportunities, and awards for developmental psychologists. The division hosts events that include networking opportunities.
- Association for Behavior Analysis International ABAI hosts international events for behavior analysis professionals. The association also provides career resources and professional development materials, including scholarly journals.