The term “child psychology” is confusing. Sometimes it includes adolescents, but usually it doesn’t. Another confusing aspect is that the term can also be applied to psychologists in any of three distinct fields within psychology: developmental, clinical and school psychology. We’ll discuss these three areas here:
Developmental psychology is the study of human development from birth to old age. This is a research-based field of psychology that doesn’t treat patients. Developmental psychologists study learning disorders and other types of developmental disorders in order to form theories that might aid in developing new treatments for these conditions. Here, the term “child psychologist” refers to a developmental psychologist who specialized in studying children up to the age of puberty (or, in some cases, up to the age of twenty-one).
Clinical psychology, which also includes counseling psychology, is the field of psychology that treats patients, normally through various types of psychotherapy. Here, a child psychologist is someone who treats patients up to the age of puberty. A clinical or counseling psychologist who specializes in treating teenagers is called an “adolescent psychologist.” Clinical psychologists mostly treat patients who are institutionalized, while counseling psychologists usually treat clients who have less serious conditions.
Related: How to Become a Child Psychologist
School psychology is the branch of clinical psychology that specializes in treating primary and secondary students, particularly in regards to their problems in school. These problems can include learning disorders, bullies, peer pressure, misbehavior, grades, etc. School psychologists also advise teachers and school administrators in designing systems and procedures that can aid students. They also consult with parents about their school children.
Types of Degrees
Candidates can pursue a Bachelor in Science or a Master in Science in child developmental psychology. The former focuses on child developmental psychology as a major. It spans over a period of four years with introductory courses in the beginning and child developmental specialization courses in the last 2 years (or last 3 semesters). The MS degree spans over either one year (full-time) or two years (part-time). GPA requirements differ across institutions but those pursuing their master’s degree may have to meet the requirements of bachelor’s in a related field of psychology and a minimum GPA of 3.00.
Typical courses in a child developmental psychology program include health psychology (specifically child health), psychopathology, brain and behavior, learning of children, and assessment of children with special needs. Along with these courses, students may also cover the strategies of quantitative analysis.
Next, if possible, they should get a Master of Science in child developmental psychology, though there aren’t many schools that offer that particular program. A Master of Science in developmental psychology is slightly less hard to find. A Master of Science in experimental psychology is much easier to find, and it’s a broader subject, which is helpful if you later decide to change your career choice. A master’s degree is adequate for research assistants. In order to take admission in a master’s degree program, you might be required to have an undergraduate degree in psychology or a relevant field.
A PhD degree is required for full-fledged developmental researchers. Based on an original research, you might be required to write a dissertation. Furthermore, one year might be required in the program of post-doctoral clinical training. This way, you might also be able to take part in the research studies as well as the trials.
Students who are opting for careers in clinical, counseling or school psychology should opt for a Bachelor of Arts in psychology. A bachelor’s degree is sufficient for some counseling jobs in child services social work. A Master of Arts in clinical psychology is the next step, and is sufficient for most jobs in the child services branches of social work and for some school psychology jobs. But to become a licensed counseling or clinical, a doctorate is required, preferably a Doctor of Psychology (PsyD) in clinical psychology. Some school psychology jobs require a doctorate.
Career Outlook & Opportunities
The US Bureau of Labor Statistics suggests that over the next several years, the field of psychology is anticipated to go strong further.
Most developmental child psychologists work in a research lab for a university, private company, health organization or governmental agency. Some work as teachers or consultants.
School psychologists normally work for K-12 school systems, though a few start their own private practices.
Most clinical child psychologists work in clinics, hospitals, mental health institutions or other health care facilities, though some set up their own private practices. A few work as consultants or teachers.
Most counseling child psychologists go into private practice, though some of them start off their careers by working for a health care agency before starting their own practice so that they can earn a regular paycheck before trying to start their own business.
The Bureau of Labor website says that, in 2013, the mean annual wage for clinical, counseling and school psychologist was $72,710, and the mean hourly wage was $34.96.