Adolescent Psychology Degree Programs


The term “adolescent psychology” is somewhat confusing because it can be applied to three separate fields within psychology: developmental psychology, counseling psychology and clinical psychology. Each of these three specialty areas contain psychologists who can be referred to as adolescent psychologists, though the job descriptions of these three types of adolescent psychologists can be quite divergent from each other.

Developmental psychology is the study of the development of people from birth to old age, and developmental adolescent psychology is a sub-specialty within this field. Developmental adolescent psychologists study the physical, mental, social and emotional development of adolescents in order to develop psychological theories that might help in the understanding and treatment of developmental disorders. Developmental adolescent psychologists spend much of their time in a laboratory performing research and experiments, and they normally aren’t qualified to treat patients.

Counseling psychology specializes in counseling patients, and adolescent counseling psychology is a sub-specialty within this field. Adolescent counseling psychologists focus upon treating adolescents, using any of several types of psychotherapy, including group therapy, family therapy and individual counseling. These specialists also work with parents, teachers, school officials and clergy in forming an organized team of concerned adults interested in developing an over-all treatment plan for adolescent clients. Many counseling psychologists set up their own private practices; few of them perform any research, instead relying upon the research findings of adolescent developmental psychologists.

Clinical psychology is similar to counseling psychology in that it also specializes in treating patients; but the main difference is that clinical psychology normally treats patients suffering from more serious disorders. Adolescent clinical psychologists usually treat adolescents with conditions serious enough to require institutional care. As such, these psychologists usually work in hospitals, mental health care facilities, substance abuse clinics and other health care facilities; few of them set up private practices or perform any research. Because psychologists normally aren’t qualified to prescribe or administer pharmaceuticals, they often have to team up with psychiatrists—who are medical doctors and can administer drugs—in treating patients.

Adolescent Psychology Degrees

The aim of adolescent psychology programs is to equip individuals with the ability to connect with adolescents at an emotional level and assist the latter in their transition phase by providing them counseling and therapy. Individuals aiming to specialize in adolescent psychology will learn how to engage in a socially complex environment. Typical courses include social psychology, ethical perspectives, developmental psychology, counseling methods and practices, issues in adolescent development and educational psychology. Since adolescent psychology is concerned with the development of adolescents, several disciplines within psychology have to be covered to gain a complete understanding of the psyche of adolescents.

Developmental adolescent psychologists normally get a Bachelor of Science in psychology, and they often take a concentration of courses in developmental psychology. Bachelor’s programs usually offer concentrations or majors in adolescent psychology which span over 4 years

Counseling and clinical adolescent psychologists usually get a Bachelor of Arts in psychology because it offers more courses in psychotherapy, and they often take concentrations in clinical psychology. Counseling psychologists who plan to open their own private practice sometimes take basic courses in business.

Related: How to Get a Degree in Child Psychology

A bachelor’s degree alone is insufficient for most jobs in adolescent psychology, though it is often good enough for social workers who want to counsel teenagers.

Most developmental adolescent psychologists get a Master of Science in experimental psychology, which allows them to start work as a research assistant. To become a full-scale researcher, though, requires a PhD in Experimental Psychology.

In a master’s program students take more specialized courses. Some programs may require fieldwork during the course of the program. Entry requirements for master’s typically include an essay on why the candidate wants to pursue this degree. Other typical requirements include an existing bachelor’s degree, a 3.0 GPA (undergraduate), official transcripts, and letters of recommendation.

A Master of Arts in Clinical Psychology is good enough for social workers but not for clinical or counseling psychologists, who require either a Doctor of Philosophy (PhD) or a Doctor of Psychology (PsyD) degree. Most psychologists get a PsyD degree because it offers more counseling courses than a PhD.

Career Opportunities

Developmental adolescent psychologists usually work in research institutions, universities, hospitals, substance abuse clinics or mental health facilities. Those who work in universities often double as teachers and researchers.

Most counseling adolescent psychologists set up a counseling practice in a private office, where they conduct individual, group or family counseling.

Clinical adolescent psychologist often work in hospitals, clinics or mental health institutions where they can treat adolescent patients who suffer from substance abuse or any type of psychological disorder. Some set up a private practice.

Related: Careers with a Degree in Child Psychology


According to the Bureau of Labor, the median salary for all types of psychologists in 2012 was $69,280 per year or $33.31 per hour for those on hourly rates. In a survey taken by the American Psychological Association in 2000, the average salary for clinical psychologists was $87,000.

The Bureau of Labor says the mean annual wage of the average clinical, counseling and school psychologist as of May 2013 was $72,710, and the mean hourly wage was $34.96.

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