How to Become a Child Psychologist


Child psychologists are very important in the lives of children and teenagers. During some of these growing years, a young one may go through a number of challenges which may stall his/her path to being a fruitful adult in future. These professionals do the work of guiding a child with whatever kind of challenge that may be an impediment to his destination in life by helping him cope.

Usually, the skills that the child psychologist has amassed over time will be useful in knowing the possible problems the young one is undergoing by closely monitoring the tendencies; both exhibited emotionally and physically.

What is the Scope of a Child Psychologist’s Work?

The scope of a child psychologist’s work is focused on children from infancy through adolescents. The psychologist specializes in this specific demographic with additional training in: developmental psychology, abnormal psychology, and social psychology. Like in other specializations of psychology, the role of a psychologist ranges from clinical work to research.

There are a number of avenues through which child psychologists approach the challenge of helping a child in need;

  • The treatment of child psychological conditions. These problems can be found in a number of children and can be characterized by difficulty in interacting with other young people and even adults.
  • Counseling young ones to help them cope with particularly difficult times in their life. Such occurrences as divorce of parents, loss of a loved one and even diagnoses of life threatening diseases can be very traumatic to children.
  • They also act as a link between the child and other adults concerned with the latter’s welfare. Usually, parents or teachers may not understand the behaviors of a child. The professionals do and they use this knowledge to guide them all in the right direction in the interests of the child.
  • Usually, they work in facilities where there are child matters involved. Be they correctional, learning or treatment places, the experts will guide the institution in having measures to confront the psychological needs that young ones may have.
  • Once in a while they may be called upon to appear in court and give a professional account as may concern a case involving a child who might have had psychological problems.

Depending on any sub-specialization the psychologist is focused on, a clinical child psychologist can be called upon for various tasks. These are usually similar tasks for both infants and adolescents under the psychologist’s care:

  • Diagnosis and treatment of learning or developmental disabilities
  • Managing behavioral issues
  • Family counseling and education
  • Administering psychological tests
  • Research
  • Work with a care team to create a customized treatment plan

Most child psychologists will specialize in either adolescent or infant child psychology because of the differences between the two groups.   There are vast differences between a newborn baby and a 12 year old child. This is why there is this sub-specialization before specializing in a specific area of child psychology.

A child psychologist can be found working in:

  • Schools
  • Courts
  • Mental Health Departments and Offices
  • Universities – as faculty and as research scientists

In schools, not only is the child psychologist someone who can council students, their families, and the educators but they also play a role on a child study team. They can also contribute to the overall well-being of the children by advising how to make the school environment more conducive to the child’s health, safety, and learning. A child psychologist can also be called as an expert witness in court. By being a licensed psychologist who specializes in children, they can provide testimony as an expert witness. They can also be used to help children in a courtroom setting if they are needed to testify.

Being a child psychologist can be a challenging job. Children love to test boundaries and a therapist must be able to work with the child to address the issues needed. They need to have patience and know how to handle them in a therapeutic manor. A child’s treatment, even for the same health issue as an adult, adds unique challenges to the care giver and they need to keep them in mind while working with children and developing treatment plans.

What are the Requirements to Become a Child Psychologist?

Education Requirements

The educational requirements to become a child psychologist begin with undergraduate studies in general psychology or child development. Classes at this level include the basics like English, humanities, and science. Additionally, broad-based, introductory coursework in developmental psychology, psychology research methods, abnormal psychology, and psychological statistics are required.

The next step is to pursue graduate studies, which is most commonly done in child psychology, school psychology, or developmental psychology. These programs are usually two to three years in length.

Graduate students learn skills that will help them treat children with a wide variety of psychological problems that are behavioral, emotional, or social in nature. Therapeutic techniques, psychopathology, quantitative analysis, and assessment and diagnosis are all common courses. An internship is usually required, in which students typically spend around 1,000 hours in a supervised setting honing their skills and applying the knowledge they have learned to help actual clients.

The final step is to complete a doctoral program, either in child psychology or clinical psychology. These programs last up to five years, and, like graduate studies, focus heavily on the work students will be doing directly with clients. Developing an understanding of advanced therapeutic techniques is emphasized, as is research in the field of child psychology. A dissertation is usually required in which students conduct research and defend their findings to a panel of faculty members. Often, there are internship requirements at this level as well.

Licensure Requirements

Licensure is overseen by individual states, so the requirements to become a licensed child psychologist will vary depending on where one lives. However, all states require prospective workers to have a doctoral degree from an accredited institution and a certain number of supervised hours of clinical practice. Licensees must also take the Examination for the Professional Practice of Psychology and pass with a satisfactory score.

Other Essential Skills Required

  • Patience
  • Inquisitiveness; curiosity for research
  • Emotional stability
  • Good communication and interpersonal skills

Can Child Psychologists Work in School Settings?

Child psychologists can – and often do – work in school settings. Because their primary duty is to assess and treat developmental issues, many schools employ child psychologists. They may be involved in intelligence testing to determine the necessity for special education or gifted services. They may also work with children who have social or emotional difficulties.

Some child psychologists that work in a school setting may offer therapeutic services to children. Again, this may involve devising programs to help developmentally delayed children get the support they need to reach their potential, or it might be working with otherwise normal children to overcome minor social or emotional obstacles. Many child psychologists also work with children who are shy, anxious, or have other minor issues with which they need help.

Many school districts employ child psychologists to work specifically with children that have a severe mental health issue. With the continuing rise of autism in children, schools need trained clinical workers to provide the appropriate services. Child psychologists will also work with children that have severe psychological problems, such as a personality or a mental disorder, and children who have been abused or neglected. In short, a child psychologist working in a school setting serves many of the same functions they would working outside of a school system.

What are the Benefits of Being a Child Psychologist?

Interesting and Diverse Work:  The tasks of a child psychologist vary quite a bit from day to day and from client to client. Some meetings are held in a clinical office. Some meetings take place at a school. Some of the work occurs in courtrooms. Because each client is different, with differing needs and issues, working with clients allows great diversity in the work.

The Work is Emotionally Rewarding:  Working with children is considered by many to be work based in hope. Helping a child toward a happy and fulfilling future can be very rewarding for a child psychologist.

Likelihood of Employment: Many school districts are mandated to have a child psychologist on staff.  Even smaller school districts will make sure to hire a child psychologist. In addition, starting salaries are above the median. Depending on the area, starting salaries will often be in excess of $60,000 annually. Besides schools, hospitals, clinics, government agencies are also often required to hire child psychologists. Finally, once experienced, many child psychologists go into private practice, which can be quite lucrative.

Schedule Control and Life Balance: Regardless of the work setting, most child psychologists have a fair amount of control over their schedules. Appointments can be made to suit an individual’s needs and desires, leaving plenty of room and time for personal and family life.

How Much Does a Child Psychologist Earn?

As of January 2018, according to Payscale the average salary for a child psychologist is $67,769.

The outlook for this profession is very positive; not solely based on earnings. The need for more of these psychologists is set to increase based on the discovery of the importance of approaching child problems as a team by the professionals and adults involved.

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