Popular Child Psychology Graduate Programs and Schools in California [2024 Guide]

California has many distinctions from other states. It’s one of the largest by land area. It’s the most populous state, too. It’s also home to many national treasures, from Yosemite to the Golden Gate Bridge to beloved celebrities in Hollywood.

But California isn’t just glitz and glam. It’s a great place to study child psychology as well! There are nearly 500 colleges and universities in the state, and child psychology is a program option you can pursue at some of these institutions.

Whether you want to get a master’s degree or a doctorate in child psychology, the programs listed below allow you to focus your psychology studies on children’s mental health and developmental needs.

Child Psychology Degree Programs in California

Listed below are some of the popular schools offering child psychology programs in California:

  • California Polytechnic State University
  • California State University (CSU) at San Bernardino
  • Grand Canyon University
  • The University of California at Los Angeles (UCLA)
  • Capella University
  • California State University at Long Beach
  • The Chicago School of Professional Psychology

California Polytechnic State University

School Information

Cal Poly is just one of 23 campuses in the California State University system. Cal Poly is ideally situated for many California students, with a location about halfway between Los Angeles and San Francisco and just 10 miles from the Pacific Ocean.

Cal Poly’s main campus encompasses 1,321 acres in San Luis Obispo, where you can pursue dozens of undergraduate and graduate degrees. Many certifications and credentials are available as well.

Though Cal Poly began as a vocational high school, it’s now home to nearly 22,000 students who pursue technical and professional degree programs to prepare them for future work.

Child Psychology Program Information

The Master of Science program in psychology focuses on child development. Your studies of development aren’t just confined to children but include investigations in a broader context of family relationships. This program also satisfies the requirements of licensure in California as a marriage and family therapist.

As you progress through this program, you will develop the skills needed to counsel children, couples, and families. Likewise, the heavy research component in this program gives you the tools necessary for conducting psychological research on child development.

This program typically takes about two and a half years to complete. However, due to the nature of the research component and the requirement that you complete clinical training, you might need longer to finish the degree requirements.

California State University (CSU) at San Bernardino

School Information

Like Cal Poly, CSU San Bernardino is part of California’s sprawling California State University system. CSU San Bernardino mostly serves students in San Bernardino and Riverside Counties. In fact, 86 percent of the school’s students come from these counties.

Even if you aren’t a resident of San Bernardino or a nearby community, you will find that CSU San Bernardino offers many degrees and programs to help you advance your education. More than 70 degree options are available, including some graduate and doctoral programs. Additionally, the school is recognized as one of the best schools in the western U.S.

Likewise, CSU San Bernardino has very high retention rates and is among the top universities in the nation in terms of educational value added.

Child Psychology Program Information

CSU San Bernadino’s Master of Arts in child development is a great option to prepare you for a career in child psychology. The program includes 35-39 units of study and must be completed on campus in Santa Barbara. To assist students that work during the day, courses for this degree are held in the evening.

This is a traditional graduate program in child development. As such, you will study topics like:

  • Family dynamics
  • Psychosexual stages of development
  • Cognitive development
  • Emotional development
  • Psychological research and design

Likewise, you will benefit from studies that integrate multiple components of the child development experience, including special education services, school counseling, and early childhood education.

The University of California at Los Angeles (UCLA)

School Information

UCLA is one of the pre-imminent public universities in the nation. US News and World Report lists UCLA as the best public university on its 2023 list. UCLA also ranks in the top 15 in the world on various measures, including reputation and academics.

The school was founded in 1919 as part of the University of California system. Today, UCLA has more than 47,500 students and an annual budget of $9.2 billion. The school is currently arranged in 12 professional schools where more than 5,000 courses are offered.

UCLA is the most popular school for college applications. In the fall of 2021, the school received 167,876 applications, including more than 28,000 applications for graduate work. If you gain admission, the chances are good that you’ll graduate within four years – more than 84 percent of the university’s students do so.

Child Psychology Program Information

This developmental psychology Ph.D. program from UCLA has a research-based curriculum that puts you on the leading edge of psychological research in the developmental psychology realm. You will begin psychological research in your first quarter in the program.

Your research focus can be on many different areas of psychology, including infancy, early childhood, or adolescence. You can pursue your research interests in many settings, too, including laboratories or naturalistic settings. Either way, focusing on research will prepare you for scholarly pursuits in child psychology upon graduation.

The coursework and research components in this program are part of several central themes. These include:

  • Cognition, Perception, and Language
  • Culture, Education, Learning, and Social Development
  • Emotion, Stress, and Risk Taking
  • Identity, Family, and Peers
  • Neurodevelopment and Neurobiological Bases of Development

All told, this is a four-year program at a minimum. However, some students require additional time to complete the degree requirements.

California State University at Long Beach

School Information

California State University at Long Beach is one of the largest universities in California, with a student population of more than 33,500. It’s a diverse student body as well. More than 46 percent of CSU Long Beach’s students are Hispanic/Latino, while another 20 percent are Asian American.

CSU Long Beach has the distinction of being highly affordable, too. Tuition for California residents is $5,742, and the average need-based financial aid package is just under $8,000. The school is in the top ten percent in the nation in terms of return on investment and ranks 18th in the nation for value.

Additionally, hundreds of degrees and programs of study are available at the undergraduate and graduate levels. These programs are organized into eight academic schools that run the gamut from engineering to business to the arts.

Child Psychology Program Information

Doctoral program from CSU Long Beach culminates in an Ed.S. with a Pupil Services School Psychology credential. You must complete 60 units to complete the degree requirements and graduate. Included in those credits are:

  • Traditional coursework
  • A 450-hour practicum
  • A 1200-hour internship

This program was designed for educational professionals who wish to improve their ability to attend to the behavioral, academic, and social-emotional needs of school-aged children. Courses are offered in the evenings to accommodate traditional work schedules. Most students can complete the program in three years.

This program is accredited by the National Association of School Psychologists (NASP) and the Commission on Teacher Credentialing (CTC). You can learn more about the program by consulting CSU Long Beach’s graduate studies office.

Child Psychology Work Opportunities in California

A background in child psychology gives you many different career options both in and outside of California. While many licensed psychologists in California work in private practice, you can choose to work in other settings, such as:

  • Juvenile residential treatment centers
  • Non-profit mental health clinics
  • Hospitals and HMOs
  • Private or public school systems

With the largest population of children under the age of 18, California certainly has a need for child psychology experts. Whether children are struggling in school, face abuse or neglect at home, or live in the state’s foster care system, there are a lot of issues facing some California kids. With an education from a California school, you will have a unique perspective that can help these kids learn, grow, and improve their lot in life.

While jobs for psychologists are expected to grow at an average rate for the next decade, you can expect many of those jobs to be in California, particularly in the Los Angeles-Long Beach-Anaheim area.

The Golden State has the largest population of school psychologists in the nation and the second-highest average salary for school psychologists in the nation as well.

Child psychology-related jobs aren’t limited to the Los Angeles area, either. The Madera and Vallejo-Fairfield areas are in the top 10 in the nation for the number of psychology jobs.

How Much Do Child Psychologists Make in California?

As of October 2023, according to ZipRecruiter, the average salary of clinical child psychologists in California is $63 per hour or $130,752 per year. While top earners (90th percentile) earn on average $180,000 per year.

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