What Can I Do With a Degree in Developmental Psychology? [Updated For 2024]

What Does Developmental Psychology Involve?

Developmental psychology involves the study of the types of changes that can take place in human beings during the course of their lifetimes. While once only focusing on the development of babies and children, the field has now been expanded to focus on adolescent development, adult development and the ageing process over the entire life span of human beings.

The field of developmental psychology focuses on examining changes over a wide range of topics including cognitive development, conceptual understanding, moral understanding, personality, motor skills, problem solving, and social and personal development.

Developmental psychologists will often focus on areas such as how environmental factors can affect and altar a person’s behavior, or on whether children learn through experience or are born with certain mental structures.

Their studies in these areas tend to focus on showing how people change over time, with the majority of the focus taking place in childhood, as this is the point in a person’s lifespan when the majority of changes take place.

Developmental psychology has a part to play in many diverse applied fields, including in child psychopathology, educational psychology, social psychology, cognitive psychology, ecological psychology, and forensic psychology.

Some of the areas that developmental psychologists are currently focused on exploring include attachment theory, nature versus nurture, and social development theory.

What are the Careers in Developmental Psychology?

Adolescent Development Specialist

As the job title indicates, an adolescent development specialist is a developmental psychologist that works exclusively with children in the adolescent stage, which is typically 13 to 19 years old.

For example, you might use your understanding of the hormonal changes that occur during this part of the life stage to help kids understand how their body is changing and why, as well as to develop the skills needed to effectively deal with these changes on an emotional and behavioral level.

Behavioral Therapist

The purpose of behavioral therapy is to assist clients in identifying and overcoming problematic behaviors in their lives. To do so, you would utilize your understanding of human development and how factors over the lifespan (i.e., family relationships, school pressures, work pressures, divorce, death) can heavily influence how a person behaves and interacts with others.


If you pursue employment as a caseworker, one of your primary jobs will be advocating on behalf of your clients. With regard to developmental psychology, it would be important to bear in mind the developmental stage of your client when pursuing resources for them to function better in their daily lives.

For example, the services needed for a young adult with a Downs Syndrome would be greatly different than the services needed to assist an elderly person in finding hospice care.

College Professor

Many workers with experience in developmental psychology find employment in the education sector. In particular, you could work as a college professor. In this career, your focus would shift from counseling or otherwise working directly with clients to an educative role in which you use your work experience to teach the next generation of developmental psychologists.

Developmental Psychologist

A developmental psychologist’s role is to study the growth and development of humans throughout their entire lifespan. Some developmental psychologists will focus on a specific type of patient, such as young children who are exhibiting developmental delays; while others will work with a particular age range of people, such as teenagers or adults.

Some of the main tasks that a developmental psychologist may be involved in include examining ways to help elderly people keep their independence for longer; evaluating young children to see if they are showing signs of a developmental disability; or researching the ways in which children show moral reasoning.

Some areas where developmental psychologists may be employed include in psychiatric hospitals, rehabilitation clinics, homeless shelters, or assisted living homes for people with a disability.

Early Childhood Education Specialist

With a background in developmental psychology, you can work as an early childhood education specialist. In this career, you work with children in preschool and elementary school to help them reach developmental milestones as appropriate for their age. For example, you might work directly with a four-year-old to help them develop the social skills required to share toys with other children.

Education Consultant

As an education consultant, you would likely serve in an advisory role to assist teachers, school districts, and other stakeholders in developing developmentally-appropriate educational standards, learning targets, classroom policies and expectations, and so forth.

For example, using developmental psychology principles, you might help a sixth-grade teacher develop unit-by-unit learning targets that challenge students of that age, but which aren’t too advanced or complicated, either.

Group Home Manager

For some children and adolescents, a group home is a recommended solution for helping resolve major life issues, like behavioral problems that have led to running away, drug or alcohol problems, or even legal problems.

As a group home manager, having an intimate understanding of the developmental obstacles that children must overcome is a must.

For example, if a child is referred to group home care because of outbursts of anger and violence, you might explore the roots of the anger with the child to determine why they’re angry and help them identify ways in which they can express their anger in a more productive manner.

Hospital/Hospice Facilitator

An important function of a career in developmental psychology is understanding old age and end of life issues. You would employ your understanding of these topics on a daily basis as a hospital or hospice facilitator.

Not only would you be responsible for ensuring that your clients get the physical care they need, but you’d also be responsible for providing emotional support and counseling for elderly people and those that are near the end of their life.

Rehabilitation Counselor

A rehabilitation counselor is focused on helping people with disabilities to identify and achieve their goals in the areas of their personal lives, career path and independent living. They do this role through a counseling process.

A rehabilitation counselor can work with a wide variety of clients, including people who are suffering from physical disabilities; sufferers of psychological disabilities; former offenders; disadvantaged youths; or the long term unemployed. They may also work in conjunction with other professionals including medical, rehabilitation and therapy professionals in their role as a rehabilitation counselor.


A popular career for developmental psychologists is in research. In this capacity, you would seek to answer crucial questions about human development. For example, you might devise a research question that seeks to determine why ADHD develops in some populations of children and not in others.

Naturally, the purpose of this kind of research would be to develop an understanding of ADHD, its causes, its prevalence in different populations of kids, and to posit potential interventions that might reduce the incidence of ADHD.

Residential Youth Treatment Specialist

As a residential youth treatment specialist, you will work in a residential treatment facility that’s designed to help children and adolescents overcome mental, emotional, or behavioral problems.

For example, with an understanding of how the brains of children develop, you might design a drug education program that helps youth that have used drugs to better understand the negative impacts that drug use has on their mental development.

School Counselor

A school counselor provides a safe environment for children to turn to when they are feeling troubled. They are employed in schools and offer advice and guidance to children who seek their help.

School counselors are employed to aid students in coping with the demands of school and personal issues, as well as offering them support to help them succeed academically.

School counselors also offer counseling services in the areas of education and career paths to students. They can offer advice on which classes to choose and which colleges or universities to attend, as well as explaining various career options.

Substance Abuse Social Worker

A substance abuse social worker provides therapy sessions to individuals and groups who are suffering from addictions, such as drug addiction or alcohol addiction. The role of the substance abuse social worker is to help their patient find the root of their addiction and help them address this cause as they continue their journey in sobriety.

There are a wide range of areas in which substance abuse social workers may be employed, and many of them find work in treatment settings such as outpatient centers, healthcare facilities, rehabilitation units, social agencies, correctional institutes, and residential centers.

Substance abuse social workers may also work with the family members of addicts to help them to cope with the problems of their loved one. Areas such as eating disorders or gambling addiction may also be treated by substance abuse social workers.

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