Do you love working with children? Do you love having conversations with kids and seeing how their minds work? Kids truly do say the darndest things, but their insights can truly show us what it means to be human and how we become the people that we are.
If you want to get into the minds of a child, consider a career as a child psychologist. This is a unique career. This goes beyond teaching a curriculum or just watching a child as a nanny or babysitter. Child psychologists dive deeper into the minds of children, helping them if they think a little differently than other children and using knowledge from children to make the world a better and more informed place. If you are interested in this career or other types of developmental psychology careers, keep reading.
What does a Child Psychologist Do?
Child psychologists use their understanding of psychology to work with children and their families. Whether they are diagnosing a child with ADHD, helping a child work through trauma, or assessing a child’s behavior and capabilities, a child psychologist can help a child live a successful life.
No two child psychologists have the same job and complete the same tasks on the same day. While some psychologists may be completing assessment after assessment to make sure every child in a school district is getting the care that they need, another child psychologist may be conducting therapy sessions with children in a hospital who have been through trauma. Child psychologists hold similar roles of adult psychologists, but they just have a specialization in children and the way that they think.
If you want to be a child psychologist, expect to spend quite a few years in school. Although Bachelor’s and Master’s degree programs in child psychology are available, the best way to get a job as a child psychologist is to earn your Ph.D. or PsyD. This will put you on the path to getting a license and board certification so you can practice in your state. In addition to schooling, you will need to complete an internship and pass the American Board of Clinical Child and Adolescent Psychology (ABCCAP) exam. This requires a lot of studying, but it can be done! Check your state’s requirements for more information on licensure and board certification.
It’s rare to get into child psychology for the salary - while you can make a decent living in child psychology, only a handful will make six figures. Salaries will depend on the company or organization that hires you, your experience, and what type of job you are doing.
Here is an idea of what you can expect your salary to look like, compiled from a few different sources:
Child Psychologist Reported Salary
Schools for Child Psychology Degrees
There are 35 schools in the United States that offer a bachelor’s degree in child psychology and 48 schools that offer a more advanced degree. Often, the program offers a degree in clinical psychology with a concentration in child psychology. Keep these schools on your radar as you are exploring this and other careers:
- Vanderbilt University (Nashville, TN)
- University of Minnesota - Twin Cities (Minneapolis, MN)
- Chestnut Hill College (Philadelphia, PA)
- Texas A&M University (College Station, TX)
- The University of Michigan - Ann Arbor (Ann Arbor, MI)
- Southern New Hampshire University (Online)
- Stanford University (Stanford, CA)
- Kent State University (Kent, OH)
- Capella University (Minneapolis, MN)
- Yale University (New Haven, CT)
Companies That Hire Child Psychologists
There are many different types of companies and organizations that are looking for child psychologists, including:
- Counseling and therapy providers
- Healthcare companies
- Schools and school districts
- Special education providers
- Family services
- State and local governments
- Research universities
The job requirements and daily responsibilities will vary depending on the organization hiring the child psychologist and why they need to fill this position.
Child psychologists may also open up their own practice and serve their own clients.
Interviews from a Child Psychologist
Want to hear what being a child psychologist is like, straight from the source? Read this interview with Dr. Rachelle Robinson, a child psychologist who specializes in child and family therapy.
You can also find multiple interviews on YouTube, like this interview with Dr. Rebecca Berry.
Want to see a day in the life of a child psychologist? Dr. Ann-Louise T. Lockhart takes you through hers!
This video from the Emory School of Law gives a peek into what you might be learning at school to become a child psychologist. Interviewing children requires a different approach than interviewing adults!
Famous Child Psychologists
Child psychologists do not just become famous because they helped a few children out. The most famous psychologists have shaped the way that parents treat their children and how schools may approach discipline. The psychologists listed below probably shaped the way your childhood happened!
- Erik Erikson developed the Stages of Psychosocial Development and is known for first using the phrase “identity crisis.”
- Mary Ainsworth studied Attachment Theory and how our relationships as children affect our relationships as adults!
- John B. Watson was a pioneer in behavioral and child psychology.
- Child psychologist Arthur Staats, is most known for the creation of the “time out” during his career.
- Albert Bandura is known for his Bobo doll experiment, which showed many people how children learn through observing their parents.
Child Psychology Examples
Child psychologists don’t all do the same thing every day. A child psychologist who is conducting research might have a very different day than someone who is working with children in a juvenile detention center.
If you end up as a child psychologist, you might end up with any of these tasks on any given day!
- Sitting down for a therapy session with a client and/or their parents
- Completing evaluations, administering tests, and diagnosing certain children with mental, emotional, or mood disorders
- Administering tests to identify which students are gifted
- Developing a treatment plan for one or more children
- Reaching out to parents after noticing a student’s trouble in school
- Conducting research on how children have been affected after certain types of trauma or other experiences