How do we get to be the person that we are today?
This is a big question. It’s one that many psychologists are still trying to answer, although theories in modern psychology have helped us out quite a lot. We can thank developmental psychologists for their dedication to understanding human development and how we grow from infants to children to functioning adults in society.
Developmental psychologists aren’t just looking for answers. They are applying what we have learned to a variety of settings. Millions of people, young and old, are living with developmental disabilities or are hoping to regain certain capabilities after trauma or injury. Through a variety of job positions and responsibilities, developmental psychologists can make a significant difference in someone’s life or the world of psychology.
Interested in developmental psychology? Read on for information about salary, job responsibilities, and where you can look for work as a developmental psychologist.
What does a Developmental Psychologist Do?
Developmental psychologists gather and apply knowledge of human behavior and development to a variety of settings, including healthcare facilities and schools. They specifically focus on growth: mental, emotional, cognitive, and sometimes even physical growth. In these various settings, they aim for clients and humans as a whole to reach their potential and continue growing.
For one developmental psychologist, this could look like conducting research on how our mind grows and changes after trauma. Another psychologist may work directly with adults with developmental disabilities who are under state care. Yet another developmental psychologist may coordinate psychology services for all of the children in a large school district.
The one common denominator between all developmental psychologists is that they have studied growth and development. They have a pretty good grasp on how the mind grows and develops at all stages of life.
Like most psychologists, developmental psychologists need a doctorate to practice in most job positions. Colleges and universities offer various degrees in psychology, but a Ph.D. or PsyD in clinical psychology with a focus in developmental psychology is preferred.
Once you have obtained this degree, you can focus on getting board certified in Clinical Child & Adolescent Psychology. This isn’t required for every job, but may be worth looking into depending on where you want to work. Board certification requires passing exams and completing a clinical internship.
Other job requirements may involve experience in certain settings or other types of certifications. Each state, type of organization, and field is different.
Developmental psychologists aren’t easy to come by, but they aren’t usually in their positions to make six figures. It’s possible to do so, but usually only after building up a big resume or working with the same organization for a long period of time. These sources show the wide range of developmental psychologists in the country. (The numbers vary state to state.)
Developmental Psychologist Reported Salary
Schools for Developmental Psychology Degrees
Want to be a developmental psychologist? Get started by applying for schools. These universities offer some of the best developmental psychology programs that you can go through in the United States.
- Stanford University (Stanford, California)
- The University of Michigan - Ann Arbor (Ann Arbor, Michigan)
- The University of California - Santa Barbara (Santa Barbara, CA)
- Vanderbilt University (Nashville, TN)
- Oklahoma State University (Stillwater, OK)
- Loyola University Chicago (Chicago, IL)
- Liberty University (Online)
- University of Nebraska - Lincoln (Lincoln, NE)
- The University of Notre Dame (Notre Dame, IN)
- Harvard University (Cambridge, MA)
Companies That Hire Developmental Psychologists
Developmental psychologists who specialize in helping adults with disabilities share the same title as developmental psychologists who are conducting research at universities, they have very different employers. All of these companies and organizations may be looking for developmental psychologists:
- Government agencies
- Health care providers and facilities
- Schools and school districts
- Research and consulting companies
Interviews from a Developmental Psychologist
You can do further research on this career by hearing from developmental psychologists themselves! Dr. Nancy Galambos is a developmental psychologist and professor at the University of Alberta - read what it’s like to go through a day in her life.
You can also watch interviews with developmental psychologists on YouTube. Kevin David is a developmental psychologist and a professor at Northeastern State University!
You can also go through the day in the life of a developmental psychology student with a gratitude student from UMD!
How is developmental psychology applied to everyday life? Take a listen to Angela Duckworth, author of Grit. She talks about how working as a developmental psychologist helped her research and write her best-selling book!
Famous Developmental Psychologists
Developmental psychology has changed and evolved over decades - we’re still trying to answer big questions about development and growth! These are some names you might hear as you study and read about developmental psychology:
- Jean Piaget developed the Psychosocial Stages of Cognitive Development and shaped the way that people view a child’s development as they discover the world from infancy to adolescence.
- Howard Gardner developed the theory of multiple intelligences, changing the way that we view children and their ability to perform certain tasks in school.
- Lawrence Kohlberg developed the stages of moral development, showing how children may make decisions differently as they grow and develop.
- Carol Gilligan strayed from other famous developmental psychologists (such as Erik Erikson and Lawrence Kohlberg) to focus on the different ways that boys and girls develop and how they make decisions.
- Andrew N. Meltzoff conducted research that concluded that infants can observe and copy adult gestures, giving more “credit” to infants than has been previously given.
Developmental Psychology Examples
Just like growth, developmental psychologists change and have different responsibilities throughout their careers. As a developmental psychologist, you might find yourself:
- Publishing a study on how children make decisions
- Diagnosing students in a school district with developmental disabilities
- Creating assessments for other developmental psychologists to use
- Hosting study groups as part of a larger research project in developmental psychology
- Teaching undergrad students about the history of developmental psychology