Child Psychologist: Job Duties, Employment Outlook, and Educational Requirements
Explore the career requirements for child psychologists. Get the facts about educational requirements, licensure, career outlook and salary to determine if this is the right career for you.
What Is A Child Psychologist?
Psychologists focus on understanding a person's thoughts, behavior and emotions. Child psychologists focus on understanding these aspects of children. They may monitor children to observe their behavior and emotions and talk with them to gain further understanding of their thoughts and feelings. Psychologists may also recommend treatment for any issues that they identify. They can opt to focus on a specific type of illness or issue, though child psychologists may work primarily as counseling psychologists, holding sessions with their clients in an attempt to understand the cause of any issues they're having and make recommendations about how to address those problems.
|Degree Required||Doctoral degree|
|Education Field of Study||Child psychology|
|Training Required||Clinical or supervised experience|
|Licensure Required||All states require licensure, but requirements vary by state|
|Job Growth (2018-2028)||15% for clinical, counseling and school psychologists*|
|Average Salary (2018)||$85,340 for clinical, counseling and school psychologists*|
Source: *U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics.
What Will My Job Duties Be as a Child Psychologist?
Your work can be grouped into the areas of assessment, consultation, intervention and prevention. Your clients might include premature, ill and drug-addicted newborns, children with schizophrenia, autism and delayed or uneven development or trauma survivors.
Assessments are conducted through techniques such as interviews with parents and children, cognitive testing and behavioral observation. Consultation entails conferring with pediatricians, teachers, social workers, child protection workers and fellow child psychologists about treatment or care options.
Intervention encompasses a range of treatment approaches, including family therapy and counseling, individual therapy, cognitive therapy and behavior modification in the home or classroom. Prevention aims to steer children away from delinquency, substance abuse and teen pregnancy, shield them from prolonged exposure to abusive or neglectful environments and avoid delays in language and cognitive development.
What Are My Job Prospects?
Mental health clinics, hospitals, schools and government agencies are possible employers for child psychologists, but you can also establish a private practice. The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) reported that job growth for clinical, counseling and school psychologists could see a 15% increase between 2018-2028, which is much faster-than-average job growth (www.bls.gov).
According to the BLS, in 2018, the average annual salary for clinical, counseling and school psychologists was $85,340. Elementary and secondary schools reported the highest number of employed psychologists.
What Education Do I Need?
You need a doctoral degree in child psychology and a state license to practice as a child psychologist. General requirements for licensure include passing the National Psychology Licensing Exam and possibly two years of supervised counseling or clinical experience.
Doctoral programs examine children as individuals and as products of the social forces exerted by their families, peer groups, communities and culture. Normal mental and emotional development, the emergence of abnormal or pathological behavior and methods of treatment are explored from multiple theoretical and clinical perspectives through a combination of academic courses, seminars and field practicums. Field practicums will also help you develop your own approach to therapy. Courses and seminars are completed in the first 2-3 years of the degree program, with the remainder of the program devoted to researching and writing a dissertation on an original topic in the field.
What Are Some Related Alternative Careers?
Mental health counselors may perform many of the same tasks as child psychologists, but focus on working with individuals with diagnosed mental health issues. Social workers may have sessions with individuals to help them identify issues they're having and how to resolve them; they may also help those individuals access resources that they need. School and career counselors work with students and may address behavioral or emotional issues that are affecting a student's education, as well as provide advice on career planning and selecting appropriate courses in high school.