Developmental Psychologist Education and Career

Developmental psychologists study how behavior changes over time and the effect social, cultural and environmental factors have on people. Get information on the education that's required to enter this field, and see what career options are available. Schools offering Developmental Psychology degrees can also be found in these popular choices.

What You Need to Know

In order to become a developmental psychologist, you must first obtain either a Ph.D or a Psy.D. These psychologists study different aspects of human development such as social development, cognitive development, and emotional growth. Graduates then go on to work in academia as teachers or researchers, in healthcare facilities working with children or the elderly or in government agencies.

Degrees Ph.D. or Psy.D.
Courses Statistics, research methods, data analysis, social development, cognition and perception, biological psychology, neurobiology of learning and memory, behavioral endocrinology
Future Career Options Working in education, research or counseling in schools, government agencies or healthcare facilities
Median Annual Salary (2017)* $97,740 (psychologists, all other)

Source: *U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics

What Kind of Education Do I Need?

While you can find bachelor's and master's degree programs in behavioral psychology to qualify you as a research assistant, to earn the psychologist credentials and conduct independent research, you'll need to have a doctoral degree in psychology. While both Doctor of Philosophy (Ph.D.) and Doctor of Psychology (Psy.D.) programs include research in the programs, a Psy.D. program generally applies more for a career as a clinical or treatment specialist.

A bachelor's degree could be all that's necessary to enter some doctoral programs, though graduate study might be required for admission. Some schools offer dual master's and doctoral programs that allow you to earn both degrees simultaneously. Your prerequisites often include introductory psychology courses, and you could also be required to have clinical or research experience for admission into a Ph.D. program.

What Can I Expect From a Ph.D. Program?

A Ph.D. program usually includes courses such as:

  • Statistics
  • Research methods
  • Data analysis
  • Developmental psychology
  • Social, emotional and cognitive development

You can learn how a person is affected by social factors, family relationships, environmental influences and brain function over time. A Ph.D. program contains significant research opportunities in faculty specializations; however, some programs let you design your own research and coursework around required core courses.

What Career Options Could I Have?

Many developmental psychologists work in faculty or research positions within academic institutions. If you don't work directly with patients, you might not require a state license, but regulations vary from state to state. You'll need to obtain a license if you provide treatment or counseling services. In these situations, you could combine patient care and research working in hospitals, nursing homes, schools and substance abuse clinics.

According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, employment opportunities for psychologists are set to grow 11% from 2016 to 2026, which is faster than average growth. Those with advanced degrees are expected to have the greatest employment options available to them. Additionally, psychologists who specialize in rehabilitation and work with the elderly are expected to have greater opportunities for employment.

What Would My Job Duties Be as a Developmental Psychologist?

As a developmental psychologist, you'd explore psychology throughout the life cycle. You might study infants, adolescents, middle-aged adults and seniors. In a research profession, you can expect to spend much of your time collecting and analyzing data, either in a lab or in the field. Data collection can include observing animal and human behavior or asking questions, but you won't function in the same capacity as a clinical psychologist. The purpose of your interaction with subjects would be for the purposes of research rather than to treat them for behavioral disorders.

To continue researching, browse degree options below for course curriculum, prerequisites and financial aid information. Or, learn more about the subject by reading the related articles below:

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