Child Behavior Specialist Degrees

Degrees in child behavioral health, child development, child psychology, or mental health counseling prepare you for a career as a child behavior specialist. Read on for what you'll learn in these degree programs and common requirements for graduation. Schools offering Applied Behavioral Science degrees can also be found in these popular choices.

What Kind of Degree Do I Need to Become a Child Behavior Specialist?

A child behavior specialist degree will prepare you to work in a wide variety of counseling and social work settings, including schools, hospitals, and community-based nonprofits or child services programs. Job duties may include diagnosing mental health or learning disabilities, arranging adoptions, and meeting with families or teachers. For many positions in the child behavior field, a master's is required as well as a license, but a bachelor's degree can serve as sufficient education for entry-level employment or as an assistant. A career as a child psychologist usually requires further education, most commonly a doctoral degree.

Undergraduate ProgramsBachelor's degree or certificate in psychology or behavioral science
Graduate ProgramsMaster's degrees in child development, social work, child behavioral health; Doctoral degrees in psychology, behavioral science
Course TopicsCounseling theory, learning disabilities, behavior assessments
Degree RequirementsBachelor's and master's expect the completion of internship hours or a research study; Doctorate programs include a clinical practicum or residency and a dissertation

What Kinds of Undergraduate Child Behavior Programs Are Available?

While master's degree studies are the most common path to a career as a child behavior therapist, undergraduate students can pursue degrees in areas like psychology, child development, behavioral sciences, and human services. Degree programs in all of these subjects are very common both on campus and online, and can prepare you to go on to a graduate program. They cover foundations of human behavior and developmental psychology in addition to all the general education courses required for a bachelor's degree. Programs can also require an internship. Some schools also have certificate programs that teach students how to work with disabled or at-risk youth, their families, and child services organizations.

What Are Some Common Master's Degree Requirements?

Master's degrees in child and adolescent behavioral health, child psychology, social work, and adolescent development are all available. Programs can range in length between 32-45 credit hours and include core classes covering foundational theories of child psychology and development as well as elective courses on a specific area of concentration or interest. Some master's programs allow you to choose between an applied track, which teaches you how to provide child behavioral health services, and a research track, where you'll learn to conduct academic research in child behavior. In an applied track, you'll need to complete at least one internship or other approved field study, while a research track requires you to conduct and present your own original academic research in your area of interest. An internship usually takes about one academic term to complete. Some schools also require students to pass a master's examination before graduating from a program.

What Will I Learn in a Master's Degree Program?

Graduate-level child behavior degree programs cover an in-depth range of subjects related to different factors that could influence a child's behavior. You'll also learn different counseling theories and methods. Other coursework will teach you how to put these theories into practice, with classes covering everything from early childhood trauma intervention to the establishment and administration of community-based advocacy programs. Common course topics in child behavior-related degree programs include:

  • Child developmental psychology
  • Theories of personality
  • Learning disabilities
  • Classroom behavior management
  • Multicultural and bilingual youth counseling
  • Adolescent behavioral health research methods
  • Psychology of trauma
  • Community-based therapy and interventions
  • Psychological evaluation and testing
  • Play therapy
  • Adolescent development
  • Substance abuse counseling

What Kinds of Doctoral Degree Options Exist?

After earning your master's degree in child behavior, you can go on to get a doctoral degree in child psychology or behavioral science. Those without a master's degree in the field will have a longer time to complete their doctorate. Some programs can take up to eight years and have close to 100 credit hours to fulfill. In addition to taking core and specialized courses, PhD students generally must complete a clinical practicum or residency and a research dissertation. In order to graduate, you'll need to defend your thesis before an academic review board.

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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