Development Psychology

If you're interested in how a person evolves emotionally and mentally throughout life, the field of developmental psychology might be of interest to you. Learn about employment and education for developmental psychologists here, and make an informed decision about your career.

Is Developmental Psychology Right for Me?

Career Overview

The study of developmental psychology examines the growth and development of humans from birth through adulthood and into old age. Developmental psychologists focus on the processes and behaviors that govern cognitive, emotional or physiological growth. Some concentrate on a particular stage of development, such as early childhood or adolescence. Regardless of your area of focus, patience and compassion, as well as excellent communication and people skills, are essential to becoming a successful and effective developmental psychologist.

Career Options

As a developmental psychologist, you may choose to work in academia and research, or pursue a clinical career in applied psychology. Potential employers can include government or social service agencies, healthcare facilities, nonprofit organizations or private companies. For example, you might work directly with patients in a private or group practice within a hospital, physician's office, mental health center or correctional facility. If you are interested in the early stages of developmental psychology, you may also pursue a position as a child psychologist in a school or private counseling setting.

Employment and Salary Information

The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) reported that employment of psychologists in general was expected to grow at an average rate of 12% nationwide between 2012 and 2022. Competition for jobs was projected to be strong; candidates with doctoral or specialty degrees in school psychology may enjoy the best opportunities. Post-doctoral experience in your field can also help you stand out in the job market. In May 2013, the median annual salary for clinical, counseling and school psychologists was $67,760 (www.bls.gov).

How Can I Work in Developmental Psychology?

Undergraduate Programs

A bachelor's degree in clinical psychology may suffice for entry-level work in childcare, education, government or nursing, among other health-related areas. It can also help you qualify for admission into a doctoral program, which typically requires five years of study and includes a 1-year internship under the supervision of a professional psychologist. Online degree programs in development psychology are also available.

Graduate Programs

If you're interested in working as an assistant to a developmental psychologist in a research or clinical setting, you may consider a terminal master's degree in clinical psychology. You'll need a Doctor of Psychology to obtain a position as a clinical psychologist. Completion of a doctoral program is also required to teach at a 4-year college or university, conduct research or work as a school psychologist. Although not always required, post-doctoral residency programs offer advanced specialty training and continuing education opportunities.

Coursework

In a developmental psychology program, you'll explore a variety of topics related to personal, relational, emotional and mental growth, as well as receive training in quantitative research methods. You'll also attend seminars in adolescent and child behavior therapy, parent-child interactions, peer relationships and developmental disorders. Areas of specialization might include cognitive psychology, developmental psychopathology and language development.

Certification and Licensing

While state requirements can vary, developmental psychologists who provide direct care to patients must be licensed. To sit for the licensing exam, you'll need a doctoral degree in a relevant field of study; completion of an internship and at least one year of professional experience in the field are also required. As a licensed psychologist, you can also pursue a voluntary certification though the American Board of Professional Psychology (ABPP), which can lead to a specialized credential in child and adolescent, cognitive, counseling or health psychology. To earn your certification, you'll have to undergo a credentialing review process and an oral examination (www.abpp.org).

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