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What Level of Education Do I Need to Be a Child Psychologist?

child psychChild psychology is one of the fastest growing sectors of the job industry. Those who are trained in this profession can expect to see it grow as schools, hospitals, private organizations, and government agencies require more psychologists to administer to the counseling needs of children. However, most candidates seeking employment as child psychologists are uncertain about the educational requirements. Specifically, the requirements are a doctoral degree and state license. Read on for a breakdown of the programs.

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Undergraduate Coursework

A bachelors degree is required before any doctoral studies can be conducted. Since many graduate and doctoral programs require that degree candidates have a bachelors in psychology, it is wise to determine which of these programs you wish to apply to. If you choose not to pursue a bachelors in psychology, make sure that your course electives include courses in statistics, child growth and behavior, developmental psychology, as well as child and adolescent psychology. It is also very helpful to participate in an internship with a clinical psychology practice or with a school counselor to gain experience and learn first-hand about what a career in this field entails.

Masters Degree

Upon graduating with a bachelors, child psychology candidates will need to take the second step of earning a masters degree in clinical psychology. Depending on the masters program you apply to, you will be able to focus your course load in child and adolescent psychology. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics’ Occupational Outlook Handbook, admission into masters degree programs for psychology is extremely competitive. If you were unable to complete an internship in undergrad, now is the time to gain valuable experience that will help you stand out from the competition.

Doctoral Degree

At this stage of becoming a child psychologist, degree candidates can expect to spend five years or more in obtaining their doctoral degree. They can also expect to complete an internship, a dissertation, and gain clinical experience in a professional setting. The internship and clinical portions usually take at least one year to complete and are done under the supervision of a licensed psychologist. The work will involve interacting with children. Doctoral graduates are then expected to take and pass the Examination for Professional Practice in Psychology.


The final stage in preparing for a career as a child psychologist is obtaining licensure to practice. Most states require a license, and psychologists who wish to practice independently or work in schools must obtain this. Licensure is usually done by completing an internship, a residency program, and passing an exam. Alternative routes to certification include passing the National School Psychology Examination and meeting the individual state requirements of their departments of education.

Becoming a child psychologist requires not only a five-year doctoral degree, but at least one year of experience in professional, clinical settings, an ability to work with children, and passing scores on national exams. This career field is competitive and requires demanding work and dedication. However, it is one of the most rewarding fields in the industry, because by helping children, you will be securing the well-being of a future generation.