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

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

Child 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.

What is a Child Psychologist?

Child psychology involves mental health professionals who use their psychological services to change the lives of children and their families each day. Children are very sensitive to their environment, such as their family members, lifestyle, social class, etc. It is not uncommon for them to need the assistance of a psychologist if they suffer through a trauma or mental health conditions. Child psychologists asses mental health issues, behavioral disorders, and more. Child and adolescent psychology is an extremely important branch in the psychology field. These mental health professionals provide advice for basic psychological needs, talk therapy, behavioral therapy, family therapy, and so much more. But before they can meet with affected children and provide a treatment plan, they must achieve all of the educational requirements.

Education Requirements to Become a Child Psychologist…

While child psychology is a rapidly growing field with a great job outlook, it does take a great deal of dedication to earn the educational requirements. Most candidates seeking employment as child psychologists are uncertain about the educational requirements. Specifically, the requirements are a doctoral degree and a state license. Read on for a breakdown of the programs for continuing education.

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Undergraduate Coursework

A bachelor’s degree, just like other mental health professionals, is required before any doctoral studies can be conducted. Providing psychological services to anyone is a serious job hence why it requires such structured and specific education requirements. Since graduate school and doctoral programs require that degree candidates have a Bachelor’s in Psychology, it is wise to determine which of these programs you wish to apply to. If you choose not to pursue a Bachelor’s 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 bachelor’s, child psychology candidates will need to take the second step of earning a master’s degree in clinical psychology. Depending on the master’s 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.

What a Licensed Child Psychologist Does

Finishing three psychology degrees and a child psychologist internship for licensure takes at least eight to 10 years in total. Once licensed, a child psychologist has full authority in all 50 states to treat youth from ages zero to 18. Child psychologists run diagnostic testing to identify mental health disorders in infancy, childhood, and adolescence. Many mental illnesses, such as obsessive-compulsive disorder, conduct disorder, and attention-deficit disorder, are present before adulthood. A child psychologist uses various therapeutic methods to help kids and teens cope with mental health conditions. Child psychologists can also guide neurotypical youth through tough life events, including divorce and bullying. Every child psychologist is trained to provide clinical psychotherapy sessions that boost kids’ well-being.

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“We worry about what a child will become tomorrow, yet we forget that he is someone today.” 
— Stacia Tauscher, dancer and artist


Skills a Child Psychologist Must Learn

From the bachelor’s to the doctoral level, future child psychologists sharpen the skills to practice independently. A child psychologist needs communication skills to speak well in age-appropriate language. Listening skills are critical for child psychologists to hear how kids and teens are feeling. Analytical skills help child psychologists deduce what youth are hiding or afraid to share. Compassionate interpersonal skills are important to treat children with empathy and support. Child psychologists must be culturally aware to address sensitive topics. Observational skills are key to read kids’ body language and reactions. A child psychologist must be a strong problem-solver with organizational skills to form thorough interventions. Child psychologists who run research studies need math and statistical skills. Every child psychologist also needs persistence, ethics, gentleness, creativity, and crisis management skills.

Future Outlook for Child Psychologist Jobs

Now’s an excellent time to fulfill the education requirements for becoming a child psychologist. The Bureau of Labor Statistics has forecasted much faster-than-average child psychology job growth of 15 percent. From 2018 to 2020, it’s expected that the number of all clinical psychologists will rise to 185,800 for 23,800 new openings. In comparison, there will only be 200 new industrial/organizational psychologists and 2,100 new experimental psychologists. Demand for child psychology professors will also grow rapidly by 12 percent for 5,600 college faculty positions. Why does the United States need more child psychologists? More children are being diagnosed with disorders as mental health awareness increases. The Child Mind Institute estimates that 17.1 million kids and teens meet DSM-5 diagnostic criteria. Child psychologists give youth the psychiatric treatment needed to thrive.

How Much Money a Child Psychologist Makes

Does working toward a Ph.D. or Psy.D. in Child Psychology pay off? In May 2019, the Department of Labor recorded a mean annual wage of $87,450 for child psychologists. The 113,270 clinical psychologists, including child psychologists, made an average of $42.04 per hour. That’s significantly higher than America’s median household income of $63,179. Child psychologists typically fall into the median pay range of $45,240 to $132,670. Child psychologists in the daycare services sector had the highest average salary of $120,130. Home health care agencies hire child psychologists for a $105,440 mean price. Child psychologists working at health practitioner offices report median six-figure earnings of $100,300. Oregon is the top-paying child psychology state with a $112,010 average income. California has the most child psychologists who bring home a mean $111,750 annual paycheck.

Are You Interested in Becoming a Child Psychologist?

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, this is one of the most rewarding fields in the industry, because by helping children, the child psychologist is securing the well-being of a future generation.

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