How to Become a Child Psychologist

If you are a compassionate listener, want to understand why people behave the way they do and like working with children, you might be wondering how to become a child psychologist. Child psychology is a branch of psychology, the study of human behavior, which specifically focuses on young people from infancy through adolescence. Child psychologists help children develop effective coping strategies for dealing with traumatic experiences or managing mental, emotional and developmental disorders.

Child psychologists often work in a clinical practice, though some may find employment in schools. While child psychologists focus on helping their young patients, they may interact with these patients one-on-one or in a family setting. They may also have to help children who are being abused. Child psychologists evaluate children, particularly those who seem to be displaying developmental, behavioral, social or emotional issues, to determine if a psychological or developmental disorder is at work or to determine the cause of problematic thoughts and behavior. Upon diagnosing a disorder, psychologists intervene through therapy. They may teach both the child and his or her family methods of coping with stressful situations and triggers and strategies for modifying problematic behaviors. Child psychologists may also take part in research projects that seek to explain how and why children develop in certain ways or behave as they do.

Child psychologists are often clinical psychologists, though they may also conduct research to better understand how children’s minds and behavioral patterns develop. To be qualified for clinical or research work, aspiring child psychologists must first invest in a formal education. During their undergraduate careers, students typically choose to major in psychology and take as many courses in child development or child psychology as possible. They should also study statistics and social sciences while pursuing their bachelor’s degree.

An aspiring child psychologist must then apply to graduate school, where he or she will earn a master’s degrees or a Ph.D. in child psychology. Many graduate schools require that applicants first complete the Graduate Readiness Exam (GRE). Upon completing their education, including internships that provide them with real-world experience, aspiring child psychologists must obtain a license to practice psychology in their intended state of employment. Finally, they may have to gain a couple years of experience as a psychologist before they are able to obtain a position that allows them to work with children specifically.

Psychologists earn $68,640 per year, according to the United States Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS). They can look forward to a positive job outlook, with a 22 percent increase in career opportunities between 2010 and 2020, the BLS reported. They also enjoy the personal satisfaction of knowing that they make a difference in the lives of children, especially those with mental, emotional or developmental disorders or those struggling to cope with a traumatic experience. If you enjoy working with young people and have excellent listening skills, knowing how to become a child psychologist could be the first step toward a fulfilling new career.

Featured Degree Programs