How to become a child psychologist

If you like working with children, then perhaps you have also considered a career as a child psychologist. These professionals specialize in children’s psychological problems, making them an exciting career choice for many students interested in child development and mental health. Before you decide whether this career path is your best choice, please learn more about the job responsibilities, educational requirements, and job prospects of a child psychologist in this career overview.

Child psychologist

Child psychologists are a class of psychologists who study the psychological, social and emotional development of children. Usually, child psychologists focus on the development from prenatal to adolescence. Some of the main topics in this field of psychology include genetics, language development, personality, gender roles, cognitive development, sexual development, and social development.

Child psychologists may work with a range of clients, including babies, toddlers, children, and adolescents, or they may work specifically with specific age groups. No matter what population the child psychologist chooses, his or her focus will be on helping to understand, prevent, diagnose, and treat developmental, cognitive, social, and emotional problems.

Some relevant career options include:

  • Abnormal child psychologists work with children with psychological disorders, including anxiety, mood, and personality disorders.
  • Teenage psychologists work with teenage clients aged 12 to 18 who suffer from mental illness or distress. These clients include eating disorders, depression, or anxiety.
  • Developmental psychologists may study child development, but they may also focus on development throughout the life cycle.
  • School psychologists work within the education system to help children with emotional, social, and academic problems.
  • Educational psychologists involve research on how people learn, including topics such as student outcomes, teaching processes, individual differences in learning, gifted learners, and learning disabilities.
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What does a child psychologist do

So, what exactly do ordinary child psychologists do in a typical day? The answer to this question can vary greatly, depending on where the child psychologist works.

Some professionals advise young clients in therapeutic situations, while others are dedicated to researching and exploring different aspects of child psychology, including genius and developmental disabilities. Although the specific job responsibilities depend on the field the child psychologist chooses to specialize in, some typical tasks may include:

  • Management psychological test
  • Carry out scientific research on child development
  • Diagnose and treat learning or developmental disabilities
  • Work with the medical team to develop a unique treatment plan for the client
  • Work with clients to manage behavioral issues

Educational requirements

Although there are some opportunities to earn a master’s degree in the field of child psychology, most people will find that the job options for a doctorate are more abundant. Some courses offer a degree in child psychology, but many courses choose to earn a doctorate. Or a PsyD degree in clinical or counseling psychology.

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The American Psychological Association reports that nearly 75% of PhDs in psychology are PhDs, but for those who are more interested in professional practice rather than research, PsyD is becoming an increasingly popular choice.

After earning a degree, child psychologists must complete a supervised clinical internship, which usually lasts two years, and then pass state and national tests to obtain a license in the state where they wish to work. Therefore, it is important to check with your state to determine licensing requirements.

Work settings

Child psychologists may be employed in a variety of settings, including schools, courts, hospitals, and mental health clinics. Those who work in schools often diagnose learning disabilities, counsel students, conduct assessments, and work with their families to help students deal with academic problems, social problems, or disabilities.

Some people may work in court settings to help young clients in contact with the criminal justice system, help children prepare to testify in court, or work with children in child custody disputes.

Child psychologists working in hospitals or private mental health offices often work directly with clients and family members to overcome or cope with mental illness. These professionals evaluate clients, diagnose mental disorders, conduct psychological tests, and perform treatments.

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Employment prospects

according to Career Outlook Handbook Data released by the US Department of Labor shows that by 2026, the employment prospects of psychologists are expected to grow faster than the average for all occupations. The employment prospects of those with a doctorate in applied professional fields are expected to be the strongest. Increased awareness of children’s mental health should also help stimulate the demand for child psychologists.


The salary of a child psychologist may vary based on geographic location, employment sector, educational background, and years of experience in the field. The US Department of Labor reports that the median annual salary of child psychologists is slightly higher than US$76,990, and the salary of the top 10% ranges from as low as US$44,040 to nearly US$130,000.

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Before you decide whether a career as a child psychologist is right for you, take some time to consider the potential benefits and disadvantages of that career. Evaluate your own interests and goals, and then consider how becoming a child psychologist can help you achieve your professional and personal goals.