How to Become A Child Psychologist

A career in the field of psychology can be reasonably exciting as well as challenging. Psychologists study emotional, cognitive, and social processes and human behavior through observation. They also use other techniques such as interpreting, and recording how people relate to one another and their environments. Forbes has placed psychologist in its list of the Best Jobs for Women (2013).

Psychologists can be of many types such as:

School Psychologists – They make use of psychological techniques to resolve education and development related issues.

Forensic Psychologists – They examine psychological principles in the criminal justice system.

Clinical Psychologists – They enable people to deal with various problems ranging from short-term personal issues to chronic conditions. Some clinical psychologists focus on certain populations, such as children or the elderly while other focus on certain specialties, such as health psychology and neuropsychology.

What is a Child Psychologist?

Child psychologists are a type of clinical psychologists who focus on children related psychological issues. They are responsible for assessing, diagnosing, and treating mental, emotional, and behavioral disorders within children and help them deal with problems ranging from short-term personal issues to severe, chronic conditions using a variety of approaches. Besides, they also identify psychological, emotional, or behavioral issues and diagnose disorders. Interviewing patients, conducting diagnostic tests, and providing individual or group psychotherapy are some of the tasks that these professionals perform. Child psychologists may also consult with other medical personnel regarding the best treatment for patients, especially treatment that includes medication.

If you have patience, strong analytical skills and enjoy working with children, becoming a child psychologist can be a suitable career choice. Employment of clinical psychologists including child psychologists is likely to increase in the coming years (2012 and 2022), according to the information by the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS).

How to Become a Child Psychologist?

Child psychologists generally hold a PhD or specialist degree in psychology. However, in some case, a master’s degree in psychology may suffice, as well, according to the BLS. A PhD in psychology is a research based degree that includes a dissertation as well as a comprehensive exam. Students may also have to complete a yearlong internship.

How Long Does it Take to Become a Child Psychologist?

A PhD in psychology or a Doctor of Psychology (Psy.D.) degree generally takes 5-7 years to complete, but the duration of the program may vary based on the program type and other factors such as the enrollment status of the students.

Program Coursework

PhD candidates will study a range of topics and also select a specialty area, such as personality, perceptual or language development, learning or psychobiology. Curriculum may include instruction in subjects such as:

  • History of child development theories
  • Processes of emotional development
  • Processes of social development
  • Linear and regression statistics
  • Probability and inferential statistics

Students who want to become a child psychologist can also complete a master’s degree that may take 2-3 years of full-time study depending on the enrollment status of the students. Master’s degree generally includes courses in statistics, research design, and industrial-organizational psychology. Most of these programs do not require students to hold an undergraduate degree in psychology, but students must complete courses in introductory psychology, statistics and experimental psychology at the undergraduate level.

According to the BLS, some doctoral programs may require students to hold a master’s degree in psychology while others accept candidates with a bachelor’s degree in psychology.

To successfully enroll in the PhD program, students should demonstrate overall academic excellence and submit Graduate Record Examination (GRE) scores.

Do I Need a License?

In most states, child psychologists need a license to practice. Licensure requirements usually include:

  • A doctorate in psychology
  • Pass the Examination for Professional Practice in Psychology
  • Professional experience
  • Complete an internship

Licensed psychologists may also have to participate in continuing education programs to keep their licenses.

Important Qualities for Child Psychologists

Observational skills – Child psychologists must be able to observe children, understand and interpret the possible meanings of children’s facial expressions, body positions and actions.

Analytical skills – These professionals should also have strong analytical skills so that they may scrutinize the information they gather and draw conclusions from it.

Patience – Absolutely essential for this profession is patience. Dealing with children with different emotional or psychological issue can be very challenging so child psychologists need to demonstrate a lot of patience.

Communication skills – Child psychologists need to have good communication skills as their work involves listening and speaking with children of all age groups.

Interpersonal skills – Person-to-person skills are also imperative for child psychologists so that they may work well with children having diverse issues.

Problem-solving skills – Psychologists must also demonstrate problem-solving skills so that they may treat children and find appropriate solutions for their behavioral and mental problems.

Where Do Child Psychologists Work?

Child psychologists generally work in educational services, healthcare and social assistance. Some of them also work in private practice and have their own offices. Other workplace settings for these professionals include:

  • Clinics
  • Hospitals
  • Rehabilitation facilities
  • Community and mental health centers


According to the BLS, child psychologists that fall under the category of clinical psychologists earned a median annual income of $67,650 in 2012. Factors such as location, qualification, experience and area of expertise may help to determine the income of these professionals.

Career Prospects for Child Psychologists

Career outlook for child psychologists look positive between 2012 and 2022, the BLS notes. Employment of these professionals is likely to grow at the rate of 11% from 2012 to 2022. The BLS cites that increasing demand for psychological services in hospitals, schools, social services agencies, and mental health centers, is expected to spur job growth.

Demand for child psychologists will grow as children will continue to need the services of these professionals to help solve or manage their problems. Besides, demand for these professionals in the healthcare sector is also likely to increase as their joint work with other healthcare professionals, social workers and doctors, provide children with comprehensive treatments.

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