How to Become
a Child Psychologist

Essential Education, Skills, and Job Interview Prep

To become a child psychologist, you must have a bachelor’s degree and a graduate degree relevant to the field. Completing an internship and listing work experience on your resume is also necessary.

These credentials will enable you to get your state license and professional certifications. Then, if you want to climb higher up the career ladder, you will need a Ph.D. in Psychology or a Doctor of Psychology (PsyD). There is a lot to learn about becoming a child psychologist, so read on to discover more.

What Is a Child Psychologist?

A child psychologist is a professional who deals with children and adolescent issues and disorders. In general, a child psychologist will work with children and their caregivers to assess and treat a wide range of developmental issues. They will approach their work more delicately than adult psychologists.

Child psychologists can work in the academic sphere, the government, or private institutions. Depending on where you work, you might need the assistance of other people like parents or guardians, physicians, health workers, and teachers, to name a few.

As a child psychologist, your goal is to assist in the child’s recovery from the diagnosed disorder.

Child Psychologist Salary and Job Outlook

According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the median pay for a psychologist per year was $82,180 as of May 2020. BLS also notes that 192,300 psychologists were employed in 2019 and that this number should increase by three percent by 2029.

The opportunities as a child psychologist are even better for those with doctoral degrees in specialization fields.

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Min Salary

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Average Salary

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Top Salary

Entry-Level Child Psychologist Job Requirements

As an aspiring child psychologist, you should have a field-related bachelor’s degree. Then, you can proceed with a master’s degree or go straight to pursuing a doctorate. Once you have completed your psychology education, the next step is to acquire a license or certification.

Licensing requirements differ by state and type of position, as listed in the Association of State and Provincial Psychology Boards. Most of the careers will require a Ph.D. or PsyD, an internship, and supervised professional experience for one to two years. You will also need to pass the Examination for Professional Practice in Psychology (EPPP).

How to Ace Your Child Psychologist Job Interview

You should concentrate on honing your analytical, communication, interpersonal, observational, and problem-solving skills to ace your child psychologist job interview. The interviewer will also assess your patience and integrity, so keep that in mind while answering questions.

It pays to practice your answers to common questions to improve your confidence and interview demeanor. With this in mind, you might want to check out the usual job interview questions that we have listed below.

Common Child Psychologist Job Interview Questions

  • How will you assess the child’s needs and determine the appropriate treatment for them?
  • Do you have a supporting case where your suggested treatment was applied and proven effective?
  • How will you deal with stubborn and unhelpful children or adolescents?
  • Have you ever felt or dealt with a client or a situation unethically?
  • Can you give examples of treatments that are popular in treating adolescents with anxiety?

What Degree Should I get to Become a Child Psychologist?

You can take psychology classes in top online colleges. Regardless of your chosen specialization, here are the degrees that will take you a step closer to becoming a child psychologist.

Bachelor’s Degree in Child Psychology

The advanced coursework in the Bachelor’s Degree in General Psychology or Counseling will serve you well as a future child psychologist.

In the general psychology pathway, you’ll encounter coursework on liberal arts and science. Alternatively, the concepts included in the counseling curriculum are cultural awareness, communication, and emotional intelligence.

If you are planning on taking pre-degree courses, then you will want to prioritize the classes that admission officers will most likely look for in any application.

Master’s Degree in Child Psychology

Although you can skip the master’s degree and go straight to pursuing a doctorate, a master’s will look good in your resume nonetheless. Think of it as a milestone that will increase your knowledge about the field through taking the coursework, which usually takes two to three years.

You have the option to select between a Master’s of Science (MS) or a Master’s of Arts degree (MA), depending on your natural aptitude. If you want to do more research, then an MS is for you. If you’re looking to practice your profession more in the future, then an MA will be a more suitable option.

Having a master’s degree in the field of child psychology will qualify you as a mental health counselor, but not as someone who can conduct psychological testing. You will have to pursue a doctorate to practice clinical work.

Child Psychology Doctoral Degree

You can gain a doctoral degree in child psychology in five to seven years. Most of your coursework will focus on child development within the field of clinical child psychology. If you have taken a master’s degree relevant to the field, you can finish your doctoral degree one year earlier.

Similar to the master’s degree, there are also two routes to go about earning your doctorate. Those who want to dive deeper into the research field should commit to a Ph.D. Alternatively, if you want to practice clinical work, you should opt for the PsyD track. In both cases, you can conduct psychological testing as a licensed psychologist.

Both doctorate degrees will include coursework on cognitive, biological, and behavioral approaches to child psychology. Also, you need to conduct independent and substantial research to complete your doctorate thesis.

What Does a Child Psychologist Do?

A child psychologist deals with the mental health needs of both children and adolescents. To name a few, some of the issues that a child psychologist encounters are adjustment disorder, attention-deficit or hyperactivity disorder, phobias, obsessive-compulsive disorder, and autism spectrum disorder.

Depending on your chosen specialization, the range and variety of child and adolescent mental health needs will need specific knowledge based on coursework.

In general, you should know about educational psychology, school psychology, adolescent psychology, and clinical child psychology. You can also take classes on developmental child psychology and abnormal child psychology.

Educational Psychology

In educational psychology, you are most likely to work in schools or academia as an educational design assistant, a programs assessment specialist, or a programs implementation coordinator. Your goal is to address and resolve the psychological health needs of the students.

Clinical Child Psychology

You can be a researcher, a licensed child psychologist, or a clinical child therapist in this field. A professional in this field do both academic and scientific research. In practicing clinical work, the main focus is the psychological development disorders and illnesses of children and adolescents.

Adolescent Psychology

As an adolescent psychologist, you will be working with the parents and other support group members of a more specific age group. Part of the practice is behavior modification through the application of psychotherapy and other therapeutic methods to pre-teen and teenage patients.

The most common careers in adolescent psychology are adolescent therapists, licensed counseling psychologists, and attending psychologists.

School Psychology

You can also be a therapist, counselor, or psychologist in a school. Your focus here is on the educational environment instead of the teaching and learning mechanisms. One of your tasks is to determine the mental health needs of the students.

Based on the eligibility of your students, you can also help them get into government-sponsored programs to improve the state of their mental health.

Developmental Child Psychology

The main focus of developmental child psychology is to understand the behavior of a child or an adolescent. If you specialize in this field, you can apply for a position as a professor, an art therapist, or a research professional.

Abnormal Child Psychology

Physical and emotional abuse, as well as trauma, can influence a child’s psychological thinking. Most of the clients in abnormal child psychology are young adults. Your prospective careers include professor of abnormal child psychology, behavioral health, or mental health professional.

Essential Child Psychologist Skills

Helping an individual understand their behavior and thought process is complicated. Below are some of the foundational skills that you need in your career as a child psychologist.

Analytical Skills

Your analytical skills measure how well you understood the coursework and how capable you are of putting the theories into practice.

Communication Skills

As an active listener, you should also be emphatic in discerning the root of the issue. Also, you need to speak and communicate in a way that does not elicit closed-off responses from your clients.

Integrity

As a professional confidant, you have to keep your word. Trust between you and your client is crucial in solving the issue or issues at hand.

Interpersonal Skills

You are dealing with clients and their close contacts from all walks of life. Therefore it is paramount that you are sensitive, emphatic, and genuinely interested in the issues and concerns that they share with you.

Observational Skills

Be keen on observing the facial expressions, body positions, actions, and interactions of your clients. Even a slight voice tone change or shift in the seat might reveal something if you are observant enough.

Patience

Opening up to someone not close to you about your struggles is difficult and uncomfortable. So, you have to be patient with your client, especially with those who present as uncooperative.

Problem-Solving Skills

As a problem-solver, you should collect data and information, do relevant research, evaluate programs, and come up with a solution. Your logical reasoning and critical thinking skills are also part of this skill set.

How to Become a Child
Psychologist: A Step-by-Step Guide

Becoming a child psychologist is challenging but worth it. If you have decided that this is the career you want to pursue, then read on to discover the step-by-step process to succeed.

1

Complete a bachelor’s degree program relevant to child psychology

You’ll want to stack up on coursework relevant to child psychology to expand your knowledge of the field.

2

Enroll and finish a graduate degree program

You can either take on a master’s degree or go straight to getting a doctorate. Take your time to decide on which path interests you more. If you’re into research, you should go with the MS and the Ph.D. Otherwise, choose the MA and PsyD.

3

Get into an internship or practicum

Most states require professional working experience supervised by an experienced psychologist. Get the most out of your one year of practicum or internship by engaging in cases that will help you apply psychology concepts.

4

Apply for a license

You can either apply to be a licensed psychologist or a clinical psychologist after completing the EPPP. The Association of State and Provincial Psychology Board offers this examination.

5

Get a certification from the American Board

If you are yearning for more achievement in the field, then getting a postdoctoral fellowship might interest you. After spending one to two years in a child-psychology-related role, you can apply for a certification from the American Board of Clinical Child and Adolescent Psychology.

You should consider these points while applying. First, your doctorate must be a part of an American Psychological Association-approved program, and your license must be in line with your practice’s jurisdiction.

In addition, you should also have at least two years of internship and two more years of post-internship experience. Lastly, you need to pass the board examination.

6

Apply for a job

As early as the fourth step, you can already apply for a job. But if you’re looking for exceptional opportunities, ticking off all of the steps is a must.

How Long Does It Take to Become a Child Psychologist?

You need to dedicate at least seven years to become a child psychologist. Four years for the bachelor’s degree, two to five years for the graduate program, and at least one year of experience are the minimum for your educational background.

Should You Become a Child Psychologist in 2021?

Both children and adults suffer from mental health issues caused by the COVID-19 pandemic. However, children and adolescents have less ability to handle these challenging thoughts and emotions than adults. Therefore, child psychologists will play a crucial role in the recovery of the younger generation from this collective trauma.

If you’re looking for an occupation that could help alleviate the situation post-pandemic, then a career as a child psychologist ticks many boxes.

Child Psychologist FAQ

Is child psychology the career for me?

If you find it rewarding to help others sort through their thoughts and emotions, especially children and adolescents, child psychology might be for you.

What are the advantages of being a child psychologist?

You can have a flexible schedule depending on your clients and earn a good amount of money in the profession, too.

What are the differences between a psychiatrist and a psychologist?

One of the differences is in the practice of the profession. A psychiatrist treats people with mental health disorders with medication, while a psychologist uses talk therapy. 

Another key difference between the two careers lies in the educational background. A psychiatrist will study at a medical school while a psychologist is from a graduate school, with additional doctorate-level training.

What are the disadvantages of being a child psychologist?

The nature of work as a child psychologist can be stressful and emotionally challenging. Although your schedule is flexible, some of your clients will need you to be available on-call. This situation results in a somewhat erratic schedule. 

If you prefer to work for yourself instead of for an institution, you will need to set up a private practice clinic. This means you will have to market yourself to potential clients and deal with billing issues from your clients and other insurance agencies.

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