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Developmental psychologists track perceptual and cognitive growth, language acquisition, social development, and a variety of other processes from birth to old age. They work with different populations, including children (the most popular area of study), the elderly, and families. Many developmental psychologists work directly with one or more of these groups, focusing on the reasons behind their behavior.

Graduate students in Developmental Psychology gain a broad theoretical background, which can be coupled with an area of specialization. Recent trends in Developmental Psychology include studies of aging and memory, the effects of divorce on children, theories of the mind, peer relationships, economics, and social development.

Research and practice provide invaluable experience for students. The integration of class work with clinical experience and research allows the student exposure to a variety of disorders and methods.

Degree Information

Most graduate work in Developmental or Child Psychology culminates in the Ph.D., which usually takes at least four years to complete (six or seven years is a more typical figure). A terminal master’s degree (M.A.) in Developmental or Child Psychology is another option although career opportunities are more limited.. Those students wishing to become child psychiatrists must pursue an M.D., which involves four years of medical school, three years of residency, and two additional years of psychiatric training.

Questions to Ask Yourself When Choosing a Degree Program

  • Will you be required to choose an area of specialization?
  • What concentrations, if any, are offered?
  • What are some of the current or recent research projects of students and faculty?
  • What opportunities does the program offer for research or field experience in the community?
  • How successful is the program in placing its graduates in jobs?
  • What kinds of jobs have graduates gone on to pursue?
  • Are students required to be teach as T.A.s during the graduate program?

Career Overview

Graduates of a Ph.D. program in Developmental and Child Psychology are committed to researching human development in all its stages. Concentrations might include personality development, learning, language development, or perceptual development.

Developmental and Child Psychologists work towards greater understanding of how humans and animals grow and change. They are concerned with both the nature and nurture aspects of development, and study both biological aspects (such as genetics) and environmental elements (such as effects of parenting styles).

A related career is the field of Child Psychiatry, which is also focused on treatment of mental disorders in children and adolescents, and to offering psychological support to them and their families. Child Psychiatrists are medical doctors, and their medical training enables them to diagnose disorders and analyze their roots—for example, emotional, developmental, or cognitive. Child Psychiatrists often have private clinical practices, but they can also work in schools, clinics, or hospitals.

Career/Licensing Requirements

There are no licensing requirements for teaching or research in Developmental or Child Psychology. However, graduates who are interested in setting up a private practice, must be licensed or certified. Information about state requirements can be obtained from the American Association of State and Provincial Psychology Boards (ASPPS). Specializations may require additional certifications as well.

Salary Information

The starting salary for Developmental or Child Psychologists is generally around $40,000, though this depends widely on what sort of job it is, the employer, and the candidate’s level of research and work experience.

Related Links

American Psychological Association (APA)
The APA offers information on all areas within the field, with useful information for prospective graduate students and current psychologists.

American Psychological Society
The American Psychological Society publishes news, research and journals.