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Children’s mental health affects the way they think, act, feel and interact with others, and poor mental health can have devastating effects on them. Even toddlers and young children can suffer from mental health issues.
If you enjoy working with children and are wondering how to become a child psychologist, read on to find out what you need to know to enter this career field. If you want to make a difference in children’s lives, becoming a child psychologist can be a great career option.
Child Psychologist Job Outlook
The US Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) does not report data on child psychologists specifically, but it does track data on psychologists in general. The BLS predicts that jobs for psychologists will increase by 8% between 2020 and 2030.
Children of all ages need mental health care. According to a study by the Centers for Disease Control, 1 in 6 children between the ages of 2 and 8 have been diagnosed with a mental, behavioral or developmental disorder. And 8.9% of teenagers and teenagers aged 12 to 17 have attempted suicide. These statistics indicate a critical need for child psychologists to help children of all ages manage their emotional, behavioral and mental health issues.
What does a child psychologist do?
Child psychologists provide psychological services to children and adolescents to help promote their mental health and well-being. These professionals use specialized knowledge and strategies to meet the psychological needs of children struggling with behavioral, emotional or other mental health issues.
Here are some ways that child psychologists support children’s well-being:
- They use test and assessment procedures to assess children’s psychological, intellectual, and cognitive problems.
- They address psychological, emotional, developmental, cognitive and behavioral issues that children may experience.
- They treat children dealing with trauma and loss, anxiety, stress, depression, attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD), cognitive deficits, behavioral problems, post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), suicidal ideation, addiction, eating disorders and other conditions. .
- They provide interventions, such as psychotherapy and behavior modification.
- They can work to develop programs to prevent bullying, teen pregnancy, childhood obesity, substance abuse, and other issues.
Salary of a child psychologist
Child psychologists earn an average annual base salary of around $65,000. Child psychologists with 20 or more years of experience earn an average annual salary of around $96,000.
Steps to becoming a child psychologist
If you want to become a child psychologist, plan to spend six to eight years completing the education required for licensure. You must complete a bachelor’s degree, doctorate, internship, and postdoctoral fellowship before you can take the licensing and certification tests.
When planning your career path, learn your state’s specific requirements, as each state sets its own licensing requirements.
Earn a bachelor’s degree
To become a child psychologist, you must earn a bachelor’s degree in child psychology, psychology, or a related field. Specializing in one of these subjects helps you learn the basics of psychology and prepare you to start your doctoral program. Undergraduate courses vary by major.
If you choose a bachelor’s degree in child psychology, courses may include child development, adolescent development, educational psychology, and childhood and adolescent disorders.
A bachelor’s degree in psychology involves more general courses. Courses may include an introduction to psychology, an introduction to anatomy and physiology, statistics, and scientific research. If you choose this path, consider taking courses that focus on children’s mental health issues, if available.
Complete a Psy.D. or Ph.D. Program
A master’s degree would allow you to work as a mental health counselor, but you need a doctorate to become a child psychologist. To become a child psychologist, you could theoretically go straight to a doctoral program after getting your bachelor’s degree. However, if your undergraduate degree is in a field unrelated to psychology, you may need to earn a master’s degree in child psychology or psychology first.
You can pursue a Psy.D. or a doctorate. for your doctorate. Either of these degrees provides a thorough understanding of the principles of child psychology and prepares you to work as a child psychologist. However, there are differences between the two types of degrees.
A Ph.D. is more research-oriented than a Psy.D. It is common for those who earn this degree to work in teaching, research, or clinical practice. Choose a Ph.D. if you want to know more about the principles of research relevant to your field.
The courses required for a doctorate. may include advanced research methods, statistics, abnormal psychology, developmental psychology, personality psychology, and experimental methods.
Choose a Psy.D. if you want to focus less on research and more on working directly with children in clinical settings. You can complete this degree program faster than a Ph.D. program because a Psy.D. has fewer requirements.
Courses required for a Psy.D. may include child development, adolescent development, social psychology, cognitive foundations of behavior, psychological theories and research methods.
Gain pre-professional experience
Psychology doctoral programs usually require internships. The Association of Psychology Postdoctoral and Internship Centers provides information on finding internships and helps applicants find internship opportunities.
You must complete a postdoctoral fellowship to become a child psychologist. A fellowship involves working for a certain number of hours under supervision, usually lasting one or two years. A fellowship allows you to gain real-world experience working with children in a clinical setting.
Apply for a State License
After earning your doctorate, you must pass the Examination for Professional Practice in Psychology (EPPP) – the national licensing exam – to become a licensed child psychologist. The Association of State and Provincial Psychology Board (ASPPB) oversees the EPPP.
Specific licensing requirements vary by state, so check your state’s guidelines to make sure you meet the requirements. The ASPPB maintains an online directory of licensing boards in the United States and Canada.
Obtain board certification
Becoming board certified means you have proven expertise in your chosen specialty. The American Board of Professional Psychology (ABPP) administers the certification of licensed psychologists in 15 specialty areas.
The American Board of Clinical Child and Adolescent Psychology (ABCCAP) is a member of the ABPP Board of Trustees and administers the board’s certification for the clinical degree in Child and Adolescent Psychology. You must pass the ABCCAP exam to become certified.
Frequently Asked Questions About Child Psychologists
What skills are needed to be a child psychologist?
Child psychologists must have excellent analytical, observational, problem-solving, and research skills. They must also be compassionate and understanding since they may work with children who have severe mental health issues or those who may be victims of abuse.
How long does it take to become a child psychologist?
It should take you six to eight years to complete your education requirements. In total, it takes eight to ten years to complete your fellowship, pass your exams, and go through the licensing and certification processes.
What is the difference between pediatric psychology and child psychology?
Child psychologists typically work in medical facilities such as children’s hospitals, treating children with life-threatening illnesses. Child psychologists may work in other settings, including outpatient clinics, hospitals, government agencies, and private practices.
Is a child psychologist a doctor?
No, a child psychologist is not a doctor. In most states, psychologists cannot perform medical procedures or write prescriptions.