Salary, Education Requirements and Job Growth – Forbes Advisor

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Children’s mental health affects how they think, act, feel and relate to others, and poor mental health can have a devastating impact on them. Toddlers and young children can also suffer from mental health problems.

If you love working with children and are wondering how to become a child psychologist, read on to find out what you need to know to get into this career field. If you want to make a difference in the lives of children, training to become a child psychologist can be a good career option.

Job prospects for child psychologists

The US Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) does not report data specifically on child psychologists, but it does track data on psychologists overall. The BLS forecasts that psychologist jobs 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 adolescents and teenagers aged 12 to 17 have attempted suicide. These statistics indicate an urgent 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 support their mental health and well-being. These professionals use specialized knowledge and strategies to address the psychological needs of children struggling with behavioral, emotional, or other mental health issues.

The following are some of the ways that child psychologists support children’s well-being:

  • They use testing and assessment techniques to assess children’s psychological, intellectual, and cognitive problems.
  • They address psychological, emotional, developmental, cognitive, and behavioral issues that children may be experiencing.
  • They treat children struggling 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 offer interventions such as psychotherapy and behavior modification.
  • You can work to develop preventive programs for bullying, teenage pregnancy, childhood obesity, substance abuse, and other issues.

Child Psychologist Salary

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, allow six to eight years to complete the training required for licensing. You must complete a bachelor’s degree, doctorate, internship, and postdoctoral fellowship before proceeding with the licensing and certification exam.

As you plan your career path, learn about 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. A major in one of these subjects will help you learn the fundamentals of psychology and prepare you to begin your doctoral program. Bachelor’s programs vary between majors.

If you choose to pursue a bachelor’s degree in child psychology, coursework may include child development, adolescent development, educational psychology, and childhood and adolescent disorders.

A bachelor’s degree in psychology includes more general coursework. Courses may include an introduction to psychology, an introduction to anatomy and physiology, statistics and scientific investigation. If you decide to go this route, consider taking courses focused on child mental health where available.

Complete a Psy.D. or Ph.D. program

A master’s degree would qualify you to work as a mental health counselor, but you need a PhD to become a child psychologist. In order to become a child psychologist, you could theoretically go straight into a doctoral program after completing your bachelor’s degree. However, if your bachelor’s degree is in a field unrelated to psychology, you may first need to earn a master’s in child psychology or psychology.

You can get a Psy.D. or a Ph.D. for your promotion. Each of these degrees provides an in-depth understanding of the principles of child psychology and prepares you to work as a child psychologist. However, there are differences between the two courses.


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 learn more about the research principles related to your field.

The requirements for a Ph.D. 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 the clinical setting. You can complete this degree faster than a Ph.D. program because a Psy.D. has fewer requirements.

For a Psy.D. may include child development, adolescent development, social psychology, cognitive bases of behavior, psychological theories, and research methods.

Gain pre-professional experience

Doctoral programs in psychology usually require internships. The Association of Psychology Postdoctoral and Internship Centers provides information on finding internships and helps candidates find internship opportunities.

You must complete a postdoctoral fellowship to become a child psychologist. A fellowship involves working for a specified number of hours under supervision, usually lasting a year or two. A scholarship allows you to gain hands-on experience working with children in a clinical setting.

Apply for the state license

After completing your doctorate, you must pass the examination for professional practice in psychology (EPPP) – the state license to practice medicine – in order 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 policies to make sure you meet the requirements. The ASPPB maintains an online directory of accrediting agencies in the United States and Canada.

Get a board certification

Board certification means you have demonstrated expertise in your chosen field. The American Board of Professional Psychology (ABPP) handles certification for licensed psychologists in 15 specialties.

The American Board of Clinical Child and Adolescent Psychology (ABCCAP) is a member of the ABPP Board of Directors and administers board certification for clinical child and adolescent psychology. You must pass the ABCCAP exam to be certified.

Frequently asked questions about child psychologists

What skills does it take to become a child psychologist?

Child psychologists must have excellent analytical, observational, problem-solving, and research skills. They also need to be compassionate and understanding as they may be working with children who are suffering from serious mental disorders or are victims of abuse.

How long does it take to become a child psychologist?

It should take you six to eight years to complete your educational requirements. All in all, it takes eight to ten years to complete your scholarship, take your exams, and go through the admissions and certification processes.

What is the difference between child 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.

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