Developmental Psychologist Career Information, Jobs, Degrees & Training Programs

Developmental psychologists specialize in social, cognitive, and physiological development during any of the following life stages: infancy, childhood, adolescence, and adulthood. They also work with patients struggling with developmental disabilities. Some developmental psychologists work exclusively with elderly individuals attempting to live independently.

Developmental psychologists conduct research to determine whether behavioral problems are linked to genetics or social environments. Understanding the root of behavioral and developmental problems is important when recommending treatment.

Developmental psychologists work at hospitals and medical clinics, police departments, group and private practices, elementary and secondary schools, and universities. Compared to other psychologists, more developmental psychologists conduct research than practice clinically. Language, motor skill, and adolescent development are current areas of emerging research.

Most developmental psychologists teach or conduct research at colleges and universities. They also frequently consult with physicians and other psychologists. Current popular research being conducted in this field includes the impact of divorce on children, mind theories, social development, and memory retention and aging.

Other organizations where developmental psychologists work include hospitals and medical clinics, mental health hospitals, community centers, convalescent centers, elementary and secondary schools, drug rehabilitation centers, and youth correctional facilities.

Developmental Psychologist Common Areas of Employment

  • Child abuse and prevention
  • Pregnancy educator and resource provider
  • Adoption agencies
  • Zero to three early development programs
  • Child care
  • Early childhood education
  • Welfare agencies
  • Agencies for missing and exploited children
  • Media and children’s programming
  • Toy and game development
  • Policy writer and advocate
  • Education consultant
  • Developmental psychologist at a children’s hospital
  • University professor

Education and Training

College students interested in developmental psychology careers should complete various courses in psychology, biology, and the physical sciences. This will adequately prepare them for graduate study.

Only a few universities offer master’s degree programs in developmental psychology, but numerous different types of psychology programs are available at most universities. It typically takes 2 years to earn a master’s degree in psychology, but many students decide to complete internships. You are not required to earn a master’s degree before enrolling in a developmental psychology PhD program.

Most developmental psychologists hold PsyD’s or PhD’s in developmental psychology. You should obtain a PsyD to specialize in clinical work or a PhD to specialize in research. It takes between 4-6 years to earn a doctorate degree. Doctorate students usually complete internships or obtain clinical experience under the supervision of licensed psychologists.

If you’re interested in clinical practice after graduating, you must satisfy all the necessary licensing requirements in the state where you intend to practice. Contact the American Association of State and Provincial Psychology Boards for more information. During 2004, about 40 percent of psychologists managed their own practices.

Job Outlook

The Department of Labor projects above average job growth for psychologists through the near future. Those specializing or holding PhDs should have the best opportunities. Many jobs in teaching and research will be available during the next few years. Developmental psychologists specializing in gerontology will have excellent job opportunities as the baby boomers age.

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