Careers in Developmental Psychology
Learn how you can become a developmental psychologist.
A developmental psychologist studies human development—the physiological, cognitive and social development that takes place throughout every stage of our lives. They study both the biological influences (such as genetics) and environmental aspects (such as parenting techniques) that shape who we are.
Because of the large breadth of this career field, most developmental psychologists choose to specialize in a specific life stage. They might also focus on developmental disabilities and their effects.
Developmental psychologists perform the following duties:
- Evaluate motor skills progression/regression
- Study the development of moral reasoning and ethics among individuals and groups
- Study the acquisition of language skills and other forms of communication
- Research social patterns, behavior and personality development
- Assess individual problem solving patterns
- Evaluate developmental disabilities
Developmental psychologists are employed in a variety of workplace environments depending on their specialty. These may include:
- Universities and schools
- Research facilities
- Elderly assisted living homes
- Teen outreach programs
- Homeless youth programs
- Psychiatric institutions
- Private practices
Education & Training
Developmental psychologists are scientists as well as psychologists. Undergraduate students are encouraged to take strong course loads in biology and the sciences as well as psychology, in order to thoroughly prepare them for an advanced degree program in developmental psychology.
Master’s in developmental psychology programs are limited, but master’s programs in psychology abound. Both programs generally take two years to complete, and provide internships and fieldwork opportunities to allow students to apply their skills outside of the classroom. A master’s degree is not a prerequisite for a doctorate program in developmental psychology.
The majority of developmental psychologists earn their Doctor of Philosophy (PhD) or Doctor of Psychology (PsyD) in developmental psychology. The main difference between these two doctorate programs is that the PsyD degree focuses more on clinical training and less on research. Both degrees generally take four to six years to complete. Students in doctorate programs are often placed in internships or supervised clinical practices that coincide with their specializations, such as teaching assistantships, hospital internships or research opportunities.
Developmental psychologists who wish to set up private practices must become certified within their state of residence. Further information can be found through the American Association of State and Provincial Psychology Boards.
Developmental psychologists are part of the larger field of psychologists. According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics’ current Occupational Outlook Handbook, the median national annual salary for psychologists is $75,230. Actual salaries may vary greatly based on specialization within the field, location, years of experience and a variety of other factors. National long-term projections of employment growth may not reflect local and/or short-term economic or job conditions, and do not guarantee actual job growth.
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