Starting A Career As A Child Psychologist

What is Childhood Psychology?

A person’s childhood is often a very simple yet complicated time. It is also a very influential time in a person’s life, and most people’s childhoods will have a big impact on the type of adult they turn out to be later in life.

Childhood psychology is a specialized branch of traditional psychology that focuses on children, mainly their development and behavior. It is one of the most commonly studied types of psychology today. This type of psychology typically covers every child, from birth to adolescence. Some areas covered under childhood psychology include milestones, behavior problems, social skills, mental and emotional well being  and development.

Centuries ago, childhood psychology wasn’t even thought of. It is commonly believed that children during Medieval times, for instance, were viewed as nothing more than small versions of adults. They were dressed the same and often treated the same as the typical adult.

Shortly thereafter, original sin was the most common belief. This school of thought stated that children were born basically as purely evil beings. The purpose of a child’s upbringing was to rid him of sin.

John Locke, a philosopher, helped changed this outlook toward the end of the 17th century. It was lock who developed the tabula rasa, or “blank tablet”, theory regarding children. This theory stated that upon birth, a child’s mind was nothing more than a blank tablet. All of a person’s knowledge and behavior tendencies were then created by what was fed into his mind as a child.

Jean-Jacques Rousseau was a philosopher in the 18th century, most famous for his “innate goodness” theory. This theory suggested that when a child was born, he was not evil or blank, but inherently good. Rousseau also suggested that it was the evils encountered in society that made children misbehave or grow up to be less than stellar adults.

Today, the debate about whether children are born good, bad, or indifferent is still something of a minor debate for some. What we do realize, however, is that childhood is a very influential time in a person’s life. Events that happen in a person’s childhood – even small, seemingly insignificant events – usually have a direct impact on how that person feels and acts as an adult.

Some Influential Child Psychologists Throughout History

  • Sigmund Freud- Developed the theory of the five developmental stages of humans, four of which occur during childhood.
  • Anna Freud-  Made significant contributions to the area of psychoanalytic child psychology.
  • Jean Piaget-  Developed a theory of cognitive development that placed an emphasis on a child’s education.
  • John Bowlby-  Originated “attachment theory”, which makes it easier to understand long term relationships between humans.

How Do I Become a Child Psychologist?

Below is the complete educational path for the Psychologist in this State
Psychologist Educational Track
School Programs Average Education Length Choosing Online or Campus
1. Earn a Bachelor's Degree View Programs 4 Years Online or Campus
2. Earn A Master's Degree View Programs 2 Additional Years Online or Campus
3. Earn a PHD or PsyD View Programs 2-4 Additional Years Online or Campus

To become a child psychologist you will need to complete many years of schooling and real world training.   This includes obtaining a Bachelor’s Degree, a Master’s Degree , and a Doctorate degree.    To see schools that offer degree programs in psychology, click here.


What Does a Child Psychologist Do?

In general, a childhood psychologist might work with children and their primary caregivers in order to research, assess, and possibly treat developmental issues. Depending on his preferred area of study, a child psychologist will often work with all sorts of children.

Not every child that a child psychologist works with is considered to be abnormal. A child psychologist might work with so-called “normal” children for several reasons. He may perform a psychological examination, for instance, or just be a sounding board for a slightly troubled child.

A child psychologist might also work with children who are considered to have slight mental, emotional, or social problems. This can include things like anxiety or shyness.

Child psychologists might also work with children who have severe mental, emotional, or social problems as well. Violent children, autistic children, and those who have been abused, for instance, will often benefit from the help of a child psychologist.

No matter what type of patient that a child psychologist chooses to work with, he must always deal with them carefully and handle them with “kid gloves”, so to speak. As mentioned above, childhood is a very influential time in a person’s life. A child psychologist should be compassionate, understanding, and patient when dealing with children.

What Types of Treatments Do Child Psychologists Use?

A child psychologist will often use a variety of treatment method, many of which are similar to the treatment methods used with adults. Therapy, such as cognitive behavioral therapy, for instance, is often a popular form of treatment. This type of treatment often involves helping a child learn to solve his problems in a healthy and productive manner.

However – children being children – usually have different needs than adults, and a child psychologists treatment methods should accommodate these needs. For example, may children are easily bored, making traditional treatment options somewhat difficult. To overcome this obstacle, a child psychologist must make interactions with his patients fun and entertaining whenever possible. Many child psychologists will provide fun activities for their young patients, such as coloring books and toys. Many of these activities are used during play therapy.

Where Do Child Psychologists Work?

There is a high demand for licensed child psychologists, and these professionals will often have very little trouble finding employment.

Many organizations that regularly deal with children typically hire child psychologists. This can include schools, orphanages, and child welfare offices. Health oriented organizations might also hire child psychologists. This can include hospitals and mental health clinics.

In addition to working for others, a person interested in a child psychologist career can also usually choose to open his own practice, which allows him more time to focus on each patient.

What is the Median Salary of a Child Psychologist?

A child psychologist’s salary is typically determined by such factors as his experience, location and employer. Licensed professionals with more experience, for instance, are usually able to command higher salaries. Also, a child psychologist practicing in a larger metropolitan area will often make more than a child psychologist in a rural setting.

According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the median annual salary for clinical, counseling and school psychologists was $67,880 in May of 2011.  The median annual salary for psychologists across all areas of specialization was $90,010 in that same year.

Additional Resources and Further Reading

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