The Basics of Becoming a Child Psychologist 

how to become a child psychologist

Psychology remains a unique field in that it exists almost directly on the border between medicine and social sciences. This interesting liminal space the field of psychology occupies opens up a tremendous need for specialized practitioners who are capable not just of carrying out the basic functions of the profession, but who can address more esoteric needs as well.

One such need lies in the field of child psychology. Children present a unique and significant subset of patients within the world of psychology. Identification and treatment of child-specific psychological concerns often involves a combination of social theory, psychological background, and cognitive and behavioral proficiencies. 

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Whether in a clinical setting or an educational one, child psychology is largely a process of identifying triggers to emotional or behavioral issues, and working with both children and their families to help balance these issues in constructive ways. 

Are Online Child Psychologist Programs for You?

Here are some things to consider when choosing a child psychologist program:

Becoming a child psychologist is a multi-step process that involves attaining degrees at several academic levels. Regardless of employer or field, every prospective child psychologist must begin by attaining a bachelor's degree. While most people who pursue this path earn their undergraduate degree in psychology, this may not be a specific requirement of all higher education degree programs. In addition to the bachelor's degree, nearly all positions will require candidates to have at least a master's degree in psychology. Some may also require child-specific specialization at the doctoral level. 

In addition to the education requirements, child psychologists may also need to pursue additional licensure depending on their specific career of choice. For example, in most states, clinical social workers are required to obtain a state-specific licensure over and above their graduate degree. The requirements for this licensure vary, but typically include higher education and a number of supervised clinical hours.

Child Psychologist Career Paths and Potential Salaries

Child psychologists can apply their degrees to a variety of different settings and career paths, depending on the focus that the applicant wants to specialize in.

Clinical Psychologist[i]

These professionals work in a clinical setting directly with patients to diagnose and treat behavioral and emotional issues. They employ a variety of therapeutic methods, including the ever-popular cognitive behavioral therapy. Unlike psychiatrists, they do not prescribe medication as part of their treatment plans. 

  • See the BLS for median annual salary 
  • Job growth through 2022: 12 percent (as fast as average)
  • Entry-level education: Master's degree.

School Counselor[ii]

School counselors work in a school setting to provide students with the social, emotional and cognitive support they may need to navigate school and classroom environments. They can also work with students of all backgrounds to help provide essential advice in things like career counseling or conflict mediation.


  • See the BLS for median annual salary 
  • Job growth through 2022: 12 percent (as fast as average)
  • Entry-level education: Master's degree.

Social Worker[iii]

Social workers function in a similar capacity to clinical psychologists in some cases, but they tend to focus more on family relationships and development rather than taking an individualist approach to treatment. Some social workers work exclusively with children and adolescents, and specialize in psychological issues, as well as social and family factors, that can influence children's development.


  • See the BLS for median annual salary 
  • Job growth through 2022: 19 percent (faster than average)
  • Entry-level education: Master's degree.

[i]  |  [ii]  |  [iii]