Becoming a Child Psychologist: Job Description & Salary Info

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A child psychologist's median annual salary is around $68,000. Is it worth the education, training and licensure requirements? See real job duties and get the truth about career prospects to find out if becoming a child psychologist is right for you.
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Pros and Cons of a Career in Child Psychology

There are many career opportunities for individuals who specialize in child psychology, but you'll need to complete a doctoral degree, earn your license and acquire supervised experience to earn the specialty certification. Read on for more pros and cons to see if a career in child psychology is right for you.

Pros of a Child Psychology Career
High national average salary (about $38,000-$125,000 as of July 2015)**
Growing field (11% between 2012 and 2022)*
Can work in many locations (government agencies, offices, hospitals, juvenile facilities, schools)***
Use a variety of treatments to help children****
Working to better children's lives***

Cons of a Child Psychology Career
Four years of education beyond a bachelor's degree*
Need to complete two years of supervised training beyond the doctoral degree*
May work with children who have traumatic pasts or violent reactions***
Must pass an exam to earn specialty certification in child psychology*****

Sources: *U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, **Payscale.com, ***PsychologyCareerCenter.org, ****American Psychology Association, *****American Board of Clinical and Adolescent Child Psychology

Essential Career Information

Job Description and Duties

Child psychologists work with children who are victims of abuse, suffer from learning disabilities or have behavioral issues. Most child psychologists have a background in clinical psychology and work with children ages 12 and younger, but some work with teens. Usually parents, teachers or school counselors will notice that children are performing poorly or acting depressed or anxious. These adults may also or recommend treatment after a child has experienced a traumatic event, such as the loss of a parent. You'll employ several different treatment methods to help your patients, including behavioral management training, cognitive-behavior training, drugs or a combination of methods. In some instances, such as when child abuse is an issue, you'll also need to determine the best way to keep the child safe, which could require taking the child out of his or her home or recommend family therapy and treatment, according to the Education Resources Information Center (www.eric.ed.gov).

Job Growth and Salary

According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), the employment of clinical, counseling and school psychologists, which includes child psychologists, is expected to increase 11% between 2012 and 2022 (www.bls.gov). As of May 2014, the median annual salary for clinical, counseling and school psychologists was about $68,000, according to the BLS. PayScale.com reported that the annual national salary for child psychologists in the 10th-90th percentile ranged from around $38,000 to nearly $125,000 as of July 2015, including bonuses.

Education Requirements

The American Board of Clinical Child and Adolescent Psychology (ABCCAP) states that you must earn a professional doctoral degree in psychology, such as a Doctor of Psychology, to become a child psychologist (www.clinicalchildpsychology.com). These doctoral degree programs typically include a combination of clinical hours and studies in social psychology, personality, stress, psychopharmacology and human development, and you'll have to write and defend a dissertation. You may also be able to select a specialization, such as clinical psychology. You must also take courses that pertain to children and adolescents and complete an internship that has to do with clinical child and adolescent training, according to the ABCCAP.

After you earn your doctoral degree, you must obtain licensure in your state to practice psychology. Although some requirements vary by state, you must start by earning a doctoral degree, obtaining 1-2 years of supervised experience and taking the Examination for Professional Practice in Psychology, according to the Association of State and Provincial Psychology Boards (www.asppb.net). To earn your specialty in child psychology, your experience must pertain to children and adolescents and you need to complete a post-doctoral residency program. After you've met the requirements, you can take the board certification examination, which consists of a review of your credentials, a samples review and an oral examination, according to the ABCCAP.

Specializations

Within the field of child psychology, you can also tailor your career by becoming a general, developmental or abnormal child psychologist, according to Psychology Career Center.org. You could also pursue a career as an adolescent psychologist. These specializations will influence the cases you take and the children you work with.

Job Postings from Real Employers

Child psychologists are necessary to help children who are having difficulties in school, at home or adjusting to life issues. Many job postings for child psychologists are for licensed psychologists and include working with children or adolescents in different settings. The following are some samples of job postings for psychologists that involve working with children from November of 2012:

  • A healthcare facility in Hartford, Connecticut, wanted to hire a clinical psychologist to work primarily with children and adolescents to provide treatment for anxiety and mood-related issues, conduct related research and write proposals. The employer prefers candidates who are able to treat ADHD and personality disorders and who have a doctoral degree in clinical psychology.
  • An allied health services company in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, was looking for a licensed psychologist who could provide cognitive, behavioral and socio-emotional assessments of children and adolescents. The employer preferred someone who had strong documentation and communication skills, a doctoral degree and the ability to meet children's physical, social, intellectual and emotional needs.
  • A nonprofit family services organization in Sea Cliff, New York, searched for a psychologist who is able to work with special needs children. The ideal candidate would be a licensed psychologist who has experience working with autistic children, is behavior-oriented, can handle anger management problems and holds a master's or doctoral degree.

How to Make Your Skills Stand Out

One of the best ways to stand out is by acquiring early experience working with children and adolescents in a clinical setting. You can complete practicums pertaining to children and adolescents and apply for internships at hospitals and healthcare facilities where you'll be able to work with that age group. Once you're licensed, you can earn continuing education credits. Some states require that you earn continuing education credits but it can help you maintain your edge, even where it's not required. You could attend seminars and conventions and acquire experience applying psychological principles in other fields, including public health, law enforcement and sports. Other seminars will familiarize you with current trends and introduce you to new skills that you can use for rehabilitation purposes.

Alternative Career Paths

Marriage and Family Therapists

If you enjoy counseling people, but you'd rather work with adults, you might consider becoming a marriage and family therapist. These professionals help families and couples address problems in their relationships via by exploring family roles and keeping stress, addiction and low self-esteem from hurting bonds. To become a marriage and family therapist, you must have a master's degree in marriage and family therapy and earn a license, which requires two years of supervised experienced. The BLS projected that the employment of marriage and family therapists would increase by 41% between 2010 and 2020. They earned a median annual salary of around $46,000 as of May 2011.

Social Worker

If you love working with children, but the amount of education and training required to become a child psychologist puts you off, you might consider becoming a social worker. Social workers identify children and adults who need help and create plans to improve their well-being by helping them adjust to problems such as divorce, child abuse, illness or unemployment. Only a bachelor's degree is required for this job, but all states also require a licensure or certification - and other specific requirements vary. The BLS projected that the employment of social workers would increase by 25% between 2010 and 2020. The median annual salary for social workers was about $54,000 as of May 2011, according to the BLS.

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