How to Become a Child Psychologist in 5 Steps

Child psychologists provide mental health services to toddlers, children and adolescents in need. Continue reading to find out the steps you'll need to take to enter this field, from earning an undergraduate degree to completing grad school and gaining licensure. Learn more about board certification for child psychologists. Schools offering Child Psychology degrees can also be found in these popular choices.

What Is a Child Psychologist?

Child psychologists study developmental behavior in children through research in physical, cognitive, emotional and social aspects of growth. As a child psychologist, you'll focus on preventing, diagnosing, treating and understanding children's psychological, emotional, developmental, behavioral and cognitive issues. Your duties will be to observe, interview and perform clinical studies and surveys to develop treatment plans for patients.

Step 1: Earn an Undergraduate Degree in Psychology

Completion of a bachelor's degree program in psychology allows you to prepare for a doctorate program and to build a foundation of skills you will use the rest of your career. Topics covered in a bachelor's-level program include cultural diversity, communications, ethics and fundamentals of psychology. For some positions with the federal government, a bachelor's degree is the minimum education requirement.

Step 2: Earn a Graduate Degree in Psychology

A master's or doctoral degree in psychology is typically required to work as a child psychologist. To work in your own practice, you will usually be required by licensing regulations to hold a doctorate. In graduate degree programs, a focus is usually put on advanced coursework in psychological theories and research. Programs may require a special project or thesis, which involves heavy research and study into a particular topic or area of psychology. This is typically where you will be able to focus your studies on child psychology.

Step 3: Complete Two Years of a Supervised Internship

Many graduate programs, specifically doctorate programs, require a supervised internship. A supervising child psychologist will determine your knowledge and work quality before approving the completion of your internship. Practical experience, such as through an internship, is often required for licensing or board certification.

Step 4: Obtain a State License

All states require a license to practice psychology. The general requirements for licensing usually include holding a specific degree, having practical experience in the field and completing a written exam. Many states use the Examination for Professional Practice of Psychology exam, administered through the Association of State and Provincial Psychology Boards.

Step 5: Become Board-Certified

The American Board of Professional Psychology (ABPP) offers you the chance to become a board-certified psychologist. To become board-certified, you need to meet education and experience requirements and complete an examination. Part of the application process to become board-certified involved submitting practice samples, which will be reviewed by the ABPP. Once you have been accepted as a candidate for board certification, based on the information presented to the board during the application process, you can sit for the exam.

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