Developmental Psychologist

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Developmental psychologists possess expertise in physiological, cognitive, and social development. Many specialize in the development processes during adulthood, adolescence, childhood, and infancy. Developmental psychologists counsel people with developmental disabilities. Developmental psychologists also assist elderly people trying to live on their own.

Developmental psychologists participate in research projects to determine whether behavior is affected by genetics and environments. Better treatments can be administered when root causes can be determined.

Developmental psychologists are employed at schools, private clinics, police departments, and hospitals. Although some practice clinically, most developmental psychologists participate in research. Popular research topics in this field include adolescent development, aging, memory retention, social development, mind theories, motor skills, and language.

In addition to research, developmental psychologists also consult with other mental health professionals and doctors.

Developmental psychologists also work at drug rehab clinics, correctional facilities, assisted living facilities, and community centers.

Developmental Psychologist Common Areas of Employment

  • Pregnancy education
  • Child abuse and prevention
  • Infant to early childhood development programs
  • Adoption agencies
  • Early childhood education
  • Child care
  • Agencies for missing and exploited children
  • Welfare agencies
  • Media and children’s television programming
  • Policy writer and advocate
  • Toy and game development
  • Developmental psychologist at children’s hospitals
  • University professor
  • Education consultant

Education and Training

If developmental psychology interests you, take classes in chemistry, biology, math, and psychology as an undergraduate. Students with backgrounds in these subjects will be prepared for graduate school.

A handful of universities offer developmental psychology graduate programs, but students can prepare for developmental psychology careers by completing other psychology programs. Master’s programs in psychology can be completed in 2 years, but graduate students usually complete internships. Many doctorate-level developmental psychology programs admit students without master’s degrees.

Developmental psychologists typically hold PhDs or PsyDs. Those with PsyDs usually practice clinically, while those holding PhDs conduct research. Most doctorate students complete PhD programs in 4-6 years. Internships and clinical experience opportunities are available for doctorate students.

Each state requires developmental psychologists to satisfy licensing requirements. Information about state licensing requirements can be obtained from the American Association of State and Provincial Psychology Boards. About 40 percent of developmental psychologists run private practices.

Job Outlook

According to the Department of Labor, job growth in the field of developmental psychology continues to remain average compared to other professions. Developmental psychologists with doctorate degrees enjoy good job opportunities. Research and teaching jobs should be plentiful through the upcoming years. Developmental psychologists working exclusively with the elderly will have great job opportunities through the foreseeable future since the baby boomer generation is aging.


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