Child psychologists use their expertise to serve children in numerous ways, including treating patients, conducting research and contributing guidelines to how children are taught. Online child psychology degrees help prepare students for this rewarding field, although generally these programs are only available to graduate students. Baccalaureate studies can be a suitable way, however, for students to begin preparing for their career.
About the Child Psychology Degree
The field of child psychology is as broad and varied as the personalities of children themselves. People who pursue child psychology careers have a wide range of job choices, such as working with children in age groups ranging from early development to late adolescence. Related degrees include:
- School psychology helps children with emotional, academic and social challenges within an educational system.
- Abnormal psychology focuses on children (and adults) who suffer from a range of mood and personality disorders.
- Educational psychology is the study of how children learn and how differences in learning impact classroom instruction.
- Developmental psychology is the study of the social, cognitive, personality, and emotional growth of children at different stages in their lives and evaluate children for developmental disabilities.
Some people who earn online child psychology degrees choose to work in private practice, where they treat children with mental health issues such as depression, anxiety, self-harming, aggression and eating disorders. This career involves administering assessments on patients, working with parents to create an effective treatment plans on short- and long-term bases, and intervening on behalf of children who are being abused.
No matter what part of child psychology students choose to focus their studies, entering the career requires a great deal of specialized knowledge and training. While these professionals must have a graduate degree in order to enter the field, an online psychology degree on the undergraduate level can go a long way toward laying the foundation needed to move forward.
Face-to-Face Learning Opportunities in Online Child Psychology Degree Programs
Online child psychology programs are convenient vehicles for students who have chosen to focus their career pursuit in psychology. They allow them to take courses while keeping up with day-to-day responsibilities, completing their work during times best suited to their busy schedules. Students also save time and money that would otherwise be spent on commuting to campus several times a week. Despite these benefits, there are some challenges to pursuing an online degree in a subject that requires such one-on-one interaction such as psychology. The biggest challenge involves the limitations that come from learning about people and how they think in a virtual environment.
Online schools, particularly those offering hybrid degree programs, have created ways to overcome these challenges. Students who attend schools with a brick-and-mortar campus have the opportunity to meet with their professors during office hours, as well as participate in face-to-face study groups with peers. Spending face-to-face time with instructors and peers can enhance the student experience, as well as reinforce what they learn in the virtual classroom. Hybrid degrees may also require students to complete laboratory components, workshops, or exams on campus. Particularly at the graduate level, students are able to participate in clinical work, internships and more.
In-Depth: How Does Online Education Work?
Just like their on-campus counterparts, students who earn online child psychology degrees must become accustomed to their learning environment and how their courses are conducted. The following are examples of the nuts and bolts of online learning that students can expect when they enroll in these types of programs.
Online courses can be delivered in a synchronous or asynchronous manner. When students enroll in a synchronous course, it means lectures are given at a certain time and students must log onto their school’s system during that period to see streaming classroom material. An asynchronous course is more flexible, allowing students to watch lectures when most convenient for them. Lectures may be delivered in several ways, including web conferences, streaming audio, teleconferences, text chats, and bulletin boards.
Communication with Professors
Similar to those enrolled in traditional degree programs, interaction with professors is important for online students. Outside of the classroom, online students generally communicate with their professors through email, bulletin boards, chat rooms, video conferencing programs, telephone, or instant messaging.
Assignments and Tests
As with a brick-and-mortar degree program, class assignments for online courses can require a great deal of writing. Students are often given homework that includes writing essays, research papers, blogs and more. Students may be required to participate in online discussions with other students and may also be expected to post a certain number of messages throughout the course. Tests are also an element of distance learning, and they are either conducted online or at a local location if the exam must be proctored.
Online Child Psychology Degrees
Those who want to eventually have a career as a child psychologists and a title to go along with it will need to earn an on-campus or online child psychology degree at the graduate level. Some employers will hire candidates who have master’s degrees, but often prefer those with doctoral-level degrees.
Earning an undergraduate psychology degree online has some benefits for students who want to go on to a graduate child psychology program. General associate and bachelor’s psychology degrees can help pave the way, familiarizing students with psychological concepts and theorists. These programs may also allow students to take courses related to childhood development and personality. Elective courses can also prove beneficial to future success as child psychologists, including classes that enhance written and verbal communication skills, or provide an understanding of different research methods.
Depending on the program, online degrees may also offer the opportunity to obtain hands-on experience in the field through an internship. This invaluable experience will give students access to practicing child psychologists, and allow them to get a close view of how these professionals work on a daily basis. Internships also help students gain an understanding of how the concepts they’ve learned throughout coursework are applied in real-world situations.
Choosing a Child Psychology Online Degree Program
With so many choices for online psychology degree programs, it may be difficult for prospective students to identify which one is best. Not all online schools are created equally, and there are some benchmarks students can research to help make their decision. The following are some important criteria future child psychologists should keep in mind when considering programs.
Students pursuing a doctoral child psychology degree online should only choose a program accredited by the American Psychological Association (APA). This ensures the program meets criteria for delivering high-quality education to its students. The APA does not accredit psychology programs at other levels, but does present guidelines for qualities should consider when looking for undergraduate and master’s degree programs.
Seek out graduate programs which offer specialization or emphasis in child psychology. These programs require a certain number of courses related to child psychology and development, giving students a head start on learning concepts specific to that subsection of the field.
BA or BS
Undergraduate psychology students may have the choice between a Bachelor of Arts (BA) and a Bachelor of Science (BS) degree program. BA degrees generally allow students to take more liberal arts courses, while BS degrees concentrate on science and mathematics. Students who are interested in pursuing a career counseling children tend to choose a BA degree, while those who want to conduct research earn BS psychology degrees.
PhD or PsyD
Psychology doctoral students can choose to earn a PhD or PsyD. While PhD programs are designed to prepare students for a career heavily focused on psychological research, PsyD programs place emphasis on training students to become practitioners in the field.
Students can benefit from taking classes taught by professors from a number of different backgrounds. If they are able to find a department that has several faculty members with expertise in child psychology, it will help them gain more from their program. When choosing a school, they should pay close attention to faculty members’ training, looking for those who have worked in the child psychology field or conducted research related to children.
Experiential learning is an important part of any degree program, and students enrolled in online psychology programs can augment their coursework with an internship. Prospective students should investigate whether or not they’ll be able to participate in an internship and gain hands-on knowledge about working in the field.
Some schools are heavily focused on research, so prospective child psychology students should try to find a school with professors conducting studies on different topics related to children. Participating in research will help students become more familiar with child psychology theories and provide hands-on experience on how to conduct a study.
Online Associate Degree in Child Psychology
While associate degrees in child psychology aren’t available, an online associate degree in psychology can be a solid way for students to start the path toward becoming a child psychologist. These programs give students a broad introduction to the psychology discipline, allowing them to get a taste of some of the concepts they will study in-depth when they enter a child psychology degree program. General education courses also allow students to sharpen important skills such as communication, critical thinking, and problem solving.
The following are examples of some courses online associate degree students take that help them prepare for a child psychology career:
Introduction to Child Psychology
Students learn about the basics of child psychology, including the roles nature and nurture play on psychological development. This course helps to lay the foundation for future education in the discipline.
Coursework in this class gives students an overview of the physical, emotional, intellectual, and psychological development of children. Students learn about the different stages of growth and the behaviors associated with each one. Prospective child psychologists gain a basic understanding of how children develop, and what to look out for as they hit developmental milestones.
Students enrolled in abnormal psychology courses can expect to learn about a wide range of psychological disorders, such as mood, eating, personality, and anxiety disorders. This knowledge will later help them treat children with a variety of problems.
Online Bachelor’s Degree in Child Psychology
Online bachelor’s degrees in psychology build on concepts taught at the associate level and provide a deeper understanding of theories, seminal research, and trends in the field. While there are bachelor degree programs in child psychology available, many bachelor’s degrees in psychology focus on general studies. Students in general psychology programs who wish to pursue graduate work in child psychology can take electives specifically covering topics related to children, such as early childhood and adolescent psychology. Programs at this level also offer other opportunities for students to prepare for their career. Students are required to take liberal arts electives where they can sharpen their writing, speaking, listening, and presentation skills, all of which can all be useful in child psychology positions.
The following are examples of coursework to help students prepare for graduate work and move into their careers.
The coursework of educational psychology focuses on the process of human learning, including topics such as motivation, retention, development, and reasoning. EP assignments may cover the relationship between technology and learning, and students who seek to work as school counselors or curriculum developers can particularly benefit from this class.
Research Methods in Psychology
Provides an understanding of scientific methods and how they can be applied to studying psychology topics. Specific class topics include how to choose a research topic, conduct a study, and evaluate the results. Students enrolled in this class receive foundational skills to use if they elect to move into a research-based career in the field.
Child and Adolescent Social Development
This course discusses how adolescents and children find their way in the world and build relationships with family members, friends and other people in their lives. Students learn how children interact with others, form attachments to caregivers and peers, and respond to the cultural aspects of relationships.
Online Master’s in Child Psychology
- Generally, those who want to earn an online child psychology degree on the master’s level enroll in clinical or general psychology programs that have a child psychology concentration.
- Depending on the school, students may earn a Master’s of Science (MS) degree or a Master’s of Arts (MA) degree.
- It takes about two years for full-time students to complete these online degrees. In that time, students are expected to complete at least 36 credits.
- In addition to required credits, students may be expected to complete a comprehensive examination to demonstrate their understanding of the coursework.
- Students may also be required to complete a master’s thesis or an externship.
Goals of the Online Master’s in Child Psychology
When students complete an online master’s degree in child psychology, they should be able to:
Apply child psychology theory to real-world patients
Understand the seminal research in the field
Critique published research and explain how a study can be improved
Understand the issues that children face during different stages of development
Respect the differences of patients from diverse backgrounds and respond appropriately to their individual needs
Online Child Psychology Master’s Degree Programs
The specific curriculum of online child psychology master’s degrees depends on the school that students attend. However, the following courses are a sample of what students may expect to take when they enroll in these programs.
This course explores the types of crises that are common among children and adolescents, and how child psychologists can effectively respond to them. Students may gain an understanding of crisis intervention research, as well as learn which resources are available to help young people in need.
Psychology Research Methods
Students in this course learn how to conduct psychological research studies from start to finish using different methodologies. Course topics include gathering and interpreting data, study samples, and the application of statistics to research questions.
Covers human development from the fetal stages to late adulthood. Specific coursework may include subjects such as how heredity and environment influence human development, milestones that occur in young children and adolescents as they develop, and how development is linked to culture.
Child Advocacy and Policy
Students in this class can expect to learn about the avenues that professionals can take when advocating on behalf of children, as well as the laws that restrict these interventions. This class also covers specific areas that may require intervention, including drug abuse, violence, child abuse, and mental health issues.
This course exposes students to the relationship between cognitive processes and behavior. Topics include brain dysfunctions that may affect behavior in different stages of a child’s development.
Online Doctorate Programs in Child Psychology
- In order to obtain a license to practice child psychology, students must successfully complete a doctoral degree.
- Students may choose between a PsyD and a PhD degree, depending on what their career goals are. Generally, a PsyD is for people who want to work in a clinical practice, and those who choose a PhD want to focus their career on psychological research.
- Online doctoral degrees in child psychology can take about six years—at least 100 credit hours—to complete.
- Students may be required to complete a dissertation based on original child psychology research, a comprehensive examination, or an externship.
Goals of the Online Doctorate in Child Psychology
Those who complete online child psychology doctoral degrees are expected to be able to:
Conduct evidence-based psychological research studies, interpret findings, and communicate the results in writing
Administer therapeutic assessments on children
Understand the laws that clinical psychologists must adhere to, as well as the ethical standards of the field
Create a plan for patient treatment, monitor the results, and adjust treatment methodologies as needed
Teach psychology courses to college students
Online Child Psychology Doctoral Courses
The coursework that is found in online doctoral child psychology degree programs is designed to be rigorous and ensure that students are prepared for the challenges and demands of the field. Although courses vary from department to department, the following are examples of classes that can generally be found in these programs.
Explores the principles of play therapy, how it is conducted, and the benefits that this kind of treatment has for children.
Research Design and Data Analysis
Students learn how to craft a research study and collect and analyze data. Some of the specific topics covered include internal and external validity, simple and multiple correlation and regression, and analysis of covariance.
This course provides details on the cognitive, physical, perceptual, and language development of prenatal and infant children. Students gain an understanding of the research on this age group.
Adolescent and Young Adult Development
As children grow into adolescence and young adulthood, they face a series of unique challenges. The course explores these challenges and how psychologists can address them. Specific topics may include peer pressure, family relationships, friendships, moral development, altruism, and aggression.
Legal and Ethical Issues in Psychology
Students in this course can expect to learn about the laws and ethical standards that professional psychologists are expected to abide by.
Beyond the Online Child Psychology Program: Professional Licensure and Certification
Child Psychology Licensure
Those who have completed an online child psychology degree must obtain a professional license if they want to practice in a clinical setting. The qualifications for obtaining a license depend on which state a child psychologist wants to practice in. Generally, however, states require that licensing candidates complete a doctoral degree from a school accredited by the American Psychological Association. In addition, child psychologists are expected to have a minimum amount of professional experience to obtain a license.
Child Psychology Certification
Child psychologists are not required to complete a certification in order to practice, however, undergoing the process can have exponential benefits to their career. Child psychology certifications are issued by the American Board of Clinical Child and Adolescent Psychology (ABCCAP), which requires that candidates have a certain amount of professional experience to apply for the credential. In addition, professionals must successfully complete oral and written examinations.
Online Child Psychology Degree Program and Career Resources
Child and Adolescent Mental Health, National Institute of Mental Health
Offers fact sheets, videos, articles and more on child and teen mental health
Children and Adolescents, American Counseling Association
A membership association for professionals in various fields of counseling, including child and adolescent
Eligibility for Specialty Certification in Clinical Child and Adolescent Psychology, American Board of Professional Psychology
Describes requirements for certification including internships, postdoctoral practice experience, and education
Graduate and Postgraduate Education and Training, American Psychological Association
Discusses graduate and postgraduate education in psychology
Principles for Quality Undergraduate Education in Psychology, American Psychological Association
Describes the hallmarks of a quality psychology undergraduate program
Society of Clinical Child and Adolescent Psychology, American Psychological Association
Promotes training, education, research and public policy in child and adolescent psychology
The Chicago School of Professional Psychology
Describes the various psychology graduate programs available, including online child psychology programs
What Can I Do With a Degree in Child Psychology, University of Minnesota
Lists alumni with child psychology majors and current job titles, public service opportunities and more