Even without an advanced degree, professionals can find plenty of career opportunities within the child psychology field. For example, the Bureau of Labor Statistics projects that jobs for social workers (a common choice for graduates of child psychology programs) will grow 16% between 2016 and 2026 -- a rate far higher than for most career fields. Below, you'll find a general overview of what to expect when earning a child psychology degree online including potential courses, academic projects, career paths, and earning potential.
Your experience earning a child psychology degree online will vary substantially depending on the school and program you choose. However, given the introductory nature of the degree, many programs offer similar curriculum models and use similar formats. Below, you can find an idea of what to expect from child psychology degrees.
An online bachelor's degree in child psychology offers a broad overview of the field, introducing the fundamentals without focusing specifically on any one area. However, any reputable, accredited child psychology program should introduce you to the most notable developmental theories in the field, along with key psychological principles and research strategies. Many programs also include special projects or experiential learning activities, such as an internship in a professional child psychology environment or a research-based capstone project.
The list below represents some of the most common course offerings for undergraduate child psychology programs. Course titles may vary widely between schools, but most course content remains the same.
Several factors can affect the time it takes to complete your child and adolescent psychology degree online, including program pacing and course requirements. Some programs offer an accelerated format that enables you to take an increased course load each semester and complete your degree faster. Other distance education programs offer a self-paced format, in which you complete as few or as many courses as you choose each term.
Conversely, online programs may use a cohort format that requires students to complete courses as a group, progressing through curriculum requirements together. These degrees follow a set course sequence, and students must meet specific deadlines alongside their peers. Total completion time for a bachelor's in child psychology varies, but most programs take about four years of full-time study. An accelerated degree may enable you to finish in three years or less, while a part-time program can require five or more years.
As the first step on the path toward clinical or academic practice, earning a child psychology degree online builds an assortment of foundational skills relevant to various areas of the field. While undergraduate programs lack the in-depth internships or practicum experiences typically involved with advanced degrees, they often allow students to engage in experiential learning activities and gain valuable professional skills. This list outlines some of the key skills developed in the best undergraduate child psychology programs.
Many courses in a child psychology program emphasize best practices for academic and clinical research. Students examine various research methodologies and theories to evaluate both their advantages and limitations.
Child psychology practitioners must be effective communicators, able to communicate verbally with clients and relay their findings through writing. Most courses require a combination of the two skills.
While undergraduates do not diagnose clients, many courses explore various methodologies for psychological diagnosis. These courses introduce major child and adolescent issues and build a foundation for their identification, assessment, and treatment.
Online and on-campus programs offer very different experiences for students, but they generally follow the same curriculum model and result in the same degree.
Online learning requires the same level of academic engagement as campus learning, and its self-directed nature usually involves both greater independence and responsibility. As an online learner, you benefit from many similar academic experiences as campus learners, including internships and practicums. Most schools allow you to complete an internship with an approved organization in your own community. Typically, you select your own internship site, though schools can also connect you to professional organizations.
While an online bachelor's degree in child psychology provides valuable skills and knowledge, advanced positions in the field (including clinical, counseling, or research roles) uniformly require an advanced degree, such as a master's or a doctorate. If you plan to pursue a career as a practicing child psychologist, you'll likely need to complete both your master's (typically requiring around two years) and your doctorate (typically requiring anywhere between 4-7 years). All U.S. states also require practicing child psychologists to possess proper state licensure, though requirements vary widely from state to state.
Students pursuing a child psychology doctorate should consider earning either a Ph.D. or a Psy.D. While both are terminal degrees (indicating the highest level of education available), they serve different professional ends; a Ph.D. typically focuses on research, prepares you for academic and research-based careers, and requires a comprehensive dissertation, while a Psy.D. focuses on clinical practice and may require more practicum hours and exams.
Both degree paths require significant commitment, including heavy academic work and major experiential activities, such as internships, clinical hours, or practicums. After completing your doctorate, you'll need to seek professional licensure for the state in which you wish to practice psychology, though licensure requirements (such as clinical hours) can vary widely.
While a bachelor's does not prepare you to become a practicing child psychologist, the degree does offer several career possibilities if you’re not yet ready to move into graduate studies. The skills developed in a child psychology program, such as research, written communication, and assessment of client needs, can all apply to an assortment of jobs in fields such as education, social work, and childcare. The table below outlines common careers for child psychology graduates.
Elementary school teachers work with young students to help them develop basic academic and social skills. Along with instructing in general subject areas like math and reading, elementary teachers also help children build skills such as communication, empathy, and critical thinking. Elementary teachers work in either public or private schools and usually have summers off.
Median Annual Salary: $57,980
Social workers help individuals and communities deal with everyday problems, including family and school issues, mental health, and substance abuse. They may work with community organizations, social services, healthcare organizations, or in private practice. Child psychology majors commonly find social services positions with organizations dedicated to assisting children and families.
Median Annual Salary: $49,470
Counselors help students develop skills for academic, social, and professional success. Typically working in public or private schools, they commonly assist students in evaluating college and job prospects. Counselors may also help with family and social issues. Many counseling positions require a master's degree, but a bachelor's in child psychology provides a strong foundation for this career.
Median Annual Salary: $56,310
Typically working with community organizations, these managers oversee social service programs, supervising other social workers and ensuring that in-need communities receive the proper assistance. While the position often requires only a bachelor's degree, community service managers must typically build significant experience in the field before progressing to a management position.
Median Annual Salary: $65,320
Middle school teachers may work with students from grades 6-8. Unlike elementary teachers, they usually specialize in one academic subject area, such as language arts, social studies, math, or science. Middle school students entering adolescence often face a variety of social and emotional problems, making child psychology majors especially suited to teach at this level.
Median Annual Salary: $58,600