Demand for child psychology experts remains high. The Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) projects employment for substance abuse, behavioral disorder, and mental health counselors to increase 23% from 2016-2026. Salaries of child psychology professionals depend on the individual's location, area of expertise, and degree level. According to the BLS, child, family, and school social workers earn a median salary of $49,470 per year, while clinical, counseling, and school psychologists earn a median salary of $75,090 per year.

What to Expect in an Online Master's in Child Psychology Program

The curricula for online master's programs in child psychology vary by school and specialization. Prospective students should research course, capstone, and practicum requirements to select a program that aligns with their career goals.

Sample Courses for an Online Master's in Child Psychology

Graduate courses in child psychology cover many of the same topics as undergraduate courses, including human growth and development, and research methods. Graduate courses generally emphasize research or the professional and clinical application of course content. Specific course requirements depend on the student's specialization and track.

Programs with a research track, for example, typically culminate in a final research thesis and prepare graduates for doctoral work. Other programs end with an internship and prepare graduates for professional practice. Master's programs may also require students to complete a capstone project or pass comprehensive exams. The courses below are common to many master's programs in the field.

Human Development

This advanced course in physical and mental growth and development over the lifespan prepares students to identify developmental differences in children and recommend appropriate treatments and interventions. The course covers topics including developmental milestones, cultural and social influences on development, developmental disabilities, and research-based methods for supporting healthy development.

Cognitive Development

This advanced course explores the human mental process and how it changes during the lifespan, with an emphasis on childhood and adolescence. Topics include learning, memory, perception, cultural differences, social influences, problem-solving, and language development. Students prepare to identify cognitive disabilities and recommend appropriate interventions to enhance learning.

Child and Adolescent Behavioral Health

This course focuses on the mental health of children and teenagers. Learners explore how factors such as physical health, trauma, family dynamics, and mental illness impact behavioral health in children. Students prepare to assess mental health; support children and their families; and identify necessary resources, treatments, and interventions.

Research Methods in Psychology

Graduate psychology students typically take at least one research course to learn about statistical methods and psychological research design. Learners prepare to conduct research and interpret and apply research findings.

Ethics and Public Policy

To prepare for practice and leadership in the child psychology field, students explore critical ethical issues and public policies related to childhood behavioral health. The course covers professional ethics for those working with children, advocacy on behalf of children, and relevant laws and regulations.

Online Master's in Child Psychology Completion Time

Online master's degrees in child psychology typically require 30-39 credits and take about two years to complete. Degree completion time depends on the student's number of transfer credits, specific program requirements, and the number of credits the student takes per term.

Prospective students should select a program that matches their schedule and time frame.

Some part-time, asynchronous online programs allow learners to complete coursework at their own pace and graduate in less than two years; students can also extend the program length to help balance personal and professional responsibilities with coursework. Other online programs require students to move through the curriculum with a cohort, a small group of peers. Learners in cohort programs progress through the program according to a set schedule. Prospective students should select a program that matches their schedule and time frame.

Skills Gained in an Online Master's in Child Psychology Program

A graduate degree in child psychology helps learners develop a variety of marketable skills. Students become proficient in effective communication and ethical conduct. Through coursework, internships, and research projects, students gain discipline-specific skills in psychological research, assessment, diagnosis, and treatment methods. Graduate child psychology programs generally emphasize the skills below.

  • Communications

    Child psychologists must excel in active listening and have strong written and oral communication skills. Graduate programs prepare learners to write reports, listen to children, and communicate with caregivers.

  • Cognitive Assessment

    As experts in human cognition, child psychologists must be able to understand and assess cognitive functioning in children and teenagers. These professionals recommend ways to improve learning, memory, and other cognitive processes.

  • Developmental Assessment

    Child psychologists must understand the developmental milestones children should reach as they grow. Professionals in the field identify developmental abnormalities and recommend accommodations and treatment options.

Online vs. On-Campus Programs: What's the Difference?

Online programs typically have curricula similar to their on-campus counterparts and often require the same internships, research, and exams. Learners in fully online programs can complete coursework, papers, and exams from anywhere. Distance students typically complete internship requirements and clinical hours at an approved local site. Some hybrid programs include on-campus requirements, such as weekend residencies or in-person exams. Online programs may also include synchronous elements, such as real-time lectures or discussions.

Career and Salary Outlook for Online Master's in Child Psychology Graduates

Students earning a master's in child psychology online prepare for careers helping children adapt, learn, and thrive. A child psychology degree is ideal for compassionate, patient individuals with a passion for understanding how and why children think, feel, and act the way they do. Graduates often pursue positions in child welfare programs, schools, healthcare settings, and private practices. The table below includes common careers for graduates of online child psychology master's degree programs.

Substance Abuse, Behavioral Disorder, and Mental Health Counselors

Counselors specializing in child psychology work directly with children and teenagers. They help patients cope with and overcome addiction, trauma, eating disorders, and mental illness. These counselors often work in schools, healthcare facilities, community agencies, juvenile justice facilities, and treatment programs. Counselors engaged in clinical practice must hold a master's degree and licensure.

Median Annual Salary: $44,630

Social and Community Service Managers

A master's degree in child psychology and relevant experience can qualify individuals to lead social service programs benefiting children, teens, and families. These managers oversee fundraising efforts, day-to-day operations, and the work of service providers and employees. They work in a variety of settings, including government agencies, charitable organizations, and nonprofits.

Median Annual Salary: $65,320

Psychologist

Child psychologists work directly with children, teens, and families. They diagnose and treat learning disabilities, mental illnesses, developmental disorders, eating disorders, and substance abuse issues. To qualify for independent clinical practice, child psychologists must hold a doctorate and state licensure.

Median Annual Salary: $79,010

School Counselor

These counselors work in schools to help children and teens thrive academically and socially. They help students select courses and advise them on academic, college, and career goals. They also help students develop social skills. School counselors must hold a master's degree and state licensure.

Median Annual Salary: $56,310

School Psychologist

These psychologists work for schools and districts to promote and support student behavioral health. They administer tests to diagnose learning disorders and recommend interventions for students with learning, emotional, behavioral, and mental disorders and disabilities. School psychologists may offer direct clinical support to students, and they provide resources to families and educators. These professionals typically need at least a master's degree and state licensure.

Median Annual Salary: $60,307

Education and Training Beyond a Master's in Child Psychology

To provide clinical care or work directly with children as a therapist or counselor, master's degree holders must have a state license. Certification requirements vary by state but typically include supervised clinical hours, a passing score on one or more exams, and a master's degree or 60 credits of graduate work.

While many child psychology positions are available to master's degree holders, licensed child psychologists providing independent clinical care must hold a doctorate in psychology. Most states require licensed psychologists to have completed 1,000-4,000 supervised, postdoctoral clinical hours. Typically, candidates for licensure must also pass one or more qualifying exams, such as the Examination for Professional Practice in Psychology.

Demand for mental health professionals remains high. The BLS projects employment for psychologists to increase 14% from 2016-2016, and psychologists earn a median salary of nearly $80,000 per year. Regardless of their specific career, child psychology professionals must pursue continuous training and professional development to maintain licensure and stay updated on the latest research, trends, and treatment methods.