Child Psychologist Career Profile

A child psychologist aims to protect the mental health of the next generation. The profession can be rewarding from both a moral and financial standpoint. In this article, you'll learn what being a child psychologist entails.

Description and Duties

A child psychologist specializes in the diagnosis and treatment of mental and emotional disorders in children up to 16 or 17 years of age. Child psychologists administer a number of tests to determine the presence of such disorders and then formulate treatment plans to deal with the issues.

You may encounter a wide range of problems, including eating disorders, autism, anger and other emotional difficulties, learning disabilities, substance abuse and depression. You must be an expert in psychiatric drugs and medicine.

The field can be subdivided into smaller fields of specialization. Developmental psychologists conduct research to see how children mature and learn. Adolescent psychologists deal with teenagers and older children. Abnormal child psychologists specialize in severe disorders such as schizophrenia and suicidal depression.

In many cases, child psychologists work closely with the child's whole family to treat mental issues. They may also consult with other professionals like primary care physicians, social workers and teachers. To work as a child psychologist, you must be adept at interacting not only with troubled children, but also with a wide variety of different individuals.

Education and Training

Becoming a child psychologist requires a great deal of training and development. A master's degree is the minimum requirement if you want to treat children clinically, but a doctorate is preferred. These degrees will take from 5 to 7 years of post-graduate study to obtain, including a period of residency, a dissertation and a demanding exam.

Each child psychologist must also be licensed by the state where he or she practices. Requirements differ by state, but the psychologist must periodically retake examinations to prove they are current with the latest developments in the field. Psychologists working with children at schools may need some additional certification.


Salaries can vary quite a bit for child psychologists, depending on where they work. Psychologists working in the school system have salaries in the $50,000 to $60,000 range, while those who have their own private practices can make much more, sometimes up to $150,000 a year. The majority of child psychologists work for schools, clinics or the government. The median salary for all child psychologists is around $60,000 a year.

Career Outlook

Growth in the child psychology field is expected to be higher than normal up to 2016. The demand for trained professionals is high, but competition for positions is also expected to be quite keen. Child psychologists with a Ph.D. are going to have an edge over those who do not.