By earning a child psychology degree, online students take the crucial step to becoming a licensed clinical psychologist, helping young patients diagnose, treat, and overcome various disorders. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, child psychologist positions are projected to grow 14%, adding approximately 23,000 jobs, through 2026. Undergraduate psychology credentials also prepare students for entry-level positions in community education, counseling, and healthcare.
This guide contains academic information to help prospective students find online bachelor's degree in child psychology programs that match their academic interests and career goals. Students gain insight on course offerings, program structure, and accreditation. They also explore career options and professional resources.
Overview of Child and Adolescent Psychology Degrees
One of the most frequently studied psychological disciplines, child and adolescent psychology affirms that children think differently (and therefore develop differently) than adults. This branch of psychology focuses on the behavior and mind of children, from prenatal stages to adolescence, studying how they grow physically, emotionally, and socially. Although child psychologists do analyze normal development, they also pay a great deal of attention to abnormal behavior caused by influences like school, family, self-esteem, and social pressures.
An online bachelor's degree in child psychology introduces students to fundamental concepts in human growth development, anatomy, physiology, and the psychological needs of children. Degree candidates also develop practical skills in critical analysis, academic writing, and oral communication. Through laboratory training and practicum experiences, psychology majors familiarize themselves with standard research concepts and procedures. Working professionals occupying relevant jobs may be able to use their work experience to fulfill these in-person requirements.
By earning their undergraduate child psychology degree, online students prepare for the advanced academic work necessary to become a practicing psychologist. Distance learners who prefer more immediate career opportunities may seek out jobs like community health educators and social service assistants. Students can also occupy administrative roles in hospitals, child welfare centers, and nonprofit organizations.
Colleges and universities operate standard admission criteria for first-time students, which include a minimum 2.0-3.0 GPA. Students applying for competitive scholarships should display higher results. As a substitution or addition to GPA, schools can require applicants to graduate within a top percentage of their high school class. Although postsecondary institutions increasingly ignore standardized testing and opt for a holistic approach to academic evaluation, many online programs still require SAT or ACT results.
Common admissions documents include academic transcripts, 2-3 letters of recommendation, a personal essay, and the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA). International applicants go through an immigration process that consists of interviews and obtaining the F1 Student Visa. Furthermore, non-native English speakers must demonstrate language proficiency by submitting adequate TOEFL or IELTS scores.
Many schools deliver online bachelor's degrees in child psychology as accelerated or degree-completion tracks, enabling students to earn their credentials in as few as two years. These programs require students to transfer a designated number of credits from prior college work. These credits usually satisfy general education and major prerequisite coursework. Learners who possess a GED may need to earn an associate degree before transferring to an online bachelor's program.
What Will I Learn?
This section covers the classes students typically take when pursuing an online bachelor's degree in child psychology. To earn their undergraduate credentials, candidates must complete at least 120 credits of general education topics, prerequisite classes, major coursework, and electives. Each state operates its own general education requirements, but courses typically comprise liberal arts topics (including foreign language), academic writing, information literacy, and computer applications. These classes provide students with the core skills necessary to succeed in college academics.
Students can expect a minimum of 30 credits in major coursework such as general psychology, child development, probability and statistics, and scientific investigations. The remaining credits go toward specialized topics and electives, which students use to craft a minor or complete a second major. Practicum requirements include lab work and internship. The degree plan culminates in a capstone experience in the forms of senior seminar, thesis research and defense, sponsored project implementation, or comprehensive examination.
- General Psychology
- This introductory course provides a broad overview of psychological theories and practices, including cognition and research methodologies. Students explore the sociocultural, learning, physiological, and psychodynamic bases of behavior that lead to identity characteristics like gender and sexuality. They develop analytical thinking skills through ethical decision-making and problem solving exercises.
- Child and Adolescent Development
- This required class covers the developmental processes at work from infancy to adolescence. Students explore theoretical perspectives and research related to cognitive, biological, and socio-emotional development characteristics. Students also delve into the psychological and physiological growth adolescents undergo on their journey to young adulthood. Topics include puberty, morality, and related challenges.
- Abnormal Psychology
- This course offers a comprehensive exploration of maladjustments and mental illnesses. Topics include etiology, terminology, classification, and assessment of major disorders. Students learn to differentiate between normal and abnormal behavior, demonstrating keen knowledge of symptoms and appropriate therapeutic techniques. The class also offers a historical study of abnormal psychology, including clinical and experimental perspectives on psychopathology.
- Clinical Psychology
- Students train in the basic tools of clinical practice, specifically the implementation of behavioral interventions. They develop a firm understanding of cognitive behavioral therapy and learn to apply elemental principles to their own experiences. The class also covers psychological assessment tools, including test construction, survey development, and the practical and ethical concerns related to individual and group assessment.
- Special Needs in Children and Adolescents
- In this advanced class, students examine atypical development in children and adolescents, including individuals with special needs and children considered gifted and talented. The class emphasizes the cognitive, environmental, and biological influences of human growth. Students consider the effects of cultural and linguistic diversity. They also learn the best interventions and services for exceptional students in the contexts of home, school, and adult-transition settings.
- Research Design and Methods
- A fundamental topic for all psychology students, this research course covers the scientific method and samples measurement, design framework, correlation, experimental, and case-history techniques. Students apply statistical analysis skills in exercises and projects using SPSS software. The class also touches on the value of empirical evidence, ambiguity, and ethical research practices.
What Can I Do with an Online Bachelor's Degree in Child and Adolescent Psychology?
This section details the typical core skills students who pursue online bachelor's degrees in child psychology cultivate through classroom instruction, laboratory practice, and practicum experiences. Students explore how these skills apply in professional settings and the roles they can occupy in fields like public health, social work, counseling, and healthcare administration. This section also contains occupational growth projections and general criteria for career entry. Child and adolescent psychology students should use this information for their own research and career planning.
Colleges and universities sometimes offer standalone online bachelor's degree in child psychology programs, but it is far more common to see this field of study presented as a concentration in general psychology programs. Core competencies differ by school, and students should confirm specifics with academic advisers before pursuing enrollment. In general, undergraduate psychology programs structure learning goals in four areas: foundational understanding of psychological theories and concepts, knowledge in designated content areas, research methodologies, and ethics.
All psychology majors develop a comprehensive understanding of neuroscience principles concerning human behavior and cognitive processes. They should also be able to explain the theories of human development across the lifespan, with emphasis on prenatal, childhood, and adolescent growth. Transitioning into advanced content areas, students cultivate knowledge in social psychology, focusing on personality development and abnormal behavior in areas such as substance abuse, mental illness, neurodevelopmental disorders, and brain trauma and disease.
Child and adolescent psychology majors learn to apply theories and methodologies in laboratory settings, using the scientific method to conduct psychological research. They gain the ability to evaluate research, discern the strengths and weaknesses of major methods, and apply their findings. As part of research training, students also assess the accuracy of scientific information and present findings in accordance with American Psychology Association (APA) format. Lastly, psychology students develop ethical standards that guide research and professional conduct.
Potential Career Paths
Students often view an online bachelor's degree in child psychology as a crucial step in the extensive academic training they need to become clinical psychologists, dedicated researchers, and postsecondary educators. To work as a child psychologist, candidates must apply for state licensure, a process that requires a doctoral degree and the completion of a supervised practicum approved by APA. They then sit for the Examination for Professional Practice in Psychology. After receiving state licensure, child psychologists earn board certification. This step requires candidates to spend two years in a postdoctoral fellowship position before sitting for the board exam facilitated by the American Board of Clinical Child and Adolescent Psychology.
Students who prefer more immediate career opportunities can pursue entry-level positions as community health educators. These professionals develop and implement programs that promote wellness and tackle problems like childhood obesity, school bullying, and healthcare discrepancies among underserved communities. Students may also work in hospitals, social work agencies, and rehabilitation clinics as human service assistants, helping children and families access life-improving resources.
Career Profiles & Salaries
Will I Need a Graduate Degree for a Career in Child and Adolescent Psychology?
Unless child psychology majors decide to pursue careers outside the field, they will need to earn graduate degrees. Online doctoral programs in child and adolescent psychology typically span five years, with learners completing required classes in the first two years. Topics include advanced quantitative reasoning and analysis, developmental psychopathology, and child and adolescent development in the digital age.
Students spend the remainder of the program completing internships and practicums. They must also pursue their own research and analyze, present, and defend the results in front of a dissertation committee. Advanced psychology programs usually allow students to choose either a research-intensive track focused on developmental psychology or a degree plan that emphasizes clinical science and psychopathology.
For students who do not want to pursue graduate academics, optional licensure and certification represent alternatives pathways to career advancement. Depending on their occupational choice, students may need to obtain these professional credentials. For example, to work as a community health worker, candidates apply for a state license.
Accreditation for Child and Adolescent Psychology Bachelor's Programs
To obtain valid child psychology degrees, online students need to attend a higher education institution that holds national or regional accreditation. Colleges and universities become nationally accredited through the U.S. Department of Education and the Council for Higher Education. They earn regional accreditation from one of seven organizations, based on location. For example, the Higher Learning Commission bestows regional accreditation to schools in 19 states, including Minnesota, Colorado, and West Virginia. Accreditation shows that schools maintain academic standards established by government and professional organizations. Accreditation also enables schools to access federal and state funding.
In addition to national/regional accreditation, online child psychology programs can garner support from the APA Office of Precollege and Undergraduate Education. However, this stamp of approval does not signify formal accreditation, because APA only offers that designation to doctoral programs. Students who earn accredited psychology degrees ensure that their credentials are respected by government agencies and their training matches what employers look for in skilled candidates.
Child and Adolescent Psychology Professional Organizations
By pursuing a child psychology degree, online students gain the core knowledge and practical skills to pursue entry-level positions or additional higher education. Students can bolster these opportunities by engaging with professional organizations. Membership usually requires an annual fee but allows access to networking opportunities such as campus meetings and national conferences. Members benefit from financial support, including academic scholarships, travel grants, research funds, and fellowships. Professional organizations also provide professional development opportunities, like the online continuing education webinars and workshops facilitated by the Society of Clinical Child and Adolescent Psychology.
American Psychology Association
APA was founded in 1844 and stands as the preeminent research, academic, and professional organization in the field, boasting more than 115,700 members. The association offers guidance for students, including in-depth information on psychology degrees at every level. APA also provides career assistance through job listings, occupational outlook information, and career planning tools.
Association for Behavior Analysis International
Established in 1974, ABAI promotes the teaching, application, science, and philosophy of behavior analysis. Through the organization's learning center, members access webinars, live workshops, and other continuing education opportunities. ABAI also delivers a comprehensive career central that enables users to seek out positions through online postings and in-person career fairs.
Society of Clinical Child and Adolescent Psychology
SCCAP improves child welfare and mental health through public policy advocacy, research initiatives, and training for educators and practitioners. Members connect through special interest groups and national conferences. Students can take advantage of peer mentorship, skill training programs, and award opportunities. SCCAP also operates a career center.