Online Master's Programs in Child Psychology
An online master's in child psychology can prepare you for an exciting career improving the lives of teens and children. The Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) projects that psychology jobs will increase 14% between 2016 and 2026, and median pay sits at $79,010, meaning you'll be entering a fast-growing, high-paying field.
The guide below gives you an idea of what an online master's in child psychology entails. You can find out what courses you'll likely take, how to choose a high-quality program, and what careers you can pursue with your new degree.
What to Know About Online Master's in Child Psychology Coursework
Students in an online master's in child psychology program learn about psychology and child development -- knowledge they can apply to professions such as therapy, education, social work, and mental health leadership. Learners focus their coursework on research methodology, personality, learning theory, ethics, and social and cognitive psychology. Some students enroll in a general psychology degree and concentrate on child and adolescent development. In other cases, students enroll in a child psychology program and create a different emphasis.
Most accredited master's in child psychology degrees require 30-36 credits and take 1-2 years to complete. Learners seeking state licensure as therapists or school counselors should check with their relevant state licensing agencies to make sure their prospective online programs meet licensure requirements. Typically, states require students to complete a certain number of supervised practicum or internship hours. Online students may complete this fieldwork or other research projects at approved sites near their homes.
What Common Courses are Offered in a Master's in Child Psychology Program?
The curriculum for an online master's in child psychology depends on the school chosen, but in general, these graduate programs require a mix of research, theory, and application courses. The list of classes below represents a fair sampling of the requirements in a child psychology graduate program.
- Research Methods in Psychology
- Usually divided into two courses, research methods in psychology covers common psychological research methods; students learn how to collect and analyze data. Topics include advanced research design and using and interpreting higher-level statistical tests, such as ANOVA and regression. Learners discover how to apply research methods in practical analytical settings.
- Measurement and Assessment
- Students discover and apply psychometric techniques in this course. Learners also explore the measurement strategies and techniques that are part of creating and administering psychological exams and assessments. Topics include how to assess and analyze exam results, the ethical issues of test administration, and the ethics of assessment interpretation.
- Theories of Personality
- Learners consider contemporary research, theories, and approaches to personality psychology. This course helps students connect these ideas to those of the classic theorists, like Freud, along with other historical perspectives and traditions. Theories of personality also includes an evaluation of the present and past impacts of these theories in the always-fluctuating psychology field.
- Developmental Psychology
- This course incorporates theoretical and research perspectives to help students consider contemporary issues in child and adolescent development. Topics include biology, cognition, emotions, and social factors. Learners in the course will evaluate developmental psychology's relevance, usefulness, and perspectives to address issues and problems in the field.
- Ethical Practice in Psychology
- Students gain a comprehensive understanding of common ethical practices in psychology in this course. Topics include confidentiality, experimentation, respect, professional standards of conduct, resolving ethical dilemmas, and the psychology of ethical behavior. Learners also review and assess the steps involved in ethical decision-making and psychology practices.
What Specializations are Available in a Master's in Child Psychology Program?
Some online master's in child psychology programs offer formal areas of specialization. Others simply allow students to concentrate their elective courses into a single discipline. While the specific specializations offered vary from school to school, the list below represents a sample of possible concentration options.
- Children's Law and Policy: Future child psychologists who wish to effect legal and political changes that may benefit children and families can specialize in children's law and policy. Coursework may include forensic interviewing of children, culturally competent practice in child advocacy, or current social issues in child advocacy.
- Children with Special Needs: Students who plan to work with children with behavioral, physical, or intellectual disorders can select this concentration, which focuses on helping children with special needs and their families maximize their skills and abilities. Learners take courses such as behavioral analysis and autism disorders.
- Infancy and Administration: Learners in this concentration focus on courses that help develop the administrative and organizational skills needed to lead and serve in programs for infants and toddlers. Courses include infant learning and development; toddler screening and assessment; and designing quality childcare for infants, toddlers, and their families.
What Exams or Projects Should I Expect?
Most online master's in child psychology degrees conclude with a capstone project or thesis. Typically, any final project in a master's in child psychology degree looks at solutions to a problem encountered during fieldwork.
Some programs allow students to choose a thesis track if they're preparing to undertake doctoral work and a capstone if they're planning to go directly into the professional world. A thesis usually takes the form of a research paper and defense, which includes original study. A capstone might look at the application of an idea or include a paper synthesizing the major components of the program's coursework.
How Can I Choose a Quality Online Master's in Child Psychology Program?
Students can choose a trustworthy online master's in child psychology by looking for specific hallmarks of quality, such as the graduation rate, curriculum, and faculty credentials. A high graduation rate signifies that a program makes student completion a priority, and a strong curriculum emphasizes a blend of courses in assessment, advanced subject knowledge, and practical focus. Prospective students should look for faculty members with doctorates from well-established schools, long publications records, and experience in both fieldwork and the classroom.
A top online master's in child psychology program will also hold programmatic accreditation from the American Psychological Association (APA) or the National Association of School Psychologists (NASP). Prospective students should be wary of schools that hold national accreditation or claim programmatic accreditation with any other body. While many faith-based schools offer excellent psychology degrees, a few of them do not qualify graduates for state licensure or work in public school settings.
Career Opportunities With a Master's in Child Psychology Degree
An accredited master's in child psychology can open many possible career paths for mental health professionals. Child psychology experts can work with students in elementary, middle, or high schools, or they can provide direct support to families through therapy or social work. Some child psychology graduates lead social or community organizations that serve children and families in a variety of situations. Some child psychology professions require additional licensure or certification beyond the master's degree while others do not.
- Marriage and Family Therapists
Marriage and family therapists may maintain their own practices, work in government agencies, or serve in outpatient clinics. These mental health professionals work with individuals, couples, and children to help identify and manage emotions and experiences, adjust to new family dynamics, and respond to difficult situations. Marriage and family therapists may help people adjust to new stepfamily situations, work through emotions related to a divorce, or deal with issues such as a change in work status.
- Median Salary: $50,090 per year
- Currently Employed: 41,500
- Expected Job Growth in Next 10 Years: 23%
- School and Career Counselors
School counselors typically work in K-12 schools, helping students manage social, academic, behavioral, or family problems. These professionals often administer assessments, meet with parents, and collaborate with teachers to create individualized plans for students. At the middle school and high school levels, counselors offer these services along with assistance in selecting a postsecondary career or college plan. This work could include administering aptitude assessments, helping students write resumes, or assisting with scholarship searches.
- Median Salary: $56,310 per year
- Currently Employed: 291,700
- Expected Job Growth in Next 10 Years: 13%
- Social Workers
Social workers help people and communities identify and solve problems in everyday life. These professionals may serve in hospitals, public agencies, schools, or mental health clinics. Most social workers who focus on children either work in schools or for state agencies that provide foster care and adoption services. Some social workers conduct clinical work while others focus on creating solutions to problems such as child abuse and abandonment or attend to the emotional needs of children who are hospitalized.
- Median Salary: $49,470 per year
- Currently Employed: 109,700
- Expected Job Growth in Next 10 Years: 16%
Psychologists study human behavior, cognition, and emotional responsiveness to help people improve their lives, relationships, and workplaces. Some psychologists focus primarily on research while others favor clinical work. Psychologists who focus on children may serve in pediatric hospitals, schools, or state agency settings. These professionals help children and their caregivers develop deeper understandings of their emotions, behaviors, and intelligence and recommend interventions that contribute to higher quality of life.
- Median Salary: $79,010 per year
- Currently Employed: 166,600
- Expected Job Growth in Next 10 Years: 14%
- Social and Community Service Managers
Social and community service managers lead projects and initiatives designed to improve the lives of people in targeted neighborhoods or communities. These professionals may work for public agencies -- such as a city recreation department or state office for child services -- or for a nonprofit organization or faith-based group. Organizations focused on serving youthful populations often need professionals with a deep understanding of child psychology and its applications.
- Median Salary: $65,320 per year
- Currently Employed: 147,300
- Expected Job Growth in Next 10 Years: 18%
Source: Bureau of Labor Statistics, 2019
What's the Expected Job Growth for Child Psychology Careers?
The BLS projects that psychology careers will grow 14% between 2016 and 2026 -- about twice the national average growth rate for all occupations. Schools, hospitals, social service agencies, and mental health centers all need the services that psychologists provide. As school administrators develop increasingly sophisticated approaches to helping students with learning and behavioral disabilities, many public schools are opening up new opportunities for psychologists who focus on the needs of children and adolescents.
Professional Organizations for Careers in Child Psychology
Current students and recent graduates can join professional organizations in child psychology to stay up to date on the latest research and ideas in the field. Plus, many members attend national or regional conferences to network with other child psychology professionals. Professional associations offer one of the most important networking and continuing education opportunities a student or practicing therapist can enjoy.
Association for Behavior Analysis International
ABAI has 7,000 members, including both students and professionals, who share an interest in advancing the application of behavioral psychology and analysis. The organization publishes four journals and hosts an annual convention.
American Educational Research Association
AERA serves about 25,000 professionals who work in a variety of fields related to educational research. The organization publishes seven peer-reviewed journals and hosts several in-person events and education research initiatives.
American Psychological Association
APA is the largest association in the U.S. representing the scientific and professional needs of psychologists. The organization publishes numerous journals and databases along with a jobs board.
National Association of School Psychologists
This organization serves in a complementary role to APA. NASP grants membership to professionals with an Ed.S. or doctorate in the field and provides networking opportunities, evidence-based resources, and publications.
American Academy of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry
This association serves about 7,500 mental health professionals who work with children and adolescents. Among other things, AACAP publishes the Journal of the American Academy of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry.
How to Pay for a Master's in Child Psychology Degree
Graduate students earning a master's in child psychology typically pay for their degrees by combining public aid -- such as federal student loans -- with private support from scholarship funds. Once qualified as therapists, child psychologists may receive loan payoff support from the U.S. government by serving in traditionally underserved communities, including rural settings and low-income neighborhoods.
- Federal Financial Aid
- The Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) serves as the primary financial aid document for nearly all forms of financial support for education. Public agencies require students to submit the FAFSA when considering applications for grants, and many private companies and scholarship funds also want to see the FAFSA as part of the application process.
- Graduate Student Ethics Writing Competition
- Sponsored by APA, this competition helps psychology graduate students by awarding a $1,000 prize along with a round-trip ticket and free registration for the APA Annual Convention. Current psychology graduate students can submit a 25-page paper on the relationship between psychology and ethics with relation to practice, research, education, science, public interest, or theory of ethics.
- Beinecke Scholarship
- One of many privately funded scholarships that helps academically gifted undergraduates pay for master's degrees and doctorates, the Beinecke Scholarship goes to students planning to pursue advanced degrees in the arts, humanities, or social sciences. In addition to scholastic achievement, applicants must show financial need through a history of student aid.
- NHSC Loan Repayment Plan
- The National Health Service Corps provides a loan repayment plan for healthcare professionals willing to commit to years of working in underserved areas around the U.S. Therapists work with people living with substance abuse disorders, and graduates willing to work in rural areas may qualify for federal assistance with loan repayments.