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How do I get Started in Child Psychology?

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  • Written By: N. Madison
  • Edited By: Bronwyn Harris
  • Last Modified Date: 01 December 2016
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Child psychology is a branch of psychology that focuses on children. It deals with their minds and behavior patterns, also covering development that begins before a child is born and ends when adolescence is over. A child psychologist is one who focuses on child psychology. Getting started in this career typically means completing an undergraduate college degree followed by a graduate degree.

To become a child psychologist in many places, a person must gain admittance to college, maintain a good grade point average and graduate with a bachelor’s degree. While in college, he may choose any major, but majoring in psychology or something related to it may be helpful for later study in graduate school. Regardless of the person’s major, it’s smart to take classes in psychology as well as child development. Some graduate schools also look favorably on applicants who’ve studied statistics in college, as knowledge of statistics may be helpful not only in graduate school, but also throughout a psychology career. Many aspiring psychologists contact graduate schools and ask about requirements for admission long before it’s time to apply.

Volunteer work is another important step towards becoming a child psychologist. Aspiring child psychologists who do volunteer work with children can enjoy a two-fold benefit. First, they may benefit from learning, in advance, whether they feel comfortable working with children, and second, they can show graduate school admissions officers that they are committed to working with youths.

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Tests are often necessary steps toward a child psychology career. Toward the end of the junior year or the beginning of the senior year of college, the aspiring child psychologist may need to take a test called the Graduate Record Examination (GRE). This test is on the list of requirements for admission to graduate schools in the United States as well schools in some other countries that have English as a main language. The GRE score is expected to indicate a student’s academic abilities.

Graduate school is the next step towards getting started in child psychology. An aspiring child psychologist may choose to pursue a master’s degree, which typically takes about two years to complete. Alternatively, he may pursue a doctorate degree, referred to as a PhD, which could mean up to five more years in school. However, a PhD typically translates into more job opportunities, and it may be necessary for those who want to have an independent practice.

Depending on where you are located, you may need to pursue licensing before you can work as a child psychologist. In the United States, for example, a person must apply for licensing and take a licensing examination through his state. In Canada, a prospective child psychologist would need to seek licensing through his province’s psychology board while someone in New Zealand would apply to the New Zealand Psychologists Board. Licensing requirements for child psychology vary, depending on the country in which the person wishes to practice.

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