What is developmental psychology?
Developmental psychology is the study of developmental changes across the human lifespan including cognitive, physical, social, intellectual, perceptual, emotional, and personality growth. Developmental psychologists work with all age groups to understand and support their growth.
These professionals learn past and current developmental science theories and have a crucial understanding of how to conduct and interpret research. They examine the interactions between nature and nurture to understand the mechanisms of developmental change. If you’re interested in the multi-faceted development of humans and have an affinity for working with all age groups, then this career path may be for you.
There are opportunities to earn a bachelor of arts (B.A) or a bachelor of science (B.S.) in psychology. A B.S. in psychology emphasizes biology, chemistry, mathematics, and statistics. In contrast, a B.A in psychology focuses more on cognition, behavior, and social phenomena.
As a specialization in the field of psychology, developmental psychology begins with a bachelor’s degree. Specialization requires a graduate degree, most often at the doctoral level. Individuals with a bachelor’s or master’s degree alone can’t become licensed developmental psychologists, but they can pursue careers in social work and counseling.
Requirements for applications to study a bachelor’s degree in psychology differ across universities, but there are a few general commonalities. Students are required to submit an application, transcripts, test scores, an essay, and letters of recommendation.
The best psychology programs usually need a minimum GPA of 3.0. Some schools don’t need the SAT or ACT and are test-optional.
A bachelor’s in psychology can be studied part-time or full-time. Many schools offer both online and on-campus learning. You may find that some schools provide asynchronous online learning, which allows you to complete the degree without in-person interaction.
Whether full-time, part-time, online, or on-campus, the choice of how to study depends on where you are in your life. Online and part-time learning can appeal to working professionals or students with families. On-campus and full-time learning can appeal to the student straight out of high school and looking for the college experience. Regardless of program format, completing your degree depends on your work ethic and time management skills.
Cost of the degree
The average annual cost for an undergraduate degree is $9,580 for in-state students and $25,615 for out-of-state students. Tuition costs differ according to the type of university you attend. Private and ivy league institutions have a higher cost in comparison to public and community institutions. The average cost for a private institution is $37,200.
There are various kinds of financial support available for students who can’t meet the cost of attendance. For an overview of the various types of student financial aid visit Federal Student Aid, where you can also complete the FAFSA form which assesses your eligibility for federal aid. In addition to looking for external funding, research the funding options offered by your intended college.
Regardless of the college, you attend, all bachelor’s psychology programs teach certain foundational aspects of the field. Below is a list of classes to expect:
This is an introductory course to familiarize students with social concepts like emotions, perceptions, attitudes, and behavior.
This course provides an overview of the causes and treatments of psychological disorders. Here, you will explore the intersection of biological, psychosocial, and psychological factors.
You can explore deviant behavior, diagnostic criteria, and psychopathologies. Here, you will examine the causes of behaviors and the treatment thereof.
This course examines the neurological expression of behavior by assessing how the brain triggers certain mechanisms, controls the body, and stimulates certain behavior.
You can focus on infants and children and how they learn things, create memories, and become aware of their surroundings. This is an especially crucial course for budding developmental psychologists.
Most psychology programs require students to complete an internship or practicum to prepare them for working with patients once they graduate. Moreover, the successful completion of an internship or practicum may make you a more desirable candidate for a graduate program.
Specialization in developmental psychology begins in graduate psychology programs. Schools that offer a 2-year master’s program are limited. Master’s level courses you may study include:
General developmental psychology
Students are taught a broad overview of theories of developmental psychology and how it can be applied throughout different stages of life.
Child and adolescent development
A look into the physical, cognitive, language and moral development of children and adolescents. Moreover, students examine behavior during these developmental stages.
Adult development and gerontology
Considers the physical, social and cognitive changes that occur during adult and elderly aging. Students also study theories developed to explain behavioral changes.
Health and human development
Students examine human development across physical, cognitive and psychosocial domains, the key developmental issues about the nature of change and the periods of development.
Specializations in Ph.D. programs include developmental science or developmental psychopathology. The focus is mainly on applying research and training in real-life situations.
Attending an accredited institution is crucial for the validity of your degree. Receiving a degree from an unaccredited school or program is worthless. Accreditation also ensures that the credits you receive from that school is transferable to another institution. You can find out if a school is accredited by visiting the Database of Accredited Postsecondary Education Institutions
To become a practicing developmental psychologist, you have to obtain a state license. You can only apply for a license once you have received your Ph.D. from an accredited college. The application requires you to take the Examination for Professional Practice in Psychology (EPPP). Licenses are valid for 1-3 years.
For more information on licensing, visit the Association of State and Provincial Psychology Boards.
A career in developmental psychology isn’t only possible once you have received your Ph.D. There are excellent career paths you can take with only a bachelor’s degree in psychology.
To become a licensed developmental psychologist, you must continue your education beyond a bachelor’s degree. The standard academic path would be to obtain your master’s degree and then your Ph.D. Alternatively, you can get your bachelor’s degree and go straight to a doctorate degree that focuses on developmental psychology, as many doctorate programs do not require a master’s degree.
The field of developmental psychology is diverse with many opportunities for growth and practice. As mentioned, a Ph.D. will increase your career options and salary. With a Ph.D., you can work as a:
- Developmental psychologist
- Clinical researcher
Should I get this degree?
A bachelor’s degree in psychology is beneficial if you want to work with people in different specialized contexts. It’s especially necessary for students aspiring to become developmental psychologists. A bachelor’s degree in psychology develops your understanding of fundamental aspects of the field and how to apply its principles in real-life situations. If you decide developmental psychology is not for you, a bachelor’s in psychology is still necessary for other psychology specializations and is relevant to other social science fields.