Developmental Psychology Graduate Programs: Mental Wellbeing at Every Stage of Growth

Developmental psychology graduate programs

As individuals progress throughout the different stages of their lives, they may experience mental, physical, and social changes that can be both exciting and a little frightening. Through conducting research, developmental psychologists focus on understanding the different developmental stages and the changes that people experience during these times in order to help individuals manage the difficulties of these transitions. If you are an analytical person with strong observational and research skills, set a path to a new career by exploring developmental psychology graduate programs.

Developing Your Degree Plan: Exploring Developmental Psychology Programs

While most undergraduate programs offer classes in developmental psychology, developmental psychology programs are typically only offered at the graduate level through a master’s or doctoral program. Two-year developmental psychology master’s programs could lead to employment as a psychological assistant working under a psychologist in either a clinical or research setting. However, to become a psychologist, a Doctor of Philosophy (PhD) or Doctor of Psychology (PsyD) is generally required.

PhD programs are typically research oriented, whereas as PsyDs are more clinically-based. Developmental psychology PhD programs are available for those who would like to pursue a research career in developmental psychology, while PsyD degrees in clinical psychology with a concentration in human development are available for those who would like to pursue a clinical practice.

Joining a doctoral program in developmental psychology requires you to have already completed your undergraduate degree. Although graduate programs might prefer those with bachelor’s degrees in psychology or sociology, they will generally accept applicants from a broad range of undergraduate degree programs. Having minored in psychology or taken some psychology classes can be helpful. Some doctoral programs may only consider applicants with a master’s degree.

Developmental Psychology Curriculum and Certification

Doctoral programs can last from three to five years, and depending on the degree type, usually culminate in a research dissertation or clinical work experience. Most classes are held in the late afternoon or evening, and a growing number of doctoral programs offer a combination of online and weekend courses. These programs can be ideal for those who have work or family obligations in the evening or those who must travel in order to attend the program. During your developmental psychology graduate program, you will receive both classroom and practical experience. PhD students will gain experience with research, whereas PsyD students will acquire clinical experience. Although your curriculum will vary by school and degree type, you might take courses such as:

  • Developmental research methods
  • Cognitive development
  • Language development
  • Childhood social & emotional development
  • Applied regression analysis
  • Linear models & experimental design
  • Brain & behavior
  • Family & child development
  • Atypical development & psycho-pathology
  • Cultural developmental psychology

Clinical psychologists who practice independently are required to be licensed. Requirements will vary by state, but typically individuals must earn a doctorate in psychology, obtain one to two years of professional experience, and pass the Examination for Professional Practice in Psychology. The Association of State and Provincial Licensing Boards lists state-specific information.

Developmental Psychology Career Overview

While developmental psychologists typically have training in every stage of human development, it is common for a developmental psychologist to focus on one area or one stage in order to gain the in-depth understanding needed to help others. Historically, developmental psychologists used to only focus on development in the childhood and adolescent years, but now there is an increased focus on the adult years. The growing elderly population has allowed developmental psychologists to gain better insight into the changes inherent in advanced age and techniques to assist individuals in maintaining a happy and independent life in their golden years.

Developmental psychologists are primarily researchers. However, some developmental psychologists work exclusively in private practice or as a collegiate level instructor, but many combine private practice, professorship, and research. In addition to research universities, employment for developmental psychologists is also available through government agencies, hospitals, mental health and rehabilitation clinics, and assisted living facilities, among others. Developmental psychologists usually work in office environments during normal business hours. They may need to do some traveling if they meet clients in their homes or at a school.

The Latter Stages: Career Prospects

Jobs for psychologists are expected to grow about as fast as average in the coming decade, at a rate of 18%. In order to help the aging population cope with the mental and physical changes that occur as we get older, developmental psychologists will be in demand. Due to the selectivity of doctoral programs, those with a doctoral degree in an applied specialty, such as developmental psychology, are expected to have favorable job prospects.

Professor positions are also expected to grow as fast as average through 2020. Although job opportunities will be created by retiring faculty, most public research university positions will be subject to state budgetary restrictions. In 2012, the median annual salary for psychologists was $90,020, while psychology professors received $68,020. However, salaries for both occupations will vary based off of location, facility, and individual qualifications. The bottom 10% of psychologists earned $42,240, while the top 10% earned $116,240. These numbers are fairly similar to that of psychology professors, where the bottom 10% earned a median annual salary of $35,780 and the top 10% earned $119,210.

Every stage of life has its own rewards and challenges. Both as individuals and as society as a whole, gaining a better understanding of the process and purpose of these stages may allow us to minimize hardships and maximize the opportunities we encounter. Developmental psychologists are leading the way and assisting people in having more fulfilling lives. Join this evolving aspect of the field of psychology by searching developmental psychology schools today.