Earning a Master's in Child Psychology Online

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Earning a master's in child psychology online can open the door to a rewarding career in the mental health field. Graduates may find work as counselors or therapists, or they can earn a doctoral degree to become a licensed clinical psychologist.

The Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) projects massive job growth for psychologists and other mental health professionals in the coming years. From 2016-2026, psychologists should benefit from the creation of around 23,000 new positions, while the number of job opportunities for substance abuse, behavioral disorder, and mental health counselors is projected to increase by more than 60,000. This guide provides an in-depth look at online master's in child psychology programs, along with the salary potential, career opportunities, scholarships, and resources in the field.

Why Get a Master's Degree in Child Psychology?

Several different types of students and professionals can benefit from earning an online master's in child psychology. Bachelor's in psychology students looking to treat clients might earn their master's to enter the counseling or therapy field. A master's also puts students on the path toward a doctoral psychology degree, which enables them to apply for psychology licensure or work in academia.

In many cases, earning a master's in child psychology leads to increased pay and better career opportunities. Professionals making a switch to the child psychology field and mental health workers looking into professional certification options should consider pursuing an online master's in child psychology.

Pursuing Specialization

For students who hold a bachelor's degree in psychology or a related discipline, a master's in child psychology offers an opportunity to further specialize within the field. Online master's in child psychology programs ready graduates for work with adolescents, children, and their families. Graduates may apply this knowledge to a career in child clinical psychology, child and family social work, school counseling, or family therapy.

Career Advancement Opportunities

An online master's in child psychology enables graduates to advance into positions with more responsibility, increased pay, and a higher seniority level. For example, a master's degree can allow an entry-level social worker or social work assistant to become a licensed therapist or mental health counselor. A master's also paves the way toward a Ph.D. in psychology, which students can use to apply for licensure and practice as a clinical psychologist.

Online Learning Technology

Online learning comes with many benefits. For example, online students typically enjoy more flexibility than on-campus learners, making it easier to maintain a full-time job while earning a degree. Pursuing a master's in child psychology online also introduces you to the latest communication technologies. Future counselors and psychologists can hone their communication skills by preparing virtual presentations and using video conferencing tools.

Prerequisites for Online Child Psychology Programs

Prospective online master's in child psychology students should familiarize themselves with the graduate school application process before applying to universities. The list below describes some common admission requirements.

    • Work Experience: Master's programs in child psychology do not usually require any work experience, meaning that students can begin most programs directly after earning their bachelor's degree. However, students with some experience in the field may have an easier time getting into schools, since many programs request a professional resume.
    • Exams and Test Scores: Universities sometimes require the GRE or MAT for admission. Some schools publicize their minimum score requirements or average results for admitted students. Applicants may use their GRE scores for up to five years, after which they must retake the test.
    • Coursework: Applicants must hold a bachelor's degree from an accredited school. Students who did not earn their undergraduate degree in psychology may need to take prerequisite classes in psychology, research methods, and statistics. Schools commonly require at least a 3.0 undergraduate GPA.
    • Recommendations: Many master's programs in child psychology require 2-3 letters of recommendation. Applicants need to find recommenders — usually former professors or supervisors — who can describe their personality, work ethic, and academic readiness.
    • Essays: Applicants to master's-level child psychology programs may need to write a short essay or personal statement. Typically, students must describe their interest in the field, reasons for choosing a specific psychology program, and career aspirations.
    • Interviews: Universities may require or recommend an interview with a faculty member or admissions officer. Interviews allow applicants to display their personality and interest in the program. Interviewers may ask questions about the applicant's career goals, academic strengths, and interest in psychology.
    • International Students: International applicants must satisfy all of the standard admission expectations and some additional requirements. For example, they may need to submit evidence of a passing score on the Test of English as a Foreign Language and prove their immigration status.

What to Expect from a Master's-level Online Child Psychology Program

Online master's in child psychology programs vary between schools, but most take full-time students about two years to complete. Students generally learn through video lectures, discussion boards, presentations, and/or live class sessions. Asynchronous programs let students log on at convenient times, while synchronous programs expect all learners to participate during scheduled sessions.

Students applying to online master's in child psychology programs should understand that degrees may require a thesis, final exam, supervised training, and/or a capstone course.

Major Milestones

  1. Begin Thesis/Capstone Work

    Students develop an original topic and research plan with their faculty advisor. Theses typically require more time and preparation than other capstone projects.

  2. Apply to Doctoral Programs

    Students planning on becoming a licensed psychologist need to pursue doctoral study, complete clinical training, and apply for state licensure.

  3. Supervised Training/Practicum

    Some programs require supervised clinical training, practica, or other hands-on experiences. The practicum's duration and subject material varies by program.

  4. Defend Thesis

    Students who completed a thesis must present their findings to a committee for final approval. They need to successfully answer questions and explain their methods.

  5. Take Comprehensive Exam

    Programs may require a final exam instead of — or in addition to — a final project. By passing this test, students prove mastery of major subject areas.

  6. Apply for Certification/Licensure

    As students begin looking for work, they may also choose to pursue an optional industry credential or a mandatory license in therapy or counseling.

Master's in Child Psychology Coursework

Child psychology curricula vary, but programs generally discuss similar topics. Below, you can learn about some classes you may take while earning your master's in child psychology online.

Social Psychology

In social psychology courses, learners study the ways that people interact with their environment, society, and technology. They also examine long-standing social psychology theories on topics like identity, conformity, and obedience.

Research Methods in Psychology

Students explore the techniques that psychology researchers use. They learn to gather information, analyze data, design research studies, and perform statistical analyses.

Developmental Psychology

This course covers major theories on child and adolescent development. Students learn about cognitive, emotional, biological, and social development. They examine how developmental psychology perspectives can help address practical issues.

Adolescent Psychology

Learners study key research on the biological, social, moral, and cognitive aspects of adolescent development. Students become familiar with the major changes adolescents undergo during this period and their psychological implications.

Family Systems and Therapy

In this class, master's students consider major family models and systems and learn to work with diverse families. They also study the family's role in child and adolescent development.

Licenses and Certifications

Online master's in child psychology students should understand that many psychology professions require state licensure. Additionally, optional psychology certifications can help workers impress employers, enter more specialized fields, and earn higher salaries. Credentials serve as a great way to open the door to more job opportunities without earning a new degree.

    • National Certified Counselor: The National Board for Certified Counselors offers this credential to master's degree-holders in the counseling field. Some state boards require counselors to take this certification's exam for counselor licensure.
    • Psychologist License: Any student looking to practice psychology professionally must apply for state licensure. Regulations vary, but most counseling and clinical psychologists need to hold a doctoral degree and complete supervised professional experience and an internship.
    • Marriage and Family Therapist License: Marriage and family therapists require a license to practice in any state. Candidates must earn a master's degree, complete 2,000-4,000 hours of supervised experience, and pass a licensing exam.

How Much Can I Make With a Master's Degree in Child Psychology?

According to the BLS, the top 10% of clinical, counseling, and school psychologists earn more than $129,000 per year, while the bottom 10% of earners take home $44,000 or less. Earning an online master's in child psychology can put you on the path to psychology licensure and enable you to enter a variety of other fields, some of which you can explore below. A master's in psychology may also allow you to advance into senior-level roles.

How Careers for Master's in Child Psychology Graduates Stack Up Against Similar Careers

Child Clinical Psychologist

Median Salary: $76,990

Job Growth: 14%

Child clinical psychologists diagnose mental disorders in young people by observing and interviewing patients and administering psychological tests. Once they identify psychological issues, psychologists help patients overcome those issues through a variety of therapy methods. Child clinical psychologists need a doctoral degree and state licensure.

School Psychologist

Median Salary: $76,990

Job Growth: 14%

School psychologists help students overcome behavioral issues, developmental disorders, and learning disorders. They evaluate students and develop plans to improve academic performance. In addition to counseling students, school psychologists may meet with families. They need a doctoral degree and a license to practice.

Mental Health Counselor

Median Salary: $47,790

Job Growth: 23%

Mental health counselors may only need a high school diploma, but some states require a master's and licensure. These professionals treat conditions like depression, anxiety, and suicidal thoughts in individuals, families, and groups.

Child, Family, and School Social Worker

Median Salary: $46,270

Job Growth: 14%

Child and family social workers improve the well-being of struggling children and families. They may connect families with childcare, food stamps, housing, or other services. They also protect children from neglect and abuse. Entry-level social workers typically need a bachelor's in social work, sociology, or psychology.

Marriage and Family Therapist

Median Salary: $50,090

Job Growth: 23%

These workers help families, couples, and individuals overcome relationship problems. They counsel patients, introduce coping strategies, and treat issues like anxiety and stress. Therapists may also refer clients to social workers and psychologists. They need a master's degree in a psychology-related field and state licensure.

Educational and School Counselors

Median Salary: $56,310

Job Growth: 13%

These professionals require a strong background in therapy, counseling, and psychology. They also typically need a master's in school counseling or a similar discipline. Educational and school counselors help students succeed by treating behavioral problems, counseling students and parents, and helping people make career decisions.

Counseling Psychologist

Median Salary: $76,990

Job Growth: 14%

Counseling psychologists help patients manage issues they encounter at work, at home, or individually. They interview and observe patients to develop treatment plans and recommend outside services. They need a doctoral degree in psychology and state licensure.

Social and Human Services Assistants

Median Salary: $33,750

Job Growth: 16%

These professionals work alongside social workers and others who connect clients to community services and programs. They may work with populations like children, the elderly, immigrants, and veterans. They require at least a high school diploma and benefit from college education.

Source: U.S. Department of Labor, O*net, BLS

Paying for an Online Master's in Child Psychology

Earning a master's degree can be a pricey proposition; students must contend with tuition costs, the price of textbooks, and other fees. To save money on your degree, consider the following tips:

  • Attend a relatively affordable state school instead of a private institution.
  • Find a program with minimal on-campus visits to save on transportation-related costs.
  • Earn your degree at an accelerated pace to save on per-semester tuition costs.
  • Search for psychology-specific grants and scholarships through your school, the government, local groups, and professional organizations.
  • Look for public universities that charge distance learners in-state tuition.

Scholarships for Online Child Psychology Master's Students

All college students should thoroughly research scholarship, grant, and work-study opportunities to ease the financial stress of earning a degree. Child psychology students at all levels can benefit from subject-specific funding opportunities. Below, you can discover some financial aid options available to master's students in the field.

Professional Organizations and Resources

Students, recent graduates, and established psychology professionals can all benefit immensely from the resources that professional associations offer. Through networking opportunities like the American Association for Marriage and Family Therapy's annual conference, students can make connections with experienced workers in the field. In addition, through field-specific journals — such as the National Association of School Psychologists' School Psychology Review -- psychology professionals can stay informed about new research and developments. Read on to learn about some valuable organizations and resources for child psychology students and workers.

  • American Psychological Association: APA represents over 118,000 psychology researchers, teachers, practitioners, and students. Members gain access to a membership directory, networking opportunities, databases, publications, and discounts.
  • National Association of School Psychologists: This organization joins school psychologists, related professionals, and graduate students. NASP offers many resources, including professional ethics information, conventions and conferences, a job board, and psychology research.
  • Association for Child and Adolescent Counseling: ACAC supports and informs counselors treating young people. The organization publishes an academic journal and offers networking opportunities, an electronic newsletter, and research grants.
  • American Association for Marriage and Family Therapy: Through this professional organization, students and professionals can access online training, an annual conference, licensing information, and a job board. Members can also learn more about the field from podcasts, journals, and magazines.
  • American School Counselor Association: ASCA supports school counselors through local workshops, webinars, and an annual conference. Members also can take advantage of free resources like job descriptions and handouts.
  • Journal of Child Psychology and Psychiatry: This publication covers child psychology and psychiatry topics, including epidemiology, psychopharmacological treatment, genetics, and neuroscience. The journal includes clinical studies, empirical research, and reviews.
  • American Board of Professional Psychology: ABPP offers 15 specialty certifications in psychology. Students and early-career psychology professionals may consider certification in a field like clinical child and adolescent psychology or couple and family psychology.
  • Association of State and Provincial Psychology Boards: Through ASPPB, aspiring psychologists can learn about state licensing processes and exam requirements. They can also find the contact information for their local board. Current psychologists can access information on transferring and renewing licenses.
  • APA Dictionary of Psychology: This online resource provides definitions of over 25,000 terms across 90 psychology fields. Students and professionals can search for specific words or browse by letter.
  • National Institute of Mental Health: Part of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, NIMH is a federal agency that advances mental health research. The website offers information on research, mental disorders, treatment, and clinical trials.