Degrees in Adolescent Psychology: Overview and Requirements
Adolescent and child psychology is a field of study focused on the analysis, diagnosis and treatment of psychological conditions in adolescents and children. Degrees in this field are available at the undergraduate level, usually as special emphasis tracks within 4-year Bachelor of Arts (B.A.) programs. Graduate programs include Doctor of Psychology (Psy.D.) and Doctor of Philosophy (Ph.D.) degrees, both of which take around 4-5 years to complete.
Bachelor of Arts in Adolescent and Child Psychology
Bachelor's degree programs in adolescent and child psychology usually combine a core of general psychology courses with more specific sociological, educational and behavioral perspectives on how adolescents and children develop. Accordingly, these programs are commonly interdisciplinary and they may include supplementary liberal arts courses in anthropology, linguistics and cultural studies. Laboratory courses, which train students in research methods and assessment techniques appropriate for their younger clientele, are also common degree requirements.
Applicants to bachelor's degree programs in adolescent and child psychology must have high school diplomas and transcripts. Most institutions also require ACT or SAT score reports, minimum GPA and high school curricular prerequisites. International students may be required to prove their English fluency via an exam, depending on countries of origin.
Program coursework in adolescent and child psychology prepares students to understand the theoretical foundations of studying younger populations and to apply that knowledge in practical contexts. Students may take courses in the following areas:
- Behavioral disorders in adolescents and children
- Contexts of childhood language acquisition
- Developmental psychology of adolescents and children
- Educational psychology
- Research methods laboratory
- Prenatal care and infant development
- Social development of adolescents and children
- Theories of the family
Popular Career Options
A bachelor's degree in psychology serves as a gateway to a variety of both entry-level and advanced careers. Potential titles include these:
- Child psychologist
- Education consultant
- Family law attorney
- Elementary school teacher
- Licensed social worker
- School counselor
- School psychologist
- Special education teacher
Continuing Education Information
According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), graduates interested in pursuing clinical psychologist positions must usually obtain doctoral degrees in the field (www.bls.gov). Although master's degree programs are available, many doctoral programs would accept a student with a B.A. and award an M.A. en route to either a Psy.D. or Ph.D. Positions in social work, education and family law require applicants to obtain the additional professional degrees, credentials and licenses appropriate to those respective fields.
Doctoral Degree Programs in Adolescent and Child Psychology
Two doctoral program tracks are available in this field. Psy.D. programs provide advanced academic and clinical training for potential psychologists. In the specific field of adolescent and child psychology, doctoral students are trained to interview and assess younger patients and then to intervene and provide therapy in the cases of psychological trauma. These Psy.D. students must also be knowledgeable of conditions particular to their clientele, such as sexuality development and issues, peer pressure, parental divorce and early substance abuse. Psy.D. programs are usually structured so that students complete most coursework during the first three years of the program. They then defend their dissertations, take department exams and complete clinical internships during the fourth and fifth years.
Though similar to Psy.D. degree programs, Ph.D. programs are slightly more oriented toward research, in order to prepare graduates for careers in teaching and academia. These programs may be more interdisciplinary in nature than their Psy.D. counterparts. Some Ph.D. programs also encourage students to take teaching seminars and in turn teach undergraduate courses.
All applicants to doctoral programs must already have bachelor's degrees and corroborating transcripts. Undergraduate coursework in psychology and the social sciences is required or at least recommended by most programs. Students may also be asked to submit Graduate Record Examinatino (GRE) score reports.
Doctoral students in this field take advanced courses designed to hone their abilities as both scholars and practitioners of the clinical psychological treatment of adolescents and children. Common topics include the following:
- Assessment of adolescents and children
- Childhood trauma
- Community psychology
- Health and dysfunctional conditions in adolescents and children
- Interviewing and other diagnostic techniques
- Quantitative research methods
- Psychotherapy for adolescents and children
- Statistics and data analysis
Career Outlook and Salary Info
With doctoral degrees, graduates are most qualified to become clinical psychologists or to work in academia. The BLS lists adolescent and child psychology as one possible specialty area for psychologists, who in general are expected to see a 12% growth rate in total employment, or about as fast average for all professions, from 2008 to 2018.
Psychologists with doctoral degrees in adolescent and child psychology often work in private practice, although some work for schools and in the offices of other health practitioners. In May 2010, the BLS stated that the mean annual wage for all such clinical, counseling and school psychologists was $72,540.
Continuing Education and Licensure Information
According to the BLS, psychologists who work in private practice and/or provide care to patients must be licensed by the U.S. state in which they practice. Although no national standard exists for obtaining licensure, most states require applicant psychologists to have doctoral degrees and several years of professional experience, and to have completed an internship.
Experienced psychologists may be eligible to obtain certifications in specific areas of psychology. Certifications usually require candidates to complete continuing education and postdoctoral training.
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