Child (Pediatric) Psychologist

Children’s mental health is a crucial aspect of their overall health. It encompasses their mental, emotional, and behavioral well-being, influencing their thoughts, feelings, actions, and ability to manage stress, interact with others, and make positive decisions. Mental disorders in children are characterized by significant alterations in their typical learning patterns, behavior, or emotional regulation, resulting in distress and difficulties in daily functioning. Some commonly diagnosed mental disorders in childhood include attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder (ADHD), anxiety disorders, and behavior disorders.

To help children improve their mental health, there are many behavioral health experts, including child or pediatric psychologists.

These doctoral-level prepared mental health providers have received specialized training in caring for children and adolescents. They assess and provide interventions for children with learning disabilities, developmental delays, or neurodevelopmental disorders like ADHD or autism spectrum disorder, offer support during significant life changes such as divorce, relocation, or the loss of a loved one, or help children develop social skills, improve peer relationships, and teach effective coping strategies to manage stress and build resilience.

To become a child psychologist, aspiring professionals must earn a bachelor’s degree followed by a doctorate (PhD) in psychology or a doctor of psychology (PsyD). It takes anywhere from four to seven years to earn this degree, depending on the thesis work completed and any required clinical hours. All psychologists must be licensed to practice in the state where they provide care. Child psychologists can earn board certification from the American Board of Clinical Child and Adolescent Psychology to demonstrate a high level of competency in this field. 

Keep reading to learn more about how to become a child psychologist, including admission requirements, top programs, typical job duties, and anticipated earnings. 

Child Psychologist Specializations & Degree Types

To work as a clinical child psychologist, individuals typically need advanced degrees such as a doctorate (PhD) in psychology or a doctor of psychology (PsyD). These degrees provide the necessary knowledge and training to assess, diagnose, and treat children’s mental health issues. Specializations for aspiring child psychologists include developmental psychology, clinical child psychology, school psychology, pediatric neuropsychology, and child and adolescent therapy.

Admissions Requirements for Child Psychologist Programs

The admission requirements for child psychology programs will vary by institution but typically include a bachelor’s degree in psychology or related field, a minimum GPA, letters of recommendation, and a current resume. It is common for programs to ask for a critical thinking writing sample to demonstrate aptitude for these rigorous programs.  

Child Psychologist Program Accreditation

It is essential to consider accreditation when picking a child psychologist program. To be eligible for board certification from the American Board of Clinical Child and Adolescent Psychology (ABCCAP), students must attend a program accredited by the American Psychological Association Commission on Accreditation (APA-CoA). In many states, attending an APA-accredited program is a requirement for licensure. 

Students not pursuing board certification can attend a regionally accredited or accredited program by the Psychological Clinical Science Accreditation System (PCSAS). In some states, licensing rules are less stringent, and graduates of regionally approved or PCSAS-accredited programs are eligible for licensure.

On-Campus Child Psychologist Degree Programs

The University of Kansas – College of Liberal Arts & Sciences

The Clinical Child Psychology Program (CCPP) at the University of Kansas is a graduate program that offers a PhD in Clinical Child Psychology. This APA-accredited program focuses on training students in clinical psychology with a special emphasis on children, adolescents, and families. The program is affiliated with the Departments of Psychology and Applied Behavioral Science and the Department of Pediatrics at the University of Kansas School of Medicine and Children’s Mercy Hospital. 

Through this program, students will become clinical scientists who can conduct innovative research and provide interventions for various human problems, particularly those involving children and families. The focus is on developing professional competencies in research, assessment, intervention, individual and cultural diversity, ethics, and legal issues. There is also an emphasis on program-specific competencies in administration/management and professional leadership and communications. 

  • Location: Lawrence, KS 
  • Duration: Five years
  • Accreditation: American Psychological Association Commission on Accreditation (APA-CoA)
  • Tuition: $998 per credit 

University of Denver

The clinical psychology PhD program at the University of Denver emphasizes child psychology and follows a clinical science model. This degree fosters an environment that promotes curiosity, collaboration, and inclusiveness while conducting research that benefits the public. Students can access comprehensive training opportunities, including in-house training through the Center for Child and Family Psychology and the Developmental Neuropsychology Clinic. 

Hands-on practical experience is gained through clinical externships at local medical centers and community mental health centers. The faculty in this program are actively involved in this field and research various topics related to developmental psychopathology, such as trauma, health and stress, risk and vulnerability factors, and comorbidity. Graduates go on to pursue careers in academia, academic medical centers, hospitals, and community mental health centers, utilizing their research and clinical training.

  • Location: Denver, CO
  • Duration: Four to seven years
  • Accreditation: American Psychological Association Commission on Accreditation (APA-CoA)
  • Tuition: $1,535 per credit

Pace University 

At Pace University, students can complete a PsyD in school-clinical child psychology. This degree emphasizes professional preparation for delivering psychological services while also covering essential subjects like research methodology and theoretical academics. The curriculum includes hands-on field training, three years of supervised practicum experience through Pace University’s Thomas J. McShane Center for Psychological Services, four years of supervised fieldwork experience, and a distributed internship.

For students interested in working with children in a bilingual setting, there is an opportunity to complete specialized coursework and practicum experiences focusing on bilingual language development and disorders. This additional training enables students to provide school psychological services in both monolingual and bilingual settings. Successful program completion may make students eligible for the Bilingual Education Extension to the New York State teaching certificate in School Psychology.

  • Location: New York, NY 
  • Duration: Seven years
  • Accreditation: American Psychological Association Commission on Accreditation (APA-CoA)
  • Tuition: $1,430 per credit

University of Washington

The clinical psychology PhD program at the University of Washington offers students close research mentorship, state-of-the-art facilities, including an MRI center, and specialized training opportunities in diverse areas. The program emphasizes evidence-based clinical training through in-house and external practicums. Students have access to resources and training opportunities across departments and institutes within the university. This degree has a strong track record of obtaining fellowships and internships, and there are active efforts to promote equity, diversity, and inclusion. 

There are two tracks, focusing on child clinical or general psychology. The child clinical track focuses on assessing, etiology, and treating psychological disorders in children, adolescents, and young adults. This track provides specialized coursework and practicum experiences tailored to evidence-based treatment for youth and families. 

  • Location: Seattle, WA 
  • Duration: Six to seven years
  • Accreditation: American Psychological Association Commission on Accreditation (APA-CoA) and  Psychological Clinical Science Accreditation System (PCSAS)
  • Tuition: $31,530 per year

Pennsylvania State University – College of Liberal Arts

The clinical psychology doctoral program at the Pennsylvania State University offers a specialized track in child clinical psychology, focusing on intervention and research for individuals from infancy to young adulthood. Students receive training in developmental psychopathology research and mental health services for children and families. Core required courses include child psychopathology, clinical child intervention, and clinical child assessment. 

Students in this program receive training in providing mental health services to children and families. This includes evidence-based interventions, school-based consultation, and comprehensive neuropsychological evaluation. Faculty in the child track have expertise in various areas such as infant and toddler emotional development, neuropsychology of disruptive behavior disorders, child abuse, anxiety and mood disorders, and prevention programs.

  • Location: University Park, PA 
  • Duration: Six years
  • Accreditation: American Psychological Association Commission on Accreditation (APA-CoA)
  • Tuition: $1,803 per credit

Online or Hybrid Child Psychologist Degree Programs

The APA does not currently accredit any programs that are offered exclusively online. Some programs that meet state licensing requirements are not APA accredited, are certificates to supplement an accredited degree, or are APA accredited and offered in a hybrid format. 

The Chicago School 

The child and adolescent psychology certificate program at The Chicago School is designed for professionals looking to enhance their skills in working with children and adolescents. Graduates of the program are equipped with the knowledge to address various issues young people face, including peer pressure, body image, substance abuse, relationships, trauma, parental divorce, and grief. The program aims to provide practical experience and a comprehensive understanding of child and adolescent psychology.

In total, students must take three courses to earn this certificate. The credits earned can be applied towards a master’s degree program should a student wish to pursue additional education. 

  • Location: Chicago, IL 
  • Duration: Three courses
  • Accreditation: Western Association of Schools and Colleges (WASC)
  • Tuition: $1,368 per credit

California Southern University

At California Southern University, students can complete an online PsyD degree. This program is designed for individuals seeking to expand their understanding of clinical topics and methodologies in the field of psychology and emphasizes the practical application of this knowledge. Students will complete a unique curriculum consisting of core and elective courses to allow them to specialize in children. Optional supervised clinical experiences provide hands-on experience for those seeking clinical work. 

This degree has been carefully developed to meet the requirements for psychologist licensure, although it’s important to note that these criteria can vary by jurisdiction and may change over time. Prospective students are strongly advised to contact state licensing agencies for specific details. Currently, this program meets the requirements for licensure in California, Colorado, Delaware, Hawaii, New York, Ohio, Texas, Virginia, Wisconsin, and West Virginia.

  • Location: Chandler, AZ
  • Duration: Four to five years
  • Accreditation: Higher Learning Commission (HLC)
  • Tuition: $545 per credit

Capella University 

The hybrid PsyD in clinical psychology at Capella University combines coursework, face-to-face residencies, clinical practicum, internships, and research opportunities to ensure students can apply theoretical knowledge to real-world situations. Throughout their academic journey, students will have access to a dedicated support team of licensure experts, advisors, and teaching assistants who will guide and assist them in achieving their graduation goals. 

While this program is not APA-accredited, it does meet the licensing requirements in many states. Students should read the licensing disclosure carefully and contact their local licensing board to ensure this program meets the requirements. A four-quarter dissertation to graduate from this program. 

  • Location: Minneapolis, MN 
  • Accreditation: Higher Learning Commission (HLC)

Fielding Graduate University

The PhD in clinical psychology at Fielding Graduate University is one of the country’s only APA-accredited hybrid degree programs.  This degree program caters to adult learners, many of whom possess prior training or work experience in the mental health field. The innovative distributed learning model seamlessly integrates valuable in-person learning opportunities with cutting-edge digital formats. While this program does not have a child-specific concentration, students can choose to complete their internship with pediatric populations to gain experience in this specialization. 

To be considered for admission applicants must have a bachelor’s degree with at least a 3.0 GPA, a current CV, a statement of purpose, a critical thinking writing sample, and three letters of recommendation. 

  • Location: Washington, DC 
  • Duration: Five to six years
  • Accreditation: American Psychological Association Commission on Accreditation (APA-CoA)
  • Tuition: $9,890 per term

Liberty University

Students can complete the online PhD psychology with an emphasis in developmental psychology in as little as three years. While this program will not lead to licensure to work as a clinician, it can be an excellent choice for aspiring child psychologists who want to work in research or academia. Graduates of this program also work as consultants or organizational mentors. The emphasis of this program is to train students to become thought leaders and help advance the field of developmental psychology. 

To graduate from this program, students must complete a comprehensive dissertation that involves original research. Students are mentored by professors in this program as they complete their research and writing. 

  • Location: Lynchburg, VA  
  • Duration: Three years
  • Accreditation: Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges (SACSCOC) 
  • Tuition: $595 per credit

How Long Does it Take to Become a Child Psychologist?

Becoming a child psychologist typically requires several years of education and training. The time it takes to become a child psychologist can vary depending on factors such as the educational path and specialization chosen. Generally speaking, it takes four years to earn a bachelor’s and then four to seven to earn a PhD or PsyD degree for a total of eight to 11 years.

How To Become a Child Psychologist – Step-by-Step Guide

Step 1: Graduate From High School or Obtain a GED (Four Years).

To gain admission to most undergraduate institutions, students must have finished high school or obtained a GED. Completing classes that earn college credits while in high school through Advanced Placement (AP) or International Baccalaureate (IB) classes can demonstrate academic rigor and boost admission applications. To ensure readiness for higher education, high school students are encouraged to take courses in psychology, biology, mathematics, and chemistry.

Step 2: Complete a Bachelor’s Degree Program (Four Years).

Before pursuing graduate school, students must first complete an undergraduate degree. A bachelor’s of arts or science is required for most child psychology programs. The most common majors preferred by professionals in this field include psychology, education, counseling, or behavioral health.

Step 3: Obtain a PhD or PsyD from an APA-accredited School in Psychology (Four to Seven Years).

Students must earn a PhD in psychology or a PsyD to practice as a clinical child psychologist. This program must have a concentration or specialization in child or developmental psychology. APA accreditation is essential for aspiring clinicians who want to earn board certification. 

Step 4: Complete Internship Hours (Two to Five Years).

Internship hours are required in most states and can vary from 1,500 on the low end up to 6,000 on the high end. 

Step 5: Apply for State License (Timelines Vary).

Candidates must apply to their state licensing board to practice as a clinical psychologist. Requirements will vary by state. State licensing is not required for researchers or academics. 

Step 6: Pass the Examination for Professional Practice in Psychology or EPPP (Timelines Vary).

Once a candidate has applied to their state’s licensing board, they will receive authorization to sit for the EPPP. 

Step 7: Pass the State Jurisprudence Licensing Exam, If Required (Timelines Vary).

Some states require aspiring psychologists to pass an exam on state and federal regulations before being licensed.  

Step 8: Complete Post-Doctoral Work Experience and Internship (Timelines Vary)

To earn board certification, aspiring clinical child psychologists must complete a one-year internship and, at a minimum, a three-year post-doctoral work experience.

Step 9: Obtain an American Board of Clinical Child and Adolescent Psychology Certification (Timelines Vary)

Once work experience and education requirements are met, candidates can apply to the ABCCA to sit for the board certification exam. More details can be found in the licensing and certification section below.

What Do Child Psychologists Do?

Child psychologists work in various settings, including schools, hospitals, health systems, private practices, nonprofit organizations, mental health facilities, family practice clinics, and government agencies. Typical day-to-day duties will vary based on place of employment but can include: 

  • Conducting psychological assessments and evaluations
  • Diagnosing and developing treatment plans for children and adolescents
  • Providing individual therapy sessions to address children’s emotional, behavioral, and mental health issues
  • Collaborating with parents, caregivers, and other professionals to develop comprehensive treatment strategies and intervention plans
  • Conducting research in the field of child psychology to contribute to the development of evidence-based practices
  • Monitoring and tracking clients’ progress through regular follow-up sessions and adjusting treatment approaches as necessary
  • Providing guidance and support to parents and caregivers on effective parenting techniques and strategies
  • Participating in multidisciplinary teams to coordinate care for children with complex needs 
  • Advocating for  children and promoting awareness of mental health issues affecting them
  • Staying updated on the latest research and advancements in child psychology through continuing education and professional development

Child Psychologist Certifications & Licensure

Clinical child psychologists who work directly with patients must be licensed psychologists by the state board where they provide services. There are no additional licensing requirements to work with children. The requirements will vary by state. For example, in Washington, the requirements are:

  • Have a doctoral degree from an APA-accredited program or one that meets state educational standards
  • Complete 300 practicum hours, 100 of which must be in supervision
  • Have 3,000 internship hours. This can be from a combination of doctoral and postdoctoral work
  • Answer all the personal data questions
  • Pass the EPPP exam
  • Pass the Washington State Jurisprudence exam

Board certification through the American Board of Clinical Child and Adolescent Psychology is voluntary and can be used to demonstrate a high level of competency in this field. The requirements to sit for the board certification exam include:

  • Have a doctoral degree from an APA-accredited program or have a Certificate of Professional Qualifications in Psychology(CPQ) from the Association of State and Provincial Psychology Boards (ASPPB)
  • Hold a license to practice psychology in their state
  • The doctoral degree must be in clinical child and adolescent psychology, school psychology, or equivalent
  • Complete a one-year internship
  • Have at least three years of post-degree experience

How Much Do Child Psychologists Make?

The Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS May 2022) designated child psychologists as clinical and counseling psychologists. On average, professionals in this field earn $102,740 per year. The percentiles are:  

  • 10th percentile: $42,760
  • 25th percentile: $62,070
  • 50th  percentile (median): $90,130
  • 75th percentile: $126,240
  • 90th percentile: $168,790

Child Psychologist Career Alternatives

Here are some alternatives to a career as a child psychologist: 

Become a Marriage and Family Therapist

Marriage and family therapists guide couples, families, and individuals through the complexities of emotions, conflicts, and life transitions. Using evidence-based techniques, they help clients improve communication, strengthen relationships, and gain self-awareness. These therapists create a safe space for healing and personal growth with a compassionate approach and up-to-date knowledge. 

  • Typical Education: Master’s 
  • Licensing or Certifying Organization: Association of Marriage and Family Therapy Regulatory Boards (AMFTRB)

Become a Psychiatrist

A psychiatrist is a doctor who specializes in the diagnosis, treatment, and prevention of mental health disorders. They assess patients’ mental and emotional well-being, conduct evaluations, and prescribe medications when necessary. Psychiatrists also provide therapy and counseling to help individuals manage their mental health conditions. They work with individuals of all ages, from children to adults, and collaborate with other healthcare professionals to develop comprehensive treatment plans. 

  • Typical Education: Doctor of Medicine or Doctor of Osteopathy
  • Licensing or Certifying Organization: American Board of Psychiatry and Neurology (ABPN)

Become an Applied Behavior Analyst

Applied behavior analysts use the principles of behavior analysis to help individuals improve their behaviors and acquire new skills. They work with individuals with autism spectrum disorder (ASD), developmental disabilities, or behavioral challenges. ABA therapists conduct assessments, develop personalized treatment plans, and implement interventions to address specific behaviors and promote positive changes. They use data collection and analysis to measure progress and adjust strategies accordingly.

  • Typical Education: Bachelor’s 
  • Licensing or Certifying Organization: Behavior Analyst Certification Board (BACB)
Kimmy Gustafson

Kimmy Gustafson


At, Kimmy Gustafson has delivered in-depth and insightful articles since 2019, aiding prospective students to navigate the complexities of choosing the right healthcare degree. Her recent work includes topics such as the ethics of gene editing and physician assistant’s fight for autonomy.

Kimmy has been a freelance writer for more than a decade, writing hundreds of articles on a wide variety of topics such as startups, nonprofits, healthcare, kiteboarding, the outdoors, and higher education. She is passionate about seeing the world and has traveled to over 27 countries. She holds a bachelor’s degree in journalism from the University of Oregon. When not working, she can be found outdoors, parenting, kiteboarding, or cooking.

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