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What is a Developmental Psychologist? Career Facts

Are the mechanisms governing human thought and the variables influencing conduct a source of fascination for you? If so, you might be a good candidate for a career as a psychologist. Within the discipline of psychology, there are numerous specializations to take into account, including developmental psychology.

What is a developmental psychologist? What does a developmental psychologist do? This comprehensive career guide explores this fascinating career option.

What is a Developmental Psychologist?

If you think of a psychologist, you generally picture a person taking notes as a patient talks about their struggles, ideas, and emotions while lying on a couch. Despite the fact that some psychologists do provide treatment, many others focus largely on research and academic work. In actuality, this latter group includes the majority of developmental psychologists.

What precisely does a developmental psychologist do? A person with this specialty focuses on the study of human growth and development from conception to death. All facets of human development are examined by developmental psychologists, including the following:

  • Personality development
  • Emotional development
  • Perceptual development
  • Cognitive development
  • Social development
  • Intellectual development
  • Physical development

Developmental psychologists’ study is important because it aids in the understanding of the variables influencing a person’s growth and development by both experts and laypeople. For instance, a parent or pediatrician can spot a delay when a child fails to meet specific developmental milestones as they get older and decide whether that child needs extra help.

Because the majority of specialists in developmental psychology work in academic and research settings rather than in clinical settings, the area is regarded as non-clinical. However, some developmental psychologists do directly analyze, evaluate, and treat kids or adults who have been given a developmental impairment diagnosis or who are suspected of having one.

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What is a Developmental Psychologist

What Does a Developmental Psychologist Do?

The question, “What does a developmental psychologist do? ” has no one correct response. since the jobs these specialists accomplish can vary from day to day. Their everyday obligations are frequently influenced by their workplace.

Research dominates the majority of developmental psychologists’ days, and faculty members frequently teach as well. Developmental psychologists may carry out any of the following duties throughout the course of a normal day:

  • designing new research projects, both quantitative and qualitative, to further the field’s understanding
  • obtaining people for research studies, carrying them out, and interpreting results
  • reporting study findings for publishing in academic journals with peer review
  • creating lectures and lesson plans for university courses at the undergraduate or graduate level
  • giving lectures, distributing assignments, and evaluating work
  • meeting with kids to offer extra assistance outside of class during office hours
  • serving on a doctorate committee while working as a faculty advisor for students
  • attending academic conferences and professional gatherings

Developmental psychologists who operate in clinical settings are fewer in number. These practitioners may prefer to focus on treating a certain patient demographic, such as children, adolescents, or adults.

The environment in which a clinical development psychologist works is typically influenced by the particular patient population they treat. For instance, they might work in a senior living facility or a medical clinic. Regardless of their workplace, developmental psychologists must be licensed. Some of their particular responsibilities might be as follows:

  • assessing kids or other patients to see if they have any developmental disabilities
  • collaborating with a treatment team to choose and apply research-based therapy approaches
  • investigating the efficacy and safety of therapies intended to help people with developmental impairments
  • pursuing research projects on topics such as newborn motor development, child language development, or strategies to support elderly individuals’ independence.

Employment Prospects and Salary for Developmental Psychologists

The organization in charge of keeping track of employment data and forecasting future employment statistics in the US is the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS). Statistics pertaining to the field of developmental psychology are not available from the BLS. The BLS does, however, offer overall employment statistics for all varieties of psychologists.

According to the BLS Occupational Outlook Handbook, there will be an anticipated 14,100 more employment in the field of psychology between 2021 and 2031, growing at a rate of roughly 6%, which is faster than the average for all professions.

The BLS estimates that the median annual salary for psychologists in May 2021 was $81,040.

Where do Developmental Psychologists Work?

It’s always a good idea to research potential work settings of specialists in that particular industry before deciding on a career route to pursue. What places do developmental psychologists work, then? There is no solitary response due to the fact that developmental psychologists can work in a range of contexts, such as the following:

  • Universities and colleges that do research and instruct psychology majors
  • Governmental organizations that work in the neighborhood to diagnose and assist people with developmental disabilities
  • Assisted living facilities: providing advice on procedures and policies as well as patient care
  • Outreach programs for homeless and teenage youth that focus on working one-on-one with clients, diagnosing developmental issues, and strengthening coping mechanisms
  • Functioning as a member of the caregiving staff at general and mental hospitals

How to Become a Developmental Psychologist

You might be interested in finding out how to become a developmental psychologist now that you are aware of what one is. If you’re a high school student interested in following this career path, you should discuss your goals for your future employment and your plans to get a degree in developmental psychology with your guidance counselor.

You might be able to add classes to your schedule that align with your goals, such psychology and child development courses. Additionally, you should enroll in as many math and scientific courses as you can, including statistics. Don’t overlook the humanities either because you’ll also require effective communication and critical thinking abilities.

Obtain a Psychology Undergraduate Degree

Earning an undergraduate psychology degree is the first step in the process of becoming a developmental psychologist after high school. You shouldn’t worry too much about selecting a specialized degree at this point in your academic career because you will start to specialize throughout your graduate studies.

However, you can choose to pursue a Bachelor of Science in Behavioral Health Science rather than a general psychology degree if you already know which focus you want to pursue. A Bachelor of Science in Behavioral Health Science degree program with a particular specialization, like an emphasis on pediatric and adolescent problems, is an option. Although each school’s curriculum will be different, generally speaking, you may anticipate studying subjects like the following:

  • Human lifelong physical, cognitive, and emotional development
  • Aberrant cognitive and behavioral patterns and disorders, including their causes and progression
  • The evaluation, diagnosis, and treatment of diseases in children and adolescents
  • Models for theoretical counseling
  • Stages of group formation, therapist-patient dynamics, and moral principles

Additionally, your institution might offer courses on behavioral health science professional ethics. For instance, you might look at ethical theories, relevant laws, and current developments in the industry.

An undergraduate degree in general psychology is an additional choice. You can use the core information you get from pursuing a Bachelor of Science in Psychology as a launching pad for your graduate studies.

You could study the following subjects during your studies:

  • The fundamentals of psychology
  • The origins and characteristics of human behavior as revealed through measurements and ideas in science
  • Developmental stages for children and adolescents
  • Social and group dynamics that influence human behavior
  • Cognitive and neuropsychological principles

No matter if you decide to pursue a degree in general psychology or a degree in behavioral health science, you might be required to finish a capstone course in your senior year. You have the chance to demonstrate what you’ve learned over the course of the previous years by finishing a significant project in a capstone course.

You could already have a broad concept of what you want to concentrate on in your career by the time you are in your senior year. For instance, you might want to concentrate on child development. It’s a smart idea to select a capstone subject that fits with your newly discovered professional passions.

What is a Developmental Psychologist

Get your Master’s in Psychology

It’s time to enroll in a graduate program to start working toward your graduate-level developmental psychology degree after you have obtained an undergraduate degree in behavioral health science or psychology. A master’s degree serves as a prerequisite for a doctorate. You can also improve your writing and research skills and narrow your career emphasis.

Master’s degree programs need more study beyond what you did for your undergraduate degree, and there may be options for online, on-campus, or nighttime sessions. Although it could take longer to finish a master’s program if you choose to work while pursuing your degree, flexible program options make it possible. Look for a degree program that complies with the American Psychological Association’s requirements.

A master’s thesis must be finished for some master’s degree programs. This extensive study report (between 40 and 80 pages) examines a particular subject in the industry. A master’s thesis does not need original research, as contrast to a doctoral dissertation.

A master’s thesis is not necessary for every master’s degree, though. You might finish a professional capstone course in its place, which calls for a different kind of assignment. As an illustration, you might create and provide thorough suggestions for original study.

Learn Developmental Psychology at the Doctoral Level

You’ll be prepared to apply to a doctoral degree program once you’ve completed your master’s degree in psychology.

Most graduate institutions require doctorate students to start by enrolling in the courses needed to earn their degree. After that, they must succeed on a challenging test to get “all but dissertation” (ABD) status. At this time, individuals are no longer considered doctoral students but rather doctoral applicants.

When a doctorate candidate is declared ABD, they can start writing their dissertation. Be aware that the dissertation procedure may be integrated into the coursework at some graduate schools, allowing students to start writing their dissertations while enrolled in classes. In some circumstances, this could aid in hastening the completion of this terminal degree.

An unique research endeavor and a lengthy paper outlining the research, methodology, studies, findings, and analysis make up a PhD dissertation. A psychology dissertation typically has between 80 and 150 pages. An opportunity to perform a thorough investigation of a subject that piques your professional interest is writing a dissertation.

You will gain from the close supervision of your dissertation adviser and other members of the dissertation committee as you work to complete your research and dissertation. As you move forward with your work, they will aid in sharpening the focus of your research and offer general input.

What is a Developmental Psychologist

Frequently Asked Questions

What are the duties of developmental psychologists?

Studying changes in human development across the lifespan, including physical, cognitive, social, intellectual, perceptual, personality, and emotional growth, is the focus of developmental psychology.

Who is the father of developmental psychology?

Jean Piaget. The first person to systematically examine how youngsters learn to understand was a Swiss psychologist. Many people believe him to have been the key figure in developmental psychology in the 20th century.

What distinguishes a psychologist from a therapist?

A therapist typically choose a specialty, such as family or marriage therapy, and works with clients to help them resolve personal concerns. Strong analytical and observational skills are necessary for psychologists. These individuals carry out research, make diagnoses of illnesses, and manage interns.

What are the top three development types?

Physical, cognitive, and psychosocial development are seen as three developmental areas that can be examined scientifically as a lifelong process. The body and brain, the senses, motor abilities, health, and wellness all grow and change during physical development.


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