Developmental psychologists specialize in the cognitive, social and physiological development of humans as they mature. Developmental psychologists usually focus their education and careers on one life stage: infancy, childhood, adolescence, adulthood or old-age.
Most jobs in developmental psychology require a doctorate degree. Specialized education and training are necessary for a successful career as a developmental psychologist. Fieldwork and internships are important facets of an advanced developmental psychology degree.
University-level teaching and research positions in developmental psychology usually require a Ph.D. or Psy.D. Doctorate programs are four to six years long and include an internship and supervised clinical practice. States require certification for private practice.
Due to the emphasis on research in developmental psychology, undergraduate degrees in biology and other sciences prepare students well for continued education in this psychology subfield. A bachelor’s in psychology is also a good foundation for a master’s or doctorate in developmental psychology.
Developmental psychologists study human development throughout the different life stages. They explore how genetics and environmental factors interact and affect cognitive development, including disabilities. Developmental psychologists assess the acquisition and development of such characteristics as: problem-solving patterns, language and communication skills, personality, motor skills, social patterns, morals and ethics, and behaviors.
The majority of developmental psychologists find jobs in research or teaching. Some work as consultants to other psychologists and doctors. Many developmental psychologists focus on infancy and childhood. However, a growing number of developmental psychologists are concentrating on later life stages. According to the Princeton Review, studies of aging and memory, social development, mind theories, relationships with peers, and how divorce affects children are recent research trends in developmental psychology.
Developmental psychologists may work at universities or as counselors in primary education. Those who focus their studies on old age can find jobs in nursing homes and assisted living facilities. Job opportunities for developmental psychologists are also available with various youth programs, psychiatric institutions, hospitals and research facilities.
Salaries for developmental psychologists vary depending on education and focus. Although detailed salary information on developmental psychologists is not available, faculty and research positions at the doctorate level, which tend to be the bulk of developmental psychology jobs, pay well for any psychology subfield. According to the American Psychological Association (APA), the 2007 overall median faculty salary for a 9-10-month position was $71,000. The 2007 overall median for an 11-12-month research position was $90,000. Jobs in research administration paid a little more with an overall mean of $110,000.
The U.S. Department of Labor predicts “faster than average” growth in all areas of psychology over the next few years, noting that job opportunities are best for psychologists who have a doctorate degree in their specialization. Research and teaching jobs are plentiful in the field of developmental psychology. As the average life span increases, the job market for developmental psychology jobs that focus on the mature years are rising.