Whether it’s a toddler with a learning disability or a teen battling depression, kids face unique challenges that professionals with degrees in child psychology are trained to understand. In this guide, learn about flexible online degree programs that can lead to a fulfilling, child-focused career.
Finding the right online child psychology degree program for you is all about matching your needs and preferences to the programs available. It’s the one that offers the program length, study format, and courses that meets your academic goals and gets you started in your career as quickly and effectively as possible – all at a price you can afford.
To help you in your search for the perfect program, we’ve surveyed the range of online child psychology degree programs currently offered by colleges and rated them based on important factors like accreditation, flexibility, and affordability to identify the best ones out there. And we’re starting with spotlights of three of the very best. Check out the school profiles below to learn which programs stand out from all the rest in 2020 and see if they’re a good match for you.
Brandman University’s Bachelor of Arts in Psychology degree with Child Psychology concentration is designed to provide students with a solid grounding in the foundational theories and methods of psychology needed to work effectively with all children, particularly those with developmental challenges. The program specifically addresses a number of relevant child development perspectives, including behavioral, biological, cognitive, evolutionary, humanistic, and psychoanalytic. Students learn to apply knowledge gained in courses on learning and child development.
The 120-semester unit curriculum includes 42 general education (English skills, humanities, natural and social science) credits, 48 core psychology credits, 15 child psychology concentration credits, and 15 elective course credits. Academic work culminates with a capstone experience in which students create a final assessment portfolio documenting their academic, professional, and personal growth. The degree is offered in both fully-online and hybrid (part online/part on-campus) formats. On-campus courses are available on 18 Brandman campuses located throughout California and three campuses in Washington State.
The Chicago School of Professional Psychology
The Chicago School of Professional Psychology is home to two online graduate-level programs in the child psychology field. The Master of Arts in Psychology with Child and Adolescent Concentration prepares psychology professionals to advance their careers in a variety of positions in education, counseling, social work, and more in a range of settings, including schools, clinics, government agencies, and nonprofit organizations. The 36-credit hour curriculum includes foundational psychology and concentration-specific coursework, concluding with completion of an applied research project. Both two-year full-time and three-year part-time formats are available.
The purpose of The Chicago School’s online Certificate in Child and Adolescent Psychology is to provide current professionals in psychology or a closely-related field the ability to enhance their knowledge and skills base and advance their careers to help children and adolescents cope with a variety of mental health challenges. Students complete three courses (nine credits total): Psychology of the Life Span; Trauma and Crisis Intervention; and Family Systems and Family Therapy. The certificate program is offered online in a five-month, full-time format.
Southern New Hampshire University
Convenience and affordability are hallmarks for both the undergraduate and graduate online degree options in the child psychology field offered by Southern New Hampshire University. SNHU’s Bachelor of Arts in Psychology with concentration in Child and Adolescent Development prepares graduates to launch careers in a number of professional settings, including schools (preschool through grade 12), health care organizations, child welfare agencies, and more. This 120-credit hour program includes both general education and major-specific coursework presented in an asynchronous format, allowing students to complete their studies at anytime. Students can transfer in up to 90 previously-earned credits.
SNHU’s online Master of Science in Psychology with Child & Adolescent Development concentration provides advanced training and skills in assessment, intervention, and consultation to support children and their families with their individual, psychological, and cultural challenges. The 36-credit hour curriculum is presented in a two course per 10-week term format, and can be completed in as little as 15 months. Standardized test scores (GMAT, GRE) are not required for admission.
What It’s Like to Earn Your Child Psychology Degree Online
Online degree programs today provide students with the same quality of education as their on-campus counterparts. That doesn’t mean there aren’t differences, though. So, it’s critical that you have a realistic idea of what online study for your particular program is all about, both in terms of what you can expect from your program and what your program will expect from you. Here are a few of the most important elements to keep in mind:
Probably the biggest consideration you need to make when deciding to pursue your degree online is the online study format itself. Remember that without the normal on-campus academic schedules and structures, you’ll be almost entirely responsible for getting your coursework completed and sent in on time. And that requires significant self-discipline. If you’re not sure you have it, a traditional on-campus degree program may be a better choice for you.
Synchronous or Asynchronous Course Formats
Synchronous courses are those that require students to log on and attend classes at specific dates and times. These classes may require attendance during the day, evenings, and/or on weekends. Asynchronous courses are those that students can access and complete online at anytime. Your online degree program may offer courses in one or both formats.
Fully or Partially Online
When looking at online programs, keep in mind that “online” doesn’t necessarily mean you can complete all degree requirements online. This may be true even for programs that bill themselves as “100% online”. Online child psychology degree programs, especially graduate-level ones, often include in-person components like internships, practicum experiences, and/or short-term on-campus residencies. And because substantial clinical practice hours are required to obtain psychologist licensure in most states, online doctoral programs will normally include clinical practice hour requirements as well.
Comparing Online Child Psychology Degree Options
Online child psychology programs are offered on almost all degree levels, with certificate programs available as well. Here’s a detailed look at the most common options.
Online Certificate in Child Psychology
Best for … Current public health and psychology practitioners looking to expand their services and advance their careers.
There are very few child psychology certificate programs offered online, and almost all of them are on the graduate and post-graduate levels. Graduate and post-graduate certificates in child psychology are designed for current professionals seeking to add to their knowledge and skills base to provide a broader range of professional services, as well as to qualify for various professional certifications in the child psychology field. Child psychology-related certificate program titles include Child & Adolescent Psychology, Forensic Child Psychology, and Child and Family Development.
Total Credits: Varies by certificate, typically 9 to 21.
Other Common Requirements: Previously-earned bachelor’s degree (for graduate certificates) or graduate degree (for post-graduate certificates).
Time to Complete
Part-Time Program: Varies by certificate. Several months to one year or more is not uncommon.
Full-Time Program: Varies by certificate, typically several months to one year.
Best for …Individuals interested careers working with children and adolescents in non-psychologist occupations, as well as those intending to continue on to graduate studies in the child psychology field.
The bachelor’s in child psychology (often titled as bachelor of psychology with child psychology concentration) degree provides students with knowledge and skills to help young people develop mentally and emotionally from birth through adolescence. Students are taught foundational theory and principles in child psychology, and how to apply those theories and principles in real-life environments. The degree prepares graduates for a number of entry-level positions in social work, education, and counseling settings, as well as to continue their academic endeavors into graduate-level degree programs.
Total Credits: 120
Other Common Requirements: Admission requires a high school diploma or equivalent and, in most cases, submission of standardized test scores (SAT or ACT). Degree requirements often include an in-person internship or practicum experience.
Best for …Students seeking employment in the child psychology or a related field in positions requiring a master’s degree or intending to continue on to a child psychology doctorate program to become a licensed psychologist.
Child psychology master’s degrees prepare graduates for employment in a wide range of professional positions. Examples include early childhood education specialist, child protective service manager, child care specialist, child and family counselor, mental health consultant, and intervention advocate.
Topics covered include research methods, intervention strategies, cognitive psychology, and many others. Programs are primarily offered in the context of a master in psychology with concentration in child psychology or child and adolescent development.
Total Credits: 30 to 36
Other Common Requirements: Admission requires a previously-earned bachelor’s degree in psychology or other major (with completed coursework in psychology and related subjects such as social science statistics and research methods. Standardized test scores (GRE or GMAT) may or may not be an admissions prerequisite. Degree requirements typically include in-person internships or practicum experiences.
Doctoral degrees in child psychology come in two forms: the Doctor of Psychology (PsyD) and PhD in Psychology. Which is best for you will depend on your professional interests and career goals, as discussed below. Regardless of your choice, a doctorate is the terminal degree for the child psychology profession, and will prepare you for top-tier positions throughout the field as well as becoming a licensed psychologist.
Online Doctor of Psychology (PsyD) in Child Psychology
Best for …Those seeking top-level positions in clinical practice and supervision in the child psychology field.
The PsyD in psychology is designed for individuals whose professional interests lie in the clinical practice of psychology providing services directly to patients and clients, as opposed to work in the areas of academics and research. The Individuals interested in child psychology seeking a PsyD online will likely pursue a PsyD in Clinical Psychology with a specialization in Child & Adolescent Psychology or Development Psychology. Curriculums focus on the latest and most advanced theories in behavior analysis, abnormal psychology, child and adolescent development, and other related mental health issues, along with their applications to the treatment of children and adolescents.
Total Credits: 80 (entering with master’s degree) to 110 (entering with bachelor’s degree)
Other Common Requirements: A previously-earned bachelor’s a master’s degree in psychology for admissions. Along with all didactic coursework, students will complete substantial clinical hours and internship/practicum requirements. Most students will also complete a doctoral dissertation.
Best for … Professionals interested in top-level careers focusing on the areas of academia or research, or in clinical practice in combination with those areas.
The PhD in Psychology is the terminal degree for those students intent on becoming licensed psychologists and pursuing top-tier careers as researchers or as professors in postsecondary academia. And while the PsyD degree is likely the most common choice for those interested in clinical practice, psychology PhD holders may also establish professional careers as clinical practitioners.
Online programs are typically offered with a Clinical Psychology or Developmental Psychology title with specialization or concentration in Child Psychology or Child & Adolescent Psychology. As with the PsyD degree, most programs require a master’s in psychology for admissions, while a few others allow students to enter their PhD programs with a psychology bachelor’s degree.
Total Credits: 60 (entering with master’s degree) to 110 (entering with bachelor’s degree)
Other Common Requirements: Along with didactic coursework, students will complete substantial clinical hours and internship/practicum requirements, as well as a doctoral dissertation.
A Deeper Look at the Online Bachelor’s in Child Psychology
One of the keys to your academic success will be choosing the right degree program for you. So, it’s critical that you spend some real time and effort in evaluating both your own career goals and the details of each and every bachelor’s degree program you’re considering before signing up. It’s simple: The best decision is an informed one. With that in mind, here are answers to some of the important questions you need to ask in choosing your online child psychology bachelor’s degree program.
What do you learn in a child psychology program at the bachelor’s level?
All online child psychology bachelor’s degree programs offer their own perspective on the major, expressed through differences in education philosophies, instruction styles and formats, course offerings, and faculty. The overall goal of all of these programs is the same, however, and that is to provide students with the knowledge and skills needed to succeed as effective child psychology professionals. Below are several of the key learning outcomes you can expect to gain from your online bachelor’s degree in child psychology program:
The ability to understand, assimilate, and apply both historical and current psychology and child psychology theory and research findings into professional daily practice with patients, peers, and fellow staff.
A clear understanding of the statistical techniques and methodologies related to child and adolescent behavioral science research, and their practical applications.
Competency in a range of communicative and experiential skills in the areas of oral and written communication, library research, observation and data collection, and critical thinking and analysis.
A solid foundational understanding of the dynamic relationships that exist for children within the contexts of their families, their society, and their culture, including issues of race, ethnicity, gender, and special needs.
The ability to apply the knowledge and skills gained in the child psychology field to advocacy for change in a variety of important areas concerning children and adolescents, their families, education, childcare, and more.
Common Child Psychology Online Courses
Early Childhood Skill Sets
Bachelor’s degree-seekers in this class further develop their pedagogy skills, aimed at assisting young students to engage in self-exploration and relationship building with peers. The class pays special attention on how teachers and mentors can help children develop more social skills, learn how to appreciate their classmates and surroundings, and exercise self-control in social situations.
Professional Roles in Child Development
Students in this class study the various roles that adults play in children’s lives from a teacher’s and professional’s point of view. The class covers theoretical and historical foundations of work in the child development field while introducing instructional techniques designed for young students. Bachelor’s students also study how family, community, and culture affect child development processes and outcomes.
Special Education in Child Development
This class helps bachelor’s students adapt lessons and instructional methods to accommodate special education students. Degree-seekers learn teaching strategies based on variety and variations that benefit young students with exceptionalities. As a result, graduates are better prepared for the diversity of classrooms and instructional scenarios they will encounter in their professional careers.
Mental Health Studies in Child Development
Focusing on toddler and infant mental health issues, this class is designed for child development bachelor’s students who are interested in work with this particular population. Course content helps undergraduates examine the work of childhood specialists, psychologists, and child social workers to learn effective counseling and care practices for both toddlers and their families.
Children and Language Development
This class helps bachelor’s students understand the complexities and necessities of fostering learning environments that promote language development among young students. The class covers parent-infant communication development, social and physical cues of human interaction, learning activities focused on early writing and spelling, and the general development of literacy.
Can you be a child psychologist with a bachelor’s degree?
No. According to the American Psychological Association, practice as a psychologist in the U.S. requires licensure issued by a state licensing board, which in turn requires applicants to have completed a doctoral degree program. There are a few exceptions, with some states exempting licensure for professionals at corporations, research labs, colleges and universities, and state and federal institutions. However, these positions commonly require job holders to possess a master’s degree. Notwithstanding these possible exemptions, all states require applicants to hold a doctoral degree in psychology earned from a properly-accredited postsecondary institution.
How much does it cost to earn an online bachelor’s degree in child psychology?
Costs vary significantly, however, due to a combination of several factors, including total program length, full-time or part-time study, and whether the program you choose is offered by a public or private school. Your total costs will also be affected by any scholarship and grant awards you obtain, as well any interest costs associated with student loans taken out.
We’ve listed below the current (as of summer 2020) tuition costs for three online child psychology bachelor’s degree programs to give you an idea of what you can expect to pay. Keep in mind that these are only tuition figures and do not include additional fees and charges, so your total cost will likely be higher.
$400/credit; $350/credit (active and retired military and their spouses)
How to Pay for Your Online Child Psychology Degree
Earning a college degree is an expensive proposition, and the thought of taking on that expense can seem overwhelming. Fortunately, there are a variety of excellent funding resources out there to help out, including student loans, scholarships and grants, and more. Here are the details:
The biggest source of secondary education funding, student loans are available for most online child psychology degree programs offered in the U.S., both undergraduate and graduate. Those that are properly accredited, that is. Student loan sources include state governments and agencies and private lenders, but the largest source by far is the federal government. You can find out about what’s available from the federal government on this Department of Education Federal Student Aid website.
Scholarships and Grants
Two other important degree funding sources are scholarships and grants. Scholarships and grants are especially attractive because, unlike student loans, they don’t have to be paid back. Scholarships are typically competitive and awarded based on any number of criteria (academic, financial, demographic, etc.) while grants are normally awarded solely on the basis of the student’s financial need. There are literally hundreds of scholarships and grants available and likely more available for you than you might think.
Accreditation for Online Child Psychology Degrees
Accreditation of colleges and the degrees they offer is the means by which you can be sure that the degree programs you consider meet important minimum academic standards. There are two primary types of accreditation to consider: institutional and programmatic. Colleges and universities in the U.S. are institutionally accredited through several national and regional accrediting agencies approved by the Department of Education. Programmatic accreditation concerns the vetting of individual degree programs. There is no primary agency in the U.S. that accredits individual undergraduate or master’s child psychology degree programs. Specific child psychology-related doctorate programs, however, may be accredited through the American Psychiatric Association (APA). Accreditation information can be found on college and university websites. You can also check on institutional and programmatic accreditation status using the DOE’s Database of Accredited Postsecondary Institutions and Programs.
Related Degrees to Consider
If you’re interested in a career in the field of psychology or working with children in need, then earning a child psychology degree may be the best way to get there. But it’s not the only path available. Here are a few alternate degree types you may want to consider:
Child development (or child and adolescent development) degrees focus on the specific mental and emotional health issues that involve the family, social, economic, and cultural environments in which children grow and develop. Examples of job titles for child development degree holders include social worker, parent educator, child education consultant, and special education paraprofessional. Child development degrees are offered on all degree levels, and available both online and on-campus.
Counseling degrees prepare graduates to become professional counselors in a wide range of practice areas, including clinical mental health counseling, marriage and family counseling, school counseling, rehabilitation counseling, substance abuse counseling, and child and adolescent counseling. Degree programs may be generalized and include concentrations or specializations in the areas listed here, or schools may offer degrees specifically in these practice areas. Both undergraduate and graduate counseling degree programs are available.
Applied behavior analysis is a distinct form of therapy that concerns the improvement of specific behaviors (academic, communication, social, etc.) and adaptive learning skills (job, domestic, hygiene, fine motor, etc.) Applied behavior analysis degrees can be found on the bachelor, master, and doctoral levels, but becoming a Board Certified Behavior Analyst will require earning your master’s.