Developmental Psychology is a psychology subspecialty that focuses on the development of children into biologically and psychologically mature adults. It addresses cognitive, motivational and psychophysiological changes over a lifetime. Developmental psychologists seek to understand their subjects’ actions and responses and how they relate to the physical body.
A developmental psychologist studying coulrophobia, for instance, will want to know the psychological reasoning that motivates the subject to be afraid of clowns, but will also be interested in the brain functions at work when the stimulus is present.
Developmental psychology is a true marriage of psychology and science, and the best developmental psychology programs will provide a firm foundation in both to enable you to pursue a career in this field.
What Does a Developmental Psychologist Do?
Developmental psychologists will often use surveys, field experimentation and even the study of brain patterns when studying the development of individuals from childhood through adulthood.
They note how perception, language processing and critical thinking change and develop over time and they pay close attention to what the body does at each stage of psychological development. The work of developmental psychologists looks to better explain and assist subjects as they move from one stage of life to the next.
Of particular interest to the developmental psychologist are life stages from pre-natal to old age, and all points in between, which may include: infancy, toddlerhood, early and late childhood, adolescence, early adulthood and middle and old age.
Developmental Psychology Careers
Graduates of developmental psychology programs can work as behavioral analysts for insurance companies. They can act as supervisors in a clinical setting. They can also serve in the educational field as counselors, teachers or school administrators.
Salary expectations may vary from the low-to-mid $50,000 range to six figures for the top 10 percent of candidates, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics. Enterprising developmental psychologists can see much higher earnings through consultation work.
Obtaining a Developmental Psychology Degree
It is not unusual to see some developmental psychologists finding employment with a master’s degree. Jobs available with only an undergraduate degree will typically earn below expectations. Board certification may require a doctorate degree (PsyD or PhD), and many of the higher paying positions require this as a stipulation of employment.
The exact specifications will vary from state to state and country to country. Obtaining a doctorate degree from one of the accredited development psychology programs could take close to ten years (with undergraduate work factored in), and may also require successful completion of an independent research project.