Best Online Master’s in Child and Adolescent Psychology 2021

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Child and Adolescent Psychology Practitioner Badge

An online master’s program in child and adolescent psychology often features interdisciplinary coursework and cultivates advanced clinical and research skills. Some master’s graduates become licensed counselors while others go on to pursue a Ph.D.

To pursue a master’s degree in child and adolescent psychology, applicants typically need a bachelor’s degree from an accredited school and a 3.0 minimum GPA. Many programs also require relevant professional experience, prerequisite coursework, and strong GRE scores. Application requirements often include official transcripts, essays, and recommendation letters.

According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), clinical, counseling, and school psychologists earn an average annual salary of $87,450. BLS data indicates a median annual salary of $80,370 for psychologists and projects 3% job growth for this career from 2019 to 2029. The BLS projects jobs for clinical, counseling, and school psychologists to grow 10.5% during this same timeframe.


  • What can I do with a master's in child and adolescent psychology?

    Professionals with this degree often counsel children and young people in schools and community agencies. Graduates who pursue doctoral degrees often work as child psychologists, psychology professors, or researchers.

  • What type of degree do you need to be a child psychologist?

    Child psychologists usually need a doctoral degree and professional licensure related to child psychology.

  • How long does it take to get a master's degree in child psychology?

    Master’s programs usually take about two years to complete, but accelerated online programs may take less time.

  • How do I start a career in child psychology?

    Many aspiring child psychologists begin by pursuing undergraduate and graduate degrees in psychology. These programs offer practicum experiences that can help candidates qualify for professional certification and licensure.

What Are the Goals of a Child and Adolescent Psychology Degree?

Learners interested in studying child and adolescent psychology at the graduate level usually start by applying to either master of science or master of arts programs in this field. Both types of programs include core coursework in research methods, treatment models, child development, and ethics. Other common courses cover current issues in child and adolescent psychology and psychological assessment.

MS programs emphasize research and prepare learners for doctoral study. MA programs feature more interdisciplinary coursework and may lead to social work or counseling careers in community agencies or schools.

Child and adolescent psychology often appears as a concentration within a general psychology master’s program. However, some master’s programs offer further specialization in areas such autism disorders, grief counseling, divorce counseling, or mental health management in children and adolescents.

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Why Get a Child and Adolescent Psychology Degree?

Earning a child and adolescent psychology degree can often lead to a salary increase or career advancement. See below for some reasons students choose to enroll in child and adolescent psychology master’s programs.

Career Transition or Advancement
Enrollees from various academic backgrounds may use this specialized degree to pursue new careers in this field. This degree path also may help current professionals qualify for promotion to leadership positions.
Salary Increase
PayScale salary data from February 2021 indicates that bachelor’s in child psychology graduates average $46,942 annually, whereas master’s in psychology graduates make about $61,753. Salaries vary widely by degree type, credentials, employer, and geographical location.
Professional Networking Opportunities
Master’s program enrollees work with knowledgeable professors and an accomplished cohort of peers, forming a professional network that often proves useful when seeking internships and jobs.
Practicum Experiences
Child and adolescent psychology master’s students usually participate in required practicum experiences, which cultivate clinical skills and offer valuable hands-on learning and mentorship in an approved professional setting.
Preparation for Doctoral Programs
Master’s program enrollees may use their degree to qualify for related doctoral programs and careers as child and adolescent psychologists.

What Are the Requirements for a Child and Adolescent Psychology Degree?

To qualify for child and adolescent psychology master’s programs, applicants submit official transcripts indicating 3.0 minimum GPAs and bachelor’s degrees from accredited schools. Many programs also require candidates to complete prerequisite coursework. Application materials may include essays, recommendation letters, and GRE scores.

Child and adolescent psychology master’s programs typically require enrollees to complete 30-36 credits, often including a master’s thesis or practicum experience. Enrollees pursuing clinical careers as child psychologists often seek programs that emphasize clinical experience hours, while aspiring researchers may look for programs with research-project capstones. Many master’s programs entail both practicum and thesis components.

What is Accreditation and Why Does it Matter?

Professional Organizations for Child and Adolescent Psychology Students

Child and adolescent psychology degree students and graduates often benefit from joining professional organizations. These societies and associations provide diverse education and career resources such as professional certification, publications, networking tools, and special events. Child and adolescent psychology degree enrollees may find the following organizations useful.

  • Society of Clinical Child and Adolescent Psychology This society works to improve mental health and welfare by integrating scientific and professional dimensions of the child and adolescent psychology field. This society's parent organization, the American Psychological Association (APA), also provides various educational and career resources. Division 53 oversees two journals: Evidence-Based Practice in Child and Adolescent Mental Health and the Journal of Clinical Child and Adolescent Psychology.
  • American Academy of Child & Adolescent Psychiatry This nonprofit organization serves families, youth, psychiatry students, and professional psychiatrists. AACAP features a legislative action center that advocates for child and adolescent psychologists and their clients. Members benefit from annual meeting resources, training, and career resources.
  • Association for Psychological Science This nonprofit professional association advances psychological science through advocacy, networking, research, and education. This international organization also publishes six psychological science journals and a magazine.

Scholarships for Child and Adolescent Psychology Students

Like undergraduates, master’s students demonstrating financial need, academic merit, or membership in underrepresented groups may qualify for various scholarships. Professional organizations, schools, companies, and private funders grant these financial awards to qualifying students. Often preferable to loans, scholarships do not require repayment. Child and adolescent psychology degree enrollees may qualify for the following three scholarships.

APF Graduate Student Scholarships

Who Can Apply: These American Psychological Foundation graduate scholarships fund thesis research for doctoral students or interim master’s students. Recipients must receive nomination from an accredited psychology program belonging to the Council of Graduate Departments of Psychology (COGDOP). Applicants submit curriculum vitae, transcripts, research project proposals, and recommendation letters from their graduate research advisors.

Amount: $2,000-$5,000

Ruth G. and Joseph D. Matarazzo Scholarship

Who Can Apply: This APA scholarship supports graduate students in interim master’s or doctoral programs in psychology. For consideration, applicants need a nomination by a COGDOP-member psychology department. Application materials include research proposals, recommendation letters, transcripts, and curriculum vitae.

Amount: $3,000

Alpha Kappa Alpha Educational Advancement Foundation Graduate Financial Need Scholarship

Who Can Apply: EAF awards this scholarship to qualifying full-time graduate students with 2.5 GPAs and strong community service histories. Only enrollees at accredited, degree-granting schools may qualify. Applicants with 3.0 minimum GPAs may qualify for EAF’s merit scholarships. Application materials include three recommendation letters, resumes, scholarly pursuit/project descriptions, and a financial needs analysis.

Amount: Varies

Best Online Master’s Degrees in Child and Adolescent Psychology 2021

  1. Southern New Hampshire University

    Manchester, NH

    Located in Manchester, New Hampshire, SNHU offers an online master of science in psychology program with a concentration in child and adolescent psychology.

    Students of this MS program learn to analyze and support the psychological well-being of individuals and communities, integrate psychological theories in research, and develop assessment and treatment strategies in addressing psychological needs. Students must complete 36 credits of coursework to earn their degree. They must also meet the requirements to work as a specialist in child or adolescent development.

    This MS program allows students to transfer up to 12 graduate credits from other institutions toward their degree. The school requires individuals to have earned an undergraduate psychology degree online or on campus. Southern New Hampshire University is regionally accredited by the New England Commission on Higher Education.

  2. Palo Alto University

    Palo Alto, CA

    A private, nonprofit university based in Palo Alto, California, PAU offers an online master of arts in counseling program focused on marriage, family, and child therapy.

    PAU's master's in counseling degree paves the way for students to qualify for the California professional clinical counseling licensure. Students must complete at least 700 hours of counseling-related experience, including a minimum of 280 hours of direct counseling.

    Graduates of this MA program work as marriage and family therapists in private practice. They may also serve in schools and colleges, medical and mental health centers, and social service organizations.

    PAU allows students to transfer up to 15 units of prior graduate work. Applicants must submit official transcripts, three letters of recommendation, an updated resume, and a completed online application form. Palo Alto University is regionally accredited by the Western Association of Schools and Colleges Senior Colleges and University Commission.

  3. Adler University

    Chicago, IL

    Strategically located at the heart of Chicago, Illinois, Adler offers an online master of arts in psychology program with four distinct concentrations in child and adolescent development, gender and sexuality studies, crisis management, and health and wellness.

    The concentration in child and adolescent development provides students with intensive courses in the models of psychosocial development, and how social, emotional, and educational support impact youth development. This 36-credit MA degree prepares students to assume specialist roles as mental health professionals, family support advocates, sports psychologists, mental performance coaches, forensic identification specialists, curriculum designers, or research data analysts.

    The school requires prospective applicants to have a bachelor's degree from an accredited college or university or an equivalent degree from an international college or university. Applicants must also submit official transcripts demonstrating a minimum cumulative 3.0 GPA, along with three letters of recommendation. Adler University is regionally accredited by the Higher Learning Commission.

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