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.
Top 10 Best Online Master’s in Child and Adolescent Psychology Degrees
||University of Minnesota-Twin Cities
||University of South Florida
||The Chicago School of Professional Psychology
||San Diego, CA
||Southern New Hampshire University
||CUNY City College
||New York, NY
||West Virginia University
||Montclair State University
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.
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.
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.
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.
Best Online Master’s Degrees in Child and Adolescent Psychology 2021
University of Minnesota-Twin Cities
Kicking off our list is the University of Minnesota-Twin Cities. The oldest and largest of the University of Minnesota system, this public research institution is considered one of the nation’s “Public Ivy” schools. The university is a leader in innovative research, pushing forward new ideas in the world of health, technology, and psychology.
The University of Minnesota-Twin Cities stands out above the rest for its MA in Applied Child and Adolescent Development. This program is offering 100 percent online and covers 32 credit-hours of classes. Your curriculum will be defined by prerequisites, and 15 credits in an emphasis area. Here’s a quick look:
- Early Childhood Assessment
- Prevention and Intervention in Early Childhood
- Child Life Theory, Practice, and Program Development
- Early Childhood and Public Policy
Within the program at the University of Minnesota-Twin Cities, you’ll have the opportunity to specialize in one of three areas: Infant and Early Childhood Mental Health, Child Life, Individual Studies. Each track includes 13 customized courses. This is a fantastic way to elevate your resume.
University of South Florida
Located in Tampa, the University of South Florida is a three-fold institution that maintains three schools: USF Tampa, USF St. Petersburg, and USF Sarasota-Manatee. The Tampa campus is by far the largest, with over 41,000 students. As an overall school, USF ranks #68 among the 100 Top Public Schools in the nation, according to U.S. News & World Report.
Through the fully online MS in Child & Adolescent Behavioral Health degree at USF, you’ll jump into a world of engaged professors and streamlined courses. A total of 39 courses are required for this degree. The program can be delivered as a thesis or a non-thesis degree. All students will take a series of core courses that include:
- Child & Adolescent Behavioral Health
- Cultural Competency in Children’s Mental Health
- Child and Adolescent Behavioral Health Policy
- Evaluation & Research Methods in Community Health
Within your full curriculum, you will cater your degree to one of four concentrations: Developmental Disabilities, Leadership in Child & Adolescent Behavioral Health, Research & Evaluation, or Youth & Behavioral Health. Pursuing one of these areas gives you a huge head start in a career.
The hub for conservative Christian higher education, Liberty University is one of the largest Christian universities in the world. It was founded in 1971 by conservative leader Jerry Falwell. Located in Lynchburg, Virginia, Liberty University also maintains LU Online that was started in 2009.
At Liberty University, you’ll complete a fully online MA in Applied Psychology / Developmental Psychology. Your classes will be delivered in 8-week cycles, totalling 36 credit-hours. Most students finish their degree within about a year and a half. This curriculum is infused with faith-based teachings. Some of your core classes will include:
- Developmental Psychology
- Intervention & Behavioral Support
- Adolescent Psychology
- Developmental Neuropsychology
Liberty University is committed to its military students. Whether you’re an active service member or a spouse of a military member, the school will have your back. Military members receive a whopping $275 tuition discount per credit-hour. Veterans also receive a generous tuition discount package.
Primarily an online institution, Capella University is a for-profit school that operates out of Minneapolis, Minnesota. Over 36,000 students attend Capella University and are enrolled in its nearly 150 unique degree programs. The majority of the students at Capella University are enrolled in master’s programs.
The Harold Abel School of Psychology offers an MS in Psychology with a specialization in Child and Adolescent Development. This is a fully online program that requires 55 credit-hours in order to graduate. The first 20 credits are in core subjects, and the next 30 are specialization courses. Here’s a quick look:
- Adolescent Psychology
- Human Prenatal Development
- Ethics and Multicultural Issues in Psychology
- Quantitative Design and Analysis
The degree at Capella University can be completed through either the Guided Path format or the Flex Path format. The Guided Path sets out a structured course schedule for you to follow in order to help you stay on track. The Flex Path is self-guided and self-paced. This is a great option if you want to finish your degree earlier.
The Chicago School of Professional Psychology
Specializing specifically in psychology, The Chicago School of Professional Psychology is unique in its focus. It was founded in 1979 by established psychologists who wanted to push forward high-quality training in the field. Today, it offers over 20 different programs within psychology to around 4,300 students.
The MA in Psychology program at The Chicago School of Professional Psychology brings students into the Child and Adolescent concentration. This is an online program that you can complete either part-time or full-time. The curriculum dives into trauma intervention, addiction disorders, and more with classes like:
- Family Systems and Family Therapy
- Trauma and Crisis Intervention
- Evidence-Based Programs for Children and Adolescents
The Chicago School of Professional Psychology has strong academic partnerships with a number of schools and organizations. For example, the school offers financial discounts for students transferring in from Kaplan International, LA County Community Colleges, Sophia Learning, UC Irvine Extension, and more.
Founded in 1996, Northcentral University is an online university that delivers bachelor’s, master’s, and doctorate degrees. It operates out of five academic schools, one of which is the School of Social and Behavioral Sciences. Around 10,000 students attend Northcentral University each year.
Northcentral University features an MS in Child and Adolescent Psychology that spans 30 credit-hours. This online degree encompasses 10 total courses and takes most students around 20 months to complete. You can look forward to classes that deepen your understanding of relevant topics such as:
- Socioemotional Development
- Child and Adolescent Psychopathology
- Autism Spectrum Disorders
In addition to your 30-credit-hour program, you’ll have the choice to participate in a 100-hour internship in an area organization. This is an optional feature to put your skills in action. An internship experience is often what sets you apart from the rest of the pack in a hiring situation.
Southern New Hampshire University
Based in Manchester, New Hampshire, Southern New Hampshire University is home to over 80,000 students. Most of its student population, however, attends through online learning. Southern New Hampshire University is made up of six unique schools and colleges—including the College of Online & Continuing Education.
At Southern New Hampshire University, you’ll undertake a 36 credit-hour MS in Psychology with a concentration in Child and Adolescent Development Psychology. This program lets you accelerate your degree forward with 10-week terms. Most students finish in 15 months. You’ll find a wide variety of classes like:
- Cognitive Processes
- Theories of Personality
- Intervention Strategies
- Developmental Psychology
Southern New Hampshire University is widely known for being one of the fastest growing universities in the country. It also has been recognized for its ingenuity. In fact, last year U.S. News & World Report gave it the #1 spot in its list of Most Innovative Schools.
One of the many institutions affiliated with the City University of New York system, CUNY School of Professional Studies offers both undergraduate and graduate degree programs. It is located in Manhattan, but also delivers a number of online options for students. In fact, CUNY School of Professional Studies housed the CUNY’s first fully online program.
If you attend the MA in Psychology at CUNY School of Professional Studies, you’ll have two options for specializing: Industrial/Organizational Psychology or Developmental Psychology. The curriculum is divided out for you into core courses, research methods, specialization courses, and electives. You’ll meet 36 credit-hours with classes like:
- Biological Foundations of Behavior
- Child and Adolescent Development
- Atypical Development
- Group Dynamics
Other outlets have been abuzz about the program at CUNY School of Professional Studies. This year, it ranked in the top 25 Online Master’s in Psychology degrees by Online Psychology Degrees. It also recently made the list for the Top 20 Best Values for an Online Master’s in Psychology by College Values Online.
A shining point for the state in higher education, West Virginia University is a public research university with land-grant and space-grant designations. Over 32,300 students are in attendance. It maintains an R1: Doctoral University according to the Carnegie Foundation, and continues to push collegiate research forward in innovative ways.
Within in the online MA in Educational Psychology at West Virginia University, you’ll find a major in Child Development and Family Studies. Through 33 credit-hours, you’ll sort through child development, family systems, research methods, and more. Here’s a deeper look into the curriculum:
- Comparative Study of Family
- Socio-Emotional Development of Children
- Survey of Family Studies
- Socialization Processes
West Virginia University is the proud home to a number of prestigious alumnus. In fact, the school ranks nationally for its numerous scholarship recipients. WVU claims 25 Rhodes Scholars, 22 Truman Scholars, 42 Goldwater Scholars, 46 Fulbright Scholars, and that’s just the tip of the iceberg.
Montclair State University
Located just 10 miles from the “Big Apple,” Montclair State University is a public research university in New Jersey with a lot to offer. It is made up of 11 academic colleges and schools. Although Montclair State University is a mid-sized university of 21,000 students, it maintains an impressive student-to-teacher ratio of 23:1.
Offered through the Department of Social Work and Child Advocacy, you’ll tackle an online MA in Child Advocacy and Policy. This curriculum interweaves psychology, social work, and law. You’ll take two sessions per term in 8-week courses. Over 33 credit-hours, your course load might look like the following:
- Child Abuse & Neglect
- Substance Abuse and Family Crisis
- Family Empowerment Models
- Child Welfare Policy
Montclair State University is fully equipped to meet the multi-faceted demands of an online degree program. You’ll be set up with a graduate program coordinator assigned specifically to the Department of Social Work and Child Advocacy. You also will have complete access to a virtual library, writing center, and tech support.