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What is a Developmental Psychologists?

Developmental Psychologists study the cognitive, social and physiological development that occurs throughout a lifetime. Developmental psychology focuses on the interaction between psychological processes and physical development. Developmental Psychologists can specialize in behavior during infancy, childhood, adolescence, or in the older adult.  Some Developmental Psychologists study specific developmental disabilities, their effects and treatment.

Where does a Developmental Psychologist work?

Developmental Psychologists work in many settings. They work directly with patients and indirectly in research settings.

  1. Universities and research institutions: Many developmental psychologists work in academic settings, conducting research, teaching courses, and mentoring students.
  2. Hospitals and healthcare organizations (inc. senior care facilities): Developmental psychologists may work in hospitals or other healthcare organizations, where they provide diagnostic and therapeutic services to patients with developmental disorders.
  3. Schools and educational institutions: Developmental psychologists may work in schools or educational institutions, where they help teachers and administrators understand the developmental needs of children and develop interventions to support their learning.
  4. Government agencies: Developmental psychologists may work for government agencies, such as the National Institutes of Health (NIH) or the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), where they conduct research on developmental issues and provide guidance on policy decisions.
  5. Private businesses: Some developmental psychologists work for private businesses, such as consulting firms or market research companies, where they may use their expertise in developmental psychology to develop products or services targeted at specific age groups.

What are the day to day tasks of a Developmental Psychologist?

The day of a developmental psychologist will vary depending upon your employer and your setting. Here are some examples of the typical day to day tasks that a developmental psychologist will be expected to do though:

  1. Research: Developmental psychologists may spend a significant amount of their time conducting research studies to better understand various aspects of human development. This may involve recruiting participants, collecting data through surveys, interviews, or observation, and analyzing data using statistical software.
  2. Assessing and diagnosing developmental disorders: Developmental psychologists may work with children or adults who are experiencing developmental challenges, such as language delays, learning disabilities, or autism.
  3. Providing therapy or counseling: Developmental psychologists who work in clinical settings may provide therapy or counseling to individuals who are experiencing emotional or behavioral difficulties.
  4. Consulting with schools or other organizations: Developmental psychologists may work with schools, healthcare organizations, or other community groups to provide guidance and consultation on developmental issues. For example, they may help schools develop programs to support children with learning disabilities or provide training to teachers on how to work with children who have behavioral challenges.
  5. Teaching and mentoring students: Many developmental psychologists work in academic settings and spend time teaching courses or mentoring students. This may involve developing course materials, grading assignments, or advising students on their research projects.

What Skills are Required in Developmental Psychology?

Developmental psychologists must be able to analyze data, interpret research findings, and use this information to draw conclusions about human development. You will need to evaluate different theories and perspectives on development and think critically about how to approach complex issues.

Patience and empathy are core skills of a developmental psychologist. You must be able to understand and relate to the experiences of others, especially children and families who may be facing challenges related to development. Given you will often work with children or individuals who are facing developmental challenges, you must be patient and persistent in your efforts to help them achieve their goals.

Communication, team-working and management skills will also be important in your career as a development psychologist. Whether you are communicating your insights in a written study or presenting your findings to colleagues and other stakeholders, you will need to be comfortable working and supporting other professionals.

Finally, two skills which arguably apply to all areas of psychology are attention to detail and the ability to adhere to strict ethical guidelines.

How to become a Developmental Psychologist

How long does it take to become a developmental psychologist? It depends on where you start your journey (i.e. if you study a bachelor’s degree in something other than psychology) but typically it will take 8-12 years.


You’ll need to earn a bachelor’s degree in psychology or a related field to get started. This is a 4 year process. Developmental psychology is a fundamental area of psychology so most psychology bachelor’s degree programs cover developmental psychology as part of their core curriculum.

The next step is a master’s degree in developmental psychology. This is a graduate-level program that provides students with advanced knowledge and skills in the field of developmental psychology.

Master’s programs in developmental psychology typically take 1-2 years to complete and require students to complete coursework and/or a thesis project. Coursework in a master’s program in developmental psychology may cover topics such as:

  • Advanced theories of human development across the lifespan
  • Research methods and statistical analysis techniques used in developmental psychology
  • Cultural and social factors that impact development
  • Neuroscience and cognitive development
  • Developmental psychopathology and disorders
  • Applied developmental psychology, such as education, healthcare, or policy applications

Students in a master’s program in developmental psychology may also have the opportunity to participate in research projects, internships, or other hands-on experiences to gain practical experience in the field.

The final step in the education process on your way to becoming a licensed development psychologist is to earn a doctorate degree and obtain a Ph.D. or Psy.D ideally with a focus on developmental psychology. Ph.D. programs typically require a dissertation based on original research, while Psy.D. programs focus more on clinical practice. Both programs typically take 4-6 years to complete.

Supervised Hours

In addition to coursework, most doctoral students participate in internships to gain experience in their area of interest and to meet the required number of supervised hours.

The typical requirement for supervised experience to become a licensed developmental psychologist is two years of full-time supervised experience or the part-time equivalent, which is typically around 3,500-4,000 hours of supervised practice.

After graduation, you can apply for a psychology postdoctoral fellowships or “postdocs.” Postdocs are paid positions that typically last 1-2 years and can help you to fulfill the necessary supervised hours to apply for your license to practice.


Now you must pass the Examination for Professional Practice in Psychology (EPPP). All states require you to pass the EPPP as part of the licensure process and both California and Texas have additional requirements. See our guide to licensing by state.

Licensing in your state is handled by your state’s psychology board. Visit the ASPPB website to find your state’s board and learn more about the process.

You will need to maintain your license by paying an annual fee and completing continuing education requirements.

Board Certifications

There is no specific board certification for developmental psychology. Many developmental psychologists instead choose to opt for a specialty certification in the area of developmental psychology they plan to practice in for example child, adolescent or older adults.

This is an optional step in the process but can stand you apart from other candidates when applying for jobs.

Continuing Education

Continuing education requirements vary by state.

Continuing education for developmental psychologists can cover a wide range of topics related to human development, assessment, intervention, research, and ethics. Here are some examples of topics that may be relevant for developmental psychologists:

  1. Assessment and diagnosis of developmental disorders, such as autism spectrum disorder or attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder (ADHD)
  2. Evidence-based interventions for developmental disorders, such as behavioral or cognitive-behavioral therapies
  3. Social and cultural factors that impact development, such as family dynamics, poverty, or discrimination
  4. Cognitive and neurological processes involved in human development, such as executive functioning or language acquisition
  5. Professional ethics and practice issues in developmental psychology, such as informed consent, confidentiality, or multicultural competence
  6. Advances in research methods and statistical analysis techniques used in developmental psychology, such as longitudinal studies or structural equation modeling
  7. Educational and policy applications of developmental psychology, such as school-based interventions or public health initiatives.

Find a recognised continuing education provider.

What is the salary of a Developmental Psychologist?

Developmental Psychologists typically make around $78,000 a year but depending on their education level, area of interest, years of service, and location, that figure can vary significantly.

Latest Developmental Psychology Jobs Listings

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Position Company Location Posted
Visiting Clinical Assistant Professor in Human Development Indiana University Indiana 05/14/2023
Position SummaryIndiana UniversitySchool of EducationDepartment of Counseling and Educational PsychologyThe Human Development Program invites applications for a Visiting Clinical Assistant Professor position. This will be a full-time, non-tenure track, 10-month appointment (beginning 08/1/2023) in the Human Development Program within the Department of Counseling and Educational Psychology in the Indiana ... More
Assistant Professor of Latinx Psychology and Social Mobility - College of Liberal Arts and Sciences (6028) EXTENDED SEARCH Northern Illinois University Illinois 05/13/2023
Position DetailsPosition InformationWorking Position Title Assistant Professor of Latinx Psychology and Social Mobility - College of Liberal Arts and Sciences (6028) EXTENDED SEARCHClassification Title Assistant ProfessorPosition Number 00006028Posting Date 11/17/2022Closing DatePriority Review Date 01/31/2023Business Unit Description FacultyFull-Time/Part ... More
Instructor The University of South Carolina Columbia, South Carolina 05/12/2023
Advertised Job SummaryThe Department of Psychology is seeking multiple full-time Professional Faculty to join our vibrant, innovative and expanding Department. Our vision is to advance knowledge and solve real-world problems to improve health and well-being through high quality and impactful teaching. The broad research foci of the department include child and family, cognitive and behavioral neuroscience, quantitative psychology, school psychology, and clinical community psychology ... More
Assistant Professor: Developmental Diversity Science San Diego State University San Diego, California 05/10/2023
Assistant Professor: Developmental Diversity SciencePsychologyLocation: San Diego, CAOpen Date: Sep 30, 2022 DescriptionThe Department of Psychology at San Diego State University invites applications for a faculty position at the Assistant Professor rank in Developmental Diversity Science. We seek a developmental scientist whose program of research explores the early development of attitudes and beliefs about marginalized ... More
Applied Assistant Professor of Psychology (Clinical) The University of Tulsa Tulsa, Oklahoma 05/09/2023
Job Description The Department of Psychology seeks to appoint a full-time Applied Assistant Professor. The successful candidate will be an innovative, talented teacher and mentor who can teach a variety of core and elective undergraduate and graduate courses. The candidate might serve as Undergraduate Program Director and develop and advise co-curricular student clubs and societies. Opportunities exist to provide supervision/clinical instruction to clinical psychology ... More
INTERCONNECTED MINDS DEPARTMENT OF PSYCHOLOGY, UNIVERSITY OF PENNSYLVANIA University of Pennsylvania Philadelphia, Pennsylvania 05/08/2023
INTERCONNECTED MINDS DEPARTMENT OF PSYCHOLOGY, UNIVERSITY OF PENNSYLVANIALocation: Philadelphia, PennsylvaniaOpen Date: Oct 26, 2022Deadline: The School of Arts & Sciences at the University of Pennsylvania intends to make multiple appointments across departments over the next few years as part of a thematic cluster focused ... More
Postdoctoral Research Associate University of VA Charlottesville, Virginia 04/29/2023
The Well-Being for Early Learning Lab (WELLab) at the Center for Advanced Study of Teaching and Learning (CASTL) in the University of Virginia (UVA) and the School of Education and Human Development seeks highly qualied applicants for a post-doctoral research associate position. Our work focuses on early care and education, early childhood workforce development, Head Start teachers' well-being, and children's development. WELLab studies health and well-being of young children, families, and ... More
Postdoctoral Research Associate University of Virginia Virginia 04/29/2023
The Well-Being for Early Learning Lab (WELLab) at the Center for Advanced Study of Teaching and Learning (CASTL) in the University of Virginia (UVA) and the School of Education and Human Development seeks highly qualied applicants for a post-doctoral research associate position. Our work focuses on early care and education, early childhood workforce development, Head Start teachers' well-being, and children's development. WELLab studies health and well-being of young children, families, and ... More
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