Developmental Psychologists are specialists in the behavioral, cognitive and personal development of an individual during various life stages. They study abnormal developmental changes, behavioral changes due to age and emotional development among other aspects of a person’s life.

The records of the US Bureau of Labor Statistics indicate that there were more nearly 181,700 licensed psychologists in the country as of 2018. If you want to join their ranks in the near future, then this guide is for you. It contains step-by-step guidance on becoming a Developmental Psychologist in the United States.

Should I Become a Developmental Psychologist?

Education Bachelor’s, Master’s and Doctorate Degrees
Area of Study/Major Requirement  


License/Certification Required
Experience/Training Required
Key Skills Counseling and Therapy, Active Listening, Problem Sensitivity, Communication, Reasoning, Complex Problem Solving.
Annual Mean Salary (2019) – National $98,230 (Psychologists, All Other)
Job Outlook (2018-2028) 14% (Psychologists)

Sources: US Bureau of Labor Statistics and O*Net Online

As a Developmental Psychologist, you may specialize in particular life stages such as childhood, middle age and adolescence. Studying developmental disabilities and carrying out research are also important parts of the job. In most cases, you must have a doctorate degree to practice developmental psychology. However, you may be able to begin training with a Bachelor’s or a Master’s degree.

Career Outlook

There is a 14% growth expected in employment opportunities for Psychologists between 2018 and 2028 (US Bureau of Labor Statistics). This is significantly faster compared to the average projected rise in other professions. The constantly growing demand for mental health services will be the major factor behind this increase in job opportunities.

Steps to Become a Developmental Psychologist in the US

The steps mentioned in this section will help you on your journey to become a Developmental Psychologist.

  1. Bachelor’s Degree in Developmental Psychology
  2. Enrolling in an undergraduate degree program will be the starting point of your journey. Most educational institutions offer a 4-year Bachelor of Arts (BA) in Developmental Psychology. However, Bachelor of Science (BS) and Bachelor of General Studies (BGS) programs are also offered in various places. Some of the courses that you are likely to take during your Bachelor’s in Developmental Psychology include the following.

    • Early Childhood and Adolescent Development
    • Psychology of Aging
    • Family Dynamics
    • Testimony of Children
  1. Master’s in Developmental Psychology (Optional)
  2. Next up will be the Master’s degree. Here again, you can choose between a Master of Arts (MA) and a Master of Science (MS) program. Exploration of theories and research in human development will be a major part of the degree. Following are some of the likely courses.

    • Cognitive Development
    • Language Development
    • Creativity
    • Psychosocial Development
    • Memory Development
    • Deviant Behavior
    • Personality Development

    Pursuing a standalone Master’s degree is optional. You may skip it and go straight for a doctoral degree. In such cases, candidates usually earn a Master’s degree as part of the PhD program.

  1. Doctorate in Developmental Psychology
  2. You can complete a doctoral degree in Developmental Psychology in about 5 years if you don’t have a Master’s degree. In any case, it usually takes around 4 to 7 years to earn a PhD in Developmental Psychology. You will be conducting empirical research and take the following courses (among others).

    • Spatial Thinking
    • Psychology of Thinking
    • Cross-Cultural Developmental Psychology
    • Child and Family Policy
    • Neurocognitive Processing
  1. State License
  2. After doctoral education, it is time to apply for your state license. There are slight variations in eligibility criteria from one state to another. In general, however, candidates have to pass a standardized assessment like the Examination for Professional Practice in Psychology (EPPP). You may also have to acquire some supervised clinical experience among other things.

How Long Does It Take to Become a Developmental Psychologist?

To become a Developmental Psychologist, you will spend 4 years earning an undergrad degree. This will be followed by an optional 2-year Master’s and a 4 to 7-year PhD program. So, you are looking at a timeframe of 9 to 13 years.

What Are the Requirements to Become a Developmental Psychologist?

These are the requirements that must be met by aspiring Developmental Psychologists.

  • Earning a Bachelor’s and Master’s (not mandatory) degree.
  • Completing a doctoral degree in the field.
  • Getting the state license.

How Much Can I Make After Becoming a Developmental Psychologist?

According to the latest available records of the US Bureau of Labor Statistics, Psychologists, other than clinical, counseling, school and industrial-organizational psychologists in the country took home $98,230 in annual mean wage in 2019.