Developmental Psychology Careers

child abuse counselor

The number of careers for those with developmental psychology backgrounds continues to grow, making this area of psychology one of the most marketable in today’s changing economic environment.

According to “Tomorrow’s Jobs” from the Occupational Outlook Handbook, 2008-09 Edition, jobs in health care and social assistance—including public and private hospitals, nursing and residential care facilities, and individual and family services—will grow by 25.4% and add 4 million new jobs by the year 2016. Jobs for developmental psychology professionals can be found in all these organizations.

One reason for growth in this area centers on an aging population with longer life expectancies. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention predicts that by the year 2030, nearly 20% of the population will be aged 65 or over, up from 13% today. Developmentalists address the main stressors that affect this life stage: loss of loved ones, chronic diseases, such as heart disease and cancer, care-giving demands, memory problems, sexuality, health promotion and substance abuse. Positions in nursing homes and nonprofit agencies that work with older adults are expected to increase.

Who Hires Developmental Psychology Professionals?

Schools, nonprofit agencies and hospitals hire developmentalists to work with physically and mentally disabled children, teens, and adults. These psychology professionals also find employment in substance abuse and drug prevention programs, and with victims of abuse. Many of these positions require working with families as well.

For those whose graduate work in developmental psychology culminates in a Ph.D., greater job opportunities and pay follow. Many with a PhD have research interests, and remain in academia to teach. Others become licensed and either work independently or in conjunction with a hospital or other type of health-care facility.

A master’s degree also provides job opportunities as counselors, researchers, data collectors, and analysts. Those with a bachelor’s degree can find employment in day care settings and preschools, also as psychological or rehabilitation assistants in hospitals, clinics or residential facilities.

Although a wide range of career opportunities exist for those with degrees in developmental psychology, the following lists some typical job descriptions:

Typical Career Profiles

  • Psychology Assistant – Perform a variety of duties pertaining to the testing of hospital patients or for those in outpatient clinics. Score test results. Train and supervise staff in the administration of appropriate tests. Administer diagnostic interviews. A bachelor’s degree is required.
  • Research Coordinator – Administer and score tests for ongoing research projects in hospitals or universities. Other assessment and administrative responsibilities may be included. A bachelor’s degree is required.
  • Coordinator/ Specialist/Clinician/ Supervisor – Complete assessments and treatments for children, adolescents or adults. Positions in residential or day treatment centers and organizations specializing in child and family services, chronic mental and emotional illnesses, substance abuse, geriatrics, rehabilitation, foster care, and domestic violence/sexual assault. Supervisory positions include staff direction and evaluation, coordinating assignments, providing clinical support and expertise to staff, setting goals, and budget management. Positions usually require a master’s degree.
  • Educational Diagnostician/School Psychologist – Administer and interpret psychoeducational or developmental tests for students with learning, developmental and/or emotional disabilities. Provide information on child development issues to school personnel and parents. Provide recommendations for program development and student placement. Make recommendations for the intellectual, adaptive, academic, social, and emotional development of children. Usually a master’s or PhD is required.
  • Nonprofit Psychologist/Therapist – Perform developmental and psychological evaluations, family information meetings, quality assurance and training. Home visits sometimes required. May work with infants and toddlers with disabilities to ensure they receive early interventions. Often work as part of team that includes occupational and physical therapists, speech therapists, and recreational therapists. A master’s degree or PhD is required.
  • Professor – Teach undergraduate, graduate, and doctoral-level courses in developmental psychology, and establish a program of empirical research. Some positions require individuals to attract external funding for research. Research specialties in infant, child, adolescent, adulthood, geropsychology, and developmental disabilities. Usually a PhD is required.
  • Associate to a Psychologist – Provide a number of psychological services, including psychometric evaluation, data collection and analysis. Perform specific tasks in implementing programs using psychological techniques with designated clients. Conduct observations, record data, and perform statistical analyses of data for approved program design, and evaluation for research projects. Usually a master’s degree is required.
  • Psychologist – Provide professional psychological treatment services to help children, adolescents or adults. Provide, supervise and/or coordinate and provide direction for professional psychological services including diagnostic evaluations, group and individual counseling, and develop behavior programs for the individual client treatment. Participate in deciding whether to admit people to hospitals or clinics for treatment; refer people to appropriate services; coordinate entry into schools, nursing homes, community residences, or other facilities. A master’s or a PhD and licensure required.

If you are interested in how and why people change over the course of their lives, or you want to help those with mental health issues and developmental disabilities, you should consider a career in developmental psychology.

The demand for those with a background in developmental psychology continues to rise, and the number of careers with diverse job titles with a range of salaries changes almost daily. Especially fueling this growth is the demand for professionals who work with the increasing numbers of older adults.

“Although there is a broad range of exciting opportunities in psychological research and practice focusing on older adults, there are not enough psychologists to keep pace with the increasing demand,” according to the American Psychological Association.

Paralleling this need for those who apply the science of development to older adults, is the need for those who can prepare the population for a healthy and productive old age. Prevention and treatment of chronic diseases, mental health and developmental disorders, substance abuse, healthy family relationships and positive social interactions are just a few of the crucial topics for a well performing and productive society, and developmental specialists have the knowledge and skills to work in all these critical areas.

The APA website also states that school psychology, another key area of employment for developmental psychologists, has some of the best job prospects. Schools are expected to increase counseling and mental health services in the future.

As of Aug 5, 2015, reports a median annual salary of $48000 for the developmental psychologists. This salary can of course vary greatly based location, industry or experience.

The following representative jobs and salaries for those with a developmental psychology background were listed in August 2015 on, a website that lists average salaries for current job openings.

These positions were listed for the Chicago area, and the same positions in both Los Angeles and New York City were listed within a few thousand dollars, either more or less, of these averages.

Developmental Psychology Salary Vs Similar Occupations

Job Title*Average Salary
developmental psychologist$48,000
Behavioral Therapist$40,000
Developmental Specialist$64,000
Qualified Developmental Disability Professional$43,000
Developmental Disabilities Service Coordinator$42,000
Psychological Examiner$69,000
Developmental Services Worker$36,000
Psychologist Supervisor$96,000

*Depending on the job and hiring organization, these positions have a variety of names. For example, early childhood specialist, mental health supervisor, and family therapist.

The forecast for jobs in developmental psychology remains positive, and the salary trends, as shown on, show sharp increases over the next several years. If you are interested in helping others, and working in a dynamic, changing field that promises salary growth and opportunities, you should consider a career in developmental psychology.

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