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How to Become a Child Psychologist With a Bachelor's in Social Work

by Beth Greenwood

Although child psychologists and social workers are both in professions that help people deal with mental and behavioral health issues, the education, licensing and certification process for each occupation is different. A social worker who has a bachelor’s degree may encounter both opportunities and difficulties in her path to becoming a child psychologist.

Psychology and Social Work Requirements

Psychologists who specialize in children usually need a doctorate, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, although a school psychologist may be able to practice with a master’s degree. Clinical, counseling and school psychologists must also be licensed in most states. Certification may be optional or required, depending on the state and specialty. Child psychologists must also have clinical experience or complete an internship or residency to become licensed. Most social workers who have bachelor’s degrees work in the direct services setting rather than in mental health. All states require licensure or certification for social workers.

Requirements and Prerequisites

A social worker who wants to go on for a master’s or doctorate in psychology should begin by identifying one or more schools she would like to enter. The next step is to obtain her transcript from the school where she completed her bachelor’s degree. Universities have different requirements and prerequisites for psychology programs and will need the transcript to determine if there are courses the student must repeat. A recent graduate of a social work program might have a number of courses that will meet requirements or be suitable for elective requirements.

Curriculum Similarities and Differences

A social work curriculum has a different focus than a bachelor’s degree in psychology, although some classes may be common to both. At Austin Peay State University in Tennessee, for example, general psychology is a required course for social workers. Seton Hall University, in New Jersey, requires introductory psychology as well as a number of specialized psychology courses for a bachelor’s degree in psychology. SHU also requires a number of courses not found in typical social work curricula, as well as laboratory courses and research projects.

Advanced Education

Once the social worker has completed the requirements for a bachelor’s degree in psychology, he must go on for a master’s in the field and might also need to complete a doctorate. One issue that may arise is whether any credits from his bachelor’s degree in social work are transferrable to the master’s program. His choice of program might affect his ability to transfer credits. Once he has his degree in psychology, he will need to complete the internship or residency requirements for clinical practice experience. He must also determine what the licensing or certification requirements are in his state and become licensed before he can begin to practice as a child psychologist.

About the Author

Beth Greenwood is an RN and has been a writer since 2010. She specializes in medical and health topics, as well as career articles about health care professions. Greenwood holds an Associate of Science in nursing from Shasta College.

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