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What Are the Pros & Cons of a Child Psychologist Career?

by Neil Kokemuller, studioD

Psychologists analyze human behavior and environmental factors to assess the motives, cognitive skills and mental health conditions behind individual, family or group behavior. Child psychologists focus on studying or treating mental health conditions in children. You typically need a doctoral degree in psychology and a license to practice in order to work in clinical or counseling psychology. Academic psychologists need the Ph.D., but not a license.

High Income Potential

Psychology pay varies by occupation and work setting. However, the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics reported the average annual income for all psychologists was $72,220 as of May 2012. Though the BLS didn't isolate child psychologists, it did note a $71,730 salary for school psychologists. Often, child psychologists that work in private practice or counseling clinics have higher incomes. The BLS noted an average salary of $80,760 for office-based practitioners.


On her child psychology course page, Marywood University psychology doctoral student and class instructor Nancy Wiley noted that child psychology is important for several reasons. Academic child psychologists help research, develop programs and advocate for causes that contribute to parenting education, classroom teaching practices and other child leadership and development roles. The work of clinical child psychologists helps in the development of mentally stable, properly functioning adults who contribute to their families, employers and communities.


Children are diagnosed with an array of mental health conditions. As of 2013, common conditions include anxiety, autism or pervasive development disorder, eating disorders, mood disorders like depression, schizophrenia and tic disorders. Child psychologists often need enormous poise and calmness to avoid getting emotional when children present with difficult symptoms. The frustration level is often highest when family factors play into a diagnosis, such as cases of abuse or neglect. It can also be frustrating trying to convince parents and caregivers to follow recommended treatments, such as routine adjustments, medications and therapy.

Emotional Exhaustion

One of the greatest challenges for any type of clinical psychologist is separating personal and professional work. This challenge is often heightened in child psychology. A psychologist with kids may struggle to separate her own role as a mom from her profession as a child psychologist. Becoming overly emotionally involved with a patient can cause a psychologist to cross the ethical or professional line with parents or kids, or experience emotional turmoil if things don't go well. In severe cases where a child is abused, dies or commits suicide, it is very difficult for the psychologist not to think about the patient while at home with family.

About the Author

Neil Kokemuller has been an active business, finance and education writer and content media website developer since 2007. He has been a college marketing professor since 2004. Kokemuller has additional professional experience in marketing, retail and small business. He holds a Master of Business Administration from Iowa State University.

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