What Is a Developmental Psychologist?

Developmental psychologists study the human growth and development that occurs throughout the entire lifespan. This includes not only physical development, but also cognitive, social, intellectual, perceptual, personality and emotional growth.

The study of human development is important not only to psychology, but also to biology, anthropology, sociology, education and history. Developmental psychologists help us better understand how people change and grow and then apply this knowledge to helping us live up to our full potential.

What Exactly Do Developmental Psychologists Do?

The specific tasks performed by developmental psychologists may vary somewhat based on the specialty area in which they work. Some developmental psychologists focus on working with a specific population, such as developmentally delayed children. Others specialize in studying a particular age range, such as adolescence or old age.

Some of the tasks that a developmental psychologist might do include:

  • Evaluating children to determine if they have a developmental disability.
  • Investigating how language skills are acquired.
  • Studying how moral reasoning develops in children.
  • Exploring ways to help elderly individuals remain independent.

Where Do Developmental Psychologists Work?

Developmental psychologists can work in a wide range of settings. Some work in educational settings at colleges and universities, often conducting research on developmental topics while also teaching courses. Others may work in government agencies to help assess, evaluate and treat individuals suffering from developmental disabilities. Other possible areas of employment include assisted living homes for the elderly, teen rehabilitation clinics, centers for the homeless, psychiatric clinics and hospitals.

What Training Is Needed to Become a Developmental Psychologist?

While there are limited employment options at the master’s degree level, those holding a Ph.D. or Psy.D. in Developmental Psychology will find the greatest range of employment opportunities. Individuals with a doctorate degree can teach at the university level, and can be employed in private practices, hospital, mental health clinics and rehabilitation centers. In most case, students start by earning an undergraduate degree in psychology. They may then continue on to earn a master’s degree followed by a doctorate, or they may go straight from an undergraduate degree into a Ph.D. program.

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