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What is Developmental Psychology?

The human mind is as fascinating as it is mysterious. Doctors and scientists have been researching it for millennia to attempt to accurately map and predict human behavior. There are many who believe that people are hard-wired to be the way that they are. Yet at the same time, many others feel as though a person’s personality traits and tendencies are shaped by his or her conditions. This is the foundation of developmental psychology, and if such ideas fascinate you, a career in this field could provide you with a lifetime or rewarding experiences.

While developmental psychology may seem like a foreign concept to most, its principles are actually much more common than you may think. Almost every day, people are asked to assess the reasons behind why others think and act the way that they do. Parents meet with their children’s school teachers to discuss where they are at in meeting educational milestones. Clinical professionals attempt to help patients understand why they may be dealing with emotional problems. Governments, media outlets, and the general public struggle with understanding why philosophical differences can lead to violent confrontations in certain areas of the world. A developmental psychologist attempts to provide answers to these questions.

Evaluating Developmental Stages and Types

Developmental psychology studies tend to focus on two key factors:

Developmental stage

After birth, everyone progresses through the following life stages:

  • Infancy
  • Adolescence
  • Adulthood
  • Elderly

Evaluating how key events during these stages help to shape who people are is a large part of what developmental psychologists do.

Developmental type

As people progress through the various stages of life, different types of development occur. These include:

  • Physical
  • Social
  • Cognitive

Linking the types of development that occur (or do not occur) at different stages of life can be a key to explaining human behavior.

Careers in Developmental Psychology

While this likely fascinates you if you’re considering developmental psychology careers, you may be wondering how such work fits into the confines of a job description. Yet that’s one of the main benefits of working within this field. There are a large number of positions that are specifically tailored to those with degrees in developmental psychology. Schools, treatment facilities, hospitals, and mental health centers are among the institutions that are always on the lookout for development psychologists. So too are colleges and universities. Much of the work of developmental psychology is based upon research. Thus, if you enjoy reading case studies, examining human anatomy, and engaging in statistical analysis, such work may be right up your alley.

Educational Requirements

Given the nature of such work, undergraduate students hoping to one day hold developmental psychology jobs are encouraged to follow a course schedule heavy in psychology and biology, as well as math and statistics. Specific courses may include prenatal and early childhood and adolescent development, child and family studies, speech therapy, abnormal psychology, and cognitive neuroscience.

Graduate programs tend to be broken into two sections. The first focuses mainly on the detailed study of developmental psychology theories. Most students will have already developed a fundamental understanding of these principles in their undergraduate studies. If you haven’t had such experience, you may be asked to take leveling courses before applying for a graduate degree program.

The second part of a graduate studies course in developmental psychology tends to focus on the actual real-world application of these theories. This can involve working side-by-side with researchers in collecting and analyzing data, or experience in a clinical setting working with patients. Most graduate programs tend to culminate in a capstone course, in which you’re expected to create and carry out your own research project and submit a written thesis. Depending upon the area of developmental psychology that you wish to work in, you may also be required to obtain a clinical licensure. This is typically a requirement to work in a school or health or mental care facility.

Benefits of Online Education

If the educational requirements to obtain a degree in developmental psychology sound demanding, it’s because they are. At the same time, employers advertising jobs with degree in developmental psychology requirements also tend to want applicants with real-world experience. This often means working while you go to school. Fortunately for you, there are number of schools out there that offer both online undergraduate and graduate programs in this field. Your participation in such programs allows you to gain valuable experience while going to school. These courses are typically designed specifically for working professionals. Thus, they allow you to complete the coursework at your own pace. Plus, in many instances, the experience that you gain through your job can often be applied towards your graduation requirements.

Today’s world is an ever-changing one. The societal norms of today could be completely different tomorrow, as could their influence on human behavior. As this never-ending cycle of social evolution continues, professionals working in the field of developmental psychology will no doubt continue to be in high demand. A career in this discipline can be challenging, yet can also present you with plenty of opportunities to positively influence others.