Developmental Psychology: A Brief Overview One professional spends her workday hiding toys from babies. Another tests students with special educational needs, and yet another leads mental fitness exercises in a nursing home. All are developmental psychologists. Some identify themselves more specifically as child psychologists, special education psychologists, or geriatric psychologists. Developmental psychologists study human development across the lifespan. This includes physical, cognitive, and emotional development — everything from a baby’s visual acuity to an aged person’s memory strategies. Each developmental psychologist tends to specialize in a particular life stage such as infancy or adolescence. They also focus on particular issues such as anxiety, autism, or dyslexia. What types of degrees are available? Many people who become developmental psychologists first earn a bachelor of art’s degree in general psychology. (Few schools offer a bachelor’s program specifically in developmental psychology, but undergraduate concentrations in the field are often available.) The B.A. provides sufficient training for many jobs in psychology, health care, and education, but graduate education leads to additional employment opportunities and better pay. Graduate degrees in developmental psychology are available at the master’s, doctorate, and associate levels. What occupations are available? Many developmental psychologists with bachelor’s or master’s degrees find employment as research assistants. At universities, hospitals, and government agencies, they work on different stages of a senior psychologist’s study. Some typical duties include recruiting participants, collecting data, scoring tests, and transcribing interviews. However, employment opportunities for B.A.s and masters are not limited to research. Those who are interested in becoming therapists may receive on-the-job training at autism clinics, brain injury centers, and other mental health care institutions. A background in developmental psychology may also enhance a resume for the teaching profession. Of course, doctorates of developmental psychology also work in the aforementioned settings, but they hold more responsibility. For example, some serve as university faculty, securing grants and hiring assistants to help pursue their research interests. Others direct health care facilities, work as consultants, or provide therapy through private practice. Which schools offer degrees? Most undergraduate students have the opportunity to major in psychology, and many have the option to focus on developmental psychology in particular. The University of Michigan at Ann Arbor and the University of California at Berkeley feature honors psychology programs that allow for individualized in-depth study, and the University of Minnesota – Twin Cities offers a highly-regarded undergraduate program in child psychology. At the graduate level, a student’s unique research interests are an important criterion for selecting a school. A graduate school should offer ample opportunity for the student to work with one or more like-minded faculty members. Therefore, in addition to considering some leading universities in graduate developmental psychology, prospective students should identify experts in their field and learn whether opportunities for training and collaboration are available. Prospective students might also consider distance learning. For example, the University of Phoenix and the University of Maryland are accredited schools that offer psychology training online.