I could use some quick guidance. I’m a sophomore who recently changed majors from biology to behavioral psychology. I declared biology as my original major, because of the advice that was given to me by my guidance counselor in high school.
I originally thought that becoming a psychiatrist would be the right path, but after two semesters of hard science classes, I know for sure that pre-med isn’t for me. My college advisor was the one who suggested that I look into psychology as another option.
Now that I’ve switched majors, I want to make sure I’m taking all the right classes to prepare myself for a career in child psychology. What kind of coursework should I focus on if I want to pursue a career in counseling and therapy?
It’s definitely a prudent move to begin thinking tactically about your academic coursework. You’d be surprised at how many students fail to take a more proactive approach when it comes to their collegiate progress. That can prove to be a critical mistake later on. Your main objectives are to cultivate a well-reasoned perspective, and develop knowledge that you can later put into practice. Fortunately, as a sophomore, you’ll have ample opportunities between now and the time you graduate to align your academic studies with your career ambitions.
One of the first things to remember is that you’ll need to interpret the information you find with care. Psychological counseling and therapy is a rather broad category that includes a wide variety of specialties. Each professional specialty can have unique requirements that are separate from those specified for similar roles. For instance, writers at Study published an informative article highlighting relevant career information and education requirements. However, they inaccurately suggest that the career path requires a doctoral degree to practice.
Staff at the American School Counselor Association (ASCA) published a more comprehensive resource that covers the state practice requirements. You’ll notice that the minimum degree requirement is almost universally having a master’s degree from a state recognized college or university. Obtaining a graduate degree is essential to your career advancement. So are accumulating supervised work experience and passing the appropriate state licensure exams. The process isn’t trivial by any means, to say the least.
In terms of aligning specific coursework with your career goals, the task is likely to be easier than you imagine. Editors at Psychology wrote a useful piece explaining how to become a child psychologist. They aren’t overly prescriptive about the curriculum that you should explore, but they do suggest a few categories of study, such as behavioral psychology, cognitive psychology, developmental psychology, and biological psychology. At the end of the day, what matters most is having a relevant foundation. Graduating with a bachelor’s degree in psychology often satisfies that prerequisite.
You should also take time to confirm whether you grasp the difference between a child psychologist and, for example, a school counselor. Psychological counseling is fundamental to both roles, but some meaningful distinctions still remain. Luckily, authors at Capella University have taken the time to clearly define the differences between them. A lot of it comes down to the setting in which area you work and with whom you’ll have regular interactions. Each career path ultimately demands a different specialization, which means you’d have to earn a masters in school counseling, instead of clinical psychology.
You’re likely to be in a much better position if you reflect carefully on these items while doing your research.
“What we do every day matters more than what we do once in a while.” – The Gottman Institute