A child psychology degree or developmental psychology program covers a wide array of subjects and potential career paths. Graduates in this field often go into teaching, work as counselors or therapists, or pursue major research initiatives that delve into how the human mind develops and what can affect that development.
The best child psychology programs tend to be a bit pricey, although there are affordable online options, too. Really, it depends on your goals and what you are looking for. The top-level developmental psychology programs, especially the advanced degree programs, incorporate research, teaching, fellowships, and research. These are programs that provide real-world experiences while you learn.
Below are some of the top child psychology and developmental program options in the country:
Ranked as the #1 university for psychology by The Times of Higher Education and by the U.S., Stanford is also the top choice for those interested in child or developmental psychology. Stanford is “devoted to training scientists who will work to advance theory and to create knowledge that helps us address real-world problems, ” according to the university’s website.
The Stanford psychology department has a long history and has led research in psychology for decades. The department was honored by the Smithsonian Institute in Washington, D.C., in 2003. It is the university of choice for psychology.
Student-to-faculty ratio: 7.4
2. University of California-Berkeley
The psychology department at the University of California-Berkeley is ranked as the #4 best department in the country by The Times of Higher Education is ranked #2 by U.S News. The department’s goal is to understand how capabilities develop throughout the lifespan.
As one of the top psychology departments in the country, Berkeley remains a tremendous choice for anyone interested in developmental psychology. Berkeley takes a very integrated and interdisciplinary approach in research and education.
Student-to-faculty ratio: 19.8
Yale’s developmental psychology program is part of a well-regarded psychology department ranked #3 by U.S. News. Yale studies diverse and wide-ranging areas related to conceptual development, including social cognition, judgment, decision-making, and more.
Graduate students participate in research, collaborating with faculty and peers. First-year students complete a research project and submit a formal paper based on their findings. Students also attend lab meetings to understand the various types of research being conducted by Yale.
The Yale program extends beyond the campus with research happening at the Yale Child Study Center, the Zigler Center in Child Development and Social Policy, and Haskins Laboratories.
Student-to-faculty ratio: 6
4. University of Chicago
The University of Chicago is a research university that offers a cutting-edge developmental psychology program the covers a wide range of topics, including cognitive, emotional, and social development. Students learn and become part of a rich, vibrant learning community that supports mentorship, research, and scientific inquiry.
University research has explored many different areas, including how environmental interaction helps shape a child’s social behavior and cognitive development. The university’s website states, “Not only do our faculty, post-docs, and students investigate multiple exciting questions with behavioral methods, but they also supplement this approach with other methods including behavioral economics, gestural analyses, functional MRI, eye tracking, EEG/ERPs, and computational models.”
Student-to-faculty ratio: 5.9
5. Northwestern University
Northwestern University offers a prestigious path for those wanting to pursue an education in child or developmental psychology. The university offers fellowship training, for example, in child psychiatry in cooperation with the Ann & Robert Lurie Children’s Hospital.
The hospital provides mental health services for children and families. The university’s physicians and scientists conduct research while providing hands-on, supervised experience to students.
Student-to-faculty ratio: 13
6. New York University
New York University incorporates research into its Developmental Psychology Program (Applied Psychology). Students participate in research at daycares, schools, hospitals, and in the community.
The areas of research focus include (according to the NYU website):
- Biology, culture, context, and how they relate to human development
- External influences (family, community) influences on development
- Development of cognitive, language, and emotional and social growth in infants, children, and adolescents with a focus on at-risk groups
- The effects of developmental skills across domains and time
- Development in how it relates to children’s learning ability and attitudes toward school
NYU’s program is global, with partnerships extending to China, India, South Africa, Korea, and Peru. NYU also has campuses in Shanghai and Abu Dhabi.
Student-to-faculty ratio: 8.8
Harvard is the nation’s preeminent university, and its psychology department is part of that excellent reputation. The department is separated into four areas: developmental, clinical science, social, and cognition, brain, and behavior. Students and faculty can participate in more than one subfield. Regardless of your focus, themes taught in each area cut across different areas, providing students with a well-rounded education.
Student-to-faculty Ratio: 9.3
8. University of Pennsylvania
The University of Pennsylvania’s developmental psychology program mixes scholarship and research, providing students with a dynamic educational experience. Students define their study areas, and there is a high level of interaction between students and faculty.
The distinguished faculty includes Fellows of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences and the National Academy of Arts and Sciences members.
Student-to-faculty ratio: 6.4
9. Duke University and the University of North Carolina
Duke University collaborates with the University of North Carolina in providing graduate training in developmental psychology. The UNC-Duke Collaborative Graduate Certificate in developmental psychology provides students with a comprehensive education that combines educational resources and training opportunities.
Students get to attend takes at each school in the program, take developmental seminars, and engage in research training. The research opportunities include cognitive development. social development, applied development, and developmental psychobiology.
Student-to-faculty ratio: 4.3
10. Columbia University
Columbia University has one of the country’s top psychology departments, extending to developmental psychology and psychiatry. The university offers students a wide selection of training and research opportunities.
The university’s Office of Clinical Psychology coordinates externships, predoctoral internships, and fellowships through the Columbia University Irving Medical Center. For those interested in a graduate degree in child psychology, Columbia offers a plethora of opportunities.
Student-to-faculty ratio: 5.7
11. Cornell University
This ivy league school prepares students for careers to be clinical psychologists, school psychologists, or family life counselors. Cornell also offers plenty of research opportunities at various government levels, community health organizations, and private institutions.
At Cornell, students can build their own individual study and research program in consultation with staff. Students complete at least two semesters in statistics and one semester in teaching. Students also conduct a predoctoral project.
In terms of research, students can take advantage of the Family Life Development Center and the Bronfenbrenner Life Course Center to complete observational and experimental studies.
Student-to-faculty ratio: 10.2
12. University of Virginia
The University of Virginia has some great advanced education options in developmental psychology that incorporate mentorship and research. Students are encouraged to conduct research across a wide range of Developmental psychology areas while receiving guidance.
The school also has a teaching-to-teach program led by the Teaching Resource Center. The University of Virginia has a master’s and doctoral program.
Student-to-faculty ratio: 9
13. Michigan State University
Michigan State University offers multiple paths for those seeking an advanced degree in child or developmental psychology. The university’s program is built around two main principles: How multiple contexts shape development (culture, biology, community influences), and the application of data and research in promoting the well-being of children and their families.
Michigan State offers a doctorate with a concentration in child development and two master’s program tracks. It is a comprehensive program that incorporates research and applies it to developmental psychology.
Student-to-faculty ratio: 16
14. University of Michigan
The University of Michigan’s Developmental Psychology program prepares skilled psychologists prepared and trained to conduct and apply research. The program’s core, special strengths are: Basic and applied research, longitudinal methods, developmental neuroscience, development related to schools, family and community influences, and general research and research with at-risk populations.
Michigan also has a training grant from the National Institute of Child Health and Human Development, allowing for graduate and postdoctoral fellowships.
Student-to-staff ratio: 8.3
15. Pennsylvania State University
Penn State’s child or developmental psychology program trains students in theory, methods, and empirical processes. The program provides a well-rounded examination of developmental growth from infancy to adolescence.
The program offers specific training in several areas, including perceptual and cognitive development, biological development, gender, emotion and temperament, and ecology of development.
Student-to-faculty ratio: 11
16. University of Wisconsin Madison
The University of Wisconsin-Madison developmental psychology program focuses on biological and behavioral processes and how they change. The program has an interdisciplinary approach, and graduate students can design their own program experience based on their goals and areas of interest.
The program incorporates research throughout the program divided equally between laboratories that emphasize experimental techniques and research that emphasizes big data.
Students conduct a first-year research project and share their project results with faculty and students during their second year. The research and methods run the gambit in terms of processes and subject areas.
Stuent-to-faculty ratio: 9.8
17. University of Illinois
The program allows students to focus on their area of interest, whether cognitive and linguistic development, language acquisition, or conceptual development and brain development. The program provides a broad range of options for students seeking an advanced degree in developmental psychology.
One of the program’s goals is to train students to be researchers and educators—students in the program train through research, courses, and teaching.
Student-to-staff ratio: 17.8
18. University of Washington
University of Washington’s Master of Arts in Applied Child and Adolescent Psychology: Prevention and Treatment program is a terrific opportunity for those interested in pursuing a graduate degree in developmental psychology. The program is designed to give graduates specialized skills in helping children ad adolescents.
The program includes a clinical practicum that is carried out in a community setting. The practicum is a supervised clinical experience where students work with children and adolescents, applying what they have learned. Students gain real-world experience while receiving feedback and assessments.
Student-to-facuty ratio: 10.7