What Careers are in Developmental Psychology?

The American Psychological Association (APA) states that the careers in developmental psychology include academic, educational, government and health care settings. Most developmental psychologists work in colleges and universities researching or teaching. Many work in applied settings, such as hospital facilities, through occupational therapy departments. They help treat and work with people with developmental disabilities. A low percentage of developmental psychologists work in homeless centers, assisted living homes and mental health clinics.

Lab Management

Lab managers usually work in university research facilities and psychology departments. Developmental psychology research focuses on specific topics like the neurobiological triggers and psychological mechanisms that guide decision-making. They may research the development and expression of social cognition, moral reasoning, social behavior, ethical judgements and political radicalization. Having a technical background to create IT procedures that support study activities will benefit job hunters.

Developmental psychology research will most likely involve expensive equipment, such as functional MRIs and high-density EEGs, as well as complex techniques, such as eye-tracking and behavioral economic analysis. Their primary duties will include a mix of lab research, supervision and administration. They may test human subjects, monitor behavioral experiments and synthesize neuroimaging documentation. They must have statistical, social neuroscience and experimental data knowledge.

Project Management

Developmental psychology project managers will create, implement and maintain study protocols for participant recruitment, activity tracking, quality assurance, data collection and database management. They may be responsible for hiring, training and supervising staff, volunteers and participants. Most of these managers work on grant- and fund-based projects that last anywhere from one to 12 months. They may use software for task scheduling, participant recruitment, questionnaire administration and remote communications.

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These project managers must develop sound methods to monitor budgets, progress, spending and participant behaviors. They may even work with a large and diverse staff that is geographically widespread among different universities and research sites. These project managers must be highly motivated, organized and experienced. They should be prepared to travel to different field locations during the project’s execution.

Applied Developmental Research

Developmental psychologists who deal with applied research may investigate the specific mechanisms through which people’s social, spatial, cognitive and decision-making skills develop. These researchers deal with multiple aspects of the research management process, which includes stimulus design, theory creation, site selection, staff recruitment and participant scheduling. Once things get going, they will deal with data collection, coding, analysis and synthesis.

Applied researchers often work in field locations, such as schools and businesses. They will need demonstrated experience with statistical software to complete quantitative and qualitative data analysis activities. They will need strong leadership and communication skills to independently anticipate and control daily issues. They may be asked to train and supervise undergraduate researchers and volunteers. They should know how to coach staff by brainstorming ideas, maintaining accountability and asking open-ended questions.

Related Resource: What Careers are in Educational Psychology?

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Consultants who specialize in developmental psychology may work directly with schools, colleges and community organizations. They may find employment with their state’s Departments of Health, Disabilities, Human Services and Child Welfare. The careers in developmental psychology also include research coordinator, college professor, cognitive coach, behavioral specialist and juvenile corrections counselor.