Working with children isn’t just plain fun: it also provides the opportunity to guide new generations. Moreover, it may stand the chance of positively impacting a child’s development—and paving the way for a lifetime of wholesome choices, strong interpersonal relationships, academic success, and a deeper well of compassion and forgiveness.1
This is not to say that working with young children or a young person in a professional or personal capacity isn’t challenging. Any type of job that helps people is unique in its pros and cons. But the rewards that may come with working with children? Endless.
Read on as we dive into popular careers working with children and what educational background you may need to pursue them.
Why Choose to Work with Children?
There are thousands of meaningful careers; working with children is among the most joyful. From a personal growth perspective, choosing one of the many careers with children may reward you with:
- Enhanced creativity
- Improved patience
- Learning inspiration
- Decreased stress
Whether you work with children over the course of a month or over several years, you may have the opportunity to see the palpable results of your hard work: A young child who is absolutely flourishing.
Why Else Should You Choose Careers with Children?
From a more objective perspective, the role models children have when they’re young—whether that’s a relative, teacher, counselor, dance teacher, tennis coach, or babysitter—can help them shape an understanding of how to live well in the world and, importantly, how to take care of themselves.
For children who endure adverse childhood experiences (ACEs), a bright influence in their life can inform their choices and help them navigate the negative feelings they may experience.2 In turn, they may have a reduced vulnerability to mental health complications and their various implications.
3 Top Careers Working With Children
Careers with children run the gamut from serving as a librarian in the kids’ section of your local library to furnishing children with a range of psychological services. Below you’ll find three of the most valuable and enthralling.
#1 Clinical Psychologist
Mental health complications are ubiquitous—and children and adolescents are far from immune to them. Recent data indicates that as many as one in seven children—or 7.7 million kids and teens—“meet” the diagnostic criteria for a mental health issue.3 These include (but are not limited to):
Left untreated, mental health problems such as these, as well as others, can have an enduring effect on a child’s life, impacting their psychological growth and negatively affecting their shift into adulthood.
One of the chief concerns is that children with untreated mental health issues may turn to drugs, alcohol, or aggression to deal with their symptoms.4 In turn, this may increase their risk of suicide, which has increased five-fold among children between the ages of 10 and 12.5
Research also reveals that more than half of children whose mental health issues go untreated will develop a substance abuse disorder. To compound this, a substance abuse disorder may make it difficult to treat the underlying issues.
This is where a clinical psychologist who specializes in working with children comes in.
What Does a Clinical Psychologist Do?
Clinical psychologists who work with children in their early childhood provide kids and adolescents with a safe space to examine and express their emotions, which may not be viable if they live in a home where domestic abuse and substance use are prevalent.
Additionally, a clinical psychologist’s responsibilities may include:6
- Run diagnostic tests
- Craft and implement a treatment plan
- Communicate with the child’s parents and/or caregivers
- Provide intervention as needed
Clinical psychologists may use a variety of techniques to help children, such as:7
- Cognitive behavior therapy (CBT)
- Acceptance and commitment therapy (ACT)
- Dialectical behavior therapy (DBT)
- Marital and family therapy
- Play therapy
Some of these therapies are used together but the goal often remains the same: To help children and families understand and navigate issues and to encourage positive behavioral and psychological changes.
Educational Requirements for Clinical Psychologists
What degree do you need to be a clinical psychologist? Most states in the country require clinical psychologists to hold one of the following degrees to practice (before applying for state licensure and, for some, becoming board certified):8,9,
In some states and places of employment, you may be able to work with children as a mental health counselor if you hold an appropriate master’s degree. However, psychologists without a doctorate may have to work under a psychologist who does have one.
You may be pleased to know that both a PsyD and a PhD will furnish you with the education and training you need to work in academia and clinical research, particularly the latter degree. This means you can pursue working on cutting edge research that could improve how children are diagnosed and treated in mental health settings.
Most of us have had at least one teacher positively impact our early childhood education, whether it was a preschool teacher who helped us adjust to a new learning environment or a seventh-grade instructor who recognized and nourished one of our innate talents.
Indeed, one of the primary reasons people choose education from the list of careers with children is the opportunity to have an impact on children’s lives.10 What children learn from an early age sets the stage for what’s to come, both in the academic sphere and in the arena of life.
You have the power to decide in which capacity you’d like to teach, whether that’s as an elementary school teacher, a middle school teacher, or a high school teacher.
What Do Teachers Do?
Teachers’ tasks are vast, varied, and exciting. Depending on where you work and the grade you teach, you may:
- Craft lesson plans
- Create classroom protocols to maintain order
- Work with other teachers and staff members on creating school functions and projects
- Prepare students for standardized exams, such as the PSAT and SAT
- Consult with parents/caregivers on a child’s progress
As Yeats once said, “Education is not the filling of a pail, but the lighting of a fire.” Contributing to this could result in a satisfying and rewarding career.
Educational Requirements for Teachers
School teachers usually have the minimum of a bachelor’s degree.11 This might be in a specialty area of education, such as elementary education, but not necessarily. You’ll also need a teaching license. Note that the academic requirements and exams to earn your license vary by state.
Either right away or at some point in your career, you might also choose to take your profession to the next level. An EdD (Doctorate) in Educational Leadership and Management, for example, may provide you with the credentials you need to explore a role in leadership.
#3 Marital and Family Therapist
Similar to a clinical psychologist, a marital and family therapist helps children manage their emotions.12 In some ways, they may also help young children in an indirect way, by helping a parent or parents (or caregiver/caregivers) learn to navigate their own emotional, mental, and psychological complications, thereby providing a more stable and nourishing home environment.
A marital and family therapist may be able to identify and treat issues within a family that may be affecting a child’s growth and sense of security, such as:13
- Chronic illness
- Mental health issues
If you’ve been scouring the internet with the query “careers working with children,” you may find that a marital and family therapist is one of the most worthwhile and intellectually stimulating. Further, you may have the chance to select a specialization, such as helping concerned parents deal with a teenager with an eating disorder, or working primarily with veterans and their children.
What Do Marital and Family Therapists Do?
As a marital and family therapist, one of your first “duties” is to recognize a family as an interconnected unit. This is not to say you won’t see each family member as their own entity; instead, you consider how people act independently and interdependently.
You might work with children and their family members after they have endured a significant life change, such as a death in the family or a divorce. Or you might help a child navigate the emotions that arise with having an older sibling who has a substance abuse disorder. In other words, the possible scenarios are as nuanced and varied as families themselves.
You might call upon several therapeutic modalities, such as:
- Functional Family Therapy (FFT)
- Multidimensional Family Therapy (MDFT)
- Family-based Behavioral Treatment (in which case you would work only with the parent/parents or caregiver/caregivers)
Educational Requirements for Marital and Family Therapists
Marital and family therapists require a minimum of a master’s in marital and family therapy (MFT) (as well as state licensure).
Suppose you’re keen on advancing your career, or want to start at the top from the get-go. In that case, you can also work toward a Doctorate of Psychology (PsyD) in Marital and Family Therapy, which will place you in a position to work not only in a clinical setting but also in leadership, academia, and disciplinary research.
Careers Working With Children: Additional Options
Other careers with children that may appeal to you include:
- School librarian
- Pediatric nurse
- Social work
- Preschool teacher
- School counselor
- LGBTQ+ specialist
Explore Careers with Children at Alliant International University
Working with children can be as fulfilling as it is fun. By making a constructive impact on a child’s life, you lay the foundation for a higher quality of life while also potentially improving society as a whole.
Alliant International University offers a handful of programs to fulfill your desire to help children reach their potential. Whether you’re interested in becoming a marriage and family therapist or earning your teaching credentials, we will furnish you with the education and training you need to enter the field.
Request information about our programs today to become that person a child looks fondly back upon for years to come.
- Aacap. Role models and children. https://www.aacap.org/AACAP/Families_and_Youth/Facts_for_Families/FFF-G…. Accessed March 22, 2023.
- “9 Ways to Help a Child Who's Had Adverse Childhood Experiences (Aces).” MyHealth.Alberta.ca Government of Alberta Personal Health Portal. https://myhealth.alberta.ca/health/AfterCareInformation/pages/condition…. Accessed March 23, 2023.
- “Half of U.S. Children with Mental Health Disorders Are Not Treated.” [Home]. https://www.michiganmedicine.org/health-lab/half-us-children-mental-hea…. Accessed March 23, 2023.
- “Mental Health Disorders and Teen Substance Use.” Child Mind Institute, July 28, 2022. https://childmind.org/article/mental-health-disorders-and-substance-use/. Accessed March 23, 2023.
- Hottman, Sara. “OHSU Researchers Find Startling Increase in Suicide Attempts by Pre-Teen Children Nationwide.” OHSU News, March 15, 2022. https://news.ohsu.edu/2022/03/16/ohsu-researchers-find-startling-increa…. Accessed March 23, 2023.
- “Clinical Child and Adolescent Psychology.” American Psychological Association. American Psychological Association. https://www.apa.org/ed/graduate/specialize/child-clinical. Accessed March 23, 2023.
- Aacap. Psychotherapy for children and adolescents: Different types. https://www.aacap.org/AACAP/Families_and_Youth/Facts_for_Families/FFF-G…. Accessed March 23, 2023.
- How to Become a Clinical Psychologist.” CORP-MAT1 (TEACH), December 23, 2022. https://teach.com/careers/psychology/clinical-psychologist/. Accessed March 21, 2023.
- Grey, Sheryl. “How to Become a Child Psychologist: Salary, Education Requirements and Job Growth.” Forbes. Forbes Magazine, January 25, 2023. https://www.forbes.com/advisor/education/become-a-child-psychologist/. Accessed March 23, 2023.
- “The Pros and Cons of Being an Elementary School Teacher.” https://www.indeed.com/career-advice/finding-a-job/pros-cons-of-being-e…. Accessed March 23, 2023.
- “How to Become an Elementary School Teacher (with Salary).” https://www.indeed.com/career-advice/career-development/how-to-become-a…. Accessed March 23, 2023.
- “Family Therapy.” Effective Child Therapy. https://effectivechildtherapy.org/therapies/what-is-family-therapy/. Accessed March 23, 2023.
- “Should I Be a Marriage and Family Therapist? 9 Pros and Cons.” https://www.indeed.com/career-advice/finding-a-job/should-i-be-marriage…. Accessed March 23, 2023.