University of Pittsburgh School of Education

Master of Science (MS)

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Applied Developmental Psychology - Master of Science (MS)

Welcome to the Master of Science (MS) degree program in Applied Developmental Psychology (ADP) at the University of Pittsburgh! The MS degree in ADP emphasizes the integration of knowledge and practice in human development, with a focus on implementing best practices to promote positive outcomes for children, youth, and families.

Children, youth, and families continue to face a variety of challenging situations for which they are increasingly seeking support and intervention services. As hardships become more widespread and diverse, the resulting needs also grow. Applied developmental professionals serve these needs of children, youth, and families across multiple settings, including community-based organizations, schools, hospitals, child and youth programs, advocacy organizations, residential treatment programs, out-of-school programs (including before- and after-school programs), and service agencies. To promote well-being, the newly revised MS curriculum represents the most up-to-date knowledge across the fields of ADP research and practice. ADP emphasizes the application of this knowledge and use of cutting edge, best practice skills.

Through a blend of research and professional practice training, students in this vital field develop skills and expertise in applying knowledge of development and evidence-based practices, developing, implementing and evaluating effective interventions and programs for children, youth and families, collaborating effectively with professionals in related fields, and understanding and evaluating research.

The revised MS program curriculum includes an expanded set of core, foundational ADP coursework for all students followed by in-depth coursework and a community-based learning experience in one of the following specialization areas (chosen by the student):

  • Child and Youth Work [CYW] - the Child and Youth Work (CYW) specialization is designed to prepare professional practitioners who promote the positive development of children and youth in a variety of out-of-school time (OST) settings. Child and youth participation in organized activities outside of school has dramatically increased, which has stimulated growth in this emerging professional area. The CYW specialization includes a developmental-ecological perspective that emphasizes both child development and the impact of contexts on the developing individual. It is based on the idea that the growth of OST activities provides the rich opportunity for creating and coordinating developmentally positive spaces.

  • Behavioral Health in Schools and Communities [BHSC] – the Behavioral Health in Schools and Communities (BHSC) specialization emphasizes improving access to and quality of care for children and adolescents with developmental, emotional, behavioral, and/or psychological/mental health difficulties and their families. A BHSC focus may be appropriate for students interested in direct provision of behavioral health services, program administration and/or development, services to children with disabilities, policy-focused work, education, and/or advocacy. Students learn about emotional and behavioral disorders, developmentally- and evidence-based interventions and treatments for individuals and groups, program development, and use of resources and data to answer identified questions and provide necessary services. Upon completion of the program, students in this specialization meet all of the evidence-based coursework requirements for the PA Behavior Specialist License.

    The BHSC specialization is not a clinically-focused curriculum; therefore, it does not prepare students to apply for professional psychology or counseling licensure or to work as professional, licensed counselors, therapists, school psychologists, or school counselors, either in public or private practice settings.

  • Children with Special Health Care Needs (with Child Life option) [CSHCN] – the Children with Special Health Care Needs (with Child Life option; CSHCN) specialization prepares students for direct work with children who have special health care needs, as well as their families, in settings such as children’s hospitals, transitional programs (i.e. “step down” programs), and community-based organizations. Increased access to diagnostic services and better recognition of children’s health conditions by parents and physicians have led to an increase in the prevalence of children and families who experience chronic health or medical needs. Students in the CSHCN specialization are trained to provide developmentally based interventions and information, as well as to support children’s psychosocial, emotional, and behavioral health needs, in health care settings. Upon completion of the program, students interested in applying for the Child Life Certificate (overseen by the Child Life Council) will have met the coursework requirements but must also earn a passing score on the national certification exam and complete (or have completed as part of the MS program) a formal Child Life internship.

  • Applied Research Methods for Child and Youth Serving Organizations [ARMO] - the Applied Research Methods for Child and Youth Serving Organizations (ARMO) specialization focuses on training applied research practitioners who are able to producing relevant, useful research to evaluate and enhance key programs for child and youth development. Child and youth serving organizations are increasingly expected to collect and analyze a variety of data in order to monitor outcomes, improve performance, and demonstrate effectiveness. Organizations that serve children and families, however, often are overworked and underfunded, making such data-oriented efforts burdensome. To meet the need of child and youth serving organizations, the ARMO specialization trains practitioners within a model of practical, applied research to evaluate program functioning, performance, and outcomes as well as to contribute to overall knowledge.

  • Professional Year (only for students who previously completed Professional Year teaching certification program, which transfers 18 credits of coursework) [PY] – take only the ADP core course sequence for additional 18 credits.

Job Opportunities

Graduates of the program are equipped to work in a wide variety of professional settings, including wraparound or community mental health service agencies, out-of-school programs (including recreational programs and afte rschool programs), residential programs, juvenile justice (detention) centers, early care and education, early intervention, and pediatric health care programs. Some graduates also proceed to doctoral study (in areas such as counseling psychology, applied developmental psychology, and school psychology). Graduates of the program hold positions such as:

  • Community-based program Administrators, Directors and Supervisors
  • Developmental Specialists
  • Child and Youth Advocates
  • Behavior Specialist Consultants (BSCs)
  • Youth Workers
  • Child Life Specialists
  • Behavioral Health Specialists
  • Teachers with strong training in applied development
  • Research Associates
  • Faculty in Community and 4-year Colleges

Contact Information

Admissions Inquiries and General Information

School of Education
Admissions and Enrollment Services
5500 Wesley W. Posvar Hall
230 South Bouquet Street
Pittsburgh, PA 15260
PHONE: 412-648-2230
FAX: 412-648-1899
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