Master of Science in Applied Developmental Psychology

The MS in Applied Developmental Psychology (ADP) builds the skills you’ll need to address the diverse needs of children, youth, and families across multiple settings, including community-based organizations, schools, hospitals, advocacy organizations, residential treatment programs, out-of-school programs and service agencies. This rigorous four-semester program blends challenging coursework with community-based practice making graduates stand out in the job field.

Quick Facts

  • Program Duration: 2 academic years (4 semesters)
  • Time Commitment: Full-time or Part-time 
  • Term of Enrollment: Fall 
  • Course Requirements: 36 credits 
  • Format: With the exception of a few electives and online courses, ADP MS courses are offered in the evening. 
  • Application Deadline: Rolling Admissions; Child Life Priority given to applications received by March 1 
  • Admissions Requirements: GRE exam not required

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Program Details

Through a blend of research and professional practice training, students in this vital field acquire competencies and expertise in applying knowledge of development and evidence-based practices to address real-world problems in real-world settings. Applied developmentalists are experts in interdisciplinary collaboration; they use their knowledge of current research and evidence-based methods to design, implement, and evaluate innovative interventions and programs for children, youth and families; they emphasize principles of positive psychology to promote the success of all children and youth, especially those who are at developmental risk and/or have developmental/learning difficulties. 

MS students may choose to concentrate in one of the following specialized areas of study and practice:   

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.

Behavioral Health in Schools and Communities (BHSC) 

The Behavioral Health in Schools and Communities (BHSC) specialization advocates improving access to and quality of care for families and children and youth with developmental, social-emotional, and behavioral difficulties. A BHSC specialization is appropriate for students interested in consultative and direct provision of behavioral health services, developmental services for children with disabilities, and program administration; BHSC specialists also emphasize policy-focused work, education, and advocacy. Students learn about emotional and behavioral disorders, 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.  Students may elect to also pursue the Applied Behavior Analysis certificate (BCBA) with some additional planning and coursework. 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 families and children who have special health care needs in interdisciplinary settings such as children’s hospitals, transitional programs (i.e. “step down” programs), and community-based organizations. Increases in poverty and disability have resulted in increases in the prevalence of children who experience chronic healthcare conditions and needs. Students in the CSHCN specialization are trained in developmental healthcare prevention and intervention supports to meet children’s social, emotional, and behavioral needs in diverse health and allied health settings. Upon completion of the program, students interested in applying for the Child Life Certificate (overseen by the National Child Life Council) will: have met the expected coursework requirements. Candidates must apply and achieve a passing score on the national certification exam to gain the practice certificate. 

Infant Mental Health (IMH)  

The Infant Mental Health (IMH) specialization gives students the opportunity to gain specialized skills and knowledge for working with very young children (0 to 3-years of age) and their families as it pertains to the promotion, prevention and intervention for optimal social-emotional developmental for children. The training will be aligned with the recently purchased IMH Competency Guidelines and will prepare IMH students to be “ready” for IMH Endorsement through the process to be determined by the state of Pennsylvania.Infant mental health is a growing field of study and practice.  There are several potential employment opportunities within early childhood serving systems including; Home Visiting programs, Part C IDEA Early Intervention Providers, Child, Youth and Family workers, Early Care Educators, behavioral health providers (social workers, licensed professional counselors, psychologists), and more.  

Child Youth Development (CYD)

The Child Youth Development (CYD) specialization is designed to prepare professional practitioners who promote the positive development of children and youth in a variety of out-of-school settings. Child and youth participation in organized activities outside of school has dramatically increased, which has stimulated growth in this emerging professional area. The CYD 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  CYD activities provides the rich opportunity for creating and coordinating developmentally positive spaces.


Degree Requirements

The ADP MS program requires students to successfully complete a Capstone Project in the second year at a community-based site. (We work with over 150 community partners.) Capstones vary greatly based on the student and community-partner’s interests and needs.  


  • 3.0 GPA 
  • Courses in Research methods and Developmental Psychology 
  • Experience working with children or adolescents

Career Pathways

  • Community-based program Administrators, Directors and Supervisors 
  • Developmental Specialists 
  • Child and Youth Advocate 
  • Home Visitors 
  • 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 
  • Child Protective Services