Child Studies (M.Ed.)

Join a small cohort of students and learn to connect scholarship and practice through the M.Ed. in Child Studies program.

Young child students smiling

Program Overview

The Child Studies master's program offers two track options: the Clinical and Developmental Research Track and the Applied Professional Track. Uniquely suited for specific career paths and interests, both tracks prepare students to work as practitioners, researchers, or interventionists with expertise in skillfully applying developmental research to real-world problems. The program has been highly successful in placing students from the Research Track into competitive doctoral programs and research positions in areas of psychology and clinical science. Additionally, the Applied Track has a more-than twenty-year history of placing graduates as teachers and school support staff, child life specialists, behavior specialists, healthcare workers, and non-profit professionals across varied work settings.

Through the program, you'll select a primary focus between one of two tracks:

  • Clinical and Developmental Research Track - designed for students whose academic and professional goals include preparation for further graduate study, such as doctoral studies in clinical, developmental, or educational psychology, or positions in research, this program option is designed to strengthen students' backgrounds for success in these settings. Students are matched with a faculty mentor and provided opportunities to participate on a research team in an area of substantive interest. Research methods and statistics coursework and completion of an independent research project appropriate for submission for publication are further requirements; areas of concentration allow focus in clinical and developmental psychology and other related fields of interest.
  • Applied Professional Track- designed for students whose academic and professional goals include preparation for careers working directly with children and families, this program option offers students opportunities for scholarly didactic and in-depth, supervised professional experiences in child and family service organizations. Students are matched with relevant agencies and organizations within the community to gain hands-on experiences in practicum settings. These experiences are complemented by foundational coursework, wherein students have flexibility to design their program of study around areas of substantive interest and relevant career paths. The Applied Professional Track also allows interested students to pursue certification as child life specialists. These students can complete ACLP-required coursework for certification in the program while also completing a 100-hour hospital-based child life practicum program in the Nashville community during their course of study. Specializing in applied behavior analysis is also an option within the Applied Professional Track.

Program Outcomes

Clinical and Developmental Research Track

This track has a more than 10-year history of successfully placing graduates in highly competitive doctoral programs in such areas as clinical, developmental, and educational psychology. More than 90 percent of students who have applied to doctoral programs following the program have secured admission. A sample of recent graduate placements includes the following:

  • Ph.D. Candidate, Clinical Psychology, University of California, Los Angeles, California
  • Ph.D. Candidate, Clinical Psychology, McGill University
  • Ph.D. Candidate, Developmental Psychology, University of Pittsburgh
  • Ph.D. Candidate, Developmental Psychology, Vanderbilt University
  • Ph.D. Candidate, Counseling Psychology & Applied Human Development, Boston University
  • Ph.D. Candidate, Psychology and Peace Studies, University of Notre Dame
  • Psy.D. Candidate, Clinical Psychology, Palo-Alto Pacific Graduate School of Psychology-Stanford University PsyD Consortium
  • Ph.D. Candidate, Experimental Psychology, Oxford University (England)

Applied Professional Track

Over the past 20 years, graduates from this track have been successful in securing varied positions as leaders in child and family service roles. A sample of recent graduate placements includes the following:

  • Behavior Interventionist, Freedom Preparatory Academy, Memphis, Tennessee
  • Foster Care Counselor, United Methodist Family Services, Richmond, Virginia
  • Program Specialist, Nurture the Next, Nashville, Tennessee
  • Program Coordinator, National Family Voices
  • Program Coordinator, United to Learn, Dallas, Texas
  • Community Resilience Coordinator, Tennessee Department of Health, Office of Strategic Initiatives, Nashville, Tennessee

For students pursuing careers in child life, 100 perent have been successfully placed in child life internships, attained certification as child life specialists, and secured employment as child life specialists in hospitals across the US and Canada. Similarly, students pursuing certification as applied behavior analysts are employed as BCBAs throughout the country and abroad.

Sample career outcomes from these Applied Professional Track concentrations include the following:

  • Certified Child Life Specialist, Johns Hopkins Children's Hospital, Baltimore, Maryland
  • Certified Child Life Specialist, Cincinnati Children’s Hospital, Adaptive Care Team, Cincinnati, Ohio
  • Board Certified Behavior Analyst, Autism ETC, Nashville, Tennessee
  • Board Certified Behavior Analyst and owner, All Star Autism Services, Kansas City, Missouri
  • Board Certified Behavior Analyst, Cultivate Behavioral Health and Education, San Antonio, Texas

Overall, historical evidence indicates that within four months of graduation from the Child Studies master’s program (from both tracks and all concentrations), 97 to 100 percent are employed or attending graduate school. 

"I had phenomenal, world-class faculty members in every class I took. Completing this program was one of the best decisions I have made in my professional life."

Johanna Bernard, M.Ed.
Ph.D. Student, Education Policy, University of Pennsylvania

Program Facts

Program Directors: Vicki Harris, Ph.D. (Applied Professional Track),
Nina Martin, Ed.D. (Clinical and Developmental Research Track)
Admissions Coordinator: Ally Jacobs
Child Life Academic Coordinator: Jessika Boles, Ph.D., C.C.L.S.
Admission Term: Summer
Credit Hours: 36

Application Dates

  • Application Deadline 1

    Jan 3, 2024

  • Application Deadline 2

    Feb 3, 2024 

  • Rolling Admissions

    After Feb 3, 2024*

    *Applications received after the Feb 3rd second deadline are reviewed on a rolling basis and accepted as space and funds allow.

Program Curriculum

The 36-hour program consists of 24-30 credit hours of core curriculum coursework and 6-12 credit hours of elective coursework that are individually tailored to your personal interests and professional goals.

In addition to the required courses, you'll integrate child development research and theory with effective practice through a range of field experiences. Through these experiences, you will develop expertise as consumers and producers of scholarly research. Both program tracks include a concentration of focus and a mentored practicum experience (described below).

Within the Applied Track, students pursuing child life certification complete a 100-hour hospital-based child life practicum at a local children's hospital and receive credit hours for completion of a child life internship.

Concentrations and Practicum

  • Concentrations

    Areas of Concentration

    Through either track, you'll complete elective coursework according to the program guidelines and your selected area of concentration. A program of study is developed with your adviser based on your professional and academic goals. This list of courses is flexibly developed with your advisor based on your professional and academic goals.

    Concentrations within the Research Track may include but are not limited to the following:

    • clinical psychology
    • developmental psychology
    • educational psychology
    • school psychology
    • counseling psychology
    • human development and family studies

    Sample concentrations within the Applied Professional Track include but are not limited to:

    • applied behavioral analysis (ABA)
    • arts and media
    • child and family services
    • developmental disabilities and early intervention
    • educational program development
    • gifted education
    • language and literacy
    • pediatric healthcare (includes but is not limited to child life interests)
    • poverty and intervention
    • positive youth development and nonprofit organizations.

    Additionally, some areas of concentration are interdepartmental and may have specific additional requirements as determined by the respective departments or credentialing organizations. Those students whose career interests include child life or board-certified behavior analysts may complete a related concentration (pediatric healthcare or ABA, respectively) in order to make sure that their coursework meets certification eligibility requirements set by relevant professional associations.

  • Practicum

    As a master of education (M.Ed.) student in Child Studies, you'll apply what you learn in the classroom as a member of a clinical or developmental research team or in a field-based placement engaging in hands-on work with children, adolescents, and families.

    Clinical and Developmental Research Track

    Through the Clinical and Developmental Research Track, you'll be matched with a research lab and faculty mentor based on your interests and lab availability. Program advisors facilitate this process during the summer session before your first fall semester. The research lab placement is intended to last for the full duration the program to allow you to develop in your chosen area of clinical or developmental research.

    The 10 hour/week commitment typically requires you to attend research lab meetings, participate in ongoing research projects, conduct reviews of relevant literature, engage in general professional development activities, and prepare conference-ready posters or presentations and/or publication-ready articles and manuscripts.

    In conjunction with your research lab position, you'll be required to take two semesters of PSY-PC 7951: Child Development Practicum: Clinical & Developmental Research Track.

    What Students Say

    "Because of this program, I have now gotten clinical research experience and found a topic that truly interests me that I would like to study in a doctoral program in clinical psychology."

    Applied Professional Track

    Through the Applied Professional Track, you'll be matched with a community site based on your interests and career goals, a process facilitated by program advisors in the semester before your placement. Placements may last one or more semesters, based on your progress and objectives.

    The nature of the 10 hour/week commitment varies significantly depending on your specific site. You may work in such endeavors as developing community programs, providing developmental interventions, or writing educational curricula. Regardless of site, your work will be informed by evidence-based practice, and you will receive both campus and on-site mentorship. Those pursuing certification as a child life specialist within the Applied Professional Track will complete a practicum that includes 100 hours of  hospital-based shadowing and activities under the supervision of a child life specialist and an accompanying 3-hour course under the supervision of a doctoral-level certified child life specialist. 

    In conjunction with your field placement position, you will take two semesters of PSY-PC 7950: Child Development Practicum: Applied Professional Track.

    What Students Say

    "My field placements have given me exposure to what it is like to work in various educational settings, helping me to narrow and refine my own career goals."



  • Prerequisite Coursework (both Tracks)

    Competitive applicants to the M.Ed. program will have taken the courses below (or their equivalent) during their undergraduate program or before applying for the M.Ed. in Child Studies. Applicants who have not taken these prerequisites can discuss alternatives during the admission process.

    • Developmental Psychology, or equivalent (3)
    • Introduction to Statistical Analysis, or equivalent (3)
  • Core Curriculum and Elective Coursework

    In both Tracks, you will be required to complete 24-30 credit hours of core curriculum classes for the M.Ed. in Child Studies. The exact sequence varies depending on the Track you select. (Graduate course requirements for Vanderbilt 5th-year students and external master's applicants are identical.)

    Clinical and Developmental Research Track

    Within the Clinical and Developmental Research Track, the 36-hour program includes the following:

    • PSY-PC 6010 Applied Child Studies [3]
    • PSY-PC 6020 Advanced Applied Child Studies [3]
    • PSY-PC 7951 Child Development Practicum: Clinical and Developmental Research [6]
    • PSY-PC 7850: Research Methods in Developmental Psychology [3]
    • PSY-GS 8861: Statistical Inference [3] (or approved substitute)
    • Two advanced courses in Developmental Theory and Content [6]
    • Two advanced courses in Research Methodology or Statistics [6]
    • Two Electives [6]

    Applied Professional Track

    Within the Applied Professional Track, the 36-hour coursework includes the following:

    • PSY-PC 6010 Applied Child Studies [3]
    • PSY-PC 6020 Advanced Applied Child Studies [3]
    • PSY-PC 7950 Child Development Practicum: Applied Professional [6]
    • Two advanced courses in Developmental Theory and Content [6]
    • Two advanced courses in Research Methodology or Statistics [6]
    • Four Electives [12]

    Elective courses in both tracks are individually tailored to meet the professional and academic goals of the particular student. In consultation with the student’s advisor, courses are selected from Peabody College and other Vanderbilt schools to provide didactic experiences in the student’s concentration (e.g., clinical psychology, pediatric healthcare, family intervention, etc.).

Our Commitment to Equity, Diversity, and Inclusion

The Child Studies M.Ed. recognizes and respects differences across students' backgrounds, circumstances, and personal and social identities and understands that our concept of diversity and what constitutes an inclusive climate will evolve as we welcome new students. We are committed to creating academic experiences that address issues of justice and equity, working within our classrooms and program to increase the participation and contributions of persons who bring diverse perspectives and experiences to the pursuit of knowledge.


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