Ph.D. programs have some advantages over Psy.D. programs in that they are generally less expensive because you typically work on research and teach classes while you are studying. Psy.D. programs tend to be a little shorter and are more clinically focused, so if you're not interested in research, that might be a better option. I have a Psy.D. It means I have more student debt but was able to graduate with my doctorate and start practicing a couple of years earlier than if I'd done a Ph.D. program. Also, generally, Psy.D. programs are a bit easier to get into because they accept more students--psychology in general has gotten pretty competitive. All just things to keep in mind.
For either the Ph.D. or Psy.D. route, you should try to attend an undergraduate college with a good psychology program so you have pre-requisites for graduate school. You'll need statistics, foundational psychology classes, neuroscience, etc. Lots and lots of colleges have good psychology programs, so you may want to consider the kind of experience you want to have while in college (a small school or big one? Close to home or far from it? How expensive of a school can you afford?). If you're certain about wanting to work with children, you could look for schools that offer classes on child development to supplement your psychology coursework. I didn't know initially that I wanted to be a child psychologist, but my college offered a Play Therapy class that I took and it made me fall in love with the idea of working with kids. The nice thing is that there's not one right answer!
However, one thing to keep in mind if you want to eventually get your Ph.D. is that it really helps to have research experience during college. So if that's the route you're thinking, try to find out if you'd be able to help on any research working under graduate students and professors while in college. You can usually find out what research projects are going on at different schools by looking on their websites or even emailing the Psychology Department heads of schools you're interested in. This is less important if you want to get a Psy.D., but still might be valuable experience for you to know whether or not you even like research in the first place!
Maybe you already know this but after college and then graduate school, you will have to complete a year-long internship and then, depending on what state you want to practice in, potentially a 1 or 2-year postdoctoral fellowship. THEN you can apply to get licensed as a psychologist. I agree with Alan above that it's a long road but very rewarding. If you don't mind school and hard work, and want to have a meaningful career, I highly recommend it. :) Good luck!
Best, Dr. B
Angela D. recommends the following next steps:
It’s a long and hard road to take but the rewards are worth it. Good luck.