Career Information for a Degree in Child Psychiatry

A degree in child psychiatry is an advanced degree requiring completion of medical school, residency and fellowship training. Find out about the prerequisites for this degree, and learn about career options, job growth and salary info for child psychiatry graduates.

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The road to becoming a child psychiatrist is a long one that includes medical school, a residency, a fellowship and obtaining licensure. These professionals provide psychotherapy, inpatient care or perform research, and work in hospitals, clinics or school settings.

Essential Information

Child psychiatrists are pediatricians or psychiatrists who pursue advanced training to diagnose and treat mental illness in children. Following completion of prerequisite college courses, one must complete medical school, residency/fellowship (separately or concurrently), and state licensure. While a college degree and board certification are not considered absolute requirements, obtaining a medical degree and a job as a psychiatrist are virtually impossible without them.

Career Child & Adolescent Psychiatrist Psychiatric Researcher
Education Requirements Medical school, residency and fellowship Medical school, residency and postdoctoral work
Licensure & Certification Board certification high recommended;
State licensure required
May need physician license
Projected Job Growth (2014-2024)* 14%, for all physicians and surgeons 8%, for medical scientists except epidemiologists
Median Salary (2015)* $187,200 annually, for all psychiatrists $82,240 annually, for medical scientists except epidemiologists

Source: *U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics

Career Options

Child and adolescent psychiatry is a sub-specialization of clinical psychiatry. Like other clinical healthcare providers, child psychiatrists must complete medical school, residencies and internships before becoming licensed. These professionals might major in child psychology at the undergraduate level to prepare for graduate education. They can then pursue additional training and certification that allows them to work with children.

Child Psychiatrists

The American Academy of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry claims that demand is high for professionals with this type of training, so they have a lot of scheduling and location options. Child psychiatrists might be employed by clinics, hospitals or school districts, where they use a variety of tools to assist children in overcoming psychological and emotional difficulties. Two major areas of employment in the field are psychotherapy and inpatient care. According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), psychiatrists in general earned a median annual salary of $187,200 in May 2015. According to the BLS, job growth for all physicians and surgeons was projected to be 14% between 2014 and 2024.


Psychiatrists who specialize in psychotherapy for children and their families typically work on an outpatient basis. They work one-on-one with children and adolescents to help resolve mood disorders, such as depression, and behavioral problems, such as attention-deficit disorder. They may even treat youth with substance abuse issues. When psychiatrists feel it is beneficial for children, they may facilitate family therapy sessions. While psychotherapists sometimes prescribe medication as part of their treatment plans, talk-therapy is usually the focus.

Inpatient Care

Clinics and hospitals with psychiatric wards need child psychiatrists to oversee the medical treatment of patients with more severe psychological or physiological problems. They treat children with neurological problems, aggression, anxiety, obsessive-compulsive disorder or suicidal tendencies. These doctors primarily rely on drug regimens, although they may also use psychotherapy. Child psychiatrists in hospitals may be consulted for cases outside of their wards, such as in emergency rooms or pediatric neurology departments.

Psychiatric Researchers

Some psychiatrists choose to focus their careers on clinical and academic research. These professionals generally find employment with research universities or other postsecondary educational institutions. They conduct research in order to better understand the workings of children's minds and develop new treatments for mental, emotional and behavioral disorders. Psychiatric researchers may also serve as teachers who educate medical students or residents and monitoring their progress. They might also assist with the operations of the institution's medical center and contribute to the field through research and publication. The BLS reports that medical scientists, including psychiatric researchers, made a median annual salary of $82,240 as of May 2015. Job growth for these positions is predicted to grow by 8% between 2014 and 2024.

Child psychiatrists treat children for mental illness, and require extensive training, including medical school, a residency and perhaps postdoctoral work. They are also required to earn state licensure and possibly certification, and work in a variety of settings, serving patients through therapy, or conducting research. In the 2014-2024 decade, employment opportunities for medical scientists are expected to increase at about the average national rate, while those for all physicians, including child and adolescent psychiatrists, are expected to increase at a much faster rate.

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