Child Psychiatrist: Career Profile

Child psychiatry requires significant formal education. Learn about the education, job duties and certification to see if this is the right career for you.

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A career as a child psychiatrist is a demanding one, and has extensive educational and licensing requirements, including completion of medical school, a residency program, and fellowship. However, the salary is considered lucrative, and job growth is expected to be excellent.

Essential Information

Child psychiatrists diagnose and treat mental illness in children. They prescribe medication and provide therapy such as psychotherapy, counseling and cognitive-behavior therapy. They must first become psychiatrists or pediatricians and then pursue further education and certification to specialize in child psychiatry.

Required Education College prerequisite courses (2-4 years)
Medical school (4 years)
Residency in pediatrics or psychiatry (3 years)
Child & adolescent psychiatry fellowship training (2-3 years)
Licensure & Certification Board certification
State medical license
Other Requirements Continuing Medical Education (CME) credit to maintain license and board certification after residency
DEA registration to prescribe controlled substances
Projected Job Growth (2014-2024) 14%, for all physicians and surgeons*
Average Salary (2015) $193,680 annually, for all psychiatrists*

Source: *U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics

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Child Psychiatrist Career Information

According to the American Academy of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry (AACAP), child psychiatrists are medical professionals who diagnose and treat mental health disorders in children (www.aacap.org). The AACAP indicates that child psychiatrists consider many factors when making a diagnosis, such as familial, social and physical components. Treatment options may include medication and therapy. Depending on the particular case, child psychiatrists may interact with other professionals who work in the school or court systems. The AACAP states that child psychiatrists act as advocates for the children they treat.

Career Outlook & Salary Information

According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), employment opportunities for physicians and surgeons, the category that encompasses child psychiatrists, were expected to increase 14% from 2014-2024 (www.bls.gov). The reasons given by the BLS for this anticipated increase was population growth and healthcare industry expansion. Outside of hospitals, the BLS indicates that many psychiatrists work in local government agencies or private offices. In May 2015, the BLS reported that psychiatrists earned a mean salary of $193,680 annually.

Education Requirements

Child psychiatrists must complete extensive graduate training, which includes medical school, a residency and a fellowship. Medical school programs are divided between the preclinical and clinical years. During the preclinical years, medical students learn about the major systems of the body, diseases and foundational concepts in patient care. During the clinical years, students undergo clinical rotations, including psychiatry in hospitals and other healthcare facilities.

Upon completing medical school, individuals must then undergo a residency program in general psychiatry. While working in a hospital, residents are given greater responsibilities with patient care and complete rotations between different departments, including inpatient, outpatient and long-term care.

Fellowships in child psychiatry allow individuals to focus on issues related to children. This training typically lasts two years and often includes rotations in different areas of child psychiatric care. Fellows may perform advanced research or concentrate on a specific treatment or disease.

Licensing Requirements

The BLS indicates that all states require physicians and surgeons to be licensed. A universal requirement is passing the United States Medical Licensing Exam, which tests individuals on clinical skills, clinical knowledge, scientific concepts and patient assessment. Individual states may have different standards for child psychiatrists, such as the continuing education credits required to maintain licensure.

To summarize this article, once completing medical school, a residency, and a fellowship in child psychiatry, child psychiatrists have the option of working in a hospital, private clinic, or for a government agency. An expansion of health care services in the U.S. in the coming years means job growth for physicians, including child psychiatrists, is expected to be much faster than average.

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