Clinical Psychopharmacology Degree Program and Career Information

Sep 27, 2019

Clinical psychopharmacology is generally studied by aspiring doctors and psychiatrists. Continue reading for an overview of training in this specialty, as well as career and salary info for some career options for graduates.

Becoming a clinical psychopharmacologist requires extensive education, including medical school, a residency, and often a fellowship. These physicians and psychiatrists are knowledgeable about medications used to treat mental illnesses, and work in either research or treatment settings.

Essential Information

Psychopharmacologists are physicians or psychiatrists who study how the body and medications interact with one another. Because psychopharmacologists typically prescribe medication to treat mental disorders, it is important that these physicians have an understanding of mental illnesses and also maintain a good rapport with patients who seek treatment.

Career Titles Doctor Psychiatrist
Required Education M.D. M.D.
Other Requirements Completion of a residency program; Continuing Medical Education (CME) training in psychopharmacology Completion of a psychiatry residency program
Licensure and Certification Medical license required; board certification in various specialties available Medical license required; board certification in psychiatry available
Projected Job Growth (2018-2028)* 7% for all physicians and surgeons 14% for all psychologists
Median Annual Salary (May 2018)* $200,890 for physicians and surgeons, all other equal or greater than $208,000 for psychiatrists

Source: *United States Bureau of Labor Statistics

Degree Program for Clinical Psychopharmacology

Individuals interested in practicing clinical psychopharmacology need to have a Doctor of Medicine (M.D.). These medical school programs generally take 1-2 years to complete. Pharmacology and psychopharmacology courses are part of all medical school programs.


Students may expect to complete courses in neuroscience, clinical medicine, pathophysiology and advanced psychopharmacology. These courses are intended to provide the participant with knowledge of mental disorders, treatment options and ethical patient care. Students may also be responsible for completing clinical practicums in which they work with other medical professionals to evaluate patients.


After completing medical school, graduates advance to 3- to 8-year residencies in their area of specialization, such as psychiatry. A psychiatry residency program will include continued study of psychopharmacology, as well as application of its principles. For doctors who are interested in psychopharmacology but don't intend to become psychiatrists, many other specialty areas may include study of the field, such as neuroscience.


Graduates may also consider participating in clinical psychopharmacology research fellowships after they complete their residencies. Fellows may gain concentrated experience in experimental therapeutic practices, while participating in cutting edge research opportunities and experiments. Research topics include bipolar disorder and depression.

Clinical Psychopharmacology Career Information

Both research and treatment career opportunities are available to physicians in the psychopharmacology field.


Psychiatrists are physicians who focus on mental illnesses. One of their major treatment forms is psychotherapy, which consists of frequently meeting with patients and talking about their problems. They may also prescribe medication to address certain disorders, such as chemical imbalances in the brain. Although current medications cannot cure mental disorders, psychiatrists work with patients to create a treatment and prescription plan that will help the afflicted individual manage their symptoms.


Licensed doctors in many other specialties may also benefit from knowledge of psychopharmacology and use it in their practices. These doctors also diagnose and treat illnesses in patients, both mental and physical. Since non-psychiatry residency programs typically don't include as much of a focus on psychopharmacology, other doctors interested in the field may need to pursue CME courses to advance and broaden their knowledge of psychotropic medications.


Both psychiatrists and other doctors may also participate in research in this field. Psychopharmacology research plays an important role in drug discovery, since it involves analyzing drugs and proposing medications to be approved by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA). This research also aims to improve mental health interventions and treatments.

Salary and Job Outlook

The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) projects that job openings for all physicians and surgeons, including psychiatrists, should increase faster than average from 2018-2028. It also reported that the average salary for physicians and surgeons in general was $203,880 as of 2018, while psychiatrists earned an average of $220,380 at that same time.

Both physicians and psychiatrists who pursue an education in psychopharmacology must complete medical school, as well as a specialty residency and often a research fellowship. These professionals work with and understand the drugs that treat mental illness, and they may participate in research that aims to improve these medications. Faster than average job growth is predicted for all physicians through the year 2028.

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