Child Psychiatry Majors and Degree Program Options

Child psychiatry majors and degree programs include bachelor's, master's and Ph.D. programs. They focus on working with adolescents and children who have emotional problems, mental illnesses and other disorders.

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Essential Information

A person interested in child psychiatry should be prepared to undergo rigorous training. A child psychiatry major is not available. Typical training begins with a 4-year Bachelor of Science in a science or pre-med field, followed by four years of medical school. Graduates of medical school must then complete a 5- to 6-year residency in psychiatry. Throughout the educational process, aspiring child psychiatrists could learn about pharmacology, clinical disorders, family and individual therapy, and treatment plans.

Child and Adolescent Psychiatry Residency

Residency training lasts from 5-6 years. The years of residency are defined as post-graduate years (PGY). Following the first four years of residency, the resident rotates into child and adolescent psychiatry (CAP). Residents should take the United States Medical Licensing Examination (USMLE) Step 3 exam before entering into the CAP residency. There is a short and a long route in a residency. In the short route, the resident enters the CAP residency after PGY-3 and spends two years in the program to complete the residency. In the long route, residents enter the CAP program after PGY-4. Each PGY has specific training requirements.

Residency training consists of working with all ages of children, from infancy to adolescence. Residents work with families, schools, hospitals and courts; residency settings also include clinics and residential care facilities. The areas studied and practiced during a child and adolescent psychiatry residency may include the following:

  • Group, individual and family therapy
  • Pharmacology
  • Clinical disorders
  • Developmental theories
  • Treatment plans for children and adolescents

Employment Outlook and Salary Information

The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) lists psychiatrists as a subsection of physicians and surgeons, because a psychiatrist must first become a physician. The BLS predicted that psychiatrists will have an employment growth of 15% from 2014 through 2024 ( The mean annual wage for all psychiatrists (including child psychiatrists) was $193,680 in May 2015, according to the BLS.

Continuing Education

Upon completion of a CAP residency, a child psychiatrist is eligible to sit for the certification examination in general psychiatry offered by the American Board of Psychiatry and Neurology (ABPN). An applicant must have a D.O. or M.D. license to sit for the exam. The test is voluntary; however, some employers require certification as a condition of employment. Further certification can also be earned through the ABPN in the subspecialty of child and adolescent psychiatry.

Although certification is voluntary, the ABPN recommends that child psychiatrists participate in the board's Maintenance of Certification (MOC) program. Psychiatrists entering the MOC program perform self-assessments, outlining areas of strengths and weaknesses. This self-assessment is then used to plan training. Certification is ten years in length before renewal. Child psychiatrists with a subspecialty certification in child and adolescent psychiatry are not required to renew their general psychiatry certification. Successful completion of an accredited medical school program earns the graduate the designation of Doctor of Osteopathic Medicine (D.O.) or Doctor of Medicine (M.D.). After medical school, students must complete residency requirements.

Students interested in a career as a child psychiatrist must go through an extensive amount of education and clinical hours. Upon completion of education and residency hours, individuals are eligible to take their board examination.

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