Child Psychiatrist: Educational Requirements
Becoming a child psychiatrist is the result of many years of schooling. Individuals interested in this profession will need to complete medical school, a general psychiatry residency and a fellowship in child and adolescent psychiatry.
Educational Requirements for Child Psychiatrists
A child psychiatrist is a medical doctor who treats mental and emotional disorders in children. Depending upon the disorder, these professionals may prescribe medication to help treat the patient's condition. In making a diagnosis, psychiatrists consider the child's environment, their past medical history and behavioral patterns.
Most students enter medical school after completing a bachelor's degree program. While there isn't an undergraduate program specific to child psychiatry, students may choose programs that rely heavily on science. Prospective child psychiatrists may look for programs that include courses in biology, anatomy and chemistry. Many schools offer pre-medicine programs that include significant scientific and psychology coursework.
Students may consult the Liaison Committee on Medical Education (LCME) for accredited programs (www.lcme.org). According to the LCME, graduating from an accredited program is a prerequisite in order to obtain a state medical license. As of July 2011, there were 135 LCME-accredited U.S. medical schools.
Medical schools are divided between the pre-clinical years and the clinical years. The pre-clinical years include foundational courses in bodily systems and major diseases. Besides familiarizing students with terminology, the pre-clinical years also introduce them to methods of patient care. Coursework may include pathology, pharmacology and medical ethics.
The clinical years introduce medical students to working in a hospital environment while under the supervision of licensed medical personnel. During these two years, students complete rotations that vary in length from a week to a couple of months. Major areas of medicine, in which psychiatry is included, are required, but students may use elective credits to pursue areas that interest them.
Psychiatric residency programs provide individuals with intensive work experience in a clinical setting. During these 4-year programs, residents work with all types of patients, including children and adolescents. Residents complete rotations in primary care, neurology and inpatient psychiatry, as well as electives in substance abuse, psychopharmacology and other studies. Duties generally include evaluating and treating patients in addition to conducting some clinical research.
Prospective child psychiatrists may consult the American Council on Graduate Medical Education (ACGME) for potential programs ( www.acgme.org). The ACGME is an independent medical council that accredits residencies and fellowships to ensure that future physicians will meet the standards of their profession.
Child Psychiatry Fellowship
According to the ACGME, fellowships are also referred to as subspecialty programs and can be completed after a residency. Fellowships typically last two years and provide individuals with opportunities to learn the major psychiatric issues that afflict children. Training may cover pediatric neurology and obsessive-compulsive disorder. Fellows may also conduct research on topics like pervasive developmental disorders.
Employment Outlook and Salary Information
The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) noted that jobs for physicians and surgeons, including child psychiatrists, were projected to increase 24% from 2010-2020. The continued growth of the healthcare industry is the primary reason for this rise in employment. In May 2012, the BLS reported that overall, psychiatrists earned an average annual salary of $177,520.
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