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Become a Child Psychiatrist in 5 Steps

Research what it takes to be a child psychiatrist. Learn about the education requirements, key responsibilities, employment outlook and average salary to find out if this is the career for you.

What Is a Child Psychiatrist?

Child psychiatrists use their knowledge of mental, emotional and behavioral studies to investigate a child's issues. Psychiatrists in general are considered primary mental health physicians, and are qualified to administer medication to correct chemical imbalances. Child psychiatrists will use special counseling techniques to communicate with a child and discuss their problems. If needed, these professionals can use psychoanalysis, hospitalization and/or medication as part of treatment. Often with children, family involvement through family therapy is needed. Child psychiatrists' overall goal is to help a child manage or overcome their mental, emotional or behavioral issues to live a normal, healthy life. The following chart gives you a brief look into what it takes to become a child psychiatrist:

Degree Required Medical school degree
Training Four year residency
Certification Professional certification required
Key Skills Analytical skills, excellent people skills, patience and empathy
Job Growth (2018-28) 14% (for all psychologists)*
Average Salary (2018) $220,380*

Source: *US Bureau of Labor Statistics

Step 1: Research Career Duties and Educational Requirements

The American Academy of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry (AACAP, www.aacap.org) states that child psychiatrists utilize knowledge of psychological, social, and biological factors to give comprehensive exams to determine concerns with children. They diagnose and develop treatment plans and discuss these recommendations with the child's family before treatment. Child psychiatrists also collaborate with physicians to determine a diagnosis or prescribe medications. Child psychiatrists must earn a medical degree and complete a five-year residency in psychiatry. Psychiatrists also need to pass a licensing exam.

Step 2: Go to Medical School

In order to prepare for the eventual admittance into medical school, students will want to take as many prep classes as possible through college, including biology, organic chemistry, biochemistry, and calculus. Individuals interested in psychiatry will want to complete a degree program relating to the field. Try to earn at least a 3.5 GPA and receive a passing score on the Medical College Admission Test (MCAT, www.aamc.org).

Step 3: Apply to a Psychiatry Residency

The AACAP recommends a three-year or four-year general psychiatry residency along with a two-year, specialized child psychiatry residency. A child psychiatry residency covers child and family development, psychopathology, and proven treatments. Residents receive training in child disorders, such as developmental disorders, learning disabilities, ADHD, mood disorders, mental retardation, depression, and drug dependency.

Step 4: Pass the Medical Licensing Exam

You should apply to take the United States Medical Licensing Examination (USMLE, www.usmle.org) while pursuing your medical degree. The exam itself can be taken after completion of medical degree coursework and the specialized residency required to become a child psychiatrist.

Step 5: Gain Board Certification

You are eligible to take the certification exam for child psychiatry accredited by the American Board for Psychiatry and Neurology, Inc. (www.abpn.com) once you obtain a medical license and complete a residency. This exam isn't required to become a child psychiatrist, but it assures patients of your competence and the comprehensive nature of your diagnoses and treatments.

What Are Some Related Alternative Careers?

There are several related jobs, including school counselors, general psychiatrists and early childhood development specialists. School counselors need at least a master's degree and work with school-aged children to develop the various skills necessary to do well in school. General psychiatrists also require a doctoral degree and perform many of the same tasks as a child psychiatrist, but typically work with adults. Early childhood development specialists may work in a childcare or preschool setting. They typically need at least a bachelor's degree to work with young children and ensure they are developing properly.