A simple fact of life is that children have different medical needs than adults. When addressing issues of mental health and psychological disorders, the duty to assess, diagnose and treat mental health disorders in children falls on Pediatric Psychiatrists. And due to the fact that more communities, insurance companies and health care providers are placing a stronger emphasis on mental and emotional counseling for children, the need for qualified Pediatric Psychiatrist is great – and is estimated to grow in the near future.
What is a Pediatric Psychiatrist?
Pediatric Psychiatrists hold either a (Doctor of Medicine) or D.O. (Doctor of Osteopathic Medicine) and are responsible for diagnosing and treating both physical and mental symptoms of multiple psychiatric disorders in children. Due to the significant physiological and emotional differences between adults and children, it is crucial that Pediatric Psychiatrists differentiate between treating a child and treating adult and adapt their methods accordingly.
Common problems seen by Pediatric Psychiatrists include attention deficit hyperactivity disorder and generalized anxiety disorder, conversion disorder and autistic spectrum disorders. These professionals also work to identify genetic, cognitive, physical and environmental components and causes of certain issues.
In everyday practice, Pediatric Psychiatrists may be responsible for:
Understanding the Educational Path to Become a Pediatric Psychiatrist
A medical doctorate degree, psychiatric residency and pediatric psychiatry fellowship are the primary educational requirements for a profession as a board-certified Pediatric Psychiatrist. However, the educational path begins by receiving a Bachelor's Degree from an accredited college or university.
Pediatric Psychiatry is a highly complex field of study; as such, a successful candidate will possess strong skills in math and science, written and verbal communications and a comprehensive understanding child development and how mental disorders affect children.
Strong interpersonal skills and specialized training in the social, psychological and medical aspects of the human mind are also requirements for becoming a successful Pediatric Psychiatrist. This skill set is often the focus of core educational course study while in college.
Educational Path of a Pediatric Psychiatrist
Earn a bachelor's degree.
A bachelor’s degree is the first higher-education step toward becoming a Pediatric Psychiatrist. Although candidates complete a broad range of undergraduate majors, students should complete the courses the American Association of Medical Colleges found most medical schools require as prerequisites: biology, physics, chemistry, along with written and oral communication course study.
During their undergraduate degree, students wanting to gain an edge in the competitive medical school application pool would benefit from taking career and advanced education oriented steps like joining pre-medical organizations, completing community service at mental health centers, shadowing physicians and studying for the MCAT (Medical College Admissions Test). Before graduating, a candidate should apply to medical school. Medical school is a four-year process, leading to an advanced degree in the medical field, either a M.D. or D.O.
Complete a medical school program
During medical school, future Pediatric Psychiatrists spend their first year primarily in the classroom absorbing knowledge in areas like anatomy, histology, pathology, biochemistry, psychology, ethics and preparing for Objective Structured Clinical Exams. The second year, while still in the classroom, is more clinically focused. The third and fourth year student will matriculate into clinical rotations and gain exposure to a wide range of potential specializations including psychiatry.
Complete a Residency
Following medical school, graduates pursuing psychiatry should elect to complete their four-year residency in the specialty. Psychiatry residents need to complete 36 months of additional training after the first year of general residency, as required by the American Psychiatric Association. These three years focus on specific training areas, such as psycho-pharmacology, substance abuse and cognitive behavioral therapy.
Complete a Fellowship in Pediatric Psychiatry
A two-year fellowship in the subspecialty of Pediatric Psychiatry is essential for doctors aiming to enter the field. When searching for a fellowship, physicians should ensure the program they are pursuing is certified by the American Board of Psychiatry and Neurology and will both qualify and prepare them to sit for the subspecialty examination. Solid fellowships will include instruction and experience in development, clinical care, evaluation of psychiatric literature and psychosocial treatments. This training should include both inpatient and outpatient care.
Pass Sub Specialty Exam/Become Board Certified in Pediatric Psychiatry
Upon successful completion of a Pediatric Psychiatry fellowship, all psychiatrists must submit an application for examination. Once reviewed by the American Board of Psychiatry and Neurology credentials department, candidates are permitted to take the exam. After passing the exam, candidates become diplomats and start the Maintenance of Certification process, adhering to the Board's requirements for continued education.
Understanding the Career Path of Becoming a Pediatric Psychiatrist
Pediatric Psychiatrists work in a range of settings, including private practice, managed care and inpatient, residential, day hospital or outpatient programs according to the Council of Pediatric Subspecialties. Some will work as consultants with schools, nonprofits agencies or the legal system. They may also devote time to research or clinical trials.
Professional organizations can be used as a means for networking, community service, think tanks, research, continued education and specialized learning. Pediatric Psychiatrists should consider joining the American Academy of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry
For general psychiatry, the American Psychiatric Association (APA) dominates the market with a membership of more than 36,000. It is currently the world’s largest professional organization focused on psychiatry.
Although the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics does not track data for the Pediatric Psychiatry subspecialty, the mean annual wage for psychiatrists is $182,660. While a 2013 Medscape report found average compensation for psychiatrists was higher the pediatrics, internal medicine and family medicine, it still ranked in the lower third of physician incomes by specialty.
According to the Council of Pediatric Subspecialties there are about 7,500 practicing child and adolescent psychiatrist in the United States, but there’s an estimated need for 13,000 child and adolescent psychiatrists by the year 2020.
Research by AMN Healthcare company Merritt Hawkins found that psychiatry is one of the most in demand medical professions. The National Institute of Mental Health reports that 1 in 4 adults suffer from a mental disorder each year. Although psychiatric specialties have increased among medical residents, there is still a growing need for psychiatrists, offering a promising job outlook.