Psychiatry may not crack the top 10 list of medical fields enjoying the greatest compensation, but it is number one in terms of increased demand for 2018. According to an annual report by Medscape, the demand for psychiatric services is up some 16% since last year. The demand is as high as it has been in 30 years.

So what is fueling this increased demand? There are a number of factors to consider. Some of the demand is a direct result of more people seeking psychiatric services. But the higher demand is also partly due to fewer doctors entering the specialty.

Greater Awareness of Mental Illness

Some 30 years ago the total number of illnesses diagnosed as mental illnesses was a lot smaller than it is today. For example, the autism spectrum was not nearly as wide or far-reaching as it is today. The fact is we know a lot more about autism now than we did 30 years ago.

The reality is that we now have a greater awareness of mental illness than ever before. As awareness grows, so does the need for services. Demand increases as more people become aware of the realities of their illness. That is just a fact.

Increased Willingness to Refer

Another trend that has been observed over the years is a gradually increasing willingness among primary care doctors to refer their patients for psychiatric care. This was not the case a few decades ago. Referrals to psychiatrists were considered a last resort where today they are a normal part of the total compendium of care that GPs consider.

Better-Paying Specialties

Years of data show that the number of new doctors entering psychiatry has not kept up with increasing demand. This puts further strain on the system. The question is, what is preventing doctors from entering psychiatry?

A big thing is compensation. According to the Medscape report, the average total compensation for a psychiatrist is now $273K. That’s certainly better than the $212K compensation for pediatrics, but it pales in comparison to the $501K earned by the average plastic surgeon.

Psychiatry used to be one of the most highly compensated medical fields due to its educational requirements. But that is no longer the case. Now there are dozens of other specialties that offer higher compensation.

An Aging Population

Our aging population is putting greater stress on the medical system from top to bottom. Just about every medical specialty is seeing additional upward pressure as a result. This includes psychiatry. As people get older, they want greater access to services. And as they get older, we are seeing more and more cases of dementia-related disease.

Right now, baby boomers are the largest single demographic group in America. They number some 74 million strong, and many of them are now in that stage of life when they access medical care most frequently. We would expect more baby boomers to need psychiatric services as a result.

Plenty of Psychiatry Jobs

When you crunch the data down to its most basic elements, it becomes very clear that psychiatry is in ever higher demand. As such, there are plenty of psychiatry jobs waiting to be had. From private practice to locum tenens to clinic and hospital employment, there is a job for any psychiatrist who wants it.

The demand for new psychiatrists is up 16% this year. Demand is as high as it has been in three decades. That’s good in the sense that increased demand equals job security for America’s psychiatric professionals. It’s not so good in terms of supply keeping up with demand.

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