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Psychiatry Graduate Programs: Degree and Residency Information

Read about the curricula and requirements of graduate programs in psychiatry. See information about residency programs, career options and employment trends.

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Essential Information

Lots of education is required to practice psychiatry; aspiring psychiatrists need to complete a 4-year Doctor of Medicine (M.D.) degree, a 4-year residency program, and to pass licensing exams. Admission into these programs can be pretty competitive, and applicants will need a bachelor's degree in the sciences and to take and submit scores from the Medical College Admissions Test (MCAT).

These programs are offered through universities and medical schools, and aren't available online. As students progress through a medical school and residency, they can focus on more specialized areas of psychiatry. Graduates who want to specialize further can do a 1-year fellowship program.

Education Prerequisites

Medical schools generally require a bachelor's degree for admission, and often require applicants to have taken specific courses in the sciences, such as biology, chemistry and psychology. MCAT scores and academic references are also normally required.

Program Coursework

Most medical schools have similar coursework requirements in human anatomy, biochemistry, pathology and immunology during the first two years of study. The fourth year electives, which allow students to focus on psychiatry, are often additional 1-3 month clinical rotations similar to the clerkships, but focused on the specialty. Common psychiatry electives in an M.D. program include:

  • Psychopharmacology
  • Addiction
  • Infant, child and adolescent psychiatry
  • Adult and geriatric psychiatry
  • Psychiatry at inpatient and outpatient facilities
  • Family and community psychiatry

Continuing Education Information

Students who complete an M.D. program can go on to a 4-year residency in psychiatry. Doctors work at area hospitals and medical facilities and complete psychiatric care requirements, including training in psychotherapy and working with mentally ill patients in behavioral health centers. Doctors who complete their psychiatry residency are eligible to sit for the psychiatry certification examination, administered by the American Board of Psychiatry and Neurology, Inc., and resulting in state licensure as a board-certified psychiatrist.

Salary and Employment Outlook

The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) projects 24% growth for all physicians and surgeons, including psychiatrists, between 2010 and 2020. This expected growth rate is faster than the average for occupations in all fields. Psychiatrists earned a median annual salary of $173,330 in May 2012, the BLS reported.

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