What to Major in to Become a Psychiatrist: Degree Options

Discover the undergraduate coursework needed to prepare for psychiatry studies in medical school. Examine the graduate requirements and clinical training needed for a Doctor of Medicine degree. Look over the psychiatric specialties, licensing information, and career outlook.

At the bachelor's degree level, psychiatry majors are not available. To prepare for acceptance to psychiatric medical school, undergraduates may wish to study:

  • psychology
  • biology
  • chemistry
  • organic chemistry

This learning must be complemented by a set of pre-med courses to qualify for medical school; experience with laboratory work is also expected. Other requirements include a high undergraduate GPA, letters of recommendation, an interview and satisfactory scores on the Medical College Admissions Test (MCAT).

The Doctor of Medicine program lasts four years and includes both traditional coursework and intensive clinical training:

  • Years 1 & 2 - medical students complete foundation courses while working directly with patients
  • Year 3 - known as the clerkship year, students work at clinical sites and complete rotations in obstetrics and gynecology, family medicine, pediatrics, surgery and psychiatry
  • Year 4 - prepare for psychiatric residency, students work with physician advisors who help ease the transition from medical student to resident.

Upon earning an M.D. (Doctor of Medicine), individuals must satisfy licensing requirements and complete a residency in psychiatry, which culminates in board certification.

Program Coursework

Coursework in this degree program covers a range of medical studies, including clinical medicine and epidemiology. Students are also required to spend considerable time engaged in lab work. Other classes might address:

  • Hematology
  • Behavioral science
  • Immunology
  • Pathology
  • Pharmacology

Employment Outlook and Salary Info

As of 2014, psychiatrists, held 25,080 jobs in the United States, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS). Data from the BLS shows the number of jobs for all physicians and surgeons was projected to grow by 18% between 2012 and 2022. The median annual salary for a psychiatrist was $181,880 as of 2014 (www.bls.gov).

Psychiatric Residency Requirements and Licensing Information

Graduates of medical degree programs are eligible to sit for the United States Medical Licensing examination, which results in state licensure as an M.D. These graduates can then apply for psychiatric residency programs to complete their clinical requirements. Psychiatric residencies are typically four years in length and require candidates to complete clinical rotations at hospitals and psychiatric care clinics. Residents might specialize in child and adolescent psychiatry, forensic psychiatry or primary care psychiatry. After completing psychiatric residency requirements, doctors are eligible for board certification from the American Board of Psychiatry and Neurology, Inc.

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