Medical school applicants are generally required to have earned a bachelor's degree. Some medical schools require that students have completed a pre-med or closely related major in undergraduate school. Entrance to a psychiatry concentration in medical school might depend on prior coursework, though some psychiatry departments will accept any student-granted general admission to medical school.
After four years of medical school, candidates then go on to spend a minimum of four years in a residency program in psychiatry. Students will also perform clinical work. Unlike psychologists, psychiatrists can prescribe medication, which often involves meeting additional state and federal licensure and registry requirements.
Doctorate Degree Programs in Psychiatry
Courses cover topics like science, clinical practice and medical ethics, psychiatry students earning their M.D. take classes geared toward clinical mental healthcare. These classes might cover topics like:
- Interviewing patients
- Substance abuse
- Psychiatric emergencies
- Doctor-patient ethics
- Psychiatric disorders
Career Outlook and Salary Info
The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) notes that psychiatrists have high earning potential, with a mean annual wage of $193,680 in May 2015 (www.bls.gov). Potential earnings vary, depending on the chosen subspecialty. For example, BLS data showed that psychiatrists working in home health care services earned the highest wages among medical specialists. The BLS predicted that employment prospects for psychiatrists would increase by 15% during the 2014-2024 decade.
Continuing Education, Licensure and Certification Information
After earning a Doctor of Medicine, aspiring psychiatrists must complete further medical training through a residency program. The residency may be completed at a hospital or other medical institution or through the M.D. graduate's medical school. During this time, psychiatrists work hands-on with patients and often continue to pursue teaching and research projects under the guidance of medical school faculty. Some psychiatric residency programs include continued coursework in psychiatry with lecture and lab components. After a residency, some prospective psychiatrists choose to complete a fellowship program in general psychiatry or a subspecialty area, such as geriatric psychiatry or neuropsychiatry.
The American Psychiatric Association (APA) notes that an individual interested in practicing as a psychiatrist must obtain licensure from the state in which he or she intends to work and obtain a Drug Enforcement Agency (DEA) registry number (www.psych.org). Aspiring psychiatrists in several states also are required to obtain a narcotics license through the state, according to the APA.
The APA also notes that some managed care organizations require that psychiatrists be board certified. The American Board of Psychiatry and Neurology offers certification in psychiatry as well as a number of subspecialty areas, including child and adolescent psychiatry, forensic psychiatry and addiction psychiatry (www.abpn.com).
There are many steps to take in order to become a psychiatrist. Students should pursue a doctorate degree, obtain licensure and board certification, and set reasonable expectations for employment and salary after program completion.