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Certified Psychiatrist: Job Description & Requirements

Learn about the education and preparation needed to become a certified psychiatrist. Get a quick view of the requirements as well as details about certification, licensure and job outlook to find out if this is the career for you.

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After earning a bachelor's degree, aspiring psychiatrists must complete a four-year medical school program. Following this, there is a residency as well as the possibility of a fellowship, which may take up to two years. They can begin to practice after passing a medical licensing exam and a board certification exam in psychiatry.

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Essential Information

Certified psychiatrists work in the area of mental health and can provide counseling and medications. These doctors have completed medical school, a residency program, and possibly a fellowship in order to sit for a board certification exam. After achieving licensure, many certified psychiatrists work in hospitals and private practices. Playing an important role in patient care, certified psychiatry is a career field that is expected to have a positive job outlook over the next decade.

Required Education Doctor of Medicine
Additional Requirements Medical license and professional psychiatry certification
Projected Job Growth* (2014-2024) 14.9% for psychiatrists
Average Salary* (2015) $193,680 for psychiatrists

Source: *U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS)

Job Description of a Certified Psychiatrist

Psychiatrists are medical doctors who diagnose and treat mental illnesses. They often employ individual or group therapy to gain insight into a patient's past and find coping methods to help patients address their own problems. Some cases may require medications or hospitalization. Psychiatrists who work with hospitalized patients collaborate with other professionals to design treatment plans and monitor progress.

To be effective at counseling patients, psychiatrists need strong communication skills. They should be knowledgeable about psychology and sociology, which help them identify behavioral patterns. Psychiatrists may need to interview individuals closely related to a patient, such as parents, children, or spouses.

Educational Requirements

Becoming a psychiatrist requires many years of schooling, especially at the graduate level. Individuals must first attend an undergraduate program, where they may choose to major in psychology or a related subject. According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), the minimum requirement for medical school is three years of undergraduate study, although most medical students have earned a bachelor's degree.

Students must next complete medical school, which typically lasts four years. The first two years are the pre-clinical years that cover major systems of the body and diseases and introduce students to the practice of medicine. The final two years, known as the clinical years, place students in healthcare facilities performing clinical rotations (sometimes known as clerkships) under the supervision of licensed medical professionals. Psychiatry is a required rotation.

After completing medical school, individuals enter a residency program in psychiatry. These programs include intensive work experience in the major specialties and techniques used in psychiatry. In the first year, residents learn essential skills, such as interviewing, treating, and diagnosing. As residents advance through a program, they develop advanced skills and are given increased responsibility.

Psychiatrists who wish to specialize in a particular treatment or population will need to undergo a fellowship. Fellowship programs typically last one to two years. During a fellowship, individuals practice techniques geared toward their specialty while performing research and attending seminars. Some examples of psychiatry fellowship programs include geriatrics, child and adolescent psychiatry, and psychosomatic medicine.

Licensing and Certification Requirements

To complete the process of becoming certified psychiatrists, individuals need to be licensed and board certified. While state licensing standards vary, all states require psychiatrists to pass the United States Medical Licensing Examination or the Comprehensive Osteopathic Medical Licensing Exam. Psychiatrists may seek board certification from the American Board of Medical Specialists (ABMS). The ABMS offers certification for general psychiatry and many of its specialties, including clinical neurophysiology, addictions psychiatry, sleep medicine, forensic psychiatry, and epilepsy.

Salary Info and Job Outlook

The BLS reported that the average annual salary earned among psychiatrists was $193,680 in 2015. According to the BLS, the number of employment opportunities for psychiatrists is expected to increase 14.9% from 2014-2024.

Certified psychiatrists are medical doctors who have earned board certification in psychiatry, which requires years of medical education and clinical training. Psychiatry is a fast-growing field, and salaries in 2015 averaged more than $190,000.

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