Psychiatrist: Educational Requirements for Psychiatrists

Sep 14, 2019

Although the educational road to becoming a psychiatrist is long, both the salary and job outlook for this field are high. Psychiatry might be the right career choice for someone with an interest in human mental health disorders and love of patient care.

Psychiatrist Qualifications and Duties

Psychiatrists diagnose, analyze and treat mental health disorders. They also serve as the primary source of care for people suffering from depression, chemical dependency, and other difficult mental issues. Psychiatrists are medical doctors dealing with disorders of the mind, and as such, they require a similar education to other types of medical doctors, including four years of medical school and additional years in an internship or residency.

Required Education Doctoral Degree (M.D.)
Other Requirements Physician licensure, psychiatric residency and board certification
Projected Job Growth (2018-2028)* 16%
Mean Salary (2018)* $220,380

Source: *U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics

How to Become a Psychiatrist

To join this lucrative and rewarding profession, students need to endure a lengthy education process. For many, planning for this career can begin in high school, where students take AP science classes or join pre-medical clubs, hoping for acceptance to a prestigious college. After graduation, students may embark on a general education path similar to what is described below.

Obtain an Undergraduate Degree

During undergraduate education, future psychiatrists can choose to major in any field as long as they take the full contingent of pre-medical classes. These med school prerequisites include various biology, chemistry, and physics courses with lab requirements. Many pre-med students choose to major in chemistry or biology. It's important to maintain a high GPA to have a strong application for medical school, which is very competitive.

Pass the MCAT Exam

Prospective medical students need a good score on the Medical College Admission Test (MCAT) to have the best opportunities for entry to medical school. The MCAT is administered by the Association of American Medical Colleges. There are several exam preparation materials, study plans, and practice tests available to help students prepare for the test.

Earn a Doctor of Medicine (M.D.) Degree

During the 4 years of medical school, psychiatry students learn about basic subjects needed for a career as a doctor. Students are also provided with clinical training in various fields, providing future psychiatrists with a solid foundation in all areas of medicine. Coursework in a Doctor of Medicine (M.D.) degree program includes:

  • Anatomy
  • Histology (the study of body tissues)
  • Immunology
  • Biochemistry
  • Psychology

Complete a Psychiatric Residency

After medical school prospective psychologists complete a 4-year psychiatric residency, also referred to as a clerkship, in which students undergo hospital training in psychiatry. They acquire experience working directly with patients and have the opportunity to put the skills they learned in medical school into practice.

Each year of residency, students may be shuffled among various medical facilities to learn in different environments and acquire different treatment skill specializations. For example, students may work in hospitals, health clinics, psychiatric wards and more. After the completion of this training, psychiatrists must take and pass an exam issued by the American Board of Psychiatry and Neurology to obtain certification and legally practice in the field.

Fellowship Training

Post-residency fellowship training is optional but highly useful for psychiatrists to delve into a subspecialty, such as geriatric, addiction, or adolescent psychiatry. For example, in an addiction fellowship, fellows are trained to understand areas such as psychodynamic treatment modalities and 12-step therapies. In addition, some medical board examinations require fellowship training for registration.

Career and Salary Information

The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) predicts a 16% increase in psychiatrist jobs from 2018-2028, which is well above average job growth for all occupations. In May 2018, the BLS reported that psychiatrists earned an average annual wage of $220,380.

To conclude, beginning a career as a psychiatrist requires completion of a bachelor's degree program, medical school, a psychiatry residency, and possibly a fellowship. One may then begin diagnosing and treating patients with mental disorders in a career that is considered both lucrative and rewarding.

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