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Psychiatrist: Overview of This Psychology Profession

Learn about the education and preparation needed to become a psychiatrist. Get a quick view of the requirements as well as details about degree programs, job duties and residency requirements to see if this is the right career for you.

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Psychiatrists are medical doctors who have completed undergraduate degrees, med school, residencies, and fellowships in psychiatry. They should have good communication skills and an in-depth understanding of human behavior. They typically work in hospitals, clinics, or private practice.

Essential Information

Psychiatrists deal with the emotional, psychological and physical well-being of their patients. They can expect to earn more than six figures and find work with hospitals or government agencies. The schooling for a career in psychiatry is extensive, requiring completion of medical school, a residency and possibly a fellowship.

Required Education M.D.
Other Requirements Residency
Projected Job Growth (2014-2024)* 14% for Physicians and Surgeons
Mean Annual Salary (2015)* $193,680

Source: *U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics

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Profession Overview

Psychiatrists are the primary caregivers in the area of mental health. These medical professionals treat mental illnesses through various means, including therapy and medication. Some psychiatrists specialize in a certain form of therapy, such as psychotherapy or psychoanalysis. They help their patients find solutions through leading individual or group therapy sessions, analyzing changes in behavior and exploring past experiences.

Psychiatrists need good communication skills for counseling patients. In addition to their training in medicine, they should have strong understandings of psychology and sociology to help with understanding and identifying different behaviors. Many psychiatrists work for hospitals, outpatient facilities, government organizations and clinics, while others run private practices. Besides working with patients, they might interact with their patients' family members, counselors and other medical professionals.

Career Outlook and Salary Information

According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), overall employment for physicians and surgeons, which includes psychiatrists, is expected to increase 14% from 2014-2024. The anticipated growth is due to the expansion of healthcare services and the growing number of elderly citizens. Some growth might be tempered by new medical technology. In May 2015, the BLS reported that psychiatrists earned a mean annual wage of $193,680.

Education Requirements

While there aren't bachelor's degree programs specific to psychiatry, students must complete pre-medical coursework, which includes courses in physics, biology and chemistry. Some schools offer pre-medical programs that guide students through medical school prerequisites; however, students must still choose a major. Prospective psychiatrists then need significant graduate-level training, which typically includes four years of medical school followed by four years of residency training in psychiatry.

Psychiatrists who want to specialize in a particular area, such as child, geriatric or addiction psychiatry, will have to undergo fellowship training after completing their residencies. Fellowships typically last two years and give individuals greater freedom to pursue research and gain clinical experience in their chosen specialties.

Students might consider selecting medical schools accredited by the Liaison Committee on Medical Education (LCME) since graduating from an accredited program is a prerequisite for residencies and most state medical licenses. Medical school graduates should consult the Accreditation Council for Graduate Medical Education for approved residencies and fellowships.

Psychiatrists address the emotional, psychological and physical well-being of their patients. They lead individual or group counseling sessions, prescribe medications, and diagnose mental illness. After medical school they complete residencies in psychiatry to prepare to enter the field as a qualified psychiatrists.

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