What to Major in to Become a Psychiatrist: Degree Options

Oct 12, 2019

Essential Information

At the bachelor's degree level, psychiatry majors are not available. To prepare for acceptance to psychiatric medical doctoral program, undergraduates may wish to study psychology, biology, chemistry and 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). Doctoral students must complete a residency and have extensive clinical training.

Doctor of Medicine

The Doctor of Medicine program lasts four years and includes both traditional coursework and intensive clinical training. In years one and two, medical students complete foundation courses while working directly with patients. For year three, known as the clerkship year, students work at clinical sites and complete rotations in obstetrics and gynecology, family medicine, pediatrics, surgery and psychiatry.

Year four prepares students for psychiatric residency, during which they 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. 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 2018, psychiatrists, held 28,600 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 psychiatrists was projected to grow 16% between 2018 and 2028. The mean annual wage for a psychiatrist was $220,380 as of May 2018 (

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.

Since undergraduate degrees are not available, individuals interested in becoming psychiatrists should major in or complete coursework in psychology, biology, and chemistry. To become a psychiatrist, students must become Doctors of Medicine and sit for the United States Medical Licensing examination in order to apply for a psychiatric residency.

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