How to Become a Psychiatrist Online

Dec 18, 2019

Psychiatrist Career Overview

Psychiatrists are mental health physicians who could work in a hospital or in a private practice. It is not possible to complete all the steps to become a psychiatrist online due to the hands-on requirements of medical school programs and residencies, but online sources are available for some steps, such as earning a bachelor's degree, preparing for the MCAT, and applying for a medical license. The below details provide the career overview of a psychiatrist.

Required Skills Psychiatric, diagnostic, and treatment planning skills; patience, compassion, and leadership skills
Job Growth* 16% for 2018-2028
Mean Salary (2018)* $220,380

Source: *U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics

Steps to Become a Psychiatrist Online

You can complete a bachelor's degree and prepare for the MCAT exam online, but you need to attend a medical school followed by a four-year residency program to become a psychiatrist. You can also prepare for and apply for your license online, but you will need to take the exam in person.

Step 1. Complete a Bachelor's Degree Online

You need to earn a bachelor's degree prior to pursuing the Doctor of Medicine degree needed to become a psychiatrist. Though nearly any bachelor's degree is acceptable, earning a bachelor's degree in biological science, health sciences, or a science discipline can help you prepare to meet the prerequisites needed for a medical school. There are many accredited schools in the U.S. that offer fully online bachelor's degree programs in these fields. Bachelor's degree programs can typically be completed in four years, and students are expected to complete around 120 credits.

Step 2. Take the MCAT

The Medical College Admission Test (MCAT) is part of the admissions requirements for medical school. The test is given by the Association of American Medical Colleges (AAMC) every year to assess applicants' problem-solving, reasoning, and knowledge of behavioral, natural, and social sciences. It is a multiple-choice examination comprised of four sections related to biological and biochemical foundations of living systems; chemical and physical foundations of living systems; psychological, social, and biological foundations of behavior systems; and critical analysis and reasoning skills. There are multiple online resources and practice tests available to prepare for the MCAT exam, but the exam itself must be taken in person.

Step 3. Earn a Medical Degree

Next, you need to complete a four-year medical degree, either a Doctor of Medicine (M.D.) or Doctor of Osteopathic Medicine (D.O.), to become a psychiatrist. It is not possible to pursue these degrees online due to the hands-on nature of the field. Courses within a medical program focus on anatomy, physiology, biochemistry, pharmacology, microbiology, and psychology concepts, and they include both classroom training and practice labs. You can also learn to interact with patients and to examine a patient's condition during the four years of study.

Step 4. Complete a Residency

A residency experience is an integral part of becoming a psychiatrist because it allows students to get practical experience and clinical knowledge through direct interaction with patients. It is not possible to complete the residency online. A residency program can last 3-7 years, and prospective doctors will often rotate through multiple specialty areas before choosing a psychiatry specialization in the fourth year of residency.

Step 5. Obtain a Medical License

A medical license is mandatory to start practice as a psychiatrist. You'll need to obtain a license from a state board to start practice, and the requirements and licensing process vary from state to state. You'll typically need to take the United States Medical Licensing Exam (USMLE) or the Comprehensive Osteopathic Medical Licensing Examination (COMLEX) depending upon the state. You can prepare online for these exams but will need to take them in person.

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