How to Become a Psychiatrist

How to Become a Psychiatrist

Psychiatry is the field of medicine that deals with, treats, studies, and prevents mental illness and disorders. Psychiatrists are licensed physicians who specialize in treating patients with mental issues through a variety of treatment methods.

What does a psychiatrist do?

Psychiatrists are medical doctors that are specialists in mental health. They diagnose, treat, and prevent advancement of mental, emotional, and addictive behaviors and disorders. They understand the psychological, biological, and socio-cultural aspects of mental illness. They evaluate a person’s behavior and mental processes using past history, interviews, testimonies, and other sources. They evaluate and treat mental illness using a combination of a variety of techniques including psychoanalysis, psychotherapy, medication, and sometimes hospitalization. They also order diagnostic laboratory tests to assist in their treatment plans. They help patients talk about their problems and create solutions by changing things in their lives such as behavior or environment. Psychiatrists also help individuals and groups who experience trauma, crisis, stress, and other problems occurring in life. Often times, psychiatrists provide continuous treatment to patients with ongoing problems.

What kind of training does a psychiatrist need?

Psychiatrists typically complete 8 years of postsecondary education (undergraduate and medical school) and 4 years of residency and internships. In medical school they complete a thorough medical education and work with patients under supervision of experienced physicians in a variety of health care settings. Many students volunteer or work at psychiatric health facilities to gain hands-on experience. After medical school, psychiatrists enter residency programs where they receive paid on the job training. The residency programs provide clinical experiences in all areas of psychiatry. Many psychiatrists continue training in a specialty.

All 50 states and the District of Columbia require psychiatrists to be licensed. Licensing requirements include graduating from a medical school that is accredited, completing residency requirements, and receiving a passing score on a licensing examination. Most psychiatrists take the American Board of Psychiatry and Neurology voluntary examine to become board certified.

What are the prospects for a career as a psychiatrist?

Employment of psychiatrists is projected to grow faster than average for all professions, increasing 14% from 2006 to 2016 (1). Job growth will stem from a growing population and increased need of mental health services.

Job prospects are expected to be very good especially for psychiatrists who wish to work in rural or low-income areas. Job opportunities will open to replace psychiatrists who retire or leave the field for other reasons.

How much do psychiatrists make?

As of July 2009, the middle 50% of psychiatrists earned annual salaries between $157,803 and $201,899. The highest 10% earned annual salaries of more than $221,824 (2).

A career as a psychiatrist is a great choice for individuals who have a strong interest in mental health. Psychiatrists must have strong verbal skills, be understanding, open-minded, patient, person-oriented, empathetic, self-motivated. They must be emotionally stable and be able to make quick decisions in emergency situations.

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