Here's How to Become a Psychiatrist (Professional Guide)

Here's how to become a psychiatrist. Psychiatrists are medical doctors who examine, diagnose, and treat patients with mental illnesses, whether they are temporary or long-term.

Psychiatrists are committed to treating and caring for people with mental illnesses with compassion and patience. To comprehend the patient's emotional and mental difficulties and create the appropriate course of action for their therapy, they must have great communication skills and a high level of emotional intelligence.

how to become a psychiatrist

Many people have transitory or borderline mental disorders that can be properly treated and lead to full recovery. In psychiatry, medication is only utilized after counseling and treatment have failed to generate visible improvements.

What is psychiatry?

Psychiatry involved treating patients' mental health disorders and behavioral disorders. Psychiatry is a branch of medicine that deals with the research, diagnosis, and treatment of mental illnesses. A person's mental health is impacted by a variety of elements that are both unique to them and linked to their relationships with society, community, and family. Healthy self-esteem, communication skills, and the development of resilience are all important aspects of mental well-being.

Mental health issues should not be viewed as minor flaws that can be easily addressed, since they can be extremely serious and disabling disorders that impact a substantial percentage of the world's population. Mental health problems must be addressed and treated before they wreak havoc on families, relationships, and communities.

Extensive knowledge of the body is also required to safely prescribe medication.

What does a psychiatrist do?

A psychiatrist is a medical doctor who treats mental health disorders. Psychiatry is concerned with the treatment of mental illnesses. Despite the fact that the disease is in the brain, psychiatrists, unlike neurologists, do not treat organic or structural illnesses such as epilepsy, strokes, or brain tumors. However, in certain individuals, these diseases can produce psychiatric symptoms and mental changes, necessitating the ability to make a differential diagnosis and administer appropriate therapy.

General treatment

In contrast to other disciplines of medicine, psychiatry's treatment plan might alter dramatically based on the patient's reaction to medication or psychotherapy. Many individuals with severe mental symptoms can recover and reintegrate with society with adequate psychological, emotional, and social assistance, allowing mental health practitioners to reduce drug dosages. Relapse of symptoms can occur in some circumstances, necessitating a new treatment plan and the development of alternative medicines for a specific patient.

Psychiatrists do not just treat those who are labeled "mad" or "insane," contrary to common assumption. This is a myth and a misrepresentation of the facts since delusions and hallucinations affect only a small percentage of mental patients.

To try to affect the patient's illness with less medicine, psychiatrists must have a strong grasp of fundamental psychology and psychotherapy abilities. In reality, psychotherapy can successfully cure a variety of mental illnesses, including depression, anxiety, and some phobias.

Treating mental illness

Psychiatrists treat a wide range of mental illnesses, from the mild and transient to the severe and persistent. For instance, depression, a mental disease characterized by severe emotions of melancholy and a lack of desire, can be effectively treated with psychotherapy and does not always necessitate medication.

Depression and anxiety

Mild depression is a temporary illness that can be brought on by emotional trauma or sad events in a patient's life. Psychiatrists must be able to recognize early indications of depression and trace its origins, then treat the patient with psychotherapy and perhaps medications.

Psychiatrists also deal with anxiety disorders, which are a prevalent kind of mental illness. They are characterized by inexplicable dread, panic, or phobias that appear in certain settings and have a significant impact on the patient's work, social life, and mood.

Anxiety disorders, like depression, are classified as minor mental illnesses because they are typically transient and respond well to therapy, resulting in full recovery.

Serious mental illness

Patients with hallucinations and delusions are more likely to develop serious mental illnesses like schizophrenia. This mental condition necessitates a thorough assessment of each case and is typically treated with medication. Despite the fact that schizophrenia is a chronic mental disease, there have been numerous examples of successful recovery and drug discontinuation in select people.

Furthermore, some delusional people can gradually reintegrate into society through psychotherapy, job, and friendships, and can operate normally on moderate doses of medicine or no medication at all.

how to become a psychiatrist

The capacity of the psychiatrist to perceive the possibility for a patient to heal and manage his or her mental condition has a significant impact on the ultimate results.

Average salary of a psychiatrist

Psychiatrists earn an average yearly income of $225,094 per year, with others earning between $67,000 and $475,000 per year. The income of a psychiatrist is determined by their location, company, and amount of expertise. Psychiatrists who work in public hospitals, as well as those who have earned qualifications, typically receive greater yearly wages.

How to become a psychiatrist

Here's how to become a professional psychiatrist.

Earn a bachelor's degree/undergraduate degree

To satisfy the criteria for medical school, an aspiring psychiatrist must finish college courses in chemistry, biology, physics, and arithmetic. While any bachelor's degree will suffice, completing scientific classes or concentrating in psychology or a pre-med subject can be the best way to prepare for medical school.

You can also volunteer in a clinic or hospital throughout college to acquire hands-on experience and improve your chances of being accepted into a medical school.

Take the medical college admission test

To get admitted to a medical school in the United States, you must pass the Medical College Admission Test (MCAT). The MCAT is a multiple-choice exam developed by the Association of American Medical Colleges (AAMC) that includes physical science, biological science, oral reasoning, and writing.

The MCAT must be taken a year before you want to begin medical school. The MCAT can only be taken three times in a year, four times in two years, and seven times in a lifetime. Medical schools generally consider your MCAT score as well as your undergraduate performance when deciding whether or not to admit you.

Pursue your medical degree

The next stage on your route to becoming a psychiatrist is to finish medical school and get a Doctor of Medicine (M.D.) or a Doctor of Osteopathic Medicine (Doctor of Osteopathic Medicine) degree (D.O.). Medical school lasts four years on average. You'll spend the first two years studying pharmacology, anatomy, chemistry, physiology, foundations of medicine, neurology, biochemistry, community learning, and social medicine in classrooms and laboratories.

You can be expected to diagnose and treat medical problems in patients under the supervision of experienced physicians at clinics or hospitals during your last two years of medical school. Clinical clerkships can also be required of you.

A clerkship is meant to provide you with experience in a range of fields, including surgery, neurology, and family medicine.

Join an organization

Consider joining a professional group while attending medical school. Medical students, psychiatric residents, and professional psychiatrists can join the American Psychiatric Association (APA). You can take advantage of continuing education options by joining the APA. The American Association for Geriatric Psychiatry and the American Academy of Psychiatry and the Law are two more professional organizations for psychiatrists.

Complete your psychiatry residency training

You must finish a residency program at a clinic or hospital after graduating from medical school. A four-year psychiatric residency program consists of a blend of didactic study and clinical application.

You will get training in a variety of areas during your residency, including forensic psychology, neurology, and chemical dependency, before concentrating your electives and clinical experience on a specific specialty during your final year.

You can also treat a variety of mental illnesses under supervision, including as depression, anxiety, substance addiction, psychosis, sexual dysfunction, and developmental impairments.

Serve a fellowship

You'll need to undergo extra training if you want to work in a psychiatric specialization. The American Board of Psychiatry and Neurology (ABPN) recognizes numerous psychiatric subspecialties. Forensic psychiatry, addictions, child and adolescent psychiatry, psychosomatic medicine, and geriatric psychiatry are some of these specialties.

After finishing your psychiatric residency study, you must complete a one-year fellowship to become a sub-specialist. Seminars, lectures, research projects, and conferences are all included in fellowships, as well as supervised clinical practice during allotted rotations.

how to become a psychiatrist

Get a medical license

You must get a license from your state's medical board to legally practice psychiatry in all states. The criteria for licensing vary by state, but you'll almost always have to pass a test that assesses your understanding of medical procedures and state rules. If you distribute medicine to your patients, you may also need to register with your state.

Learn about the Medical Licensing Examination (COMLEX-USA).

Acquire a certification

Although certification is not needed, it does indicate your competency in psychiatry and can boost your job prospects. The American Board of Psychiatry and Neurology provides certification (ABPN).

Psychiatrists who pass the examination, complete training, and satisfy education criteria are certified by the ABPN. You must be an M.D. or D.O. to sit for the psychiatric certification test. You must also have completed and acquired a medical license after completing an accredited psychiatric residency program.

The ABPN also provides certificates in sleep medicine, pain medicine, and addiction psychiatry, among other psychiatric subspecialties. The certification of the ABPN is valid for ten years.

You must maintain an active practice in your specialty and have a high status in the profession to renew your accreditation. In addition, you must engage in self-evaluation and ongoing education.

Common questions

Common questions asked amongst those pursuing psychiatry.

How long does it take to become a psychiatrist?

To become a licensed psychiatrist, it typically takes eight years of post-undergraduate study—four years to finish your M.D. degree and another four years of residency.

If you add the time it takes to earn a bachelor's degree, becoming a psychiatrist will require at least 12 years of study and training. If you wish to pursue a subspecialty, you'll need to complete a fellowship, which can take anywhere from one to two years after you finish your residency.

What skills are needed?

A psychiatrist's ability to properly diagnose a patient's disease depends on his or her knowledge of psychology, human biology, individual and group social behavior, and cultural variations.

In order to be effective in this field, prospective psychiatrists need have the following characteristics:

Active listening skills

Psychiatrists must be excellent listeners in order to hear both what their patients say and what they don't say. When discussing a range of topics, they must pay close attention to the patient's face and tone.

They should also be able to put their prejudices aside, listen to what their patients have to say, and comprehend each patient's individual requirements. They should be active listeners who pay attention to the patient without interrupting them and know when to ask the right questions.

Communication skills

Psychiatrists should be able to communicate effectively with both their patients and other professionals. They can need to speak with a patient's family in order to obtain more views on the situation and assess family dynamics. In order to coordinate the optimal treatment plan for a patient, they can need to speak with other medical experts.

Empathy

Psychiatrists must empathize with their patients' difficulties. While they can not have directly encountered the same issues, they must be able to comprehend them in order to assess them and devise the most effective treatment strategies.

They must, however, be able to emotionally separate themselves from their patients in order to prevent taking on their tension and mental turmoil.

What treatments do psychiatrists use?

A psychiatrist can employ a range of therapies, including various types of medicines, psychotherapy, psychosocial interventions, and other treatments, such as electroconvulsive therapy, depending on the needs of each patient (ECT).

how to become a psychiatrist

What's the difference between a psychologist and a psychiatrist?

Psychiatrists are medical physicians who have completed specialized training in the field of psychiatry. They have the ability to provide psychotherapy as well as administer medicines and other medical treatments. Psychologists, on the other hand, are more likely to hold a master's degree, generally in clinical psychology.

They usually have a lot of experience in clinical practice or research. Psychotherapy is used to treat mental problems, and they specialize in psychological examination and testing.

What's the work environment for a psychiatrist?

Psychiatrists are often employed at hospitals, psychiatric clinics, and other mental health facilities. They might also work in private medical offices, jails, or other penal institutions.

Because mental illness symptoms are not considered emergencies, primary care units and emergency departments seldom hire psychiatrists, however, if severe enough, they can necessitate sedation until the patient is transferred to a psychiatric clinic.

Because some patients can become violent, either verbally or physically, psychiatrists must be able to manage stress and stay cool in stressful situations. However, contrary to common assumption, only a tiny percentage of individuals display violent behavior, which can be treated with sedative medicine.

What are the tools a psychiatrist needs to be familiar with?

Psychiatrists must be knowledgeable with a variety of medical software. Psychiatrists must be conversant with software specialized to mental health professionals, such as Psych Advantage, SoftPsych Psychiatric Diagnosis, and MEDITECH Behavioral Health Clinical's, in addition to a range of software that supports electronic health records.

They must also be able to utilize medical instruments such as a stethoscope and blood pressure cuffs in an office environment. Finally, they must be knowledgeable with the equipment used in various medical procedures, such as CT and PET scans.

Psychiatrist associations

What types of psychiatrists are there?

After a professional decides to complete medical school, they have the option to pursue these additional careers:

  • Addiction psychiatry
  • Adolescent and child psychiatry
  • Forensic psychiatry
  • Substance abuse psychiatry

how to become a psychiatrist

Favorite Resources

Our favorite resources are included below.

Job interview resources

Resume and cover letter resources

Job search resources

free interview question and answer full guide

Interview Question and Answer Guide (PDF)

Get our full interview preparation guide. Complete with common interview questions and example answers. Free. No email required.

Grab the PDF
author: patrick algrim
About the author

Patrick Algrim is a Certified Professional Resume Writer (CPRW), NCDA Certified Career Counselor (CCC), and general career expert. Patrick has completed the NACE Coaching Certification Program (CCP). And has been published as a career expert on Forbes, Glassdoor, Dice.com, WorkWise, American Express, Reader's Digest, LiveCareer, Zety, Yahoo, Recruiter.com, SparkHire, SHRM.org, Process.st, FairyGodBoss, HRCI.org, St. Edwards University, NC State University, IBTimes.com, Thrive Global, TMCnet.com, Work It Daily, Workology, Career Guide, MyPerfectResume, College Career Life, The HR Digest, WorkWise, Career Cast, Elite Staffing, Women in HR, All About Careers, Upstart HR, The Street, Monster, The Ladders, Introvert Whisperer, and many more. Find him on LinkedIn.

Share

Help us by spreading the word