How to Become a Psychiatrist | An Extremely Demanding but Rewarding Career

Are you already graduated from high school and dreaming of becoming a psychiatrist? Do you have a good communication skills? If you want to go to a medical school and become a psychiatrist, read this guide. I have explained how to become a psychiatrist, the qualifications that you need, and your roles.

If you want to address and loves diagnosing and treating patients with mental health challenges and other mental illnesses, then becoming a psychiatrist is a career for you. Psychiatrists are special medical practitioner who are equipped with knowledge of addressing the needs of person's with mental illness. Psychiatrists assess, diagnose and treat people with mental problems to live well.

Some of their patients include people with drug addiction (addiction psychiatry), stress, eating disorders, depression, panic attacks, phobias, schizophrenia, just to name a few. They will prescribe medication, offer to counsel or recommend ways of living healthy.

How To Become A Psychiatrist?

Before we find the answer, many people also ask these questions: How long does it take to become a Psychiatrist?
Do you need a psychology degree to become a psychiatrist? Is becoming a psychiatrist worth it?
People want to become a psychiatrist don't need a psychology degree, In fact, most people planning to enroll in a medical school choose biochemistry or a similar course. Psychology is the study of behavior and mind while psychiatrists are physicians who specializes in psychiatry.

Becoming a physiatrist and a to be a board certified takes time; you must complete all necessary education started from elementary and high school. As a one of future psychiatrists and future medical school students, you will need to study, learn, treat and diagnose people with mental disorders.
Psychiatrists are qualified medical doctors and already graduated from their medical schools diagnosing and treating all types of mental illness. In order to become one and to be successful in this role, you need to pass through these 5 steps:

  • Step 1. Obtain a bachelor’s degree after graduated from high school.
  • Step 2. Take the Medical College Admissions Test or MCAT
  • Step 3. Attend and pass the medical school admissions.
  • Step 4. Complete a psychiatric four years of residency
  • Step 5. Get licensed

It helps to be informed. To assess and treat persons with mental illness, you need to study how the brain and nervous system works from medical schools.

To begin your journey to a medical school, obtain a bachelor’s degree first after your high school graduation and make sure you major in physical science, English and Mathematics. It will also help if you will learn some essential nursing and psychological concepts.

If you are one of many high school students who graduated and wanted to pursue a premed program at a college or university is essential to fulfilling the prerequisites of gaining entry and must complete the medical school. Take the MCAT or the Medical College Admission Test  after you graduate. Prep books I have reviewed here will help you ace MCAT.

MCAT test is a requirement of joining a medical schools in the United States and for you to pass medical college admission test and a first step for you to become a psychiatrist. The next step is attending a medical school from an accredited medical school. It is a  four years degree where psychiatry students will receive classroom education plus interact with mentally challenged persons.

After four years once you graduated from a medical school, you will be required to be a resident. The ultimate goal of this training is to help you gain clinical experience with persons with mental disorders.

The last step is to get a license to work as a qualified psychiatrist. In order to be licensed, you must pass the United States  Medical Licensing Examination for M.D.s or the Comprehensive Osteopathic Medical Licensing Examination for D.O (Doctor of Osteopathic Medicine)

Why Choose Psychiatry

This is an attractive and exciting career especially to people who love to work with mentally challenged patients. It will provide you with a perfect opportunity to change their lives.

You will be a specialist doctor who is an expert in mental disorder. Patients that you will be taking care of includes:

  • People dealing with violence, abuse, neglect, and trauma
  • Victims of sexual violence (forensic psychiatry)
  • Treat people who are stressed, have depression and panic attacks. (Psychoanalysis)
  • Those who have suicide thoughts
  • Elderly mental disorder problems (Geriatric psychiatry)
  • Persons struggling with alcohol and drug issues (addiction psychiatry)
  • People dealing with mood swings or feeling out of control
  • People with hallucinations that frightens
  • People with gambling problems, money issues, can’t keep a job, relationship or marriage (consultation liaison psychiatry)
  • People hearing unwanted voices
  • People who have no control of their appetite or not eating enough
  • People with sleep problems
  • It’s a big privilege for people to trust you with their most personal problems. As a qualified doctor, you will draw on your medical skills to solve their problems so their lives can be improved.
Why Choose Psychiatry

Learning Human Behavior

Psychiatry changes you for the better because you will learn about human attitude. You can heal people by just listening to their problems. So many people need psychiatrist services and you can help change their lives.

A broad range of treatments

As a psychiatrist, you will have an opportunity to use various treatments to improve your patients’ lives which include the following:

  • Checking physical conditions.
  • Giving medication
  • Giving counseling or psychological treatment such as talking therapy or psychotherapy.
  • Brain stimulation therapy

Psychiatrist requirements

A bachelor’s degree

To work and to become a psychiatrist, bachelor's degree students will need psychiatrist schooling. The first step is to earn a bachelor’s degree program with Biology, English, Physics, Chemistry and Math classes as main subjects.

This will be your pre-med preparation. It is extremely important that you check with your medical school first about specific pre-med requirements and recommendations.

No specific degree is required to become a psychiatrist though many students study psychology.

Other undergraduate degree or majors for aspiring psychiatrists include:

  • Bachelor of Science in Biology
  • Bachelor of Science in Chemistry

Students are expected to do well in life sciences plus math classes. This is a 4-year degree with laboratory classes too. If you want to improve your chances for acceptance in a medical school, volunteer in a hospital and give diagnosis and treatment to patients who have a mental illness or mental health conditions.

Take the Medical College Admissions Test (MCAT)

You will need to take an MCAT test before applying to medical school. This is a multi-choice examination to test your knowledge of social science and behavioral concepts.

It is important to note that the average score for accepted graduated high school students who want to become a psychiatrists is 511. The duration of the test is 7.5 hours and contains 4 sections:

  • Chemical and Physical Foundations of Biological Systems
  • Critical Analysis and Reasoning skills
  • Biological and Biochemical Foundations of living systems
  • Psychological, social and Biological Foundations of Behavior

Attend medical school

Enroll and complete medical school to earn a doctor’s degree or M.D degree after passing your MCAT test. It takes four years to complete and includes classes in:

  • Biochemistry
  • Physiology
  • Neuroscience
  • Psychiatry

The first two years will focus on class education while the final two years of medical school or the second half of the degree course will focus on working with patients and other healthcare professionals. In other words, students will receive classroom psychiatry education plus hands-on training in laboratory and clinical settings.
You can continue your training in  American Association of Psychiatrist (APA). Joining the APA will give you access to continuing education opportunities. The American Psychiatric Association (APA) is an entity open to all medical students practicing psychiatry, and from there, you can proceed to four years of the residency program.

Brain and ladder

Complete a psychiatric residency program

What is psychiatric residency ? A psychiatric residency is a psychiatry residency training which you need to complete to be a qualified psychiatrist. During the four years of residency training, you will work under the supervision of experienced health professionals.. The goal of a psychiatry residency training program is to hone your skills to work unsupervised in a hospital, substance abuse treatment program or private practice.

The residency training usually takes 4 years to complete. After the completion of residency program, you can start applying for a medical license. You might be wondering if you will get any type of compensation or not. Yes, you will get a salary. More things to learn in your residency include:

  • Interviewing and diagnostic techniques
  • Treat different types of mental illness
  • Work with children and adults (child and adolescent psychiatry)
  • How to respond to a mental issues emergency situation
  • Learn suicidal behavior, just to name a few

After the residency training program, many psychiatrists proceeds with the fellowship programs that involves clinical work in preparation for your board certification.

Get licensed

Getting your medical license or certification from the American Board of Psychiatry is the last step to complete before becoming a psychiatrist. All states needs all psychiatrists to become an American Board of Psychiatry and Neurology (ABPN) licensed holder before practicing his or her profession. To be licensed and to become American Board of Psychiatry and Neurology certified, you will need to take the final exam; U.S Medical Licensing Examination for M.D. (Doctor Of Medicine) or the Comprehensive Osteopathic Medical Licensing Examination of D.O.s.
All psychiatrists are advised to renew their certification or license every ten years to maintain the latest psychiatry standards.

Working as a Psychiatrist

As a psychiatrist, an American Board of Psychiatrist licensed holder, and as one of medical health professionals, you will specialize in mental health conditions of a patients including substance use disorders. As a one of many mental health professionals, you will assess and treat patients with emotional, behavioral, mental diseases and mental issues.

How Much Does a Psychiatrist make? According to Bureau Of Labor Statistics, the average psychiatrist salary and other mental health professionals was $200,220 per year as of May 2016. The lowest-paid 10 percent of Psychiatrist earn less than $61,330 per year.

Psychiatrists are medical doctors that can work in private practice, public hospitals, and nursing homes. The job description of a psychiatrist includes the following:

  • Psychiatrists must assess and screen people with mental problems with psychotherapy.
  • Psychiatrists must analyze data of their patients in order to give the best treatment
  • Offer counseling and assessment to prison offenders(forensic psychiatry)
  • Psychiatrists must develop a treatment plan
  • Coordinate and communicate with case managers
  • Psychiatrists must provide crisis intervention when needed
  • Psychiatrists must monitor persons with mental health issues to determine the effectiveness of their treatment plan
  • Work with other medical professionals to adjust treatment plans
  • Give care to healthy and ill elderly patients (Geriatric psychiatry)

A psychiatrists practice

Diagnosing Patients

Psychiatrists are qualified doctors who perform different types of laboratory and psychological tests to determine the mental state of their patient. As a patient, you may be asked to fill out a questionnaire to determine your symptoms, thoughts or even behavior patterns.

The main classes of mental illnesses persons are diagnosed with are bipolar, anxiety disorders, somatic symptom and related disorders, obsessive-compulsive and related disorders, dissociative disorders, personality disorders, addictive disorders, gender dysphoria, sexual dysfunctions, elimination disorders, paraphilic disorders and many more.

Diagnosing a Patient

Treating Patients

It is worth noting that treatment will depend on the type of mental illness your patient will have and its severity.

You will give medication to improve symptoms. A patient with depression will require antidepressants, a patient with anxiety will require anti-anxiety medications and so on.

Other types of treatments include counseling and even brain stimulation treatments.

How long does it take to become a psychiatrist?

From schooling, training and up to the board certification, you need to take about 12 years of medical school to become a psychiatrist. 4 years in pre-med school, another 4 years in medical school and 4 or fewer years of residency. After passing the board certification, psychiatrist journey doesn't end there, psychiatrists are still advise to participate in continuing education programs throughout their psychiatrist careers in order to maintain the licensure.

Psychiatry Career Trends

Demand for psychiatrists has risen sharply in recent years. More and more cases of suicides, anxiety disorders, drug and alcohol abuse, and mass shootings have been reported in recent months.

Here are trends to watch in Psychiatry careers

Increasing demand for Psychiatrist

There are so many cases of people with mental illness yet only a small percentage of them have received health treatment for their illness or conditions. This had led to an increasing demand for psychiatrists and makes a job outlook for many psychiatrists are healthy.

Modern Technology and Mental Health Apps

mental health letters

Modern technology has improved which enables medical practitioner to analyze individual DNA to determine the genes that cause mental illness. A psychiatrist can use this information to identify abnormalities and treat them.

Fast, easy and effective diagnosis can be achieved with a modern technology that analyzes hormonal signals and genes that cause abnormalities.

Mental health apps have been developed to address the problems of mental health. Some apps offer interventions while others recommend hospitals and psychiatrists near them.

Some persons with mental issues may not be required to leave their home in order to access care. They can access a psychiatrist online and get help. This brings help especially to people living in rural communities.

Shorter Appointment Times

Psychiatry trend nowadays is that appointments times are getting shorter. This is because of the many patients diagnosed with mental conditions and fewer doctors working in hospitals or private establishments.

Related Occupations: What You Need to Know

If you are looking to make a difference in mental health, here are careers you can consider:

  • Psychologist
  • Vocational Counselor
  • Psychiatric Nurses
  • Pharmacists
  • Addiction counselor and many more 
check list with emoticons

All these are medical health professionals who have the necessary knowledge to diagnose mental illness and determine the appropriate treatment. They can also help mentally ill patients make better decisions that will improve patients' lives and their family members. All of them have degrees in a variety of disciplines.

Psychiatrist FAQs:

1. How to become a psychiatrist?

These are the steps on how to become a psychiatrist.

1. Earn a bachelors degree
2. Take the Medical College Admission Test(MCAT)
3. Graduate from medical school.
4. Complete the residency program
5. Serve the fellowship.
6. Obtain the medical license
7. Get certified.

Watch this video for more information.

2. Is becoming a psychiatrist hard?

Being a psychiatrist can be a gratifying job, but it isn't without its challenges.
Watch this video from an experienced psychiatrist himself to know the answer.

3. How much money does a psychiatrist make per year?

According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, a psychiatrist's average income was $200,220 as of May 2016. The lowest-paid 10 percent of Psychiatrists earn less than $61,330 per year, while the highest-paid 10 percent earn more than $208,000

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

The Psychiatrists are those medical professionals, and the psychologists are not.
Psychiatrists do medications. Psychologists can't. Psychiatrists diagnose mental illnesses, manage treatment, and provide various therapies for complex and severe mental issues. Psychologists focus on providing psychotherapy or talking therapy to help patients.

5. What are the benefits of a psychiatrist?

As a psychiatrist, you can help significant personal change to the person with mental health problems. Psychiatry helps give an individual the power to make substantial changes and improve the quality of life.
Watch also this video for the PROS and Cons of a Psychiatrist.

Colin Ma

As the first hire of Study Prep Lounge I primarily help with growth strategy, but also assisted with managing our small team of writers and designers. Another aspect of work I've taken up is writing and I thoroughly enjoy it! I grew up in Arcadia, CA, and went to school at University of California, Santa Barbara before transferring to University of California, Irvine where I got my BS in Computer Science. I am currently working full time in software and am also fulfilling my prerequisites so I can apply to Medical School.

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