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How To Become a Psychiatrist (Full Steps and More)

how to become a psychiatrist

If giving others professional help based on their mental stability is of interest to you, maybe you should consider being a psychiatrist.

 A psychiatrist is a medical doctor (an M.D or D.O) that specializes in mental health. This also covers substance use disorders. As a psychiatrist, you’re qualified to assess both the mental and physical aspects of psychological problems. 

So, let’s take an in-depth look at how to become a psychiatrist, the academic qualifications required, licensing process, salary expectations, and more.

What Do Psychiatrists Do?

Psychiatrists evaluate their patients and give them required treatments based on their mental, emotional, or psychological disorders. 

Psychiatry is the branch of medicine focusing on the diagnosis, treatment, and prevention of mental, emotional, and behavioral disorders. In this field, you can work in a variety of settings. True, many psychiatrists open private practices, but there are several other options.

Read more: Paraprofessional Job Description

Choose the work setting for you…

 These include clinics, general and psychiatric hospitals, university medical centers, nursing homes, hospice programs, and more. According to statistics, there are at least 30,000 psychiatrists in the U.S, with California registering the highest number. If you’re considering a career in psychiatry, these are some of the best work environments to choose from.

Hospitals and Clinics

Hospitals and Clinics

There are many other branches to focus on when you work in a hospital setting. Working in a clinic means that you’ll be a clinical psychiatrist. You provide clinical or counseling services. Your responsibilities include assessing and treating mental and behavioral disorders. 

Some of the jobs include being trauma and grief counselors, neuropsychiatrists, and behavioral specialists.

Rehabilitation Centers 

As a psychiatrist, you work together with psychologists to study and work with individuals that have disabilities and chronic health conditions. They also support their patients cope with the mental challenges of living with a disability.

You also help determine a proper treatment plan for your patients. On top of that, you help create a support network for them. The support system includes family, friends, and paraprofessionals that assist throughout treatment. 

Rehabilitation of the mind…

Working at a rehabilitation center isn’t just about the patient’s physical well-being. Individuals with mental or emotional issues such as depression, anxiety, or developmental disabilities get treated too. If the idea of being a rehabilitation psychiatrist sounds good to you, you’re in for a treat! You can also work in academic settings as a professor or researcher.

Private Practices

Having your private practice in psychiatry has many benefits, but it also comes with more responsibilities. You make your schedule, and you have more autonomy in your practice. By the time you start your practice, you will have a valid state license. 

How To Become A Psychiatrist – The Steps To Take

Before pursuing this career, find out what you must study and for how long. Not all psychiatrists will specialize in treating a specific type or group of mental health conditions. You do, however, have to complete medical school first. 

After that, you will need to complete an additional four years of residency training. Psychiatrists spend more time in school than most mental health professionals. This is because, apart from assessing their patients, their medical degrees allow them to prescribe psychotropic medication. 

Academic Qualifications

Academic Qualifications

To kickstart your journey, you must have a high school diploma or GED. From there, the next step is to go to graduate college. However, you don’t need a specific degree to get into med school for this. Taking a pre-med major will help you meet the basic requirements. Keep in mind that the average GPA of accepted applicants is 3.71.

After pre-med school, you must take the Medical College Admission Test (MCAT). This is where your hard work and studying skills will pay off. This entrance exam is 7.5 hours long, and on average, the score for accepted applicants is 511 out of 528 in total. 

What Happens Next?

If you pass the exam, apply to a medical school. Remember that med schools usually take four years, and once you’re done, you’ll be ready for the next major step. Apply to be a licensed doctor in the state where you intend to practice or complete your residency.

Depending on the state you choose, you’ll probably need to take a state board examination. Not only that, but you may need to meet additional requirements, such as completing a background check.

Complete a Psychiatric Residency

During your residency, you’ll learn about a wide range of treatments used for mental health conditions. Once you’re done with your residency, you become board-certified with the American Board of Psychiatry and Neurology. 

Keep in mind, board-certification is optional, but why not get it? At this point, you’d have earned it after years and years of studying. You’ll have to renew your certification every ten years. You’ll also need to complete a certain number of continuing education credits to keep your license. 

Psychiatric Training

Psychiatric training takes place during the four years of residency. The first year is typically spent working with patients in a hospital. During training, you’ll be on your feet a lot. Stay hydrated by taking some Revival Hydration Electrolyte Powder. This supplement drink mix is perfect for your wellness and even for traveling.

You’ll then spend three additional years learning the diagnosis and treatment of mental health. It includes various forms of psychotherapy and the use of psychiatric medications. Training is done in in-patient, out-patient, and emergency room settings. 

How Long Does It Take To Become A Psychiatrist?

How Long Does It Take To Become A Psychiatrist?

Using the breakdown, we just went through, be prepared to study for 12 years on average. Other students take time off after graduation to prepare for the MCAT, and others complete college more quickly than is typical. It varies from one person to the other.

Let’s assume that you don’t take any breaks in between your studies and you graduate using a typical timeline. From the time you complete your high school graduation to acing your psychiatric board certification, you’ll complete four years of college. After that, you’ll do another four years of medical school, and finally, four more years of residency. 

If you’ve just done the math, it means that you can start practicing as a psychiatrist at 30!

How Much Will It Cost To Become A Psychiatrist?

Several factors influence the cost outcome of studying to be a psychiatrist. It depends on where you go to school and whether you receive student loans or grants. Where you live also plays an important role.

If you’re an out-of-state student attending a four-year college, you could spend an average of $24,000 per year. Considering the cost of books, room and board, food, and student fees, an additional $7,000 is needed. 

More than double the cost!

If you’re an out-of-state student attending public medical school, expect to pay an average of $58,668 in tuition per year. The price tag will increase greatly when you add other expenses. As an in-state public school student, you’ll pay less, while the opposite is just as equally true if you’re a private school student.

How Much Can A Psychiatrist Make?

How Much Can A Psychiatrist Make?

The average base salary is $239,203 per year. The highest paying cities for psychiatrists in the US are Riverside, CA ($398,047) and Baltimore, MD ($331,530). Salary ranges vary widely because of many important factors. These include your educational qualifications, certifications, additional skills, and the number of years you’ve spent in your profession.

So, Why Choose A Career In Psychiatry?

Psychiatry is a diverse field that has a variety of specialties and career paths. It’s challenging but rewarding. If you want to make a difference in people’s lives, this is one way of doing it. Besides, you’ll get many benefits, including a 401k, an employee stock purchase plan, and life insurance.

Putting aside the financial benefits, you’re able to help people become better mentally. You help ease people’s shame and guilt for not being mentally well. You also educate your patients’ loved ones about mental health and behavioral disorders. 

Study Guides And Textbooks In Psychiatry

You’re going to need to ace those all-important exams! We found a broad selection of textbooks and guides such as the Kaplan and Sadock’s Comprehensive Textbook of PsychiatryThe American Psychiatric Association Publishing Textbook of Psychiatry, the Lewis’s Child and Adolescent Psychiatry: A Comprehensive Textbook, and The American Psychiatric Association Publishing Textbook of Personality Disorders, to begin with.

Furthermore, I also recommend using The American Psychiatric Association Publishing Textbook of Substance Abuse TreatmentThe American Psychiatric Association Publishing Textbook of Neuropsychiatry and Clinical Neurosciences, and The American Psychiatric Association Publishing Textbook of Psychopharmacology, all available online in 2023.

If your specialization is in Child Psychiatry, take a look at the following textbooks: the Dulcan’s Textbook of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry, the Lewis’s Child and Adolescent Psychiatry: A Comprehensive Textbook, the Rutter’s Child and Adolescent Psychiatry, and the Concise Guide to Child and Adolescent Psychiatry, for great insight into your field.

Lastly, if you’ve already graduated, why not take a look at our in-depth Child Psychiatrist Job Description to see what the position entails.

How To Become A Psychiatrist- Final Thoughts

So there you have it; basically, it takes 12 years to become a licensed psychiatrist. The salary and benefits are worth it whether you end up with a private practice or work in a hospital. 

You could also choose to work in a hospice or rehabilitation center, among other options. Your job is to assess individuals’ mental, emotional, and even physical well-being. You also have the unique opportunity to improve your patients’ mental health and quality of life. 

If this is a career path you’re considering, good luck!

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