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Psychiatrist: Educational Requirements for Psychiatrists

Psychiatrists diagnose, analyze and treat mental health disorders. They also serve as the primary source of care for people suffering from depression, chemical dependency and other difficult mental issues. Psychiatrists require similar education to medical doctors, with students needing eight years of education and an additional number of years in an internship or residency.

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Educational Requirements

To join this lucrative and rewarding profession, students need to endure a lengthy education process. For many, planning for this career can begin in high school, where students take AP chemistry and physics classes or join pre-medical clubs, hoping for acceptance to a prestigious college. After graduation, students may embark on a general education path similar to what is listed below.

Bachelor of Science in Biology

During undergraduate education, future psychiatrists can choose to major in any field providing they take the full contingent of pre-medical classes. These include various science courses with lab requirements, such as physics. Many pre-med students choose to major in chemistry or biology. It's important to maintain a solid GPA for entrance into medical school. A Bachelor of Science in Biology is a 4-year degree program featuring coursework in:

  • Biology
  • Chemistry
  • Genetics
  • Physics

Pass the MCAT Exam

Prospective medical students need a good score on the Medical College Admission Test (MCAT) in order to have the best opportunities for entry to medical school. The MCAT is administered by the Association of American Medical Colleges. There are several exam preparation materials, study plans and practice tests available to help students prepare for the test.

Doctor of Medicine

During the 4 years of medical school, psychiatry students learn about basic subjects needed for a career as a doctor. Students are also provided with clinical training in various fields, providing future psychiatrists with a solid foundation in all areas of medicine. Coursework in a doctor of medicine (M.D.) degree program includes:

  • Anatomy
  • Histology (the study of body tissues)
  • Immunology
  • Biochemistry
  • Psychology

Psychiatric Residency

During the 4-year psychiatric residency, also referred to as a clerkship, students undergo hospital training in psychiatry. They acquire experience working directly with patients and have the opportunity to put the skills they learned in medical school into practice.

Each year of residency, students may be shuffled among various medical facilities to learn in different environments and acquire different treatment skill specializations. For example, students may work in hospitals, health clinics, psychiatric wards and more, during their residencies. After the completion of this training, psychiatrists must take and pass an exam issued by the American Board of Psychiatry and Neurology to obtain certification and legally practice in the field.

Fellowship Training

Post-residency fellowship training is optional, but highly useful for psychiatrists to delve into a subspecialty, such as geriatric, addiction or adolescent psychiatry. For example, in an addiction fellowship, fellows are trained to understand areas such as psychodynamic treatment modalities and 12-step therapies. In addition, some medical board examinations require fellowship training for registration.

Career and Salary Information

The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) groups psychiatrists together with physicians and surgeons. A 24% job growth is estimated for surgeons and physicians in the 2010-2020 decade, according to the BLS. In May 2012, the BLS reported that psychiatrists earned $173,330 as a median annual wage.

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Source: Bureau of Labor Statistics