Psychiatry Graduate Programs: Degree and Residency Information

Students interested in becoming psychiatrists must first earn a Doctor of Medicine (M.D.) from an accredited medical school, during which they may choose a specialization in psychiatry. Students who complete the degree program go on to complete a clinical residency in psychiatric medicine to gain hands-on experience.

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Doctor of Medicine

This first-professional degree program prepares students for careers as licensed medical doctors. The first two years of the medical program consists of coursework, research and laboratory experiences. Medical topics include patient care, medical ethics, physiology and internal health. In their third year, students participate in clerkships working alongside medical doctors in hospitals, community health centers and other health care settings. Clerkships allow medical students to explore several medical specializations, including psychiatry. In the fourth year of medical school, the transition to residency, students may choose a psychiatry specialty. Prospective psychiatrists complete coursework, electives in psychiatry and clinical rotations. Students are also assigned a counselor who helps them to prepare for the transition to the psychiatry residency.

Education Prerequisites

Some medical schools require that students complete at least three years of study in a pre-medical bachelor's degree program, but preference is often given to students who have at least a bachelor's degree. Students are also required to submit scores on the Medical School Admissions Test (MSAT) and academic references.

Program Coursework

Most medical schools have similar coursework requirements in human anatomy, biochemistry, pathology and immunology during the first two years of study. The fourth year electives, which allow students to focus on psychiatry, are often additional 1-3 month clinical rotations similar to the clerkships, but focused on the specialty. Common psychiatry electives in an M.D. program include:

  • Psychopharmacology
  • Addiction
  • Infant, child and adolescent psychiatry
  • Adult and geriatric psychiatry
  • Psychiatry at inpatient and outpatient facilities
  • Family and community psychiatry

Continuing Education Information

Students who complete an M.D. program can go on to a 4-year residency in psychiatry. Doctors work at area hospitals and medical facilities and complete psychiatric care requirements, including training in psychotherapy and working with mentally ill patients in behavioral health centers. Doctors who complete their psychiatry residency are eligible to sit for the psychiatry certification examination, administered by the American Board of Psychiatry and Neurology, Inc., and resulting in state licensure as a board-certified psychiatrist.

Salary and Employment Outlook

The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) projects 24% growth for all physicians and surgeons, including psychiatrists, between 2010 and 2020. This expected growth rate is faster than the average for occupations in all fields. Psychiatrists earned a median annual salary of $173,330 in May 2012, the BLS reported.

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