What to Major in to Become a Psychiatrist: Degree Options
At the bachelor's degree level, psychiatry majors are not available. Those interested in becoming psychiatrists may wish to study psychology or a science-related major such as biology. This learning must be complemented by a set of pre-medicine courses to qualify aspiring psychiatrists for medical school. Upon earning an M.D. (Doctor of Medicine), individuals must satisfy licensing requirements and complete a residency in psychiatry, which culminates in board certification.
Overview of Doctor of Medicine Program for Aspiring Psychiatrists
After earning a bachelor's degree that satisfies pre-medicine studies, prospective psychiatrists may apply to medical school. The Doctor of Medicine program lasts four years and includes both traditional coursework and intensive clinical training--with the former more heavily featured in the first half of the curriculum. In the first two years, students complete coursework in anatomy and physiology, biochemistry and other foundational courses while they work directly with patients to promote individual and public health, diagnose illnesses and treat disease.
The third year of a medical school program is known as the clerkship year, in which students work at clinical sites and complete rotations in the areas of obstetrics and gynecology, family medicine, pediatrics, surgery and psychiatry. The fourth year prepares individuals for the psychiatric residency. Physician advisors who help to ease the transition from medical student to resident mentor this experience.
Admittance to this degree program requires a bachelor's degree from an accredited institution that satisfies pre-medicine prerequisite coursework, such as chemistry, organic chemistry and biology; experience with lab work is also expected. Other requirements include a high undergraduate GPA, letters of recommendation, an interview and satisfactory scores on the Medical College Admissions Test (MCAT).
Coursework in this degree program covers a wide-range of medical studies, including clinical medicine and epidemiology. Students are also required to spend a considerable amount of time engaged in laboratory work. Other classes might address:
- Behavioral science
Employment Outlook and Salary Info
As of 2010, physicians, including psychiatrists, held 691,000 jobs in the United States, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS). Data from the BLS shows the number of jobs for all physicians and surgeons was projected to grow by 24% between 2010 and 2020. The median annual salary for a psychiatrist was $173,330 as of 2012 (www.bls.gov).
Psychiatric Residency Requirements and Licensing Information
Graduates of medical degree programs are eligible to sit for the United States Medical Licensing examination, which results in state licensure as an M.D. These graduates can then apply for psychiatric residency programs to complete their clinical requirements. Psychiatric residencies are typically four years in length and require candidates to complete clinical rotations at hospitals and psychiatric care clinics. Residents might specialize in child and adolescent psychiatry, forensic psychiatry or primary care psychiatry. After completing psychiatric residency requirements, doctors are eligible for board certification from the American Board of Psychiatry and Neurology, Inc.
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