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Psychiatric Degree Programs with Career Information

The two most common psychiatric degree programs are Doctor of Medicine (M.D.) and Master of Science in Psychiatric Nursing. A psychiatrist is a medical doctor who diagnoses and treats mental, emotional and behavioral disorders. A psychiatric nurse cares for patients treated by psychiatrists. The following career information includes a detailed review of both psychiatric degree programs.

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Doctor of Medicine

Aspiring psychiatrists must attend a 4-year medical school, complete an internship and serve a residency in a hospital psychiatric ward for at least four years. During medical school, students serve clinical rotations that include psychiatry. As psychiatric residents under the supervision of psychiatrists, candidates learn to diagnose and treat schizophrenia, psychosis and other mental illnesses. Psychiatric residents are trained to treat patients with psychoanalysis, psychotherapy, medication and hospitalization. Additionally, psychiatric residents may choose a specialty, including children, adolescents, geriatrics, forensics and adults.

Education Prerequisites

Medical schools require a bachelor's degree, preferably one in pre-med studies, biology, chemistry or physics. Aspiring psychiatrists must earn a high undergraduate GPA and take the Medical College Admission Test (MCAT). To become a practicing psychiatrist, candidates must acquire a state license as well as take the board certification exam administered by the American Board of Psychiatry and Neurology (ABPN).

Program Coursework

Medical school students looking to serve a psychiatric residency must first take a variety of basic medical school courses. Required courses typically include the following:

  • Biochemistry
  • Histology
  • Immunology
  • Embrology
  • Pharmacology
  • Neuroanatomy
  • Anatomy

Employment Outlook and Career Information

Career prospects are good for psychiatrists due to the aging U.S. population and the growing use of health care to treat mental and emotional illnesses. The number of employed physicians and surgeons, including psychiatrists, was expected to grow 24% for the years 2010 through 2020, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (www.bls.gov). The median annual salary for psychiatrists was $173,330 in 2012.

Continuing Education Information

Those who complete a psychiatric residency may apply for fellowships in psychiatry to learn more about a specialty through research and clinical practice. Fellowships are available in several areas of psychiatry, including addictions, adolescents, geriatrics and forensics.

M.S. in Psychiatric Nursing

Students enrolled in M.S. in Psychiatric Nursing degree programs learn to assess the behavior of patients and provide appropriate care and interventions. Master's degree programs in psychiatric nursing usually offer concentrations adult or family psychiatry. Psychiatric nurses typically work as part of teams that typically include psychologists, psychiatrists and social workers. Psychiatric nursing degree programs require extensive hands-on clinical practice in hospitals and clinics.

Education Prerequisites

Applicants to psychiatric nursing degree programs must be a registered nurse and hold a bachelor's degree in the field of nursing. To become a practicing psychiatric nurse, graduates of psychiatric nursing degree programs must take the test given by the American Nurses Credentialing Center (ANCC) for Psychiatric and Mental Health Nurse Practitioner or the exam for Psychiatric Mental Health Clinical Nurse Specialist.

Program Coursework

Classes in M.S. in Psychiatric Nursing programs are designed to train students to be nurses and mental health professionals. Courses include:

  • Group psychotherapy
  • Child psychopathology
  • Pharmacology mental health assessment
  • Personality theory
  • Psychopharmacology
  • Psychotherapy

Employment Outlook and Salary Info

The employment of all nurses, including psychiatric nurses, will increase from 2010-2020 because of growing demand for all health care services. Registered nurses will make up additional positions in the health care industry, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (www.bls.gov).

Continuing Education Information

Candidates who complete master's degree programs in psychiatric nursing may apply to Doctor of Nursing Practice (DNP) schools. Graduates of psychiatric nursing master's degree programs may also apply to post-master's programs designed to train students in other nursing specialties, including palliative care, geriatrics and pediatrics.

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