How To Become A Psychiatrist

A psychiatrist is a medical physician who specializes in psychiatry—assessing and treating patients’ mental, emotional, and physical health. A psychiatrist understands the correlation and relationship among mental, emotional, and physical wellbeing and illnesses. They are both mental health professionals and medical physicians, trained and qualified to treat patients for a number of co-occurring issues.

To treat patients, psychiatrists may use psychotherapy, medications, and hospitalizations. Each treatment depends on the needs of the patient and severity of issue or disorder. Such disorders that require the attention of a psychiatrist may include, but are not limited to, bipolar disorder, schizophrenia, anxiety, depression, and substance/alcohol abuse.

Why Become A Psychiatrist

People who become psychiatrists have a desire to help others, particularly those who require more intensive treatment than a psychotherapist or counselor can provide. These professionals are dedicated and knowledgeable regarding how the psychological and physical body systems interact with each other, dictating the health of a patient. Mental health is important to them, as they understand how these issues can negatively affect a person’s life if left untreated.

Psychiatrist Work Environment

Psychiatrists are not limited to a particular work environment. They may work individually or as a team. They may see patients in a private practice or treat the public. Public programs that require psychiatrists include Veterans Affairs, state hospitals, and community mental health facilities. Mental health professionals are also welcome in other settings, such as general hospitals, health maintenance organizations (HMOs), medical schools, and facilities that specialize in psychiatry. It is possible to work for courts, prisons, nursing homes, schools and universities, emergency rooms, hospices, rehabilitation and addiction services, and facilities that treat the intellectually disabled.

The average work week for a psychiatrist may be up to 50 hours. About 60% of that time is spent with patients (assessing and treating), while the other time is spent on research, teaching, consultation, and other administrative duties. Two-thirds of all psychiatric patients are seen on an outpatient basis. Inpatient services can include hospitalization, or day treatment centers and residential programs, which provide partial hospitalization services.

Psychiatrist Salary

The median salary for a psychiatrist in 2013, according to the United States Bureau of Labor Statistics (USBLS), was $178,950. Public and private sector jobs will most likely provide different compensation packages for psychiatrists.

Average Psychiatrist Annual Salary


The average annual salary for psychiatrists is $216,090 a year. Salaries start at $71,560 a year and go up to $208,000 a year.

Average Psychiatrist Hourly Wage


The average hourly wage for a psychiatrist is $103.89. Hourly wages are between $34.41 and $100 an hour.

Stats were based out of 25,250 employed psychiatrists in the United States.

Highest Paying States For Psychiatrists

Top Paying Cities For Psychiatrists

Data provided by the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS).

Psychiatrist Career Outlook

The job outlook for the field of psychiatry is positive. The USBLS predicts that the market will grow 18% from 2012-2022, especially for physicians and surgeons. Because of the constant need for mental health services and the growth of research/knowledge in the field, the need for psychiatrists is great.

Psychiatrist Degree

Obtaining a psychiatric degree requires many steps. Of course, each state has specific licensure requirements, and each individual should check on these before pursuing a career in psychiatry.

First, obtain a bachelor’s degree. Major in a pre-med or science discipline if possible (for admission into medical school). However, any bachelor’s degree with courses in biology, chemistry, math, and physics are necessary. At this point, working or volunteering for a hospital will also help in the process of entering into medical school.

Second, pursue a medical degree. Four years of medical school are required for a Doctor of Medicine (M.D.) or Doctor of Osteopathic Medicine (D.O.) degree. In medical school, you will receive all the training you need regarding anatomy, physiology, and pathology, as well as ethics, and medical laws. Many other courses will include psychology and pharmacology. It is a good idea to define a specialty to practice during your residency.

Third, complete a residency. Once you have obtained a medical degree, a residency in a clinic or hospital setting is a requirement. For psychiatric facilities, you will most likely be in a residency program for four years. During this experience, you will learn about didactic and practical applications of your studies. The disciplines for which you will most likely receive training include forensic psychology, neurology, and chemical dependency. The last year typically focuses on clinical experience and electives. Here you will help treat patients with a variety of issues, under the supervision of a licensed psychiatrist.

Fourth, once you have finished your residency and clinical experience, you are ready to apply for licensure. You must obtain this through your state’s medical board, specifically to practice psychiatry. You will have to take an exam regarding state regulations and medical practices. It may also be possible that you register with your state to dispense medication to patients. State licensure regulations vary.

Although it is not a requirement, it is recommended to become board certified through the American Board of Psychiatry and Neurology (ABPN). You may obtain certifications in general psychiatry of other specializations. Becoming board certified may improve your chances at employment.

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