How to become a psychiatrist? Psychiatry is concerned with mental health. In addition to diagnosing, treating, and helping prevent mood disorders, psychiatrists also treat anxiety attacks, depression, and hallucinations. Psychiatrists use a variety of treatment techniques, including psychotherapy, psychosocial interventions, and medication.
This guide contains information on how to become a psychiatrist, including education requirements, licensure, salary expectations, and specialties. In addition to establishing private practices, psychiatrists work in different settings depending on their specialization.
Psychiatrists study rigorously for years before becoming licensed. A psychiatrist is a medical doctor, which means that they go to medical school after earning their undergraduate degrees. Depending on the state, they must also complete a residency program, complete two or more years of supervised practice, and meet other requirements for licensure.
What Does a Psychiatrist Do?
Psychiatry Career Basics
Psychiatrists spend much of their time with patients during the course of their workday. They review treatment protocols while away from their patients and keep meticulous notes about their progress.
A psychiatrist working in a medical hospital regularly consults with other professionals to make sure a patient’s treatment plan is being followed, or to adjust it if necessary. In rehabilitation clinics, psychiatrists regularly meet with a patient’s family and support group to keep them informed and engage them in the treatment process.
Psychiatry Careers In-Depth
Psychiatrists usually work hours that are determined by their employer. In private practice, psychiatrists are usually available during regular business hours, while psychiatrists at hospitals are typically on call. In addition to their regular working hours, many psychiatrists are available for emergency consultations.
Psychiatrists can specialize in treating specific conditions, such as addiction or depression. Others specialize in working with a certain demographic, such as children or veterans. Psychiatrists typically work in multiple settings, including private practice, hospital visits, and outpatient clinics.
Steps to Becoming a Psychiatrist
The process of becoming a psychiatrist consists of several steps. Professional development requires considerable time and money, careful planning, and an ongoing commitment to education. For a realistic view on how to become a psychiatrist, read the steps below.
Complete a Bachelor’s Degree Program
The first step to becoming a psychiatrist is to receive a bachelor’s degree from an accredited institution. If you are planning to attend medical school, it would be wise to focus on premed, physical sciences, or psychology – or combine all three by taking a double major or minor.
At this time, there are no U.S. colleges or universities that offer a pre-med major. Many colleges and universities offer premed tracks, including New York City College of Technology, Pepperdine University, and Georgetown University. Psychology, biology, and chemistry are popular undergraduate majors for aspiring psychiatrists instead of pre-med. Generally, academic advisors recommend a program with intensive laboratory sessions, relevant internship opportunities, and comprehensive classroom instruction in subjects such as human anatomy, the nervous system, and pharmacology.
Take the Medical College Admissions Test
Following that, students must take the medical college admission test (MCAT). Medical schools evaluate a student’s whole application, but a passing MCAT score is a basic requirement for consideration. Scores of 511 points (out of 528 total points) are considered acceptable by most schools.
Complete an M.D. or D.O. Program
When accepted to medical school, students typically receive the same basic instruction regardless of whether they intend to become an MD (medical doctor) or D.O. (doctor of osteopathy). An M.D. specializes in allopathic treatments that address specific symptoms of the disease. A D.O. views the body as an integrated whole and instead of treating symptoms, focuses on lifestyle and medicine. Students begin a residency in a specialty of their choice following medical school. Psychiatry residency programs are typically four years long.
Earn and Maintain Licensed and Board Certified
It is a requirement in all states that doctors, including psychiatrists, obtain a license before they can practice unsupervised. Psychologists must also become certified by the American Board of Psychiatry and Neurology (ABPN). State requirements for maintaining and renewing a license vary, but most require doctors to earn a minimum number of continuing education credits to stay in good standing. ABPN Certification renewal conditions depend on the specialty area of a psychiatrist but are generally required every 10 years.
After completing their residency, psychiatry students can choose a subspecialty. Subspecialties usually require an additional year of fellowship, although some may require longer. Child/adolescent psychiatry fellowships, for instance, typically require completing two years of fellowship training. Fellows earn certificates in their subspecialty upon completion of a fellowship program.
Currently, the ACGME recognizes eight psychiatric subspecialties, including addiction medicine, child and adolescent psychiatry, consultation-liaison psychiatry, and forensic psychiatry. In spite of the fact that psychiatrists can practice without a sub-specialty, many choose to spend an additional year or two studying and training in a field that interests them.
A subspecialty allows psychiatrists to specialize in working with a particular population or environment. It is their duty to stay abreast of the latest developments in treatment options and pharmacological solutions that work best for patients within their area of specialization. Psychiatrists with a subspecialty can still treat patients outside their specialized fields, increasing their employability and increasing their client base.
Components of a Successful Psychiatrist Career
Psychiatrist Required Skills
In addition to retaining a professional demeanor and objectivity, psychiatrists should demonstrate empathy and compassion towards patients. Moreover, they must be able to create a non-threatening physical and emotional environment for their patients that evokes trust and openness. In order to help patients cope with mental, emotional, and even physical struggles, psychiatrists need well-developed critical and analytical thinking skills.
Studies of the human brain and its functions have contributed to the practice of psychiatry, including improving treatment protocols and expanding pharmacological options. In order to maintain or renew their license, psychiatrists are required to enroll in continuing education courses. As a result, psychiatrists are well informed about the latest developments and applications in their field.
Psychiatrists can now make use of advanced medical software designed specifically to meet their needs. The SoftPsych Psychiatric Diagnosis, for instance, allows psychiatrists to compile a thorough psychiatric history, formulate a diagnosis, determine treatment options, and maintain accurate medical records.