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How to Become a Psychiatrist

Doctor and young woman patient talking to each other.

Do you think you want to become a psychiatrist? Education wise this is a long and arduous pathway. A psychiatrist is a licensed physician who treats mental illness by prescribing various medications and also using psychotherapy (behavioral modification).

You should have good grades from high school and have taken a lot of science and math courses and do well on your college entrance exam (SAT/ACT). You’ll need to take pre-med during your undergraduate program which involves more math (calculus), physics, inorganic chemistry and organic chemistry. Students generally choose undergraduate majors in biology, chemistry, engineering or psychology. You’ll study your major courses in your 3rd and 4th years. Your graduate program will be in medical school and you will specialize in psychiatry. You bachelor’s degree should have a high grade point average and you should have a high MCAT score. Practice for your MCAT before you take it and in fact you may want to take a course in it to ensure success.Doctor and young woman patient talking to each other.

Psychiatrist Education

A psychiatrist goes through the same training as doctors do. You have an option as to whether you want to get a Doctor of Osteopathic Medicine (DO) or Doctor of Medicine (MD) degree. You’ll have to pass internal medicine, neurology, surgery, emergency medicine, obstetrics, family practice and pediatrics.

You’ll need to determine what sub-specialty you want to go in. Some of the options are addition psychiatry (i.e. gambling, alcohol, drugs, food and sex), child and adolescent psychiatry, geriatric psychiatry, emergency psychiatry, Forensics psychiatry or neuropsychiatry.

Next, you need to intern or what is referred to as residency in a hospital or clinic. This can run anywhere from 1 to 7 years depending on what your sub-specialty is. This is when you get hands-on experience with patients under the supervision of licensed physicians. Your internship will include rotations in general medicine, neurology, psychiatry and various medical electives. Chances are you’ll work in a psychiatric ward working with patients that have clinical depression, obsessive-compulsive disorder, various psychoses, schizophrenia, anxiety, dementia, sleep disorders and post-traumatic stress disorder.

Psychiatrist Licensing

Once your finish you internship, you’ll need to get licensed in the state where you will practice. You’ll need to take the United States Medical Licensing Examination which is required by the American Psychiatric Association (APA). Each state has slightly different requirements which has to do with state laws.

You can be certified by the American Board of Psychiatry and Neurology (ABPN) or the American Osteopathic Board of Neurology and Psychiatry (AOBNP). Get the certification that applies to your field of psychiatry.

Now you’re ready to find employment. Try to apply to as many places as you can in hospitals and psychiatric clinics. Clinics and hospitals provide for more stability and structure to your work but the working hours are long. However, you can set up your own private practice. It may be difficult to get patients at first but your working time is more civilized.

Psychiatrist Images

Photo by: endostock

Susan Ardizzoni

Susan Ardizzoni

Professor Susan Ardizzoni

Susan has studied at the University of Texas Medical Branch Marine Biomedical Institute in Galveston, Texas and the University of South Florida in Tampa and received a Ph.D. in Biology with a major in Neuroscience and minors in physics and mathematics. Area of research is in brain transplantation and behavior testing with twenty years of teaching experience. Fields of interest include the physical basis of memory and learning, brain repair and regeneration as well as neuro-development. As an educator, has taught thousands of students at the college level in anatomy and physiology, biology, microbiology, marinebiology, nutrition, communications, radiography, ultrasound, mathematics and physics. She enjoys reading current scientific literature and simplifying the material making it readily available to the public.
Susan Ardizzoni

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