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How To Become A Psychiatrist

Updated on July 28, 2011

There are a lot of people who are interested in psychology as a career. This may be, in part, because the human mind is so fascinating. If you are truly interested, you need to know how to become a psychiatrist. It is important to understand what all is required to become successful in this highly rewarding field of work.

Step One: Education

The first step in you journey is to earn your psychology degree. You will start by attending an undergraduate school. You need to have a bachelor's degree from a four year school. While you do not have to have a specific major, most students prefer to major in Psychology, or something related to their chosen career field.

When you have your bachelor's degree, you must then earn a medical degree, in order to become a psychiatrist. You will attend medical school the same as surgeons and doctors. Most medical schools take four years to complete, typically divided into two parts. The first part, lasting two years, is classroom study, and labs. The second part, which lasts the remainder of the time, is when you gain supervised clinical experience. You will learn about pathology, pharmacology, anatomy, and how to diagnose patients and give medical exams.

Step Two: After School

Eight years of school, and you are ready to go out on your own and be a psychiatrist, right? Not yet. After you finish medical school you must still do your residency. You are required to have at least four years of post doctoral training in a residency program. During your residency period you are required to work in a hospital and gain clinical practice. As a beginning psychiatrist you will be paid for your work.

Once you have completed a residency program, you have another important step. You must become licensed. The American Psychiatric Association requires that all psychiatrist have to become state licensed physicians. You can do this only when you take and pass the U.S. Medical Licensing Exam. The licensing procedures and license maintenance will vary from state to state. You must also get a federal narcotics license and register with the Drug Enforcement Agency, before you can prescribe medications to your patients.

At this point, you are a licensed psychiatrist, and you can open your own practice and have a good career. However, there is still more training, if you decide to have a sub-specialty. If you would like to specialize in a particular field of psychiatry, it may require an additional year of training in whatever sub-specialty you choose. Keep in mind, however, that this is completely optional.

Now you know how to become a psychiatrist. It is definitely not for everyone, as it takes years of hard work and dedication. If it is a career field that you are truly passionate about, then you should consider it. A lot of people who are interested in psychiatry attend an undergraduate school. After they complete four years of college, some may decide just to use their degree in another career field. That is one of the great things about psychiatry, you have four years to determine if you want to go to medical school or not. In the end, even if you decide against medical school, you still have a college degree to show for all your effort.


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    • Ered profile image

      Ered 6 years ago from Boston

      Thanks for the advice. It has inspired me to write a hub about Psychology to clearify the difference. I have linked the hub at the end of this article.

    • Aficionada profile image

      Aficionada 6 years ago from Indiana, USA

      Psychology and psychiatry both are very interesting and important fields, and I think you would serve your readers best to be very clear on the differences between them - differences in what their practioners actually do, as well as differences in education and credentials. Many of your readers may not understand the difference, and this article really does not make the difference clear - at this point. I hope you will revise it. :)