Deciding on a rewarding and long-term career can be challenging. You might wonder whether the job will bring happiness, financial stability, or a significant amount of hard work.
The mental health industry offers many career paths to choose from. If you have felt the desire to help others psychologically, you may have wondered what a career as a psychiatrist might look like. To decide whether psychiatry is for you, looking at the educational and occupational requirements of this career path can be helpful.
What Are The Job Duties Of A Psychiatrist?
Psychiatrists are mental health professionals and medical doctors (MDs) specializing in mental health. Psychiatry is the medical specialty devoted to diagnosing, preventing, and treating mental health disorders.
Psychiatrists are not psychologists. While both types of professionals are licensed to treat mental illness, psychiatrists require more schooling. They are medical doctors, unlike those with a master's or doctorate. For this reason, they must go through medical school, take board exams, and complete a successful residency. In addition, psychiatrists can prescribe medication, which psychologists cannot do. As doctors, they make a significant amount more than most psychologists.
How Do I Become A Psychiatrist?
There are five steps you must take before being able to practice as a psychiatrist, including the following.
Initial Education Requirements
Upon completion of high school, you must obtain a bachelor's degree. A science degree or pre-med path may be the most beneficial for your undergraduate degree. Taking a pre-med course can put you on track for medical school.
Courses that can prepare you for medical school, such as chemistry, math, physics, and biology, may be crucial to take in your first four years to meet later requirements and ensure you have experience. Getting involved in the medical field as early as possible can also be a strategic move. For example, you can volunteer or work at a hospital or a clinic to gain hands-on experience.
Toward the end of your college career, med schools require the MCAT, a standardized entrance exam like the high school SAT and ACT exams.
After college, the next four years of prep are devoted to medical school. You earn a Doctor of Medicine (MD) degree upon graduating from medical school. Medical school courses are the same for all medical students in the beginning, but you may be able to specialize in psychiatry throughout your studies. At the end of school, you'll apply for residency and choose your area of focus.
After graduating from medical school, newly graduated doctors complete residency at a clinic or a hospital. Most residency programs last four years and help doctors specialize in their chosen field, though they may also offer broad training for other disciplines.
You begin your residency learning general practices but can study under a psychiatrist at your institution. Other doctors supervise you, and you may begin to treat the mental health conditions you may encounter when you break off to practice independently.
Each state has medical boards and licensure requirements doctors must meet to obtain their licenses. To become a licensed psychiatrist, you must finish your residency and take your state's medical examinations.
In the United States, the American Board of Psychiatry and Neurology works with some psychiatrists and neurologists. Becoming certified through this board is a way to show your patients your expertise and increase employment opportunities. To remain on the board, you may be required to take continued education courses or participate in training to stay current on the best practices for your patients.
What Is A Career In Psychiatry Like?
Once you've done the work to become a psychiatrist, the next step is finding a job and beginning the next chapter in your career. You may expect to spend some time working with patients to find medications that treat symptoms. However, you may also offer psychotherapy or work with other psychiatrists to conduct research.
As a psychiatrist, you'll specialize in the physical brain and how it interacts with behavior. Your training can prepare you to analyze a patient's health history, risks, and potential responses to treatment. You might diagnose mental health disorders, help your clients understand their symptoms, and prescribe medication.
The demand for psychiatrists is high, second to general care practitioners. Many areas lack knowledgeable and trained psychiatrists who can support patients. As a psychiatrist, there may be many options for work, whether you decide to open your own practice or work in a hospital or clinic.
How Much Do Psychiatrists Make?
Salary may be a vital aspect of a career path for some, especially because becoming a psychiatrist requires extensive schooling and preparation. Psychiatrists are often paid higher than other mental health professionals due to being doctors. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the mean hourly wage for a psychiatrist in 2023 is $120.08, and the mean annual wage is $249,760.
Discovering Your Career Options
Deciding your career can be up to you and the level of commitment you want to put into a future job. Overall, from the beginning of school to the end of residency, some psychiatrists spend about 12 to 14 years studying. Still, the ability to help those experiencing mental health disorders can be advantageous. As you navigate the benefits and drawbacks of becoming a psychiatrist, you might find it helpful to seek the advice of a mental health professional like a career counselor.
If you have a busy schedule and struggle to find time for an in-person meeting with a professional, you can also try online career counseling through a platform like BetterHelp. Because you can speak with a therapist from the comfort of your home, you can save yourself the time, money, and effort that often goes into pursuing traditional counseling options.
Studies back up the effectiveness of online counseling in treating various challenges. One study analyzing the efficacy of online therapy in reducing psychological distress among university students found that the treatment can produce noticeable improvements in symptoms. A counselor can guide you if you are experiencing stress surrounding your career options, schooling, or schedule.
What strand should I take if I want to be a psychiatrist?
The requirements for earning a degree in psychiatry are science-forward and require taking a medical college admissions test to earn a medical degree— therefore, STEM (science, technology, engineering, mathematics) is the preferred strand for psychiatric research.
Why do people want to be a psychiatrist?
While helping people cultivate better mental health and well-being is among the most typical reasons people cite for practicing psychiatry, there are several others. Many people enjoy learning about psychiatry, finding the study of the human mind and behavior fascinating. Some appreciate the freedom that psychiatry offers to work in many different settings.
Others find it beneficial to apply the principles and phenomena they learn in psychiatry to learn more about themselves. For people who've been exposed to issues in the family, such as mental illness or substance abuse, studying psychiatry may help them understand more about their own experiences and cultivate empathy for others.
How many years does it take to study psychology?
How long it takes to become a psychologist often depends on the individual and course load they carry. On average, it takes four or five years of undergraduate courses followed by two to seven years of postgraduate studies, depending on the type of graduate degree and area of specialization.
How long is psychiatry specialization?
It typically takes 12+ years to become a psychiatrist, depending on the medical schools' requirements for postgraduate and psychiatry residency requirements (most medical schools require four years of each). After four years of undergraduate studies, one must take four years of medical school, then another four to complete residency and earn board certification.
Is psychiatry a stressful profession?
As with most medical disciplines, psychiatry can be a stressful profession. The level of education required to obtain a degree is typically highly challenging. Psychiatrists work long hours while completing the residency program, often in potentially confrontational, high-stress areas like emergency psychiatric care.
After education and training, psychiatrists must remain mindful of the possibility that their patient's mental health conditions can have long-term effects on their own well-being. They must also contend with violence or the threat of violence, high work demands, workplace conflict, limited resources, and crowded inpatient wards. As a result, psychiatrists must take preventive measures and implement interventional strategies to avoid burnout.
What is the highest degree in psychiatry?
The highest degree one can earn in psychiatry is a doctorate. That said, students may also pursue areas of specialization requiring further study and additional doctorate degrees. After earning an advanced degree, psychiatric students must then take the medical licensing examination to earn a medical license and practice medicine in their state of choice.
Where is the best place to be a psychiatrist?
While some research suggests that Alaska is the best state to practice psychiatry in the US, it is difficult to provide a concrete answer because what is best will be a subjective experience for each individual. Some may look for where psychiatrists receive the highest salary, while others prefer to focus on overall quality of life.
Where do psychiatrists make the most?
As of 2023, psychologyjobs.com cited San Mateo, California as the highest-paying city for psychiatrists to work. South Dakota is the highest-paying state. For perspective, a psychiatrist in San Mateo can expect to earn an average of $318,915 annually. A psychiatrist practicing in South Dakota may make an annual average salary of $383,934.
Is psychiatry a specialization?
Psychiatry is a specialized branch of medicine focusing on diagnosing, treating, and preventing mental health disorders. A psychiatrist must qualify as a medical doctor, but beyond that, they may choose to receive extra specialized training for studying specific disciplines.
Geriatric psychiatry, forensic psychiatry, addiction psychiatry, and adolescent psychiatry are examples of students' options when choosing a psychiatrist career path. Some also choose to specialize in inpatient care in psychiatric hospitals or treat patients with specific mental health conditions such as behavioral disorders or psychosis.
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