How to Become a Psychiatrist

If you are interested in working in the mental health care field, you may be wondering how to become a psychiatrist. These healthcare professionals are medical doctors who have completed specialized training. They may work at a hospital or clinic, or in private practice.

A psychiatrist who works in his or her own office may see patients who are living with anxiety disorders, depression, Attention Deficit Disorder or phobias. Along with providing supportive talk therapy, the psychiatrist may prescribe medications as part the patient’s treatment plan. Psychiatrists who work with patients who have been admitted to hospital will likely be treating patients who have more serious psychiatric issues, such as schizophrenia.

Education Required to Become a Psychiatrist

Your first step on the road to become a psychiatrist is to complete an undergraduate degree. Medical schools look for well-rounded candidates who have an interest in serving others. Good communication skills are also important for future psychiatrists, since a lot of their work involves listening to patients and interpreting their symptoms to diagnose a mental health condition and offer appropriate treatment.

Majoring in pre-med or biology is not a strict requirement for admission to medical school. You may want to choose another science or mathematics as a major. Some applicants to medical school obtained a degree in humanities as an undergrad, and this can benefit you if you are planning to become a psychiatrist, since these subjects focus on the human condition.

Before you can apply to medical school, you will need to write the Medical School Admission Test (MCAT). This is a standardized test which measures a prospective medical student’s critical thinking and problem-solving skills, as well as his or her knowledge of science concepts. The MCAT score is part of the package of application materials you would submit to the medical schools you would like to attend.

Once you have been admitted to medical school, you will take courses similar to the following:

• Applied Biochemistry
• Brain and Behavior
• Cardiovascular System
• Human Anatomy
• Human Health and Disease
• Multi-systemic Infections
• Renal/Genitourinary System
• Respiratory System

Medical students also complete clinical rotations in different areas of medicine, including surgery, obstetrics/gynecology, pediatrics, and psychiatry, as part of their education.

Once you have completed medical school, you will need to complete a four-year residency program. You would write the United States Medical Licensing Exam at this point.

After becoming a licensed physician, you may choose to complete a fellowship in a specific area, such as child and adolescent, addiction, geriatric, forensic or psychosomatic psychiatry. Depending on the area of study, the fellowship may last for one or more years. You would then prepare for and write the Medical Board exam for your specialty. If you are planning to work in a hospital, you will probably need to be certified.

Psychiatrists complete several years of post-secondary education and training to prepare for their work with patients. If your goal is to become a psychiatrist, you will be devoting a considerable amount of time, effort and money toward reaching it.

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