What Degree Is Needed to Be a Psychiatrist?

Psychiatrist Those interested in how people tick often want to learn about the degree needed to be a psychiatrist. Unlike psychologists and counselors, psychiatrists are medical doctors. The dispense medications to help those with mental health issues better navigate the difficulties of life. Because of this, the education path for a psychiatrist requires a heavy emphasis in anatomy, physiology and medicine.

Undergraduate Studies

To become a psychiatrist, you don’t need to follow a specific course of study in your undergraduate work. You will, however, need to complete necessary pre-med requirements. These classes will include things like microbiology, anatomy and physiology, and chemistry. Although it isn’t necessary to become a psychiatrist, you may wish to major in one of the social sciences such as psychology to help inform your work later.

Medical School

After obtaining your bachelor’s degree, you will need to attend medical school if you wish to become a psychiatrist. During the four years of medical school, you will learn the basics of becoming a medical doctor.

Psychiatric Residency

Following medical school, psychiatrists are required to participate in a minimum of four years of residency training. At least three of these years must be spent in psychiatric training as you learn about topics specific to psychiatry. During this time, you will study topics such as

  • Psychopharmocology
  • Psychopathology
  • Psychotherapy methods
  • Substance abuse
  • Transcultural psychiatry

The years of residency are also the time during which most psychiatrists choose a specialization. You might choose to specialize in child psychiatry, treating trauma survivors, geriatric psychiatry, addiction psychiatry, psychosomatic medicine or another related field.

Licensure and Certification

All psychiatrists working in the United States must pass the United States Medical Licensing Examination, and each state sets its own specific licensing requirements. Psychiatrists are also required to obtain a federal narcotics license and register with the Drug Enforcement Administration due to the number of controlled substances they may need to prescribe.

All though it isn’t necessary, most practicing psychiatrists get and maintain board certification with the American Board of Psychiatry and Neurology. This certification has to be renewed periodically, a process that encourages psychiatrists to remain up to date in their practice and continuing education. Continuing education for psychiatrists is available through a variety of workshops, classes and seminars. Many psychiatrists also participate in research projects related to their specializations, and occasional publication in academic journals is a helpful career move as well.

Related Resource: Counselor Salary

Becoming a psychiatrist takes many years and a lot of hard work. However, that work is rewarding as you become an integral part of the recovery process for those in need. Additionally, the pay for psychiatrists is also rewarding. According to the United States Bureau of Labor Statistics, in May of 2013, the average salary for psychiatrists was just over $180,000 per year. Now that you have learned about the degree required to become a psychiatrist, do you think it might be worth the work?