How to Become a Psychiatrist

Psychiatrist Key Stats
Avg. Salary / year $167,520
Avg. Pay / hour $80.54
Education 4+ Years
Job Outlook 16%

A psychiatrist is a medical doctor who has gained a specialization in the field of mental health.

They work one on one with patients to help them deal with a range of psychological problems.

A psychiatrist will use many methods to help their patients.

They may prescribe drugs, offer counseling, or try alternative treatment methods.

A psychiatrist may see a patient once, or regularly for a longer period of time.

Sometimes this relationship may even last years.

Psychiatrists often help people with mental illnesses like schizophrenia, but may also help people who have been through a traumatic event, or simply need someone to talk to about their emotional problems.

To become a psychiatrist, you’ll need to have really strong communication skills.

You will also need to have a good understanding of people, but also have the ability to distance yourself from their problems as well.

You will need to be very strong, academically speaking, as there is much study involved in becoming a psychiatrist.

Education Requirements to Become a Psychiatrist

To become a psychiatrist, you’ll be faced with a lot of study.

First, you need to get good grades in high school, particularly in math and science.

You will then need to obtain a four-year bachelors degree at a school with a good pre-medicine program.

After you finish college, you’ll need to attend medical school.

Here you will spend four years, completing both theoretical work in the classroom, as well as gaining practical experience with patients.

After medical school you will need to complete a psychiatry residency, which takes another four years to complete.

Here you will start working with patients with psychological illness, and gain some practical insight into the role you will be performing.

Depending on the state you live in, you will be required to sit for licensing exams to work as a doctor and as a psychiatrist.

These rules vary between states.

Psychiatrist Job Description

A psychiatrist works with patients to diagnose and treat a range of psychological problems and illnesses.

A patient is usually referred to a psychiatrist by a medical doctor.

The psychiatrist will meet with a patient initially to obtain a medical history and have a discussion about the patient’s reasons for seeing a psychiatrist.

They may refer the patient to take external tests also.

The next step is to devise a treatment plan.

This could involve taking medications, counseling, group therapy, or other methods.

Some plans are aimed at curing a person of a particular condition.

Others are aimed at helping the patient to live as normal a life as possible.

Some of the tasks of a psychiatrist include:

  • Appointment setting
  • Meeting with patients
  • Developing treatment plans
  • Prescribing drugs
  • Counseling patients
  • Communicating with family members
  • Communicating with colleagues

Many psychiatrists will operate within a specific area.

Some of these include:

  • Addiction psychiatry
  • Adult psychiatry
  • Child psychiatry
  • Forensic psychiatry
  • Neuropsychiatry

Psychiatrist Salary and Career Path

Psychiatrists work in hospitals, consulting suites, nursing homes, or in their own private practices.

After finishing their schooling, most will work for a large organization, such as a hospital, for a few years.

When you first become a psychiatrist, it’s essential to build a good reputation with medical doctors so that you can get referral work later on.

Many end up special practices, like the ones mentioned above.

Some will later become professors and teach psychiatry to young students.

Others may become researchers while some will take on supervisory positions within health care.

Some similar roles a psychiatrist could later work in could be:

The median salary for a psychiatrist is $160,000 a year.

Those working within areas of specialization, or working out of their own consulting rooms, have the potential to earn far more.

The top practitioners earn over $300,000 a year.

If you’re interested in medicine, along with psychology and the inner-workings of the human mind, then psychiatry is a career you may find rewarding.

Deciding to become a psychiatrist opens you up to very strong employment prospects, a high salary, and the opportunity for further professional development later on in your career.

BLSThe below information is based on the 2021 BLS national averages.

  • Annually
  • Monthly
  • Hourly

National Average Salary


Average Salary by State

StateAvg. Annual Salary
District of Columbia$149,570
New Hampshire$319,750
New Jersey$323,820
New Mexico$#
New York$197,730
North Carolina$224,080
Rhode Island$278,630
South Carolina$210,340
South Dakota$198,750
West Virginia$312,560

The top earning state in the field is Missouri, where the average salary is $324,840.

These are the top 5 earning states in the field:

Missouri - $324,840
Maine - $324,220
New Jersey - $323,820
New Hampshire - $319,750
Indiana - $319,550
* Salary information based on the May 2021 Occupational Employment Statistics (OES) Survey for Psychiatrists, OCC Code 29-1223, BLS.
* Employment conditions in your area may vary.

Frequently Asked Questions

What is a psychiatrist?

Psychiatrists are medical doctors specialized in diagnosing and treating mental diseases.

As a psychiatrist, you will help individuals cope with their problems by therapy, but some cases will require medications or hospitalization.

Given the fact that psychiatrists are medical doctors, they can order medical tests and prescribe medication to influence the biochemical causes of mental disorders.

Psychiatrists need great interpersonal and communication skills, empathy and patience.

As a psychiatrist you will work in a hospital, community health care centers, private practices or you can start your own practice.

There are many areas in which you can specialize, such as child psychiatry, addiction psychiatry, geriatric psychology but you have to take into account that each of these specialties requires one or two years of fellowship.

How much does a psychiatrist make?

According to BLS, the average salary for psychiatrists in 2018 was $220,380 but salaries in this field vary depending on the psychiatrist’s expertise, experience, and place of employment.

How much does it cost to become a psychiatrist?

Psychiatrists, like all medical doctors, need a doctor of medicine degree.

Completing an undergraduate program with coursework in chemistry, biology, math, physics, and English and obtaining a passing score at the Medical College Admission Test (MCAT) are required for medical school admission.

An undergraduate program can cost you between $15,000 and more than $60,000 a year depending on the state, school and the program itself.

Competition for medical school is usually strong and a high score at a Medical College Admission Test will set you apart from the crowd.

Medical school will cost around $40,000 a year but tuition costs vary widely depending on the school you choose.

What is the demand for psychiatrists?

According to BLS, the opportunities for psychiatrists will increase by 16 percent from 2018 to 2028.

Prospects will be especially good for psychiatrists who are willing to relocate to underserved areas.

How long does it take to become a psychiatrist?

The process of becoming a psychiatrist involves many years of training.

First, you need a bachelor’s degree.

Although you can go to a medical school with a minimum of three years of undergraduate study, most students who apply for medical school hold a bachelor’s degree.

To get into medical school you need to complete certain science classes like chemistry, biology, microbiology, math, physics and to obtain a passing score at the Medical College Admission Test.

During four years of med school, you will study everything about the human body, from its anatomy to its molecular structure, including DNA and will also gain clinical experience in a variety of medical specialties by working with patients under the supervision of a licensed medical doctor.

Medical school graduates need to complete a residency program in psychiatry for about four years.

If you want to specialize in a particular field, such as child psychiatry, you need to take a fellowship that can last one or two years.

All states require psychiatrists to pass the United States Medical Licensing Examination or the Comprehensive Osteopathic Medical Licensing Exam.

Finally, you must take and pass an exam set by the American Board of Psychiatry and Neurology to receive your certification.

All in all, you need around 12 years of higher learning to become a psychiatrist.

Jamie Willis
Career Specialist at BecomeopediaHi, my name is Jamie Willis, and I have been helping students find their perfect internships and education paths for the last ten years. It is a passion of mine, and there really is nothing better than seeing students of mine succeed with further studies.

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