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Education Requirements to Become a Psychiatrist

Majors Overview January 18, 2013

Disorders of the mind are treated by specialist doctors called psychiatrists. To follow a career path as a psychiatrist, an aspiring candidate will need to complete postsecondary and postgraduate levels of training and education for twelve years or more. Also, a prospective psychiatrist will need to satisfy licensure norms before being allowed to practice their profession in private practice, hospitals or clinical environment.

Psychiatrist Education Prerequisites

Bachelor Degree

Undergraduate study serves to prepare prospective psychiatrists for medical school. Several medical schools require prospective students to complete a bachelor degree program in scientific disciplines such as physics and organics chemistry among others such as liberal arts and humanities (source: Association of American Medical Colleges ( An undergraduate degree in biology or chemistry will serve the student’s requirement; however, if a student is capable of completing all the prerequisite courses, the concentration area of the bachelor degree will not matter. Students are also required to complete classes in anatomy, communications, advanced mathematics, among other related fields.

Doctor of Medicine

Medical school admission criteria require applicants to pass the Medical College Admissions Test (MCAT). Problem-solving, critical thinking and writing skills are measured in this standardized examination that tests the knowledge of scientific concepts, which is needed to succeed in medical school. MCAT scores are also considered by admission committees of medical schools alongside personal character, life experience, extracurricular participation, letters of recommendation, and undergraduate transcripts. Four years of education and training are required to be completed by students enrolling in a Doctor of Medicine degree program. Prospective psychiatrists are imparted the same training as students enrolled in courses relating to other branches of medicine. Coursework often includes medical ethics, psychology, pharmacology, biochemistry, physiology and anatomy. Students get hands on training in clinical settings, during the last two years of medical school, which they receive exposure to various fields of medicine including psychiatry, pediatrics, surgery, obstetrics, and family practice.

Clinical Residency in Psychiatry

Medical school graduates are imparted additional training to prepare them for careers in psychiatry via a psychiatric residency course. Students have to compete to earn admission to residency programs and their performance in medical school and scores on medical board examinations will be taken into account. Residents typically receive salaries for performing work in clinical and hospital settings, apart from practical work; they also have to attend lectures and seminars. In addition, academic studies that will help them stay updated about any advancement in the field. During the first year of the residency program, the residents are given foundational knowledge about substance abuse, psychiatric emergencies, neurology and medicine. During the second year, they are introduced to supervised psychotherapy practice with actual patients. A licensed psychiatrist or physician performs such supervision. In the third year, the focus is on specific topics such as geriatrics, adult or child psychiatry. Usually students develop new areas of professional interest.

Certification and Licensing

In the case of medical doctors, psychiatrists also need to possess licenses to be able to practice in the state of their choice. Such license is granted by the state medical board set up for the purpose. After obtaining the license, they can obtain certification from the board by passing a certification exam such as the one conducted by the American Board of Physician Specialties or the American Board of Psychiatry and Neurology; the certification can relate to general psychiatry or a subspecialty like adolescent, forensic or geriatrics psychiatry, or addiction.

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