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The Career Path of a Psychiatrist

written by: Destiny Keller•edited by: Wendy Finn•updated: 9/5/2010

Interested in becoming a psychiatrist? This article explains what you need to to do to become one and how to get prepared for each step along the way.

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    What is a Psychiatrist?

    A Psychiatrist is a medical doctor licensed to treat mental and emotional disorders. Unlike Psychologists, they are able to prescribe medications and order hospitalization. Some mental issues they commonly treat are anxiety, depression, sexual disorders, psychosis and other mental disorders. They use many techniques such as group therapy, psychotherapy, and psychotropic therapy (medication) to treat these disorders. Psychiatrists must earn a bachelors degree, then a doctor of medicine degree (MD) and complete at least four years of residency. After this they must be board certified and obtain their license. With these they can practice in all states. This takes at least twelve years after the completion of high school.

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    Earning a Bachelor's Degree

    When embarking on the career path of a psychiatrist, the first part of adult education aspiring psychiatrists must achieve is a Bachelor's degree. This is what they will need to get into medical school. Generally there are no specific majors needed to get into medical school, but some popular choices are Biology, Chemistry, Premed and Psychology. Keep in mind that medical schools are tough to get into, and require many math, biology, and chemistry courses as prerequisites. During this time it is a good idea for them to keep their GPA up to at least a 3.5 or higher. Students should also get some volunteering experience around patients, or have a job related to direct patient care.

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    Medical school

    Once students have obtained their bachelor,s degree, it is time to work on obtaining and M.D. or D.O. (doctor of osteopathy). Medical school usually takes about four years. In general, two years are spent in a classroom style setting with classes such as Anatomy, Physiology, and Medical Law. The next two years are in a clinical style setting where they can become familiarized with specialties, and general clinical practices. Keep in mind that medical school is rigorous and time consuming. One can only truly appreciate medical school if they are interested in what they will be doing.

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    Residency and Board Certification

    If students have a D.O. they will need to complete at least one year of internship before their residency. If students obtained an M.D. they can usually move right into residency. They will need to complete a psychiatric residency usually lasting around four years. This will provide them with the hands on training they need to be successful in their careers under the supervision of licensed psychiatrists. If psychiatrists want to have a specialty, they usually would complete a few more years of residency or a fellowship. Once this is completed they are almost ready to practice! The last important step is to become board certified. Psychiatrists must obtain a valid license so they can practice in all states. This is a written and oral exam that must be retaken every ten years.

    Now that you know the career path of a psychiatrist, good luck in your studies.


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