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Psychiatrist Job Description

Psychiatrists are medical doctors who specialize in the field of psychiatry. They use a variety of techniques to treat patients with mental illnesses. Psychiatrists can prescribe medications to patients or treat them with psychotherapy or psychoanalysis which involves conversations with patients and analysis of patients’ problems. In some cases, patients need more than counseling and psychiatrists often prescribe medication to these patients to help chemically alleviate their symptoms. Through both medication and therapy methods, patients learn ways to cope and overcome their issues. Psychiatrists can also recommend that some patients be hospitalized. Many psychiatrists refer patients to psychologists or other mental health professionals and spend their workdays primarily managing patients who are taking psychiatric medications.

Psychiatrists often work alongside other psychiatrists in group practices or hospitals and other health professionals including social workers, psychologists, nurses and physicians who specialize in different areas of medicine. Psychiatrists can specialize in various areas of psychiatry such as addiction, pediatric, geriatric, and neuropsychiatry.

The working environment of a psychiatrist varies. Many psychiatrists are self-employed and work in private office settings where they meet with patients individually. Some psychiatrists work in hospitals and clinics and others spend their careers teaching and researching. In private practices, the workplace is often comfortable and relaxed, but in hospitals, there are usually many patients to treat and psychiatrists are under a great deal of stress. The schedule of a psychiatrist can be erratic, as some in the field work long hours and often at night and on the weekends to accommodate patients, especially when employed in a psychiatric hospital.

Prospective psychiatrists should have a caring and compassionate nature since they will be dealing with patients who have mental illnesses. Psychiatrists must also enjoy working with people, and if they run their own practice, be prepared to act in a managerial capacity.

Psychiatrist Duties

On a daily basis, psychiatrists might perform the following duties:

  • Meeting with clients and assessing them
  • Engaging in psychotherapy sessions with patients
  • Prescribing psychiatric medications or managing patients who take medications

How To Become A Psychiatrist

Becoming a psychiatrist involves earning a degree from an accredited university as a medical doctor (M.D.) or a doctor of osteopathy (D.O.), and then completing a four-year residency. Once these educational criteria have been met, a written and oral examination must be passed. After passing the test, a psychiatrist can apply for board certification and practice as a psychiatrist.

How Long Does It Take To Become A Psychiatrist?

It will take about 12 years to complete all of the requirements to become a psychiatrist. The first four years are spent as undergraduate earning a bachelor’s degree. Then, the next four years are spent in medical school. After schooling is completed, a four-year residency working in the medical field is necessary. If a psychiatrist wishes to specialize, it could take another two years of training beyond the mandatory 12 years.

Education Requirements

In order to become a psychiatrist, many years of schooling must be completed. First, one needs to earn a bachelor’s degree. There is no specified major, but those wishing to become psychiatrists should have a background in science and compete all health and science prerequisites including chemistry, biology, and physics. Next, students must apply to medical school. This process usually involves achieving above average scores on the Medical College Admission Test (MCAT) and providing letters of recommendation in order to be accepted. Getting into a medical school is extremely competitive, so prospective students must strive to receive excellent grades as undergraduates. During medical school, students will take more classes and complete clinical rotations in a variety of areas such as family medicine, neurology, and women’s health.

After graduating from medical school, there is a four-year residency that is necessary. It is mandatory that three of those years be spent in psychiatry. During a residency program, psychiatrists spend their time in clinics and hospitals training and developing their skills.


Psychiatrists should become board certified through the American Board of Psychiatry and Neurology (ABPN). In order to become board certified, graduates of psychiatric programs must pass a one day exam that includes a written and an oral portion. Certification must be renewed every ten years. There are also many sub-specialties that psychiatrists can become certified in. Certifications are available in such areas as addiction psychiatry, child and adolescent psychiatry, and geriatric psychiatry.


Each state has specific licensing requirements for psychiatrists. To become state licensed, one must have fulfilled all educational obligations and pass a state board exam. Since every state has different rules and regulations, it is important to check the guidelines in your state.

Job Outlook

The job outlook for psychiatrists is projected to be very good until 2020, and the field is expected to grow by 24%. The faster than average increase is due to the growing awareness of mental illness and the fact that more people are seeking help. Detailed Psychiatrist salary data is available here.

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