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How long does it really take to become a Psychiatrist?

I really wish to know.

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Kess’s Answer

Good question!

All psychiatrists are physicians. So either an MD or a DO degree is required. Both of these are 4-year schools that usually need a bachelor's Degree to get in as well as the MCAT (medical college admissions test).

High School Diploma (or GED, CHSPE) - 4 years
Bachelor's Degree (make sure you get the prerequisites for med school!) - 4 years
Medical School (either MD or DO granting) - 4 years (some are a 5-year program but that's not common)
Residency - 4 years

In total (not including high school), 12 years. Residency is paid though so only 8 years of tuition.

Kess recommends the following next steps:

Choose a degree plan that meets the requirements for medical school. This is a general information site: https://www.kaptest.com/study/mcat/medical-school-requirements-prerequisites/
Complete as many classes as you can at the local community college (make sure they transfer!) - Baltimore City Community College https://www.bccc.edu/careerpathways
Then transfer to a university to finish the bachelor's degree.
Prepare for and take the MCAT https://students-residents.aamc.org/taking-mcat-exam/taking-mcat-exam#
Apply for medical school. And the most important.... You can do it!! Keep going!!
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Lesly’s Answer

Hello! Typically, it takes around 12 years to finish all the needed steps to become a psychiatrist: four years for obtaining a bachelor's degree, another four years for finishing medical school, and a final four years to finish a residency and get certified. Best of luck!
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Bianca’s Answer

Hi Aniya,

This is a tough question to answer because truly it all depends on you. But average time it takes after you graduate high school is 12 years. Which is 4 years of a related undergrad, 4 years of medical school, and 4 years in a psychiatric residency program. But you could finish sooner, if you are great with time management.

However, from my own personal experience in studying psychology to the point where I should have a master's in it now, (but I am choosing a different path) is that it all depends on how you do in studying it, how you are as a student, and if you absolutely love it. Because psychology is actually very challenging for many, many people. What helped me is that I had prior experience with psychology so it just came easy.

On the bright side, psychology is a very, very, very good choice for an undergrad; you will have countless options of where you can work. In my opinion, it is just as good as a business undergrad. But business is boring!

After I graduated with my degree in applied psychology, I got a really high paying job right away and countless job requests, offers, and interviews. Actually, I was quite shocked because I felt me finally surrendering and getting a degree in psychology was so basic, lame, and honestly I did not think I would get work with this degree. Everyone I knew personally at school wanted to get this degree too. What is strange though, is I am one of the only people in my class that stuck with it. I studied SO much psychology, just trying to understand the human brain so I could try to understand my "abnormal" brain. Which I loved abnormal psychology, great class just to let you know if you do go through with pursuing a career in psychology. I did not give up even if it was really hard. Why? Because I loved what I was learning. But still, there are no clear cut answers in psychology, so do not choose this path is you are a control freak. You will literally go insane. You also have to know statistics very well, which is a form of math. Math has always been my weaker subject so I absolutely hate it. But when I was required to take statistics classes, I enjoyed it very much. It is still extremely difficult but it was still really really cool to learn.

My advice to you, (you can take it or leave it), focus on getting an undergrad in psychology and see how you like it. You may find out you hate it and be stuck there. Try to educate yourself as much as possible in psychology before you even go to college and learn what psychiatrist. I have had many friends who wanted to be psychiatrist, but when it came down to it they realized prescribing medications was scary and too much responsibility. Plus, most of them just did not find a population group they sincerely wanted to work with, psychology did not resonate with them.

I am going to give it to you straight, becoming a psychiatrist will not be easy but rather may be the hardest thing you do with your life. So, take some psychology classes, watch videos, read books, and just educate yourself as much as possible. As a psychiatrist, you are required to know every medication out there. Because you may never know who you get as a client.

For example, my psychiatrist specializes in children with behavior disorders. I did not pick her, my insurance assigned me to her for some reason. I have noticed every time we talk she feels stressed because I am a full grown adult trying to manage my most serious mental illness, bipolar disorder. I can sense she has the knowledge to help me but I am certain she looks up many, many questions I ask her. Our sessions are only supposed to be 15 to 30 minutes, but we often take up to over an hour just trying to figure out my medications. Because of this, I can tell she might have NO prior experience with bipolar disorder. But what matters, is that she tries her best, she loves her job, and she does truly help me. I have told her many times how grateful I am for her.

So some other advice I can give you is, find an internship or volunteer opportunity with a psychiatrist . See how their daily work schedules go. But most importantly, be mindful of how it makes you feel being in this environment. Then identify whether your feelings are negative, positive, or neutral. Hopefully, it is positive after you gain some experience in the field before you commit to those 12 years of school. This is exactly what I did when I wanted to be a therapist (it is not as much schooling but is very close). I actually worked as a therapist and I hated it. Why you may ask? Because there is no instant results even after working with my clients for months. I worked as therapist for almost over a year and the improvements I saw in my clients were so small. The company I worked for told me this is how therapy goes. I realized there was no instant gratification from working as a therapist, it did not feel rewarding to me at all.

Now, I am actively pursuing a career in law. Which will be amazing because my applied psychology degree will help me understand why people do what they do. Also, why people are mean, why they yell at me, and how they discourage me. I worked in two law offices and this is exactly what happened me. It was extremely hard, but I loved working there if I am being honest. Even if they all were assholes, I loved every second of working in a law office and just being there was so exciting for me. I am not afraid of a challenge if it something I am passionate about. I have no prior experience in the law, but I have already been accepted into law school. I am so excited, I cannot wait to start in the spring! This is how you should feel if you know you are on the right path. To the point where you daydream about being a psychiatrist and if it makes you excited and motivated, go for it, my dear!

There is this beautiful song called Daydream by Lily Meola which has helped me A LOT choosing this path in law. In the song, she says:

We all got these big ideas,
One day they're replaced with fears
It's your life that you're making
It ain't big enough if it doesn't scare the hell out of you
If it makes you nervous
It's probably worth it

My path makes me extremely nervous and I have big dreams with what I want to do with my law degree, it feels so exciting to me! I am sorry if you do not believe in a higher power, but I feel this must be said. I am a strong believer but have struggled maintaining my faith. But God has revealed herself/himself to me countless times. If you do not believe in God, I pray and hope you believe in the power of the universe. My point for this is, look for the signs this is the right path for you. There are so many signs I noticed when I thought of giving up on law that told me not to. I am scared of failure of course, but this should not stop me and it should not stop you. In fact, you may even fail but that does not make you a failure or loser. What makes you a failure or loser is that you stop trying to pursue something you love. You will grow up to be bitter and sad that you missed opportunities. I have met many old people who let their dreams slip away because they were scared or they had no resources like money. I am not wealthy and most likely will have to pull out loans for law school, which will suck. But this is my dream and goal in life and I will do anything it takes to finish. Like my Pastor says, I have God-size dreams and I am not going to stop until my dreams become a reality. This is how motivated I feel to pursue this path. Once you expose yourself to the field, you should feel this way too.

Choosing psychology as a degree in your undergrad is a good first step. Then look for opportunities in your school to either get an internship, volunteer, maybe even a paid job! That would be awesome! This is exactly what I did and I was so glad I utilized the tools at my school to be successful.


So, in the end, you may struggle getting this degree. But if you have the heart, willingness, and love for helping people who are suffering with mental illness or other issues this career is perfect for you! There is definitely an extremely high demand for these type of doctors. So you do not have to worry whether or not you will get a job. You most certainly will and I wholeheartedly believe when you are finally done with the education and get into the field, it will be the most rewarding experience when you help someone. I do not want to be an attorney personally cause it can be similar to being a therapist. I would like to be a judge which means I have to work as an attorney for some time. I am okay with this because I love offices, paperwork, records, writing, and reading. I am looking at 5 years ahead of me to finish the J.D. PhD and I do want to get my master's too. I was accepted over a year ago, but I have been worried about the money. At this point, I do not care what it takes I am going to law school, no matter what! I am SO excited and have been dreaming about this since July 11, 2019. This is how you should feel before you start the upper level education.

I hope this helps somehow! I will be sending you great vibes as you navigate this chapter of your life! I do not know you, but if someone like me can make it through, I am absolutely confident you will too! Stay strong, say wonderful things about yourself outload, and utilized the law of attraction! Which just means saying what you want for your life out loud until it is just implanted in your brain. Blessings!
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Brian’s Answer

Hi Aniya,

I'm not a Psychiatrist but do have friends who are in the medical field. As background, you have psychologists and psychiatrists, and while similar, there is a distinct difference:

Psychiatrists can prescribe medication (also referred to as script writing) and thus, all have MD's. Psychiatrists must complete 4 years of medical school + residency (usually 4 years). Some psychiatrists may also do fellowships after their residency, so expect at minimum 8 years of post undergraduate school and training.

Psychologists cannot prescribe medication and thus, all you need is a bachelors. However, most clinical psychologists have advanced degrees (many have PhD's or PsyD's) and specialize in specific areas. While you can be a psychologist without a PhD, I'd plan on getting one to build up your expertise if that is the path you want to take (6+ years post undergraduate)
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