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Psychiatrist career ladder...

What are the steps ( in chronological order) to becoming a psychiatrist? I understand that one must achieve a bachelor's degree, go to med-school, and complete a residency, but I am not sure what order these steps should be taken in.

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Annette’s Answer

Hello! You have the basic steps to becoming a psychiatist and the order correct. Following high school where you would want to take some biology and chemistry courses if available to prepare you for what would most likely be a pre-med major in a four-year university towards a BS degree. You would also need to take the medical aptitude test called MCAT in addition to getting the best grades possible in your bachelor’s program in order to get into a good medical school. In medical school you will have your coursework as well as hands-on experience in a hospital setting. Following medical school, you will take the state boards to get licensed as a medical doctor and then go onto your graduate education and residency in your chosen speciality of psychiatry. You would then need to take state boards in your specialty to qualify you to practice psychiatry in your state. Most doctors start their careers in hospital settings to get the experience and then may go off into private practice on their own or with a larger group of doctors. Hope this helps.

Annette recommends the following next steps:

I am assuming you are in high school so a good next step would be to research college pre-med programs.
Thank you comment icon Totally agree with above answer. I wanted to add that I strongly recommend shadowing a psychiatrist and other healthcare professionals in the psych field such as a nurse practitioner/physician assistant, nurses, technicians etc. This will give you more insight on what to expect and what to look forward to. For example, I recently learned about the Applied Behavior Analysis Therapist and Board Certified Behavior Analyst certifications which I did not know about when I was in school. Good luck with your future endeavors! Rawan Zeidan, M.S., PA-C
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Tanaz’s Answer

Hi Trenity!

Looks like some great answers already and I'll just add a little more info.

The path of education is:
high school ---> undergraduate college (a BS or BA degree) ---> graduate college where you can study at a Masters level then Doctoral level

For a career as a psychiatrist, you will want to go to undergraduate college first and pick a major in something that will help make sure that you meet medical school requirements (these often include lots of science, math)- which includes doing very well with your grades. I am a faculty and administrator for a bachelor's program in psychology and we've had plenty of students go on to medical school from our program. Just keep in mind, whatever major you pick, you want to do well academically: medical school admission is very competitive with most students earning GPAs that are close to a 4.0. Competitive college students applying to medical school also volunteer and seek out undergraduate internships to help show their interest and commitment to the field in places like hospitals. But there is a predicted shortage of doctors coming to our nation and we need more good doctors! We especially need more doctors who also understand mental health issues and some training with mental health is becoming part of medical school already.

Now, a very specific type of doctor is a psychiatrist. A Psychiatrist is a medical doctor with a lot of extra training in mental health. Since they are also medical doctors, they can prescribe medications. See the answers above for more about becoming a psychiatrist.

If you want to help people with mental health struggles or needs, there are other careers that might also be worth exploring. For example, a licensed clinical psychologist is a highly trained professional that also works on assessing and treating individuals. Many clinical psychologists spend about the same time in school as medical doctors and also hold a doctoral degree (usually a Psy.D.). There are also licensed therapists, professional licensed counselors, licensed social workers, and more. These careers are licensed by states to provide mental health support. The level of education, training, and licensing varies for each role--- but these roles often work together to manage cases.

I've put a few links below for further exploration.

Good luck on your educational journey!
:-) Tanaz

Tanaz recommends the following next steps:

Visit this to learn more about becoming a psychiatrist: https://www.goodtherapy.org/for-professionals/personal-development/become-a-therapist/article/psychiatry-101-how-to-become-psychiatrist
Visit this page to learn more about the differences between different mental health providers: https://www.webmd.com/mental-health/guide-to-psychiatry-and-counseling
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Kess’s Answer

Hi Trenity!

Great question! The process can be a bit confusing. Here is the general breakdown though:

1. Complete high school

2. Research what college you want to go to for your bachelor's degree. Most medical schools will consider any degree as long as you've completed the prerequisites for the med school.
(I have a bachelor's in biomedical science with minors in chemistry and sociology, my friends in medical school have English, Russian history, and Psychology degrees.)

3. Take as many classes as you can for your degree at your community college to save money! Apply for financial aid through FAFSA. Some community colleges have programs to get you from that community college and into a nearby university.

4. Apply for and graduate with at least a bachelor's degree.

5. Prepare for and take the MCAT (medical college admissions test).

6. Prepare for and apply to medical schools (both MD (medical doctor) and DO (doctor of osteopathic medicine) can become psychiatrists)

7. Complete 4 years of medical school (first 2 years are book learning, second two years are clinical rotations). Licensing exams are done after the 2nd year of medical school and another after the 3rd year. Then the 3rd one is done during residency.

8. Apply for and attend the psychiatric residency. (Take your 3rd major exam here.)

GOOD LUCK! YOU CAN DO IT!!!
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David’s Answer

Trenity -- The other three answers here are very detailed and complete. The only thing I would add is something Rawan alluded to, and that is becoming a medical doctor and then specializing in psychiatry is one of several pathways to a career in diagnosing and treating people with mental disorders. I worked in a multi-disciplinary community mental health agency as a clinical psychologist, and also present were M.D. psychiatrists, clinical social workers, and marriage and family therapists. We also worked closely with school psychologists and occupational therapists. Each of these professions can work directly with mental health patients and clients of all ages, but the amount of education, training, and requirements for licensure vary considerably. So unless you know for sure you want to go to medical school to become a psychiatrist, and congratulations if you have figured this out early, I would recommend exploring the various pathways to providing mental health services that are available to you. Best wishes on your success!
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