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Date of last update: 8/24/2017.

Forum Name: Psychiatric Topics

Question: Aspiring Psychiatrist

 Diamante - Wed May 21, 2008 12:14 pm

Hello everyone, I'm a 19 year old college student and I'm hoping to pursue a career in psychiatry, however I grew up in a very small town and am completely oblivious as to what I need to accomplish in order to reach this goal. I attend community college and the adviser there isn't very knowledgeable on the topic either and I don't know who to ask! Any information/tips would be greatly appreciated, I have the determination to do it, all I'm missing is the guidance.
 Dr. E. Seigle - Thu Jun 05, 2008 3:14 pm

Hi diamante,

From community college, here are the steps to become a psychiatrist; you probably know that a psychiatrist, as a physician specialist, differs from a clinical psychologist, who is not a physician, but becomes a therapist or counselor (if seeing clients to help them with problems). A psychiatrist generally treats people with serious mental illnesses, and performs diagnosis and treatment using either medications and/or psychotherapies.

To become a psychiatrist:
1. Finish a four year bachelor's degree at a full college, where you take the appropriate pre-medical courses in areas including advanced courses in biology, chemistry, and math. This may be 6-9 courses, depending on what you have already taken. Talk about the appropriate major with your school career counselor at your four year school.

2. Good to do some volunteer work at a hospital or medical setting, mental health setting, etc.

3. near end of college, take a special test for medical school, called the MCAT. Apply to medical school.

4. Medical school takes four years, two of coursework and two in a hospital setting, traditionally.

5. End of med. school, you choose a "'residency", which is your specialty as a physician; you would choose psychiatry. In your residency, you work as a physician who is training to be a psychiatrist, (includes some general medical and neurological training) in clinical settings, such as hospitals and clinics, seeing patients, unders the supervision of "Attending" psychiatrists, at an academic medical center. The residency takes four years. You are paid modestly for this.

6. End of residency, take your "Boards" exam, which fully certifies you as a psychiatrist.

It's a long process, 12 years from the beginning of college; you work hard, and it takes much committment. There's a lot of competition, particularly to get into medical school. However, you learn an incredible lot, and can have a lot of satisfaction and options in your career. I'm glad to know that you have an interest in psychiatry, it's a great field that is developing in knowledge and capacity to treat serious mental illnesses. Good luck!

-Eliot Seigle MD

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