Mental illness is becoming increasingly widespread in our complex and challenging world.
Psychiatrists are highly qualified medical doctors who are licensed to diagnose and treat all kinds of mental illnesses. They are there to help people overcome this most distressing time of their lives.
Becoming a psychiatrist takes many years of hard work, academic study, and dedication.
While most professions require between 3 to 5 years of post-secondary study, psychiatry requires up to 12 years!
Study hard and maintain excellent academic grades
Focus on studying science and maths subjects
Complete a pre-med major with a focus on biology, chemistry, calculus, and physics
Sit the 7.5 hour MCAT exam to be accepted into medical school
Complete a four-year medical degree
Sit the state board licensing examination
On average this is a four-year program
Take the American Board of Psychiatry and Neurology certification exam (renewed every 10 years)
Some psychiatrists choose to continue their training in a sub-specialization
Some common areas include addiction psychiatry, geriatric psychiatry, pediatric psychiatry, and neuropsychiatry
Medical doctors and psychiatrists must complete similar training.
You'll need an extremely strong track record of high grades, especially in the sciences
Show your dedication to excellence by taking part in scientific competitions or participating in the Model UN
Leadership and initiative
Get involved in extracurricular activities such as a science club or your school's Friends of Doctors Without Borders chapter
Achieving a leadership role within your chosen organization will help you to stand out
Care and empathy
A critical attribute of anyone in the psychiatric profession is a great capacity to care and empathize with people who may be experiencing extreme distress
Demonstrate these traits through your internships and volunteer/work experience
Offer your time at your local doctor's office, hospital, or school
Advice from a Pro
With all that education and training, it may seem like a psychiatrist has all the answers. But, according to those working in the field, it is incredibly important to listen to your patients and work out solutions together.
And, I think that I try very hard to let people identify things that are salient to them, so things that they want to work on, that they want to target, that they see as issues, so that we can kind of come to a shared conclusion about what we’re going to go after and make up some goals together.
-- Anonymous psychiatrist interviewed as a part of a research project
-- Image from Freepik
Begin to prepare for a career in psychiatry by taking these additional steps:
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