Psychiatry is the medical specialty that involves the study, diagnosis and treatment of various medical disorders. It involves a variety of treatments, often a combination of both therapy and medication. Psychiatry literally means “medical treatment of the soul,” but it was not recognized as a medical field in early societies. It was not until around the middle of the 19th century that psychiatry would become a recognized field of medical study. Today, it is widely respected, and psychiatrists treat a wide range of mental illnesses and disorders, ranging from depression to schizophrenia.

Psychology and psychiatry are two different fields of study that are often confused and mistaken for each other. The job descriptions overlap in certain areas, but they are not identical. The major difference is that psychiatrists are medical doctors, which requires additional training, and are able to prescribe medications.

Psychiatrist Job Description

The main role for psychiatrists is to diagnose, assess, and treat mental illnesses. Psychiatrists have a wide variety of available options and methods to treat their patients. Psychiatrists treat their patients using the appropriate combination of psychotherapy, psychoanalysis, medication, and hospitalization. In order to accurately diagnose and assess each patient’s mental illness, a psychiatrist will examine each patient’s medical history and observe his or her behaviors. One of the most common tasks for a psychiatrist is engaging with patients, in an individual or group setting. During these discussions, psychiatrists help their patients to understand their behaviors and help to adjust them. In addition to psychotherapy, psychiatrists can use medication to help correct chemical imbalances that lead to mental disorders.

While many of the day-to-day responsibilities of psychiatrists are the same, the job description can vary depending on the specialty. Some of the most common specialties are:

  • Addiction psychiatrists deal with patients that have addiction problems
  • Adult psychiatrists work with adults who have mental illnesses
  • Forensic psychiatrists work in the courts and with the criminally insane
  • Geriatric psychiatrists work with the elderly

There are a wide variety of other psychiatric specialties, so, if you are interested in a specialty not listed above, make sure you research the specific job description.

Psychiatrist Prerequisite

In order to become a psychiatrist, you will need to attend medical school. Admission to psychiatry programs can be extremely competitive, and you will need to maintain strong grades while in college to make yourself a competitive applicant. There are only a small number of applicants accepted each year to various medical schools throughout the United States. Each medical school may have their own specific requirements. While psychiatry programs do not necessarily require applicants to study a specific major, you can bolster your chances by studying a field in the life sciences or the social sciences.

How to Become a Psychiatrist

The path to becoming a psychiatrist is long and requires, when it is all said and done, twelve years of education. Initially, one must obtain their bachelor’s degree (4 years). As mentioned, it doesn’t necessarily matter what you major in, but majoring in fields like biology or psychology will improve your chances for admission to medical school. Medical school program runs for 4 years and upon completion, an additional 4 years of residency program is required, in which three of these years must be in the practice of psychiatry. All of the years of education, however, will be well worth it when you are eventually able to practice as a psychiatrist.

Psychiatrist Training

During a psychiatrist’s four-year residency, one will obtain and complete all of the workplace training needed for a successful career.

Psychiatrist Certification

In all fifty states, psychiatrists must obtain the proper certifications in order to practice as a licensed psychiatrist. One must possess the proper training and a medical degree in psychiatry. Graduates of the program must write and pass both a written and oral examination before they can apply for board certification through the American Board of Psychiatry and Neurology (ABPN). After being granted board certification, psychiatrist can then practice throughout the United States. Continuing education and recertification is required even after licensure.

Psychiatrist Salary

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Psychiatrist Job Description Summary

Here is a short recap of the psychiatrist job description:
  • Assess, diagnose and treat patient with mental disorders
  • Work with psychologists and other healthcare practitioners
  • 4 years bachelor’s degree
  • 4 years medical school
  • 4 additional years of residency program
  • Must be licensed to practice
  • 18% employment growth by 2022