What is a Psychiatrist

A psychiatrist is a physician who specializes in the diagnosis and treatment of mental disorders. The work on ascertaining whether particular symptoms result from physical illness, a combination of mental and physical illness, or strictly from mental illness. They treat the illness through a variety of methods, including medication and psychotherapy. For more on job description, please visit our psychiatrist job description page.

Work Environment

Psychiatrists typically work regular business hours, however they are often on call during evenings and weekends, as well. They have highly variable work environments, including hospitals, clinics, or mental health centers. However, they may also be employed in correctional facilities, nursing homes, courts, and assorted other community agencies.

Many psychiatrists work in a private practice, however they may still see patients in a hospital, either during regular rounds or in an emergency room. Treatment sessions may be in private, or in group sessions.

Work Schedule

While a psychiatrist may aim to work regular business hours, these are often much longer than standard, with emergency calls disrupting schedules and travel between hospitals and private offices. It is a demanding and stressful life, particularly exacerbated by the work as it involves the mentally ill. Patients may be easy to work with, or the may be violent or display frightening behavior.

Mean Annual Psychiatrist Salary

The average annual psychiatrist salary is $177,520. The average salary is calculated by adding all the wages within the occupation and dividing that value by the total number of employees. Individuals who fall in the lowest 10% of all psychiatrist can expect to make less than $70,920 per year whereas others with more experience in the top 10% can reach well over $260,000 per year.

Psychiatrist Salary: Quick Summary

2012 Mean Salary $177,520 per year
$85.35 per hour
Top 10% Salary$260,000 per year
$125.00 per hour
Bottom 10% Salary$70,920 per year
$34.10 per hour
Number of Jobs, 201224,210

Psychiatrist Job Outlook and Prospects

The job outlook for psychiatrists is promising. Demand is expected to grow by 18% by 2022, spurred by a need for specialized mental health professionals and other health practitioners.

Psychiatry is a specialization in which there is report to be a shortage, particularly in the areas of child psychology and geriatric psychology. Competition is very high, with many seeking to grab this opportunity, however the prospects for lucrative employment are excellent.

What Affects The Psychiatrist Salary

Psychiatrist salary is affected by a number of factors, including specialization, location chosen, and the chosen environment. On average, those working in outpatient care centers earn the highest salary, with an average of $198,000. Those working strictly at colleges and universities tend to earn around $144,000. The mean annual psychiatrist salary is $177,520, with the highest earning being in states other than the highest populated.

Education and Specialization 

Psychiatrists complete an undergraduate degree, often (though not necessarily) in psychology. This is followed by four years of medical school, and a three- or four-year residency in the psychiatric field. To be certified in a sub-specialty area, you may require a further fellowship that would require one to two years of work post-residency.

Following this work, a psychiatrist can then become licensed to practice, upon completion of a state board exam. Certification from the American Board of Psychiatry and Neurology is also highly advisable, though not necessary.

Subspecialties for focus include addiction psychiatry, neuropsychiatry, forensic and legal psychiatry, and organizational psychiatry, along with the aforementioned child and geriatric psychiatry. Though these will include further education, each presents improved psychiatrist salary, particularly child and geriatric psychiatry.

A general rule to remember, self-employed psychiatrists will often make more money than those who work in hospitals, clinics, schools and other publicly funded institutions. Lastly, the school in which the medical student graduated from may also affect their salary. Top medical schools such as Harvard and Stanford Universities produce graduates who may get paid higher when they initially find work.

Experience and Position 

Positions for psychiatrists offer the most lucrative salary improvements, particularly those involving sub-specialties. Those working with a greater experience will also see improved earnings, following from a greater knowledge and research base from which to draw. While a typical residency will earn a typical salary, the experience and knowledge of a fellowship will improve pay, and is therefore highly suggested; further experience will lead to further salary rises.


Typically, working for a residential care facility earns the highest salary at approximately $212,000. Doing so as a private practitioner, however, would lead to further improvements in the psychiatrist salary. When wishing to work for another organization, outpatient care centers yields the best earnings at approximately $198,000. In general, a psychiatrist more amenable to working in various potential situations will be draw a higher salary, as they will be able to fit themselves in a greater number of milieus.


Psychiatrist salary is, on average, highest in the states of Maine, Oregon, Idaho, Wyoming, and North Dakota. However, employment prospects are greatest in the more populous regions, with California, New York, and Texas offering the highest concentration of jobs. The average wage disparity between these, however, is approximately $60,000; positions in more rural areas will tend to yield higher salaries, and especially those with particular populations of specialization (ie a higher concentration of the elderly or young).