The Seven First Steps To Working In Psychiatry In 2022

The Seven First Steps To Working In Psychiatry In 2022

The article is developed in partnership with BetterHelp.

Psychiatry is a competitive field, especially in 2022. This lucrative career choice isn’t for everyone, but is it for you? A psychiatrist can prescribe mental health medications, regular medications, as well as different therapies to try! The most important part is making a change in someone else’s life. 

Here are the ten first steps to becoming a psychiatrist in 2022 if you’re looking to make a change and enter this career. 

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Step One: Research Universities

Before you can become a psychiatrist, you must go through 12 years of schooling. If you’ve decided to go down this road now, congratulations! You’ve got a lot ahead of you, but we believe in you! 

Look for universities that have bachelor’s programs in psychology, pre-med, biology, or human sciences. If you’re looking to prescribe medication more for mental health conditions, you’ll want to take the psychology course. If you want to focus more on the realm of medicine overall, a pre-med course is a great idea. 

Look for a university that has a minor in pharmaceuticals or in psychiatry. Either minor can help you down the road. Remember, apply to as many schools as possible, and choose your favorites from the ones that accept you! 

Step Two: Get Your Bachelor’s Degree

Now it’s time to get your bachelor’s degree! You’ll likely finish in 4 years unless you choose a fast-track program and take extra credits each semester. You can take your courses online or in person, depending on the university you’ve chosen. 

In general, you’ll likely need to have the following classes: 

  • Biology and chemistry courses 
  • Psychics 
  • Four or more mathematics courses 
  • Electives
  • General education credits 
  • Psychology classes 
  • Pre-med classes (if you’ve chosen a pre-med track) 

Make sure to talk to your advisor before starting to ensure you have your path lined out from start to finish. If you minor in psychiatry or something similar, you’ll likely take some classes directly related to your field. 

Step Three: Apply To Medical School And Take The Entry Exam 

When you have graduated from university with a bachelor’s degree, it’s time to apply to medical school. Before you can apply to any accredited medical school, you need to take the MCAT (medical college admission test), and you must pass. 

Once you’re accepted into medical school, you’ll want to work with your advisor to take on coursework related to your field (psychiatry). These classes and credits will come in handy later when you apply for a psychiatrist residency at a hospital or medical institute. 

You will receive the same general four-year medical training as other medical students, including surgeons, family practitioners, and neuro-doctors. The only difference will be the program you enter and the classes you elect to take in your specialty. 

Certain schools like Stanford University have a dedicated psychiatry degree path in the medical school portion, which is a great option for those that have a high GPA and an excellent exam score. 

Step Four: Apply For Your Residency 

Once you finish medical school, it’s time to apply for your residency. You’ll need to apply for the “psychiatry” residency, which is different than others. You’ll also need to go through intensive interviews with the possible medical institutions you apply for residency with. 

Many medical schools hold a “residency day” where everyone’s accepted residency is announced at a party or banquet. It’s a very competitive day since there are only so many residency spots in each hospital or institution each year. You will be “matched” to your residency opportunity in March, after your 4th year of medical school. 

Step Five: Finish Residency And Choose A Specialty

Once you’ve accepted your residency, you’ll go through a rigorous on-the-job training opportunity. Your residency staff will train you in the ins and outs of being a psychiatrist, and you’ll get hands-on experience to help you get a job once you’re done. Often, many people go on to work for the same hospital or institution where they had their residency, so put in a good effort! 

Your residency program will last from one to seven years, depending on the requirements! In most cases, a psychiatry residency is around four years. 

If you don’t want to continue to work at the same location, you can decide you’d like to specialize in a certain area of psychiatry and open your own practice. However, after your residency, you do need to apply for licensure. 

Step Six: Get Your Medical License And License To Practice Psychiatry 

You will now take your medical licensure exam! The exam you’ll take depends on the path you plan to take. If you’re looking to become a general practitioner of psychiatry, you’ll take the USMLE. If you’re looking to become an osteopathic doctor, you’ll take the COMPLEX-USA. 

You will be tested on the knowledge you gained from your residency and your years in university and medical school. Study hard for this test, as it determines your future! 

After your national licensure, you’ll also need to take any state-specific licensing exams to practice medicine in your state. 

After you’ve obtained both of your licenses for country and state, you’ll need to take one more exam with the American Board of Psychiatry and Neurology (ABPN) to be “board-certified.” This ensures you’re practicing legally and know what you’re doing. 

Step Seven: Find A Job Or Open A Practice

Once you have all of your licenses and feel confident that you understand the job you’ve signed up to do, you’re finally ready to become a psychiatrist! Congratulations! 

You have several options, including: 

  • Working for the same medical institution where you did your residency 
  • Applying to a new medical institution for the job of a psychiatrist
  • Opening up your own private practice to accept clients (may require additional licensing) 

Depending on what you choose, you’ll make between $60,000 and $208,000 per year if you work in the US. 


Want to learn more about psychiatry and see if it’s the right path for you? Check out BetterHelp today for advice.