How Can I Become A Psychiatrist? Schools, Career, Cost & Salary

Having a career that deals with people’s mental health can be tough, from school days to the peak of the profession. Despite that, psychiatrists are still needed, and many medical students are still going for it. Therefore, finding out how to become a psychiatrist might be the first step toward that tedious goal.

People interested in the field of mental health can sometimes begin to wonder about the difference between a psychologist and a psychiatrist and how similar are the educational requirements for each profession.

Some may be surprised that, although both professionals often assume similar responsibilities, the qualifications and training required to differ.

Who is a Psychiatrist?

A psychiatrist is a doctor who specializes in diagnosing and treating mental health conditions such as depression, schizophrenia, anxiety, ADHD, and eating disorders. Many, but not all, psychiatrists specialize in treating a specific type or group of mental health conditions.

Psychiatrists must complete medical school and four additional years of residency training in psychiatry. Psychiatrists spend much more time in school than most other mental health professionals. Their medical degrees allow them to prescribe psychotropic medications.

Are psychiatrists
medical doctors?

Psychiatrists are doctors. They evaluate and treat mental illnesses and often focus on working with specific populations. Some psychiatrists focus on the more technical or research-based side of psychiatry, working in the forensic field or helping companies and corporations assess the mental health of their employees and associates.

How long does it take
to become a psychiatrist?

Psychiatrists work with patients who face various problems, including trauma, mental illness, and addiction. Psychiatrists are considered mental health doctors. Given the profound nature of their work, it is not surprising that psychiatrists require a great education; depending on the specialty, up to twelve years of academic study and clinical training are required to obtain a degree in psychiatry.

Students interested in becoming psychiatrists must understand all educational and clinical requirements and what they will find upon graduation.

Therefore, obtaining a medical school degree is a requirement to obtain a license and practice. The path to medical school includes a minimum of a bachelor’s degree, followed by a passing grade on the Admission Test to the Faculty of Medicine, or MCAT.

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What do psychiatrists
do?

Psychiatrists use various methods to help patients in their care, including medications, psychotherapy, individual or group counseling, psychoanalysis, and even hospitalization for situations that require more intense intervention.

Psychiatrists work closely with other health professionals
to ensure comprehensive care for the whole person, not just for mental illness
problems.

How much do
Psychiatrists earn?

Psychiatry can be a very difficult career to enter, but
those who tend to reap financial rewards. According to the Bureau of Labor
Statistics, psychiatrists earned an average annual salary of $181,880 in 2014.

The lowest ten percent in the profession earned $61,600, while the highest paid earned more than $187,000 annually. Psychiatrists who have obtained certifications through the ABPN could earn a higher salary due to their credentials and see the best job opportunities.

Geographical location and cost of living also play a role in
how much a psychiatrist is paid. The following are the five states that have
the highest profits for psychiatrists.

Where do
psychiatrists work?

Psychiatrists work in various settings, including hospitals, government offices, private practices, and mental health clinics. They could also take positions in research-based universities. Their hours worked vary according to the work environment.

Where can I work as a
psychiatrist?

Many psychiatrists work within a private practice or have
their own practice. With this, you set your own schedule, are responsible for
treating your own customers and should be available to them by phone and email.

Some psychiatrists have offices that rent to carry out the treatment of the patient, while others have a room in their house where they see patients regularly. This depends on your experience and how comfortable you are treating patients.

Psychiatrists generally grow up in these jobs on their own later after having a list of clients they see regularly.

Psychiatrists can also work in hospitals or clinics,
evaluating and treating patients. For jobs in the hospital, psychiatrists can
work very long shifts a few days a week.

This is the norm for any medical professional. It is
possible that working in a clinic may not pay as much, but it will expose you
to work with patients who need your help seriously and who otherwise would not
have access to treatment.

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It is imperative that a psychiatrist feels comfortable treating people of any social or economic origin. People of all ages, races and social states suffer from mental illness.

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What do I need to
study psychiatry?

Admission to medical school requires a bachelor’s degree with the appropriate course work of a college or university acceptable to medical school. Suitable courses include psychology, inorganic chemistry, organic chemistry, biology, mathematics, and physics.

The person must also obtain an appropriate qualification on
the Admission Examination to the Faculty of Medicine (MCAT) and present
evidence of other qualifications. Four or five years of medical school must
also be completed to obtain an M.D.

Since there is tough competition for admission to medical school, many candidates will not be accepted. To improve the chances of entry, you must have the best grades in a high school. It also helps to have done volunteer work or an internship in a hospital or psychiatric clinic.

Other ways to help get admission are solid recommendations
from experienced doctors or psychiatrists.

STEPS TO BECOMING A PSYCHIATRIST

Complete a bachelor’s degree

The first step in becoming a psychiatrist is obtaining a bachelor’s degree from an accredited institution. In preparation for medical school, it would be a good choice to focus on medicine, science or psychology – or a combination of the three with a double major or minor.

Courses taken by a student during their undergraduate studies depend on the major and subsidiary subjects. However, some courses are recommended for those who wish to apply to medical schools.

Admission to medical school is very competitive, so high grades and an impressive list of courses during the study are essential. Students should also plan the next step in their journey by using all preparatory courses offered for the MCAT.

Take the Medical College Admissions Test

The MCAT is an integral part of the admission procedure for the medical faculty. This exam is a standardized test that consists of three multiple-choice sections. Students should take the MCAT one year before applying to the Medical Faculty.

They may take it as often as necessary to pass. Those who need to retire the MCAT can sign up for a new trial period two days after their previous exam.

Medical schools evaluate the potential student’s score for the MCAT and its student achievement to determine whether to enroll the students.

Complete an MD or DO degree program

Students studying at a medical school can choose between two job titles to become psychiatrists: MD (MD) or Osteopathic Medicine (DO). Each degree deals with the same treatment methods, but a DO degree deals with osteopathic manipulative medicine.

Regardless of the degree, students can expect four to five years of medical school education. The first years focus on basic courses in pathology, anatomy, biology, and other scientific fields.

The second half of the program focuses on clinical rotations with physicians and other health professionals to help students improve their psychiatric practice skills. Students may also be invited to participate in research programs.

Complete a residence

After completing the medical studies, the students still need a supervised education. Students work for three to eight years in a clinic or hospital during their stay.

During this time, they can improve their skills further as they work under the direction of licensed psychiatrists.

Get licensed and board-certified

Students who have completed the medical school and have a successful residence permit can then apply for their medical approvals and board certification.

Those who complete an MD program take the US.
USMLE, while those undergoing a DO program take the comprehensive osteopathene medical certification exam (COMLEX-USA).

Upon receiving the medical license, students may take the board certification exam the American Board of Psychiatry and Neurology (ABPN) offers.

Students enrolling for certification as an exam committee may take the test as often as necessary to pass. The certification has to be renewed every ten years.

Continue to learn

Graduating from psychiatry and obtaining a license does not mean your education ends. Those who receive their board certification must complete continuing education programs throughout their careers to stay certified.

For most psychiatrists, this is an average of 30 credits per year. Some states may need even more continuing medical education (CME) to continue practicing.

What Skill does a Psychiatrist require?

Psychiatrists work closely with many patients daily, so they must have excellent communication skills, including a first-rate ability to listen and build good relationships with patients.

Good observation skills are necessary, as a psychiatrist should be able to examine the patient’s behavior and reactions to medication or other treatments.

The work requires a high degree of patience and compassion, social awareness and the ability to make judgments and decisions based on past and new information.

What is employment growth for Psychiatrists?

With above-average growth in this area, psychiatry graduates can look forward to employment opportunities. The Department of Labor Studies forecasts 16.2 percent growth for psychiatrists between 2012 and 2025, a figure above the national average of all other occupations.

Much of this growth could be triggered by increased mental
health coverage and healthcare legislation that makes health insurance more
affordable for many.

As a result, more people are expected to seek help from the
medical facility, including those who need the skills of a psychiatrist.
Another reason for the growth is that the baby boom generation is aging
rapidly.

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With more and more people suffering from medical problems due to aging, a psychiatrist’s skills will be needed to help them with the changes and challenges they inevitably face. Psychiatrists can expect better job opportunities in areas with an aging population.

People with a degree in psychiatry often find work in all areas of the healthcare industry, including hospitals, private clinics, home healthcare, nursing homes, charities, and even local and state governments.

How long does it take
to become a psychiatrist?

The time it takes to become a psychiatrist varies from
person to person. Some people take longer than others to complete college.
Others are freed after graduation to study for the MCAT. Occasionally, a person
can complete college faster than usual.

Assuming that a person does not take breaks and graduate in a typical time, the time from graduation to certification as a Psychiatric Board is as follows:

  • 4 years of college
  • 4 years of medical studies
  • 4 years residence

This takes a total of 12 years after graduating, so the
youngest age at which a psychiatrist can expect to practice is about 30 years.

How much does it cost to become a Psychiatrist?

The average cost of becoming a psychiatrist depends on where
a person goes to school, whether they receive student loans, and whether they
live in a high-cost living area.

Foreign students studying at public universities for four years spend about $23,890 a year on tuition, equating to $95,560. This does not take into account the cost of books, food, and lodging, food and tuition, which can be several thousand dollars a year.

Foreign students attending public medical schools pay an average of $58,668 annually for $234,672. The cost of books, food and lodging, and other expenses can add significantly to this price.

This means that the cost to medical school and college for a non-governmental public student together is about $330,000. Public students usually pay less, while private students can pay twice or even three times that amount.

Psychiatric residencies usually pay $60,800 a year. However,
some residents may feel underpaid for the workload and related expertise. Many
psychiatrists spend the first few years of their working life doing financial
chases and fighting debt.

What is the difference between Psychiatrists and Psychologists?

The basic difference between a psychiatrist and a psychologist is that a psychiatrist is a licensed physician and not a psychologist. In addition, a psychiatrist is trained at the medical school and receives an M.D. degree.

A psychologist is educated at a college or university and holds a doctorate in psychology. However, both professions treat mental health problems and require state approval to exercise them.

In most states, psychologists are not allowed to prescribe
medication. However, this is changing gradually. Some states allow
psychologists with advanced medical education to prescribe medication.

Schools that offer courses to become Psychiatrists

In your quest to become a psychiatrist, there are a number of schools that offer psychiatry and related subjects as a subject of study. They include;

Harvard University

Tuition: $47,000

Harvard University was ranked the country’s second-best school in 2025. The Massachusetts General Hospital, one of the university’s facilities, was also ranked as the country’s most prestigious psychiatric hospital in 2025, as mandated by USN & WR.

During medical studies, prospective psychiatrists can participate in four-week internships and take elective courses in psychiatry. Upon completion of the course, mental health students will apply for special stays and scholarship programs involving rotations in eight regional healthcare facilities.

Residency training is commonly offered in the field of youth or child psychiatry. Scholarships are offered in addiction, forensic or geriatric psychiatry, psychosomatic medicine, or psychopharmacology.

Students can choose from several psychiatric internships, including community psychiatry and addiction psychiatry.

Program Portal

Johns Hopkins’s University

Tuition: $53,400 per year

US News & World Report ranked number 4 of the Johns Hopkins Hospital among hospitals for psychiatry in 2025. The Department of Psychiatry and Behavioral Sciences of the Faculty of Medicine of Johns Hopkins University offers a general psychiatry residency program for a thorough and comprehensive clinical Training in psychiatric treatment and diagnosis.

This program can prepare you for private practice, public
sector work or academic psychiatry.

The Department of Psychiatry and Behavioral Sciences encourages medical students to take psychiatric electives. The department maintains flexibility in its electoral programs so that they are tailored to individual students’ needs.

Other possibilities can be developed through direct collaboration between students and faculty members. In 2025, 10 of the Hopkins graduates agreed to study psychiatry. The Baltimore, Maryland school has a high selectivity with a mean GPA of 3.94 and a mean MCAT of 520.

Program Portal

University of California, Los Angeles (UCLA)

Tuition: $13,000

The Department of Psychiatry and Biology of UCLA’s David
Geffen School of Medicine, in partnership with the Semel Institute for
Neuroscience and the Resnick Neuropsychiatric Hospital, offers a variety of
psychiatric residency and scholarship programs.

U.S. News designated the hospital & World Report ranked eighth among the psychiatric hospitals in the nation based on survey data for 2025.

The psychiatry training programs at UCLA are part of a large group of research centers and programs covering the entire spectrum of neuroscience. The faculty and its staff conduct internationally recognized research in most clinical and basic neuroscience areas. Residents can work with the faculty and develop their research areas.

The David Geffen School of Medicine at UCLA, which has approximately 175 students, received more than 14,500 applications in 2025. This makes her one of the most sought-after medical schools in the country.

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Program Portal

University of Pittsburgh

Tuition: $57,684

The Psychiatric Residency Program, offered by the University of Pittsburgh School of Medicine, is affiliated with the University of Pittsburgh Medical Center (UPMC). The US News & World Report of 2025 rated this medical center among the psychiatric hospitals as “powerful.”

The University of Pittsburgh Psychiatric Hospital houses several government-funded research centers. The classroom sessions prepare clinical psychiatrists for the challenges of modern medicine and critically examine established and new approaches to treating psychiatric disorders.

In the 2025 residency match, 15 UPSOM students went to psychiatry, three of whom continued to specialize. The Psychiatry Clerkship lasts for five weeks and provides students in the third (MS3) and fourth year (MS4) with a comprehensive overview of behavioral health care.

There are also many elective courses in psychiatry, including behavioral medicine and neuropharmacology for women.

Program Portal

Stanford University

Tuition: $51,000

Stanford University is one of the prestigious institutions that offer a psychiatry degree at all levels. Six Stanford students were admitted to psychiatric residencies on matchday 2025. Every medical student must complete a four-week psychiatric internship during his internship year.

Students taking part in the legal clerkship will be assigned
to one of six affiliated patient care facilities where they will examine
diagnostic techniques and treatment options for a variety of psychiatric
patients and learn how to conduct interviews and psychiatric assessments under
the supervision of a Stanford Faculty of Medicine.

Stanford remains one of the most competitive medical schools, with a mean GPA score of 3.83 and a mean MCAT score of 519.

Program Portal

University of Pennsylvania

Tuition: $57,884 per year

In 2025, 8 students from the Perelman School of Medicine at
the University of Pennsylvania agreed with psychiatric residency programs. The
six-week compulsory psychology traineeship involves active learning with the
main objective that the traineeship has the competence in applying the mental
status exam.

There are additionally 8 psychiatry electives, including addiction/alcoholism and community psychiatry. The Ivy is consistently ranked as one of the world’s most innovative universities with an annual research budget in excess of $ 800 million.

Other important values ​​are the mean MCAT and GPA values ​​of 521 and 3.9 and a class size of fewer than 160 students.

Program Portal

Duke University

Tuition: $54,000

The school is located in the research triangle of Durham, North Carolina, and is closely linked to the surrounding community. Duke University was the eighth-best university in the country in 2025. She was also the eighth-best medical research school.

Students at this research institute can participate in
research on Alzheimer’s, the effects of aging on memory, depression and more.

On matchday 2025, two Duke alumni participated in psychiatric residency programs nationwide. Students of MD programs at Duke University School of Medicine have learning opportunities in psychiatry internships, elective courses, and undergraduate internships.

With an average MCAT of 518, such as the 98th percentile, the MD program attracts competitive students from nearly 40 states.

Program Portal

University Of California – San Francisco

Tuition: $13,000

The University of California is known for its gracious place as one of the psychiatric study schools in the United States. Psychiatry was the preferred institution for 7 UCSF graduates in 2025. Admission is competitive, with only 149 of the more than 7,700 enrolled candidates for the MD program.

The UCSF attracts mainly students from California, and in
the admittedly class of 2025, 34% of students are from under-represented
medical circles. The median GPA and MCAT for admitted students are 3.85 and
517.

Students complete a four-week internship in psychiatry, where they are responsible for assessing psychiatric patients and participating in treatment planning for patients. They attend seminars related to clinical work.

Program Portal

Columbia University

Tuition: $48,000

Columbia University’s Vagelos College of Physicians and
Surgeons, also known as P & S, in New York City, admitted 140 students to
its MD grade of 2025. In 2025, 16 graduates agreed with psychiatric residency
programs, making psychiatry one of the most popular options for P & S
graduates.

An MCAT score of 520 and a GPA of 3.85 could make you a competitive candidate for this selective medical school. The school has an active Psychiatry Student Interest Group, who sponsors several events during the academic year.

Program Portal

University of Michigan – Ann Arbor

Tuition: $23,000

UM-Ann Arbor is one of the highest-ranking universities with a psychiatric unit and ranks 11th nationwide.

The University of Michigan at Ann Arbor is a public research organization considered to be one of the highest-rated universities with a mental health department in its healthcare system.

The Department of Psychiatry houses two prestigious research
and treatment centers, including the nation’s first Depression Center and the
Molecular and Behavioral Neurosciences Institute.

The department offers various residency programs in a number
of areas, such as childhood and adolescence, addiction, forensic and geriatric
psychiatry; Residences also include general and psychosomatic psychiatry.

Residents may also complete training programs in clinical social work, electroconvulsive therapy (ECT), or drug abuse research.

Program Portal

Become a Psychiatrist | FAQs

What schools do psychiatrists go to?

Psychiatrists do go to medical school and must earn a Doctor of Medicine (M.D.). While most medical schools do not have a specific requirement for the undergraduate study major, an aspiring psychiatrist might choose a major in psychology or pre-medicine.

How much does it cost to go to a private medical school?

Similarly, a private medical school costs $46,456 a year for residents and $48,046 a year for non-residents. Considering that medical school lasts for four years, a medical degree can easily cost $120,000 to more than $200,000 for just tuition, fees, and insurance.

What is psychiatry?

Psychiatry is a wonderful medical specialty; as a career, it is diverse and flexible. Psychiatrists can work in settings where they concentrate on administration, research, teaching, writing, or public policy and never go near a patient.

Do psychiatrists have an easy life?

Psychiatrists have a stressful life. They use themselves as “tools” in their profession and experience a range of powerful emotions in their clinical work. … Given the personal nature of the relationship psychiatrists have to develop with their patients, these emotions will likely be intensified in their context.

References

  • https://www.goodtherapy.org › GoodTherapy Blog
  • https://www.thecollegemonk.com › how-to-become-a-psychiatrist
  • https://www.ucas.com
  • https://www.bestmastersinpsychology.com/

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