The Scoop on Psychiatrists

Mental health is something a lot of people joke about, but to a Psychiatrist it is no laughing matter.

Psychiatrists made up 5.1% of the total population of Doctors in 2005 and the field is expected to grow. Treatments in Psychiatry are vast and varying and as our culture becomes more stressful more people are in need of care for their mental health. Psychiatrists are regular M.D.s who work in the area of mental health and can help patients through hard times in their lives.

What in the World Does a Psychiatrist Do?

If you're working as a Psychiatrist you are responsible for diagnosing and treating mental illness/conditions in your patients. Most of your work comes through counseling and discussion with your patients so you can understand why they feel the way they feel and how those feelings came about. Treatment only comes after counseling and discussion (at length) with your patients so you can decide the best way to help them.

You would use a combination of "psychotherapy" (talking through problems), "psychoanalysis" (trying to understand what's going on a patient's head), hospitalization and/or medication. Therapy is the primary role of a Psychiatrist (just imagine the couch) and medication and hospitalization are seen as last resorts when trying to help a patient.

In many cases a psychiatrist is able to discover a chemical problem in a patient's body that can be treated with medication (that the Psychiatrist can prescribe) or that needs to be dealt with through surgery. Because a Psychiatrist is an M.D. they have the privileges at a hospital to get their patients the right treatment at the right time.

What Kind of Training do I need (A.K.A. - Will I have to go to School?)

Schooling for Psychiatrists isn't that much different from that of a "regular Doctor". First you must complete a Bachelor's Degree in some sort of science (Biology or Chemistry usually) before you can get into Medical School. There are 146 Medical School in the U.S., so, even though there are many, the competition to get in is steep.

Once you get into Medical School you will graduate (after 4 years) as a M.D. (Medical Doctor) or a D.O. (Doctor of Osteopathic Medicine). Once Medical School is complete you must get a license to practice medicine. This usually requires a written exam and a "skills" exam before the State Board awards you your license.

Once you have your license you will have to take on a 3-7 internship (paid) in your chosen specialty (Psychiatry) before you go back to the State Board to get a license to practice Psychiatry. Remember that your license isn't a one-time thing; you have to get continuing education to renew it.

How Do I get One of These Jobs Anyways?

Once you have completed an internship or apprenticeship and received your license to practice Psychiatry you can go into business for yourself and open your own practice. Many times you would want to work for an established Doctor so you can save enough to money to open your own practice. Once your practice is open you must hire a staff to do your clerical work and you will have to work on building a client base. Because you are not a "regular" Doctor most of your clients come through referrals. If you're not the "social type" you will need to be more outgoing as you can only get referrals from other Doctors in your area and you need to make nice so they will refer their patients to you.

If you don't want to open your own practice you could easily work in a larger practice with a group of Psychiatrists or other Doctors. You could also work in a health clinic or a hospital as "the Psychiatrist". Advancement in the field might mean that you become "Director of Mental Health" at a hospital or health clinic. You could also work for state and local agencies to promote mental health or you could do research/teach at a Medical School. Many times research and teaching better suit those Doctors who don't have families or are nearing/considering retirement.

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Psychiatrists Overview

Psychiatrist Salary:$154,200
Job Prospects:A-
Education after high school:12 years
# Employed in US:22,140
% Who work Part Time:8%
Physical Difficulty:+
Intellectual Difficulty:+ + + + +
Emotional Difficulty:+ + + + +

The Pros of being a Psychiatrist

  • You could go into business for yourself and open your own practice
  • You get the chance to help people who are dealing with difficult emotions
  • You get the chance to work with areas Doctors to grow your client base
  • You don't just have to see people "on the couch"

The Cons of being a Psychiatrist

  • Schooling takes 8 years after High School
  • Add to that a 3-7 year (paid) internship
  • It may be difficult to work with patients who have problems you can't see
  • Working with patients who might be self-destructive or suicidal may be difficult