How To Become A Psychiatrist

If your goal is to one day become a psychiatrist, then know that your path is a long and arduous one. You should only follow this career path if you’re passionate about helping people sort through their emotions because not only are you required to obtain a bachelor’s degree and attend medical school, you’re also required to complete a residency subsequent to earning an M.D. This process can take anywhere between 9 to 14 years.

It’s one of the longest certification processes of any profession. But enough about the time you can expect to spend becoming a qualified psychiatrist, let’s talk about the process itself.

Education Requirements

If you’re fresh out of high school you’ll need to attend college and obtain a bachelor’s degree in science. Your best options are a degree program in pre-med, physical sciences, or psychology. After obtaining a B.Sc. your next step will be applying to med school, which is why it’s recommended that you complete one of the previously mentioned degree programs.


All applicants interested in attending med school must first write and pass the MCAT exam. The exam is meant to assess your knowledge on the basic science principles, as well as your critical thinking. If you fail the MCAT you can retake it as many times as you’d like. Administration will then assess your MCAT score, your academic performance, recommendations, essay, and awards before accepting or denying your application. A good MCAT score and GPA will give you a leg up against the competition.

Choosing A Designation

Once admitted you’ll pick between two designations for your degree program: a Doctor of Medicine (MD) program or a Doctor of Osteopathic Medicine (DO) program. You’ll spend the next 4-5 years learning the theory of medical practice and practicing that theory.

Licensing And Ceritification

After completing medical school you’ll need to complete a residency program at a clinic or hospital. This can take between 3 to 8 years to complete. Once you’ve completed your residency you’ll be able to apply for your medical license. A medical license will allow you to practice medicine anywhere within the U.S. If you have an MD degree you are required to take and pass the U.S. Medical Licensing Examination (USMLE).

On the other hand if you have a DO degree you must take the Osteopathic Medical Licensing Examination (COMLEX-USA). If you pass the exam you’re required to take and receive your license you can then write the examination for board certification.

If you pass the certification exam the American Board of Psychiatry and Neurology will award you a certificate, which verifies that you’re a qualified psychiatrist. Once you’ve received certification then you will be able to practice psychiatry anywhere within the U.S. Much like MCAT, if you fail the certification and medical licensing exam you can retake the exam as many times as necessary to receive a passing grade. However, you must renew your certification every ten years.

Only after you’ve completed all these steps will you be allowed to hold the title of psychiatrist.