If you’re thinking of pursuing a career in psychiatry then you can expect to spend many years training before you become a licensed practitioner. In fact, it can take anywhere between 9 and 14 years after high school before you finally become a licensed psychiatrist. Thus it would be in your best interest to think long and hard before choosing psychiatry as a career path.
Your first step to becoming a psychiatrist is acquiring a bachelor degree in science from an accredited institution. Given the career path you’re pursuing, there are a few degree programs that will work well for you: pre-med, physical sciences or psychology.
These programs are optimal because you’re required to receive training at a medical school after you’ve completed your Bachelor degree. Since medical school is competitive your chances of being enrolled will increase if you have high grades. But before you can enter medical school you must take and pass the MCAT.
Taking The MCAT
MCAT consists of three multiple choice sections and students are allowed to take the test as many times as they’d like, so if you fail on your first attempt you can retake the exam probably even during that same year. However, you must take the exam the year prior to the year you intend to apply to medical school.
After you’ve completed all the exams and necessary paperwork the medical school you’re applying to will make a decision to accept or reject your application based on your undergraduate performance and your MCAT score. If you were accepted to a medical school you will then have two choices for your designation: a Doctor of Medicine (MD) program or a Doctor of Osteopathic Medicine (DO) program.
You’ll spend 4-5 years learning and honing your skills with the first half of the program focusing on the theory (you’ll complete courses such as pathology, anatomy, and biology) and the second half focusing on clinical rotations with doctors and other healthcare professionals.
After you’ve completed medical school you’ll be required to complete a residency program at a clinic or hospital. Training under a residency program can take as much as 3-8 years to complete. Only when you’ve completed your residency can you apply for your medical license and board certification.
Receiving Your License To Practice
If you did the MD program you need to take and pass the U.S. Medical Licensing Examination (USMLE) to receive your license. But if you did the DO program you’ll be required to take and pass the Comprehensive Osteopathic Medical Licensing Examination (COMLEX-USA) to receive your medical license.
Once you’ve received your license you can then take the examination for board certification. You are allowed to take the exams as many times as you like in order to achieve a pass. Once you’ve passed the examination you’ll be awarded certification through the American Board of Psychiatry and Neurology.
As a certified psychiatrist, you’ll be allowed to practice psychiatry anywhere in the U.S., but you must renew your license every ten years.