How long does it take to be a psychiatrist?

July 27, 2016

Article by Global Pre-Meds
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Whether it’s coping with the loss of a loved one, or dealing with stress or depression, psychiatrists help people with all types of mental health issues. When you consider what a doctor does, you might think they perform surgery, medical procedures and physical exams. While some doctors do all of the above, psychiatrists focus on a patient’s mental well-being.

If you’re considering specializing in psychiatry, one question that comes to mind may be how long it takes to become a psychiatrist. After graduating from high school and college, it generally takes eight years to become a psychiatrist. Keep in mind, training can continue beyond eight years. Some psychiatrists choose to complete a fellowship and further specialize in the field.

Your college degree

Four years of college and eight more years of postgraduate studies is a lot of time to commit to your education. Before deciding if it’s something you want to pursue, it’s helpful to gain a thorough understanding of what a psychiatrist does and what it takes to work in the field.

Although a psychiatrist does not perform the typical duties of other types of doctors, such as a general practitioner, emergency room physician or surgeon, a medical degree is still required. The first step in earning a medical degree is completing a four-year bachelor’s program.

Med schools don’t require a specific major to get accepted. But you will have to complete certain science classes, which is why it pays to get a science foundation during high school. While some students who plan to go to med school major in biology and chemistry, it’s not a must. In fact, psychology may be a good major to choose. Not only will it provide you with a good entry to be a psychiatrist, but it will also help you be sure you enjoy the field.

Admissions tests

In addition to a four-year degree, you’ll also need to take the medical school admissions test. Four years of medical school is the next step in becoming a psychiatrist. During med school, you’ll attend classroom lectures and some classes will also include a corresponding lab.

A big part of med school involves clinical rotations. During clinical rotations, you’ll be assigned to a hospital where you’ll spend a certain number of weeks focusing on a specific area of medical.  For example, you might spend six weeks completing an obstetrics rotation and the next six weeks working in the emergency room.

If you’re wondering what obstetrics has to do with psychiatry, the answer is not much. But in order to earn a medical doctor degree, you have to train in a variety of areas of medicine, not just the one you’ll be practising in.

Additional training

In addition to required clinical rotations, you’ll also complete some elective rotations. This is where you can pick specialties you’re interested in or that will compliment psychiatry.

If you’re thinking after med school you’re done; hold on. Additional training is required. The next step in training involves completing a psychiatry residency.  Psychiatry residences are usually four years and involve training in various areas, such as child psychology, geriatric psychology, crisis intervention and both inpatient and outpatient care.



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Gap Medics provides year-round hospital work experience for people aged 16 and over. Our shadowing placements offer a unique insight into the work of doctors, nurses, midwives, and dentists – helping students to focus their career aspirations before embarking upon medical training.