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Last Updated: 04/03/15

Psychiatry Career Guide

Psychiatry Description

Psychiatrists are physicians that specialize in the prevention, diagnosis and treatment of mental and emotional disorders, addictions and other psychotic disorders. Some of the conditions you might diagnose and treat such conditions as bipolar disorder, depression, anxiety, schizophrenia, substance abuse and gender identity issues just to name a few. Psychiatrists generally use a combination of medications and psychotherapy to treat their patients. Sometimes psychiatrists order diagnostic laboratory tests to help make their diagnosis and may have to intervene with family members of the patient who are having difficulty coping with the diagnosis and care of the patient. Like other physician specialties, you can choose to sub-specialize in various areas of psychiatry, including: addictions, children and adolescents, clinical neurophysiology, forensic psychiatry, geriatric psychiatry, pain management, palliative medicine, psychosomatic medicine and sleep medicine.

As a psychiatrist you could work in a hospital, clinic, research institution, university medical center or a private practice as part of a physicians group or owning the practice yourself. If you work in a hospital setting your hours might be more irregular than if you worked in a private practice or clinic where you would typically keep normal office hours. In the hospital setting you might have to spend a portion of your time on-call.

In a 2012 Medscape survey on physician lifestyles, physicians from 26 different specialties were asked to rate their happiness out side of work on a scale from 1 to 5, with 5 being the happiest. Physiatrists scored an average of 3.99, which placed them eighth out of all of the specialties.

Psychiatry Training Requirements:

In order to become a psychiatrist you must first complete a four year medical school program followed by a four year residency program. If you choose to sub-specialize, you will have to complete an additional one to two years of training in that specialty within psychiatry. Before you can practice, you will also have to pass the U.S. Medical Licensing Examination (USMLE). While it is not required, you can also take the certification exam given by the American Board of Psychiatry and Neurology to become board certified in psychiatry. This certification can help you obtain a better job, more patients and a higher income.

Psychiatrist Salary:

According to a 2010 physician compensation survey published in Modern Healthcare, the annual salary for psychiatrists ranges from $173,800 to $248,198. A 2012 Medscape physician compensation report showed that the median income for psychiatrists was $180,000, a 3% decrease from 2011. Generally, psychiatrists who work in private practices or own their own practice make salaries at the higher end of the scale. The Medscape report also found that physicians practicing in the north central region of the country make the most, while those in the northeast make the least.

Psychiatry Job Outlook:

The outlook for psychiatrists, like all other physicians and surgeons, is very good. In fact, the Bureau of Labor statistics forecasts a 22% increase in the career growth for physicians and surgeons from now until 2018. With the baby boomer population reaching retirement age, there will no doubt be an increased demand for psychiatrists to help diagnose and treat age related mental disorders such as Alzheimer’s disease and dementia. Rural and low income areas typically have brighter job prospects because they have a harder time recruiting physicians.