Profiling a Career as a Psychiatrist
By Olivia Condlln-Wilby
For high school graduates, many opportunities lay ahead, including a vast assortment of degree programs and career paths. It’s natural to feel overwhelmed or even intimidated by all the options at first. But with some research, you can prepare yourself to make the best educational and professional decisions moving forward. For students interested in the field of psychology, it’s worth exploring a career as a psychiatrist. You can use this resource to understand the essentials.
Roles and Responsibilities
Psychiatrists assess, diagnose, and treat people with psychological or emotional disorders. They may work in private practice or in public facilities like hospitals, clinics, and nursing homes. As a psychiatrist, you may perform any of the following tasks:
- Conduct psychiatric evaluations (e.g., interviewing patients, examining medical histories, interpreting test results, observing behavioural studies, etc.)
- Diagnose patients with psychological or emotional disorders
- Prescribe and administer medications
- Develop treatment plans for patients and evaluate progress over time
- Collaborate with a multidisciplinary team (e.g., social workers, doctors, nurses, etc.)
What are the Benefits of This Career Path?
As a psychiatrist, you will have the opportunity to create a positive difference in the lives of patients and their families. You will spend your time helping people who struggle with serious mental health issues, supporting them in leading healthy and satisfying lives. For many people, such a career is emotionally rewarding.
Psychiatrists can also expect high salaries and easy access to employment. By 2028, an estimated 32,500 jobs will become available. That means that psychiatrists will be in increasingly high demand over the next few years. For those with less than a year of experience, salaries will likely start around $100,000 annually. With ten or more years, that number could rise to more than $270,000.
In short, psychiatrists can expect satisfying, well-paid, and secure jobs in the future.
Education and Experience
Psychiatrists must have extensive educational qualifications. To start, you must earn a 4-year undergraduate degree in a related field, such as psychology, nursing, or neuroscience. Then you must complete four years of medical school and five years of psychiatric residency training. For those who want to specialize in a specific practice area, such as forensic psychiatry or administrative psychiatry, you must complete an additional 2-3 years of training. Overall, this career requires 13 to 16 years of preparation.
Drawbacks and Challenges
Given that psychiatrists need more than a decade’s worth of training, many people pursue a less intensive career path.
Some people also choose to leave the field after experiencing signs of burnout (e.g., exhaustion, stress, anxiety, irritability, etc.). While helping people can be very rewarding, it can also take an emotional toll. You will likely be exposed to people struggling with trauma, abuse, and complex mental health problems. Research suggests that approximately 78 percent of psychiatrists in North America experience burnout, while 16 percent show signs of depression. Those considering this career path must brace themselves for challenging working conditions and emotionally draining labour.
Considering Other Career Opportunities
If you’re interested in the field of psychology, there are many career paths available. You could apply your degree to any of the following positions:
- Teacher or guidance counsellor
- Social worker or developmental service worker
- Researcher or professor
- Child and youth worker
- Human resources specialist
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Gramigna, J. (2020, July 21st). Many psychiatrists experience burnout and depression. Healio. https://www.healio.com/news/psychiatry/20200721/many-psychiatrists-experience-burnout-and-depression
Indeed Editorial Team. (2021, April 2nd). 5 Steps to Become a Psychiatrist. Indeed. https://ca.indeed.com/career-advice/career-development/how-to-become-a-psychiatrist
Indeed. (2022, January 3rd). Psychiatrist Salary in Canada. https://ca.indeed.com/career/psychiatrist/salaries
Payscale. (2021, December 5th). Average Psychiatrist Salary in Canada. https://www.payscale.com/research/CA/Job=Psychiatrist/Salary
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University of Toronto Mississauga. (2021, February). Careers by Major – Psychology. https://www.utm.utoronto.ca/careers/careers-by-major-psychology