Career Profile: Psychiatrist
Psychiatry is a specialization that is chosen after taking medical school. Being a psychiatrist means working in a clinic, a hospital, or a professional organization that caters to the mentally ill. A psychiatrist distinguishes him or herself from a psychologist in a few very important ways, namely being able to prescribe medication and being the primary authority for persons with a brain chemical imbalance. There are many overlaps between psychiatrists and psychologists, particularly in the counselling services that are offered by both of these professional viewpoints.
In order to become a psychiatrist, one must graduate high school with grades that allow them to get into an undergraduate degree and, particularly, a scientific degree. At the high school level, you might have to take at least one or a few of the following courses: chemistry, biology, physics and calculus. Once at the undergraduate level, you have several options on which major to choose to be best equipped for medical school. You could choose psychological science, pre-medical science, biochemisty or biophsyics. There are options that will allow you to choose what fits with your strengths and weaknesses. In undergrad, you will be required to receive high grades that will open the doors for the next step: medical school.
There are different requirements for different schools and you will have to become aware of these through visiting the school, visiting the website or making a phone call to the schools you are interested in. Once you’ve selected a school and are aware of the requirements, you will have to go through the MCAT (Medical College Admissions Test) if that is a requirement. Once you’re into medical school, you have four years ahead of you before you get into your specialization. During these four years you will have practical classes that allow for hands on experiences in a hospital or clinic, and you will also have classes that are more theoretical in nature. Both of these types of classes are important for your overall success as a practicing physician.
Becoming a specialist enters you into the next four year phase of your degree, and you will need to have obtained a relatively high average throughout med school to be able to get into your chosen specialization. The exact requirements will vary per school, and this is something that you will want to look into before starting medical school to ensure that you will be able to achieve the targets set out by each.
As a psychiatrist, you can look forward to having a very comfortable salary around the $150,000 per year range (according to About.com). You also have the option to choose your work setting, whether that be in your own private clinic, in a hospital or in public organization.