Psychiatrist Career Guide 2024

Table of Contents

Psychiatrist Salary in United States for 2023

Average Annual Salary: $226,880 Hourly Rate: $109.08

Data sourced from the U.S. Department of Labor via the ONET Web API. Updated at December 8, 2023

Best Colleges and Universities for Psychiatrists in 2023

Best College Majors for Psychiatrists in 2023

Projected Job Employment for Psychiatrist:

Estimated YearProjected YearEstimated EmploymentProjected Employment% ChangeProjected Annual Job Opening

Psychiatrist Career Path Overview

Psychiatry is a dynamic and rewarding medical field that focuses on diagnosing, treating, and preventing mental health disorders. Aspiring psychiatrists can anticipate a rigorous career path involving intensive education, training, and ongoing professional development.

Education Requirements

The journey to becoming a psychiatrist begins with a strong foundational education. Prospective psychiatrists are required to complete an undergraduate degree, typically in biology, psychology, or a related field. This is followed by four years of medical school, resulting in a Doctor of Medicine (MD) or Doctor of Osteopathic Medicine (DO) degree. During medical school, students gain comprehensive knowledge about the human body and mind through courses in anatomy, physiology, pharmacology, and psychology. In the later years of medical school, they gain practical experience through rotations in different specialties, including psychiatry.

Residency and Fellowship

After graduating from medical school, aspiring psychiatrists must complete a residency program in psychiatry. This typically lasts four years and involves supervised practice in a clinical setting. Residents diagnose and treat a wide range of mental health conditions, gaining practical experience with psychotherapy, psychopharmacology, and patient management. Following residency, some psychiatrists opt for further specialization through a fellowship. This may focus on areas such as child and adolescent psychiatry, geriatric psychiatry, forensic psychiatry, addiction psychiatry, or neuropsychiatry. Fellowships usually last one to two years and provide specialized training in the chosen area.

Licensing and Certification

To practice as a psychiatrist, obtaining licensure is mandatory. The requirements vary by state but generally involve passing the United States Medical Licensing Examination (USMLE) or the Comprehensive Osteopathic Medical Licensing Examination (COMLEX). In addition to licensure, many psychiatrists choose to become board certified by the American Board of Psychiatry and Neurology (ABPN). Certification demonstrates that a psychiatrist meets nationally recognized standards for education, knowledge, experience, and skills in psychiatry.

Career Advancement

Career advancement in psychiatry often involves further specialization, research, teaching, or administrative roles. Psychiatrists may choose to open their own private practices, work in hospitals or clinics, or join academic institutions as faculty members. Those who engage in research may contribute to the understanding and treatment of mental health disorders, while those in administrative roles may influence policy and decision-making at an organizational level. Furthermore, psychiatrists who excel in their field can gain recognition as thought leaders, contributing to professional publications and speaking at conferences.

Continuing Education

In the rapidly evolving field of psychiatry, continuing education is critical to stay abreast of the latest research, treatments, and ethical considerations. Many states require psychiatrists to complete a certain number of continuing education hours each year to maintain licensure. Professional organizations like the American Psychiatric Association (APA) offer numerous resources for ongoing learning and professional development. In summary, the psychiatrist career path is challenging but rewarding, offering numerous opportunities for specialization and advancement. By staying committed to continuing education and professional development, psychiatrists can make significant contributions to patient care and the broader field of mental health.

Psychiatrist Career Path Education and Training

In order to embark on a successful career path as a psychiatrist, there are specific educational requirements and training that one must go through. This section will provide a comprehensive breakdown of the necessary steps to becoming a psychiatrist.

Undergraduate Degree

The journey towards becoming a psychiatrist begins with an undergraduate degree. While there is no specific requirement for the type of undergraduate degree, students often opt for a Bachelor's degree in Psychology, Biology or Pre-med. These courses provide a strong foundation in understanding human behavior and biological processes, which are crucial in the field of psychiatry.

Medical School Admission

Upon completion of the undergraduate degree, aspiring psychiatrists must apply to medical school. The application process involves passing the Medical College Admission Test (MCAT), submitting letters of recommendation, and showcasing their commitment to medicine through extracurricular activities or work experience in the healthcare field.

Medical School

Medical school typically lasts four years and is broken down into two parts. The first two years focus on foundational medical knowledge, covering areas like anatomy, physiology, and pathology. The last two years involve clinical rotations in various medical specialties including psychiatry.


After graduating from medical school, aspiring psychiatrists enter into a residency program in psychiatry. This generally takes four years and provides hands-on training in diagnosing and treating mental health conditions under the supervision of experienced psychiatrists.

Board Certification

Following the completion of their residency, psychiatrists can choose to become board certified by passing an exam offered by the American Board of Psychiatry and Neurology (ABPN). Board certification demonstrates a high level of proficiency in psychiatry and can improve employment opportunities.

Continuing Education

Even after becoming board certified, psychiatrists are required to continue their education to keep their skills up-to-date and maintain their certification. This involves attending workshops, seminars, and courses, as well as staying abreast of the latest research in the field of psychiatry.


For those interested in specializing further, there are several subspecialties within psychiatry that require additional training and certification. These include child and adolescent psychiatry, geriatric psychiatry, addiction psychiatry, forensic psychiatry, and more. In conclusion, the path to becoming a psychiatrist is a long and rigorous one that involves extensive education and training. However, the reward of helping individuals overcome their mental health challenges makes it a fulfilling career choice for many.

Psychiatrist Career Path Progression

The career path for a psychiatrist is a rewarding and challenging journey that involves extensive education, training, and commitment. A psychiatrist's role is to diagnose, treat, and prevent mental health disorders and help patients understand their conditions. This career path requires continuous learning and development as the field of psychiatry is ever-evolving.

Education and Training

To become a psychiatrist, one must first earn a bachelor's degree in a relevant field such as psychology, biology, or pre-med. The next step is to pass the Medical College Admission Test (MCAT) and enroll in a medical school. Medical school typically lasts for four years and includes both classroom instruction and clinical rotations. Upon graduation from medical school, the individual becomes a medical doctor (MD) but must then complete a psychiatry residency. This usually takes 4 years and provides hands-on experience in various aspects of psychiatry under the supervision of experienced psychiatrists. After the residency, one may choose to specialize further by completing a fellowship in a specific area of psychiatry such as child and adolescent psychiatry, geriatric psychiatry, addiction psychiatry, forensic psychiatry, or psychosomatic medicine. Each of these fellowships typically lasts for 1-2 years.

Licensing and Certification

To practice as a psychiatrist, one must obtain a medical license in the state they intend to work. The requirements for licensure vary by state but generally involve passing the United States Medical Licensing Examination (USMLE) or the Comprehensive Osteopathic Medical Licensing Examination (COMLEX). In addition to licensure, many psychiatrists choose to become board certified by the American Board of Psychiatry and Neurology (ABPN). Board certification is not mandatory but it can enhance job prospects and salary potential. To become board certified, psychiatrists must pass an exam administered by the ABPN.

Career Advancement

Career advancement for psychiatrists often involves specializing in a particular area of psychiatry, conducting research, teaching, or taking on leadership roles within a medical facility or professional organization. Some psychiatrists may choose to open their own private practices. In addition, continuous education is key in this field as new treatments and research findings are constantly emerging. Psychiatrists are required to complete continuing medical education (CME) credits to maintain their license and board certification. Overall, the career path progression for a psychiatrist involves several stages of education, training, licensing, and continuous learning. It can be a long journey but it offers the opportunity to make a significant difference in the lives of patients struggling with mental health issues.

Psychiatrist Career Path Specializations and Subfields

As a vast and complex field, Psychiatry offers numerous specializations and subfields that allow practitioners to focus on specific areas of mental health. This diversity not only provides opportunities for Psychiatrists to develop expertise in different areas but also contributes to the overall richness and complexity of this healthcare profession.

Addiction Psychiatry

Addiction Psychiatry is a subfield that focuses on the diagnosis and treatment of individuals with substance abuse problems, such as alcohol, drugs, and other addictive substances. Psychiatrists specializing in this area work closely with patients to manage their addiction issues and may use a combination of psychotherapy, medication, and other treatments to help patients overcome their dependencies.

Child and Adolescent Psychiatry

Child and Adolescent Psychiatry is a specialized area that concentrates on diagnosing and treating mental health disorders in children and adolescents. This includes conditions like attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD), autism, anxiety disorders, depression, and others. These psychiatrists often work closely with other healthcare professionals, educators, and parents to create comprehensive treatment plans for their young patients.

Geriatric Psychiatry

Geriatric Psychiatry focuses on the mental health of elderly individuals. Psychiatrists in this field diagnose and treat conditions such as dementia, depression, anxiety, and other mental health disorders common in older adults. They also collaborate with other healthcare providers to ensure the overall well-being of their patients.

Forensic Psychiatry

Forensic Psychiatry is a unique field that bridges the gap between law and psychiatry. Forensic psychiatrists evaluate individuals involved in legal cases for their mental health status and provide expert testimony in court. They often deal with issues such as criminal responsibility, competency to stand trial, and psychological damages.

Consultation-Liaison Psychiatry

Consultation-Liaison Psychiatry, also known as Psychosomatic Medicine, involves the assessment and treatment of patients with psychiatric disorders that complicate or result from other medical conditions. These psychiatrists often work in hospital settings and collaborate with other medical professionals to manage the psychological aspects of their patients' physical health problems. Each of these specializations requires additional training and certification beyond general psychiatry residency. By choosing to specialize, psychiatrists can deepen their expertise, meet the specific needs of certain patient populations, and contribute to advancements in their chosen field.

Psychiatrist Career Path Job Market and Outlook

The career outlook for psychiatrists is promising, as mental health awareness and the demand for mental health professionals continues to increase. According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), employment for psychiatrists is projected to grow 16% from 2018 to 2028, much faster than the average for all occupations. This growth can be attributed to several factors. For one, there is a greater understanding and acceptance of mental illnesses today, leading to more people seeking help from professionals. Additionally, healthcare reform has made mental health care more accessible, leading to increased demand. It's also worth noting that there is a shortage of psychiatrists in many parts of the U.S., particularly in rural areas. This means that job opportunities are abundant, especially for those willing to relocate or work in underserved regions.

The Job Market for Psychiatrists

The job market for psychiatrists is robust and continues to expand. Due to the shortage of psychiatrists, many hospitals, clinics, and private practices are actively recruiting qualified professionals. Opportunities are also available in academic settings, government agencies, and research institutions. It's important to note that the job market for psychiatrists is somewhat influenced by location. Urban areas with larger populations typically have a higher demand for mental health services, thus providing more job opportunities. However, rural areas often have a high need for these professionals but struggle to attract them due to location challenges.

Factors Influencing the Psychiatrist Career Outlook

Several factors are influencing the positive career outlook for psychiatrists. As mentioned earlier, increased awareness and de-stigmatization of mental health issues is leading to more people seeking help from professionals like psychiatrists. Another major factor is the aging population. As the population ages, there will be an increased need for geriatric psychiatric services. This includes dealing with issues like dementia, depression, and anxiety, which are common in older adults. Finally, advancements in telemedicine are also impacting the field. Telepsychiatry, or delivering psychiatric services remotely, is becoming more common. This not only allows psychiatrists to reach patients in remote areas but also allows for flexible working conditions. In summary, the job market and career outlook for psychiatrists are bright. The growing awareness and acceptance of mental health issues, combined with an aging population and advancements in telemedicine, are expected to drive demand for these professionals in the coming years.

Psychiatrist Career Path Salary and Compensation

As a psychiatrist, your earning potential is largely influenced by your level of education, experience, geographical location, and the type of practice you engage in. On average, psychiatrists in the United States earn a median annual salary of approximately $220,380 according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics.

Starting Salary for Psychiatrists

At the start of your career as a psychiatrist, after completing your residency, you can expect to earn an average annual salary of around $200,000. However, this can vary significantly depending on where you practice and whether you specialize in a particular area. For instance, child and adolescent psychiatrists may earn higher starting salaries due to the specialized nature of their work.

Mid-career and Experienced Psychiatrist Salary

As you gain more experience and expertise in the field of psychiatry, your salary can increase significantly. Mid-career psychiatrists with about 5 to 10 years of experience can expect to earn an average salary of approximately $220,000 to $250,000 per year. Seasoned professionals with over 20 years of experience can earn an average salary exceeding $260,000 annually.

Compensation Packages

Aside from basic salary, psychiatrists may also receive additional compensation in the form of benefits packages. These packages may include health insurance, paid time off, retirement plans, life insurance, and professional development allowances. Some psychiatrists who are self-employed or run their own private practices may also be able to set their own rates, which can potentially lead to higher earnings.

Geographical Variations in Salary

Geographical location can play a significant role in determining a psychiatrist's salary. For example, psychiatrists practicing in urban areas with a high cost of living like New York City or San Francisco may earn significantly higher salaries compared to those practicing in rural areas. States such as California, New York, and Texas also tend to pay psychiatrists higher salaries due to the demand for mental health services in these regions.

Future Salary Trends

The demand for psychiatrists is expected to grow in the coming years due to the increasing recognition of the importance of mental health. As a result, salary trends for psychiatrists are projected to increase. Furthermore, psychiatrists who continue their education and gain additional certifications in specialties such as addiction psychiatry, forensic psychiatry, or geriatric psychiatry may be able to command higher salaries. In conclusion, a career path in psychiatry can be financially rewarding, especially for those who specialize and gain substantial experience in the field. It's important to consider all factors that can influence earning potential, including location, experience, specialty, and the type of practice.

Psychiatrist Career Path Tips for Success

The journey to becoming a psychiatrist is long and requires a great deal of dedication and hard work. However, by following some specific steps and tips, you can set yourself up for success in this rewarding career. In this section, we will discuss various tips that can help you succeed in your path to becoming a psychiatrist.

1. Focus on Your Education

Education forms the foundation of a successful career in psychiatry. You will need to earn a bachelor's degree, ideally with a major in psychology, biology, or pre-med. Following this, you will need to attend medical school and specialize in psychiatry during your residency. This educational journey is rigorous and challenging, but it provides you with the necessary knowledge and skills to excel as a psychiatrist. Ensure you stay focused and dedicated during these years, absorbing as much knowledge as you can and striving for academic excellence.

2. Gain Practical Experience

While education is essential, practical experience is equally important. Look for opportunities to work in mental health settings during your time in medical school and residency. This could be through internships, part-time jobs, or volunteering. Practical experience gives you a firsthand look at the profession and allows you to apply your knowledge in real-world scenarios. It also helps you build crucial skills like patient interaction, problem-solving, and decision-making.

3. Pursue Specializations

Psychiatry is a broad field with several sub-specialties such as child psychiatry, geriatric psychiatry, forensic psychiatry, addiction psychiatry, and more. Depending on your interests, consider pursuing further education or training in a specific area of psychiatry. Specializing can make you more marketable to employers and can also provide opportunities for higher pay or more advanced positions. It also allows you to provide more focused and specialized care to your patients.

4. Continue Learning and Development

The field of psychiatry is continually evolving, with new research, treatments, and theories emerging regularly. To remain effective and relevant in your practice, it's vital to commit to lifelong learning. Attend workshops, conferences, and seminars. Stay up-to-date with the latest research by reading professional journals and publications. Consider joining professional organizations like the American Psychiatric Association, which offer resources for continuous learning and professional development.

5. Prioritize Self-Care

Psychiatry can be a demanding and emotionally taxing profession. It's essential to prioritize self-care and maintain a healthy work-life balance. This could involve regular exercise, healthy eating, meditation, or pursuing hobbies and interests outside of work. Taking care of your mental health allows you to provide the best care possible for your patients. It also helps prevent burnout, ensuring longevity in your career. By following these tips, you can set yourself up for a successful career in psychiatry. It's a challenging path, but the rewards – both personal and professional – are immense.

What is a Psychiatrist?

A psychiatrist is a medical doctor who specializes in mental health, including substance use disorders. Psychiatrists are qualified to assess both the mental and physical aspects of psychological problems. They use a variety of treatments, including psychotherapy, medications, psychosocial interventions, and other treatments (such as electroconvulsive therapy), depending on the needs of each patient.

How to Become a Psychiatrist?

Becoming a psychiatrist involves several years of educational and clinical training. The path usually begins with a Bachelor's degree, preferably in a relevant field like psychology or pre-med studies. After obtaining their Bachelor's degree, aspiring psychiatrists must attend medical school and earn an M.D. or D.O. degree. Following graduation from medical school, individuals must complete a four-year residency in psychiatry. During their residency, they receive comprehensive training in diagnosing and treating mental illnesses.

What Does a Psychiatrist Do?

Psychiatrists diagnose, treat, and help prevent disorders related to the mind and emotions. They assess patients through interviews, observations, medical histories, and diagnostic tests. Based on these assessments, psychiatrists develop treatment plans, which may include psychotherapy, medication, hospitalization or a combination of these. In addition to treating patients, many psychiatrists also conduct research or teach in academic settings.

What Skills are Needed to be a Psychiatrist?

Successful psychiatrists possess a variety of skills beyond their medical knowledge. They need excellent communication skills to effectively discuss treatment plans and explain complex medical information to their patients. Additionally, they need good problem-solving skills to diagnose mental health conditions accurately and develop effective treatment plans. Empathy is another crucial skill for psychiatrists as they work with patients who are dealing with mental health issues. Lastly, they should have strong ethical standards and the ability to make difficult decisions, often under pressure.

How Much Does a Psychiatrist Make?

The salary of a psychiatrist can vary greatly depending on their experience, location, and specialization. According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, the median annual wage for psychiatrists was $220,380 in May 2019. However, those in the top 10% of earners made more than $220,380, while those in the bottom 10% earned less than $75,590.

What is the Job Outlook for Psychiatrists?

The demand for psychiatrists is expected to grow in the coming years. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, employment of psychiatrists is projected to grow 16 percent from 2018 to 2028, much faster than the average for all occupations. This growth is driven by increased recognition of the importance of mental health, as well as an aging population that is expected to require psychiatric services.

What are the Advancement Opportunities for Psychiatrists?

Psychiatrists have several opportunities for advancement in their careers. They may choose to specialize in a particular area of psychiatry, such as child and adolescent psychiatry, geriatric psychiatry, or addiction psychiatry. Some psychiatrists may choose to open their private practice or become partners in a group practice. Others may pursue roles in research or academia, contributing to the advancement of knowledge in the field of psychiatry. In addition, some psychiatrists may take on leadership roles within hospitals or other healthcare organizations.