Pros and Cons of Becoming a Clinical Psychiatrist
A clinical psychiatrist works with people who are dealing with periods of emotional disturbance. Consider the pros and cons of pursuing a career in clinical psychiatry to decide if this is the right profession for you.
|High salary potential (Average salary of about $181,000 for all psychiatrists in 2014)*|
|Faster employment growth in the field (18% between 2012 and 2022)*|
|Geographically in demand nationwide*|
|Psychiatrists can offer a wider range of treatment options than psychologists**|
|Psychiatry is a subspecialty of medicine and can require up to an extra eight years of residency and internship training to become certified**|
|Entry into medical school is very competitive*|
|Work can be highly stressful***|
|Income and patient load can be affected by insurance coverage*|
Sources: *U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, **American Psychiatric Association, ***O*NET OnLine.
Job Description and Duties
This job requires that you deal with people who are under stress and going through periods of emotional disturbance. In order to work in this field, you'll have to be patient, calm under difficult circumstances, and remain persistent in order to discover the root and treatment plan of a patient's disorder.
Communication skills are essential to this occupation because you'll have to discover the nature of the problem through discussions with your patients and then collaborate with other medical professionals. You'll also need a deep understanding of both scientific and theoretical treatment therapies to tackle the variety of issues presented.
The American Board of Medical Specialties (ABMS) recognizes psychiatry and neurology as a joint subspecialty of medicine, but you can choose to further refine your studies. Certification is available for specializations within this field in the areas of child and adolescent psychiatry, addiction psychiatry, forensic psychiatry, geriatric psychology, psychosomatic medicine, sleep medicine and pain medicine. Each specialization has different qualification criteria.
What Are the Requirements?
You can pursue your medical license and psychiatry certification, then go into private or group practice. First, you will need to complete a bachelor's degree program in areas like pre-med or biology. You will go on to complete training at a medical school and pursue a Doctor of Medicine (M.D.) or Doctor of Osteopathic Medicine (D.O.) degree. Following medical school, a psychiatric residency is required, which will prepare you for the oral and written board examinations required for licensure.
Continue Your Education
Continuing education is a requirement for all types of doctors in many states. The requirements can vary by state and specialty, and the specifics can be found through the individual state medical board. Whether you're in a state with this requirement or not, you can keep abreast of the latest trends and breakthroughs in psychiatry through associations such as American Psychiatric Association (APA) and the ABMS.
Job Postings from Real Employers
If you would prefer to work in a group practice, you'll have more resources handy to cover for you, should you want to take a vacation or leave of absence. If you choose the group practice route, you'll find diverse situations and requirements, but all positions demand licensing and certification. The following are summaries of job postings listed in April 2012.
- A clinical psychiatrist was being sought by a Washington health care company that works towards finding ways to care for a wide range of patients with limited health care insurance resources. Along with standard licensing and certification, the company also requires a Controlled Substances Registration Certificate and a current Washington driver's license.
- In Madison, Wisconsin, a mental health center is seeking a staff psychiatrist who will be responsible for his or her own patient caseload and coordinate treatment with other staff members. The position also requires the psychiatrist to assist in teaching psychiatry resident students.
- A Manhattan, New York, private group is seeking psychiatrists to pair with psychologists in small office settings. Partnership options may be available after two years.
How to Stand Out
Tailor Your Training
The American Psychiatric Association (APA) can be a valuable resource, and offer access to conferences and education materials for subspecialties in psychiatry. The APA also lists openings for residency programs by subspecialty to non-members. If you choose to become a member, you can take advantage of a program that helps you find a mentor in the area you wish to pursue.
Get Board Certification
Becoming board certified in either a specialty or a subspecialty is actually an option rather than a requirement. Having board certification will demonstrate your dedication to learning, the strength of your knowledge base and confidence in your own abilities. The certification for psychiatry must be renewed every ten years.
If you enjoy the thought of working in the field of psychiatry but certain aspects of the profession really don't fit into your career plan, you still have options. The following two careers incorporate aspects of psychiatry, but have different work environments and education requirements.
As a medical scientist, you can help advance the field of psychiatry through research and clinical trial studies. Most medical scientists have a doctoral degree and some even go on to earn a medical degree. According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), between 2010 and 2020 medical scientists should enjoy an employment opportunity increase of 36% (www.bls.gov). The BLS reported in 2011 that medical scientists earned an annual mean wage of nearly $88,000.
If you prefer an academic setting, you might consider teaching psychiatry at a medical school. As of May 2011, the BLS reported that health specialty professors earned the second highest wages of all college teachers with an annual mean salary of just over $99,000. You'll still need a doctoral degree for this position, but on a positive note the hiring rate was predicted to remain at a stable 17% through the 2010-2020 decade.