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Psychiatry Degree Programs and Colleges

Psychiatrist careers involve 1-on-1 contact with patients with behavior problems or mental illnesses who are in need of multifaceted treatments such as counseling, psychoanalysis and medication. Learn about degree programs that prepare you for a career in psychiatry, including common course topics and residencies.

What You Need to Know

Psychiatry degree programs and colleges prepare students to work with patients who are battling addiction, mental illness or other mental disorders that keep them from enjoying everyday life. Aspiring students often select a specialization in psychiatry. It can take several years of education and training to become a psychiatrist.

Degrees Doctor of Medicine (M.D.)
Licensure Licensing is required
Training Hands-on training through clerkships and residency programs

What Is Psychiatry?

Psychiatry is a medical discipline devoted to the treatment of people afflicted with mental illness or behavioral problems. Unlike psychologists, psychiatrists are medical doctors, which means they can prescribe medications for patients. As a psychiatrist, you would combine various treatment strategies, including medication, psychoanalysis, hospitalization and psychotherapy, to help your patients.

What Education Do I Need?

After graduating from high school, you'll typically need to complete a bachelor's degree in a field related to the medical sciences, such as biology, chemistry or pre-medicine. In some cases, a relevant bachelor's program can fulfill admission requirements for a Doctor of Medicine (M.D.) program, resulting in a shorter combined undergraduate and graduate education. An M.D. is required to become a psychiatrist; in the latter half of a 4-year medical program, you may be able to engage in a psychiatry clerkship for specialization in the field. These colleges offer psychiatry degree programs:

  • Northeastern University (Boston, MA)
  • College of Saint Benedict/Saint John's University (Locations in MN)
  • Yale University (New Haven, CT)
  • Dartmouth College (Hanover, NH)
  • University of California at San Francisco
  • Mayo Clinic College of Medicine and Science (MN)
  • University of Washington (Seattle)
  • Stanford University (CA)

Are Online Programs Available?

As an aspiring psychiatrist, you are unlikely to find any distance education training programs. Some undergraduate programs may offer relevant pre-medical courses in an online format, but you may not be able to transfer online science course credits to the graduate level.

What Subjects Might I Study?

In medical school, you'll likely undertake a broad selection of courses within the psychiatric and general medical fields. During the final two years of medical school, you'll typically complete multiple clerkship experiences that can offer you on-site training in various medical disciplines, including psychiatry. These courses might be included:

  • Organic chemistry
  • Biology
  • Biochemistry
  • Statistics
  • Biomedical chemistry
  • Neurological brain functions
  • Medication
  • Primary medical care skills

What About Exams and Residencies?

Once you've completed an accredited M.D. program, you'll be qualified to sit for the United States Medical Licensing Examination, which is required to practice as a physician. Following medical school, you'll need to complete a psychiatry residency to gain further specialization in the field. These programs typically last 3-4 years, although this sometimes can be reduced due to prior completion of an internship. As a resident, you'll train under licensed psychiatrists in a professional mental health setting while receiving payment and gaining hands-on experience.

During a residency program, certain requirements usually need to be met for your training to be assessed. These areas of interest might be included in your psychiatry residency:

  • Training seminars
  • Patient observation
  • Psychotherapy
  • Hospital primary care
  • Behavior counseling