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What Education Do I Need to Become a Forensic Psychiatrist?

Forensic psychiatry is a sub-specialty of the medical profession dealing with the intersection of the legal system and mental health. Working in this field requires a medical education and post-graduate training. Read on to learn more about the education requirements to become a forensic psychiatrist.

Role of the Forensic Psychiatrist

Forensic psychiatrists play an essential role in assessing the state of an individual's mental health, most notably after they have committed a crime. The psychiatrist will conduct interviews and assessments with the individuals who claim their emotional damage played a role in their actions. They may be called upon as witnesses in a courtroom when criminal sentences are being decided or to establish if an individual can be released from prison.

Important Facts About This Occupation

Mean Annual Salary (2021) $249,760 (for all psychiatrists)
Job Outlook (2021-2031) 9% growth (for all psychiatrists)
Entry-level Education Doctoral degree
Similar Occupations Psychologist
Work Environment Hospital, out-patient center, police station, mental health facility

Source: U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics

Education Requirements

Medical School

Becoming a forensic psychiatrist requires the completion of both an undergraduate program and a four-year Doctor of Medicine (M.D.) degree program. During the M.D. program, you have the opportunity to take electives or choose a major in psychiatry in addition to completing the required medical education coursework. The final two years of the M.D. program require clerkship rotations, which include general psychiatry.

Residency and Fellowship

Following graduation from the M.D. program, you'll complete both a general psychiatry residency and a forensic psychiatry fellowship. General psychiatry residencies typically take four years to complete. In addition to developing your clinical skills in psychiatry, you're commonly required to complete internal medicine and neurological rounds. Forensic psychiatry fellowships take one year to complete. You might be exposed to criminal forensic psychiatry or child and adolescent forensic psychiatry, as well as outpatient and inpatient medical facilities and correctional hospitals.

Licensing

All practicing doctors are required to be state licensed, including forensic psychiatrists. State requirements might vary, but the basic conditions include completing an M.D. program and post-graduate training, as well as taking and passing the United States Medical Licensing Examination (USMLE). In addition to these three requirements, physicians must undergo a background check.

Professional Certification

As a forensic psychiatrist, you have the option to become certified by the American Board of Psychiatry and Neurology (ABPN). The requirements for certification include completing medical school and residency training, holding an unrestricted license, and passing an exam. Certification in forensic psychiatry requires completing the appropriate fellowship training and taking an additional exam.

Job Requirements

As a forensic psychiatrist, you work with individuals with mental illnesses as well as legal professionals, such as attorneys and judges. You might be called to court as an expert witness in a trial or asked to provide a professional consultation regarding an individual, crime, or litigation procedure. Forensic psychiatrists often evaluate and treat incarcerated individuals.