How To Become A Psychiatrist With A Psychology Degree

Last Updated on August 30, 2023

A psychiatrist is a medical doctor who specializes in diagnosing and treating mental health conditions such as depression, schizophrenia, anxiety, ADHD, and eating disorders. Many, but not all, psychiatrists specialize in treating a specific type or group of mental health conditions. Psychiatrists must complete medical school and an additional four years of residency training in psychiatry. Psychiatrists spend much longer in school than most other mental health professionals. Their medical degrees allow them to prescribe psychotropic medication.

You can become a psychiatrist with only a bachelor’s degree in psychology. Psychiatrists have both clinical and research skills. They are independent health care practitioners who are licensed to diagnose and treat mental disorders in patients of all ages. They often collaborate equally with other professionals like psychologists, social workers, and counselors to help patients recover from common mental health issues. Of course, it may seem overwhelming at first – but the steps to becoming a psychiatrist are not difficult to master.

You may find it hard to access the right information on the internet, so we are here to help you in the following article, providing the best and updated information on How To Become A Psychiatrist With A Psychology Degree, about how to become a psychiatrist in Canada. Read on to learn more. We at college learners .com have all the information that you need about psychiatrist degree requirements. Read on to learn more.

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how to become a psychiatrist in canada

According to the Canadian Psychiatric Association, for an individual to practice psychiatry in Canada, they “must have a degree in medicine, a license to practise [sic] medicine in their province and specialist certification in psychiatry by either the Royal College of Physicians and Surgeons of Canada or a provincial college.” Approximately 12 years of post-secondary education are needed to become a psychiatrist

Preparation While Still in High School

Study the prerequisite courses to enter a university science program while in high school. This might include completing Advanced Placement high school physics, chemistry, biology and math. Universities look for well-rounded students, so it’s a great idea to participate in extracurricular activities. This might also be a good time to volunteer in a nursing home or local hospital to get a better sense of the medical field.

Bachelor’s Degree

Enroll in a four-year undergraduate or bachelor’s degree university program in science. In Quebec, the equivalent would be a premedical program in Cégep. Complete prerequisite courses for medical school, which include biology, physics, biochemistry and chemistry. This can typically be achieved within two years. Engage in extracurricular activities and medically related volunteering as these will be important aspects of your medical school application. Get to know some of your professors and work on building up your relationship, as their positive impression will help increase your odds of receiving impactful reference letters when applying to medical school.

Medical School

Verify if the Medical College Admission Test (MCAT) is a requirement at the medical school of your choice; only 11 of the 17 Canadian medical schools require the MCAT. The Association of American Medical Colleges is the organization that prepares the MCAT exam, and the test is only offered in April and August of each year.

Apply to medical school, and consider applying to more than one, as competition is fierce. Most premed students start studying for the MCAT at least three months in advance. The application process usually requires reference letters and a series of three interviews. The six medical schools located in Ontario use the Ontario Medical School Application Service, which is a web-based application processing service, for the initial application. You will attend medical school for 4 years in order to obtain your M.D.. An M.D. is a university document–not a license–and does not allow the holder to practice medicine.

Postgraduate Residency

Apply for postgraduate psychiatric residency through the Canadian Resident Matching Service in your final year of medical school. Before you begin your residency, you must obtain your postgraduate education certification. Apply for this certification through the provincial medical authority of your residency program. You will practice as a psychiatric resident for five years where you will be trained in diagnosis, psychopharmacology, mental health treatment and other aspects of medical care in areas outside of your psychiatric specialization.

Final Steps and Certification

Pass the examination and fulfill the requirements set by the Royal College of Physicians and Surgeons or in Quebec by the Collège des médecins du Québec to obtain your medical psychiatric certification. Apply for a Certificate of Registration to practice psychiatry through the College of Physicians and Surgeons of your province. This certificate authorizes the holder to practice medicine, in this case psychiatry, in the province in which it was issued.

Psychiatry 101: How to Become a Psychiatrist

psychiatrist degree requirements

The following chart provides an overview of the career requirements and information for psychiatrists.

Degree RequiredDoctor of Medicine (M.D.)
Training Required4-year residency
Key ResponsibilitiesInterview and examine patients; diagnose mental health issues; prescribe medication and therapeutic treatment; provide outpatient and inpatient therapy
Licensure or CertificationAll states require psychiatrists to be licensed; board certification in psychiatry is available
Job Growth (2018-2028)16%*
Average Salary (2018)$220,380*

Source: *U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS)

Step 1: Earn a Bachelor’s Degree

As an aspiring psychiatrist, you’ll need to take undergraduate courses in biology, chemistry, math and physics to meet medical school admissions requirements. Though any bachelor’s degree is usually acceptable, majoring in a science discipline or a pre-med field might offer you the best preparation for medical school. It’s also recommended that you volunteer at a hospital or a clinic to gain hands-on experience to improve your standing for medical school admission.

Step 2: Pursue a Medical Degree

You’ll need to attend four years of medical school to earn your Doctor of Medicine (M.D.) or Doctor of Osteopathic Medicine (D.O.) degree. As a medical student, you’ll be introduced to basic anatomy, physiology and pathology through lecture and hands-on labs. Your classes will also cover pharmacology, psychology, ethics and medical laws. Typically, you’ll learn the fundamental skills, behaviors and practices to become a physician before specializing your studies during your residency.

Step 3: Complete a Residency

After earning your medical degree, you’ll participate in a residency in a clinic or hospital. Most psychiatric residency programs last four years and consist of a combination of didactic learning and practical application. You’ll usually receive training in a number of disciplines, such as neurology, forensic psychology and chemical dependency before focusing your electives and clinical experience in a particular area during your final year. Under supervision, you may treat a variety of issues, including anxiety, depression, sexual dysfunction, substance abuse, psychosis and developmental disabilities.

Step 4: Obtain a License

You must obtain a license through your state’s medical board to practice psychiatry in all states. Most states have their own licensure requirements, but you’ll usually need to pass an examination that tests your knowledge of state regulations and medical practices. You might also need to register with the state if you disperse medication to your patients.

Step 5: Become Board Certified

Though board certification through the American Board of Psychiatry and Neurology (ABPN) is voluntary, becoming certified demonstrates your competence and could improve your employment opportunities. The ABPN offers certification in general psychiatry as well as specializations in such areas as addictions, adolescent and forensic psychiatry ( Board certification is valid for ten years. To renew your credentials, you must maintain a good standing in the profession and an active practice in your specialty as well as participate in continuing education and self-assessment practices.

What Are Some Related Alternative Careers?

Psychiatrists have obtained a medical degree and chosen the psychiatric specialty. There are a number of other medical specialties you could choose to specialize in, like anesthesiology, obstetrics and gynecology (OBGYN), or surgery. Anesthesiologists are in charge of administering anesthetic drugs to patients who are about to undergo surgery so they are unable to feel sensations. As an OBGYN, you would focus on women’s reproductive health, including pregnancies and hormonal imbalances. Surgeons perform a number of different types of procedures and often collaborate with other doctors.


The amount of time it takes to become a psychiatrist varies from person to person. Some people take longer to graduate college than others. Others take time off after graduation to study for the MCAT. Occasionally, a person is able to complete college more quickly than is typical.

Assuming a person does not take any breaks and graduates on a typical timeline, the time from high school graduation to psychiatric board certification is as follows:

  • 4 years of college
  • 4 years of medical school
  • 4 years of residency

That demands a total of 12 years after high school, so the youngest age at which a psychiatrist can expect to begin practicing is about 30.

Undergraduate Education

While many medical schools require only three years of undergraduate education, most admitted students have completed at least a 4-year bachelor’s degree program. You can choose any major, including psychology, but you must have completed prerequisite coursework in chemistry, biology, physics and organic chemistry. Coursework in epidemiology, anthropology, statistics and ethics are also looked favorably upon by medical school admissions departments.

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Medical School

Your first two years of medical school will consist mostly of coursework focusing on the sciences and the systems of the human body. You’ll take classes in anatomy, embryology, biochemistry, psychology and clinical medicine, among other areas. In your last two years of medical school, you’ll receive more hands-on training with physicians in clinical settings. During your fourth year, you’ll participate in elective rotations and explore areas such as pediatric neurology or gerontology. Many medical students interested in becoming psychiatrists also find a psychiatric mentor during their medical studies.

Psychiatry Residency

Psychiatry residency programs take four years to complete and require at least 36 months in psychiatry settings. Your first year is often known as an internship and will include significant medical training outside of your psychiatric specialty. You’ll complete hospital rotations in general medicine, emergency medicine and neurology. During your remaining years, you’ll focus exclusively on psychiatry and gain experience working with different types of patients, such as eating disorder, geriatric and schizophrenic patients. You’ll have the opportunity to participate in research electives during your final year, allowing you to explore particular areas of interest.


Though not necessary, you may choose to further specialize in the field of psychiatry after completing your residency by entering a fellowship. Fellowship programs generally take one year to complete and allow you to focus on a more narrow aspect of psychiatry, such as child and adolescent psychiatry, geriatrics, addiction, forensic psychiatry or research. A child and adolescent psychiatric subspecialty takes two years of training, but you may be able to begin your training after your third year of residency.

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