Contemplating Psychiatry?

As the 3rd year of medical school approaches, medical students typically narrow down their specialties of choice, and if unsure, feel rather overwhelmed since the decision practically solidifies their field of practice for the rest of their careers (though yes, it is possible to switch specialties during training).  Did I know at birth that I wanted to become a psychiatrist?  Absolutely not.  I went through my first two years of medical school wondering when the light bulb in my head would go off as to which specialty I was destined to go into.  Then, it finally hit me — I’m meant to become a cardiologist!  Well, that idea was short-lived once I became aware of the required six years of training after medical school (much respect to the cardiologists out there).  Fortunately, I discovered Psychiatry, which is the one specialty where I actually felt motivated to go above and beyond to learn more and felt passionate about!

If Psychiatry is listed among your options, then the following are reasons I believe Psychiatry is an amazing specialty to choose:

  • Psychiatrists are in high demand.  There will truly never be enough psychiatrists to meet the current and growing needs, which means more job opportunities and lucrative possibilities to create your own practice.
  • Psychiatrists in the United States make a mean annual income of $182,700 (US Bureau of Labor Statistics, 2014).  Sure, Medscape notes this number ranks at the bottom third compared to the annual income of other specialties, but if lifestyle and job satisfaction are factored in, the ranking can be considered insignificant (see next bullet point).  In Australia, psychiatry is found to be one of the best financially rewarding careers.
  • Lifestyle can be catered to your preference.  I currently work part-time and know several psychiatrists working part-time who feel content with their flexible schedules.  One of my friends practices telepsychiatry in the comfort of her own home, which has been perfect for raising her growing family.
  • Establish your niche or dabble in different areas.  Several psychiatrists have their own solo practice, yet are able to divide their time into percentages working with other health organizations, academia/teaching, treatment centers, etc.  And when establishing your own niche, your expertise working with specific populations can be highly sought after (for example, I was mentored by various specialists including a bipolar disorder specialist, sports psychiatrist, developmental disabilities specialist, psychoanalytic psychiatrist…the list goes on).  I’m still trying to establish my own niche (I have way too many interests)!
  • There are multiple subspecialties (including child/adolescent, geriatric, consultation/liaison, sports, forensic, pain management).
  • If having a private practice is the goal, then the cost for equipment is minimal compared to other specialties (after all, the main instrument needed to practice is yourself).
  • Many opportunities exist for research, especially since there is much left to be learned about the brain.
  • Multiple settings exist for work: outpatient, inpatient, ER psych, community mental health, academia, college/university/student health, Veterans Administration, residential treatment centers, subacute treatment centers, drug detox and rehabilitation centers, consultation, Assertive Community Treatment (ACT) model, telepsychiatry, correctional system, etc.
  • If your goal is to have an extended career, most psychiatrists continue to work until late in life with only 18% retiring before age 65.
  • And residency training is only four years!

If you have any other questions or comments about the field, then feel free to post in the comment section below.  I would love to hear from you especially since I remember what it was like to reach such a pivotal point in my education/career.


Photo by Marlon Santos


15 thoughts on “Contemplating Psychiatry?

  1. Very useful advice! Definitely something I will be sharing with friends and family interested in the psychiatry field.

  2. You are in awe of the cardiologists and I am in awe of you! :-). My brother in law is also a psychiatrist. I remember those days when he was in his residential training….. One word….brutal. Quality of life when it comes to career choices is so matter which field a person pursues..thank you for taking the time to spell this out. Not trying to piggy back on your blog post but my latest blog post touches on this same topic indirectly… Let me know if you’d like I link to it,I’d be glad to e-mail it to you.. I don’t like it when people paste links to their stuff w/o seems so tacky and self promoting.

  3. Just discovered your blog, love it! I am a final year medical student, currently leaning towards general practice but I have always kept psych in the back of my mind. I loved my psych rotations and am passionate about mental health, your post gave me something to think about 🙂

  4. Pingback: Psychiatry Specialty of Choice | Meaningful Beauty

  5. How would someone transition from being a non licensed social worker into being a psychiatrist? I have a masters in public administration and a undergraduate in health science.

  6. Helloo 🙂 thank you so much for posting a lot of helpful information.. I’m currently working towards earning my B.S. in psychology and started thinking about psychiatry. Going to medical school was the last thing I’d imagine myself to think about. However, I’m considering it. Not sure though how majoring in psychology will help me gey through medical school. I’d appreciate any feedback or a piece of advice. Thank you 🙂

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