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At a Glance

  • Treat patients with mental illnesses
  • Have both medical and psychological training
  • Develop treatment plans and keep detailed records
  • May work nights, weekends, and on-call
  • Training usually lasts 11 years after high school
  • Need a state medical license

Career summary

Psychiatrists diagnose and treat people who have mental illnesses.

#No alternate titles

Psychiatrists help patients with mental illnesses such as substance abuse, anxiety disorders, or depression. Some mental illnesses have a biological cause, such as a lack of the proper chemicals in the brain. Other mental illnesses are caused by an event, such as the death of a loved one.

Psychiatrists may have an area of specialty:

Psychiatrists ask patients questions about current and previous mental health problems. They review the medical history and family background to try and find a cause of the problem. Sometimes they talk with family members to learn more about a patient's life. In addition, they may consult with other mental health specialists who have worked with the patient. They also use lab tests to help make a diagnosis.

After making a diagnosis, psychiatrists make a treatment plan. Mental illness can be treated in many ways. Psychiatrists can use psychotherapy to help patients talk about issues and solve problems. They can also prescribe medications. In serious cases, psychiatrists admit patients to hospitals.

Psychiatrists monitor a patient's condition by meeting with them regularly. They make changes in the treatment plan if needed.

Psychiatrists share similar tasks with other types of physicians, they:

Some psychiatrists teach at medical schools. They may also do research on procedures and treatments for disease. Sometimes they do research and write articles for journals. Some psychiatrists teach or supervise students.

Related careers

This career is part of the Health Science cluster of careers.

Related careers include:

Military careers

Job duties

Task list

The following list of tasks is specific to psychiatrists.

Common work activities

Psychiatrists perform the following tasks. These tasks are common to many careers.

Work requirements

Working conditions

In a typical work setting, psychiatrists:

Interpersonal relationships

Physical work conditions

Work performance


Physical demands

Psychiatrists frequently:

It is important for psychiatrists to be able to:

It is not as important, but still necessary, for psychiatrists to be able to:

Skills and abilities

Psychiatrists need to:


Reason and problem solve

Use math and science

Manage oneself, people, time, and things

Work with people

Work with things

Perceive and visualize

Education and training

Educational programs

The programs of study listed below will help you prepare for the occupation or career cluster you are exploring.

Programs of study directly related to this occupation

Other programs of study to consider


To work as a psychiatrist, you typically need to:

Education after high school

To become a licensed doctor, you must complete medical school. Medical schools grant a Doctor of Medicine (MD) degree or a Doctor of Osteopathic Medicine (DOM) degree. You spend the first two years of medical school in classrooms and labs. You study anatomy, biochemistry, and different medicines. You also learn how to take a medical history, examine patients, and make a diagnosis. During the next two years, you work in hospitals and clinics under the supervision of physicians.

You usually need a bachelor's degree to get into medical school. While you do not need to be a pre-medicine or science major, these programs are good preparation. If you earn a liberal arts degree, be sure to take courses in physics, biology, and chemistry.

On-the-job training

While in medical school, you spend two years working as an intern in a hospital or clinic. As an intern, you rotate through internal medicine, family medicine, obstetrics, oncology, and other hospital departments.

After medical school, you complete a residency program in psychiatry. Your residency will last from three to five years. Residents usually work in hospitals. After your residency, you take additional exams to become board certified.

Military training

The military provides advanced training for psychiatrists. However, it does not provide the initial training to become a doctor. Scholarships for advanced medical training are available in return for a required period of military service.

Helpful high school courses

In high school, take classes that prepare you for college. A college preparatory curriculum (external link) may be different from your state's graduation requirements (external link). You need a very strong background in math and science to become a doctor. Take as many math and science courses as you can.

You should also consider taking some advanced courses in high school. This includes Advanced Placement (AP) and International Baccalaureate (IB) courses if they are available in your school. If you do well in these courses, you may receive college credit for them. Advanced courses can also strengthen your college application.

Helpful electives to take in high school that prepare you for this career include:

The courses listed above are meant to help you create your high school plan. If you have not already done so, talk to a school counselor or parent about the courses you are considering taking.

You should also check with a teacher or counselor to see if work-based learning opportunities are available in your school and community. These might include field trips, job shadowing, internships, and actual work experience. The goal of these activities is to help you connect your school experiences with real-life work.

Join some groups, try some hobbies, or volunteer with an organization that interests you. By participating in activities you can have fun, make new friends, and learn about yourself. Maybe one of them will help direct you to a future career. Here are examples of activities and groups (PDF file) that may be available in your high school or community.

Things to know

Some psychiatrists go to work for the hospital where they complete their residency. Others find jobs through professional journals and organizations. Many psychiatrists start their own practice or join a group practice.

Costs to workers

Psychiatrists who have borrowed money to pay school expenses may have large debt payments for the first few years after graduation. The average debt for medical students who graduated in 2018 was $196,520 with 83% percent owing at least $100,000. Malpractice insurance is expensive. To enter private practice, practitioners must invest in equipment, office space, and staffing costs. Estimated costs range from $75,000 to $100,000 or more.

Psychiatrists who join professional associations pay annual dues.

#http://medicaleconomics.modernmedicine.com/medical-economics/news/modernmedicine/modern-medicine-feature-articles/malpractice-premiums-continue (external link) and AMA debt info from: http://www.ama-assn.org/ama/pub/about-ama/our-people/member-groups-sections/medical-student-section/advocacy-policy/medical-student-debt/background.page (external link) 4/11/13 cj. & lh thanks Carol 3/12/14. Updated 3/23/15 from this page from LH https://www.aamc.org/download/152968/data/debtfactcard.pdf  cj.

#Updated debt info from AAMC First 2016 debt card linked to from this page https://students-residents.aamc.org/financial-aid/ 12/12/16 cj. Updated debt from Oct 2018 AAMC Fact card, 3/19/19 cj.


Psychiatrists must be licensed by the State of Washington as either medical or osteopathic physicians. Licensing requirements include:

For more information on the US Medical Licensing Exam, call 215.590.9500 or go to the National Board of Medical Examiners (external link) website.

Osteopathic doctors must complete 150 hours of continuing education every three years and medical doctors must complete 200 hours of continuing education every four years.

Licensing fees vary ranging from $491 (medical physicians) to $391 (osteopathic physicians) for the application. The annual renewal fee for osteopathic physicians is $441 and the biannual renewal fee for medical physicians is $657. The combined fee for an application and state exam for osteopathic practitioners is $516. The licensing and the renewal fees generally include an access fee for health-related online library journals and publications and a Washington physician health program surcharge.

For more information on medical doctors, contact:

Washington Medical Commission (external link)
PO Box 47866
Olympia, WA 98504-7866

For information on osteopathic doctors, contact:

Washington State Board of Osteopathic Medicine and Surgery (external link)
PO Box 47877
Olympia, WA 98504-7865

#BP (boiler plate) added 3/12/10 lh. Checked licensing info & added updated CTW content (fees) 3/30/11, cj. Update fees 3/18/12 lh. No change from what is in tag insert file, 4/24/13 or 3/23/15, 1/9/17 cj. okay 3/13.18 lh, 3/19/19 cj.

Job listings

Listed below are links to job categories from the National Labor Exchange that relate to this career. Once you get a list of jobs, you can view information about individual jobs and find out how to apply. If your job search finds too many openings, or if you wish to search for jobs outside of Washington, you will need to refine your search.

To get a listing of current jobs from the WorkSource system, go to the WorkSource website (external link).


Psychiatrists (SOC 29-1066)

Pay Period
Washington Hourly $34.84 $90.35 (1) (1) (1)
Monthly $6,038 $15,658 (1) (1) (1)
Yearly $72,470 $187,920 (1) (1) (1)
    Bellingham Hourly $21.00 $22.77 $32.54 $37.19 $39.97
Monthly $3,639 $3,946 $5,639 $6,445 $6,927
Yearly $43,668 $47,360 $67,686 $77,355 $83,156
    Kennewick-Richland Hourly $96.41 (2) (2) (2) (2)
Monthly $16,708 (2) (2) (2) (2)
Yearly $200,528 (2) (2) (2) (2)
    Seattle-Tacoma-Bellevue Hourly $96.73 (2) (2) (2) (2)
Monthly $16,763 (2) (2) (2) (2)
Yearly $201,197 (2) (2) (2) (2)
    Spokane-Spokane Valley Hourly $86.71 $93.92 (2) (2) (2)
Monthly $15,027 $16,276 (2) (2) (2)
Yearly $180,368 $195,354 (2) (2) (2)
    Vancouver Hourly $71.10 (2) (2) (2) (2)
Monthly $12,322 (2) (2) (2) (2)
Yearly $147,881 (2) (2) (2) (2)
    Yakima Hourly (2) (2) (2) (2) (2)
Monthly (2) (2) (2) (2) (2)
Yearly (2) (2) (2) (2) (2)
United States Hourly $36.34 $72.07 (1) (1) (1)
Monthly $6,298 $12,490 (1) (1) (1)
Yearly $75,590 $149,900 (1) (1) (1)

(1) Wages are greater than $90/hour or $187,200/year.
(2) Wage estimate is not available.

Wages vary by years of experience, area of the country, and hours worked. The doctor's skill, personality, and professional reputation also affect wages. Self-employed psychiatrists generally earn more than those who are not self-employed.

Salaried psychiatrists who work full time usually receive benefits. Typical benefits include sick leave, paid vacation, and health insurance. Some employers also provide a retirement plan. Psychiatrists who are self-employed must provide their own insurance and retirement plan.

Employment and outlook

Washington outlook

The table below provides information about the number of workers in this career in various regions. It also provides information about the expected growth rate and future job openings.

Psychiatrists (SOC 29-1066)

Location Current employment Growth over 10 years Annual openings
Washington 623 23.6% 16.1% 47
    Benton and Franklin Counties 22 36.4% 15.0% 2
    Clallam, Jefferson, and Kitsap Counties 16 25.0% 11.9% 1
    Clark, Cowlitz, and Wahkiakum Counties 12 16.7% 15.2% 1
    Grays Harbor, Lewis, Mason, Pacific, and Thurston Counties 28 21.4% 14.1% 2
    Island, San Juan, Skagit, and Whatcom Counties 110 20.0% 14.6% 7
    King County 195 23.6% 19.6% 15
    Kittitas, Klickitat, Skamania, and Yakima Counties 16 6.3% 13.8% 0
    Pierce County 162 27.8% 15.2% 14
    Snohomish County 26 23.1% 12.4% 1
    Spokane County 39 17.9% 13.9% 3
United States 28,600 16.1% 5.2% 1,400

National employment

About 12% of doctors (include psychiatrists) are self-employed. Information about the percentage of self-employed psychiatrists is not available.

Major employers:

National outlook

Demand will grow much faster than average for this occupation. New health care laws will mean that more people have access to mental health care. In addition, there will be a growing need to treat the aging population who face dementia and other age-related problems.

Psychiatrists who are willing to move to rural and low-income areas should have little trouble finding a job.

Other resources

The Student Doctor Network (external link)
Washington Osteopathic Medical Association (external link)
PO Box 1187
Gig Harbor, WA 98335
Washington State Medical Association (external link)
2001 Sixth Avenue, Suite 2700
Seattle, WA 98121


Career cluster

Career path

O*Net (external link) occupation

O*Net job zone (external link)

DOT occupation

Holland occupational cluster