How to Become a Clinical Psychiatrist

The Basics

When you combine a physician and mental health, you end up with a clinical psychiatrist. Being able to treat clients who are experiencing mental health disorders, such as bipolar and schizophrenia with both counseling techniques and medication allows for a more tailored client experience. The schooling can be quite long, but the rewards are worth it, as you will be able to be an effective mental health partner in the lives of your clients. You will gain insight into the needs of clients by analyzing the mental health status and conducting both medical and physical assessments.

Where Does a Clinical Psychiatrist Work?

Clinical psychiatrists often work in hospitals, in conjunction with other medical professionals. However, many also work in mental health clinics or open up their own private practices. As a clinical psychiatrist, you may spend approximately 60% of your time working directly with clients, with the remaining time being spent teaching, providing consultation services to other medical and health professionals, research, and administration tasks. Your location may influence your daily tasks, as those working in their own private practices may devote more time to research and administrative needs compared to a clinical psychiatrist who works in a psychiatric hospital. Many clinical psychiatrists work long hours, often over 60 hours per week, including nights and weekends.

What are the Requirements to Become a Clinical Psychiatrist?


It takes many years to become a clinical psychiatrist due to the amount of responsibility involved in the profession. Upon completing your undergraduate degree, you will need to attend an accredited medical school, which is followed by four years of clinical residency. During your undergraduate years, it is important to maintain good grades, as admission to medical school can be highly competitive. Additionally, if you want to become specialized in a sub-specialty area, an additional fellowship may be required, which takes an extra one to two years to complete. There are several areas in which you could specialize, including addictions, forensic, and geriatric psychiatry, each with their unique educational requirements.


Upon completing your residency, you will need to become licensed to practice medicine, which is done by passing a board exam. The exam is a three-step test that covers a variety of topics, including clinical knowledge, skills, patient management, and medication management. Each state has their own requirements, so it is important to check with your state licensing department in order to obtain the appropriate training. Additionally, after becoming licensed, you can proceed to obtaining certification through the American Board of Psychiatry and Neurology (ABPN). Once you obtain board certification, you may practice anywhere in the United States, but it is your responsibility to keep up to date with the laws and regulations in each of the states you decide to practice within. Your certification needs to be renewed every ten years.

Skills and Qualities

As a clinical psychiatrist, you will need to possess effective communication skills, including both listening and speaking, as you will be interacting with not just your clients, but possibly a whole treatment team, depending on the needs of your client. Being able to understand the group dynamics involved when working with other medical professionals is essential, as it can lead to the most effective treatment for your client. Additionally, you will need to develop competency in diagnosis and strong investigative skills to help you to discover the causes of your client’s distress. Developing a caring and empathic character will also be of great benefit, as some clients may view “professional” characteristics as cold and uncaring.

What is the Salary for a Clinical Psychiatrist?

Depending on where you work, your salary can range anywhere from $74,530 and $275,000 per year, as of May 2019. According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor and Statistics, the top three states who offer the highest salaries for psychiatrists include Maine, Arizona, and North Dakota, with average salaries ranging from $264,770 to $273,900 per year.

The type of industry you work within can also influence your income level. Psychiatrists who work in the federal government setting on average earn $205,960 per year, as of May 2019.

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