What Are the Different Types of Psychiatrist Qualifications?

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  • Written By: Kristie Lorette
  • Edited By: O. Wallace
  • Last Modified Date: 02 December 2019
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There are four primary types of psychiatrist qualifications that these particular types of medical doctors have to meet in order to practice as a psychiatrist. The four psychiatrist qualifications include earning an undergraduate degree, earning a medical degree, gaining hands-on experience as a resident and obtaining a few different types of state and federal licenses.

The first of the psychiatrist qualifications is for the intended psychiatrist to earn an undergraduate college degree. The most common type of undergraduate degree for a budding psychiatrist to earn is in psychology. This is not a requirement as a major, however, so other degree options potential psychiatrists can earn include degrees in biology, natural sciences, chemistry or physics. Other potential degrees may even be in math, humanities or English.

After earning an undergraduate college degree from an accredited institution, the next of the psychiatrist qualifications is to apply for medical school. Psychiatrists must complete an accredited medical school program, just as any surgeon, physician or any other type of medical doctor would have to do. The medical degree program typically takes four years to complete. After graduating from medical school, psychiatrist qualifications require the graduate to earn hands-on experience and training in a residency program.


A residency program is typically another four years of training that the psychiatrist has to complete. Psychiatrists are required to work in various medical fields, not just in the field of psychiatry. This means that part of the residency includes rotations working in the emergency room or urgent care centers, internal medicine, neurology, family medicine and pediatrics. After finishing residency, the next of the psychiatrist qualifications is to take the psychiatry exam.

In the US, the psychiatry exam is the United States Medical Licensing Examination. Once the psychiatrist passes this exam, they have to apply for a license in the state in which they wish to practice psychiatry. Typically, it is the Secretary of State or the Business Licensing Office for the state that provides applications and issues psychiatry licenses.

It is important to remember that a psychiatrist is an MD, or medical doctor, while a psychologist is not. As an MD, a psychiatrist can prescribe medication to patients, while a psychologist cannot. Because of this, psychiatrists are also required to obtain an additional license, which is a federal narcotics license. The psychiatrist is also required to register as a psychiatrist with the Drug Enforcement Administration because they can administer narcotics and other medication to their patients.


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