What Is a Board Certified Psychiatrist?

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  • Written By: Amber Eberle
  • Edited By: C. Wilborn
  • Last Modified Date: 15 September 2019
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A board certified psychiatrist is a physician who specializes in mental health and the treatment of mental health disorders. To become board certified by the American Board of Psychiatry and Neurology (ABPN), a psychiatrist must have completed training and education at an accredited medical school, be licensed to practice medicine in at least one of the states in the United States or a province in Canada, and pass an examination given by the board. Certification from the ABPN lasts for a set number of years and upon expiration of certification, a psychiatrist must follow the guidelines for renewal.

A psychiatrist who practices in the United States has successfully earned an undergraduate bachelor's degree as well as the degree of Medical Doctor (M.D.) or Doctor of Osteopathic Medicine (D.O.) from an accredited medical school. International physicians with equivalent degrees may also practice as a psychiatrist in the United States. In addition to medical school, a psychiatrist must complete a residency which usually lasts four years, with at least three of those years being spent specializing in psychiatry.

Before becoming a board certified psychiatrist, a physician must be licensed to practice psychiatry. Each state or Canadian province has its own requirements for licensing. Most states and provinces require a physician to provide proof of education as well as successfully passing an exam before they will be given an unrestricted license to practice as a psychiatrist.


Certification by the ABPN shows that a psychiatrist has met the strict standards set by the board. These standards include education, training, and licensing. A psychiatrist must fill out an application and pay a fee when attempting to become a board certified psychiatrist, and if all standards are met, the psychiatrist may take the certification exam. The ABPN offers specialized certification for psychiatrists who have received extra training in subfields of psychiatry, such as child or geriatric psychiatry.

Initial certification by the American Board of Psychiatry and Neurology lasts for a limited number of years. After a certification has expired, a board certified psychiatrist must follow specific guidelines renew his or her certification. Requiring recertification helps to ensure that each board certified psychiatrist is in good standing with his or her state or provincial medical board and is also familiar with new treatments being used in the field of psychiatry.


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