13 Pros and Cons of Being a Psychiatrist
Written By: Jennifer Schlette MSN, RN
Does the world of mental health and chemical dependencies interest you? Have you ever thought that a career as a psychiatrist may be a good fit for you? Wait, but do you know what are the pros and cons of being a psychiatrist? Weighing the pros and cons of this profession is an important first step in deciding if this is a career worth pursuing. Below you will find the top 13 pros and cons of being a psychiatrist. These pros and cons below will surely help you make your decision about what is right for you.
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What is a Psychiatrist?
A psychiatrist is a medical doctor specializing in the prevention, diagnosis, and treatment of chemical dependencies and mental, behavioral, and emotional disorders. As a psychiatrist, you will receive medical training that will enable you to prescribe medications, order labs, order other diagnostic testing, and perform procedures when warranted. You will primarily find psychiatrists working in public and private hospitals, community mental health services, and private consulting practices. Other areas you can find them employed in are research facilities, academia, and within the government agencies.
TOP CONS OF BEING A PSYCHIATRIST
(The following are the top 13 disadvantages of being a Psychiatrist.)
1. You must first complete your bachelor's degree.
In order to start on this journey to becoming a psychiatrist, you need first to earn a bachelor's degree. You will specifically need a bachelor of science degree from an accredited institution. Some of the majors you can consider pursuing to be a psychiatrist during your undergraduate work would be biology, psychology, or pre-med, to name a few.
2. You then need to complete medical school.
Now slow your horses. Before you can even be accepted into medical school, you must first pass the Medical College Admissions Test (MCAT
) from the Association of American Medical Colleges (AAMC
). This exam measures your general and organic chemistry knowledge, general Biology, biochemistry, physics, psychology, and sociology. Besides testing your content knowledge, you will also be tested on your critical analysis and reasoning skills. Your ability to successfully pass the MCAT is an important factor to consider while you are weighing the pros and cons of being a psychiatrist. Once you pass this exam you can then go on to medical school. In medical school, you can expect to spend four years earning this degree. You will earn a Doctor of Medicine
(MD) degree or Doctor of Osteopathic Medicine (DO) degree.
3. You must obtain a license to practice medicine.
After you finish medical school, you will need to successfully pass your medical boards to obtain a license to practice medicine. This exam is state-based, and the process will vary from state to state. You will be required to complete at least one year of an internship or the first year of residency in order to apply for a medical license. Certain states may require that you complete more than one year of residency.
4. You must successfully complete a residency program.
So, since you need to complete at least one year of residency to be eligible to sit for your medical license, now might be a good time to talk about this residency you are required to complete. A residency will be kind of like on-the-job training. It will be four years long and will be in the hospital, clinic, or a mixture of hospital and clinic as a setting. The first part of your residency will focus on general medical training, then neurology. You will eventually practice in the psychiatry setting. The fact that you cannot continue to pursue this career without completing a residency is one of the top disadvantages of being a psychiatrist.
5. If you want to specialize, you will need additional training.
Suppose you feel that you want to specialize in a particular area of psychiatry. In that case, you will need to complete additional training. This will be known as a fellowship. A fellowship in psychiatry is anywhere from an additional one to two years. It looks like there is quite a bit of training involved in this career before you can even start working.
6. Now you need to earn a license to practice psychiatry.
Now, you will need to pass another exam to be able to put all your training to good use. Each state
has its own rules and regulations, so it would be wise to complete your residency in the state that you plan on obtaining your license to practice psychiatry. This will ensure you will know these rules and regulations. Keep in mind that as a psychiatrist, you must be licensed in the state that your patient resides in.
All of the education you must complete, exams you must pass, and licenses you must obtain is one of the top disadvantages of being a psychiatrist.
7. It would benefit you to earn your certification in the field.
Although certification is not a mandatory requirement, it will severely limit your job opportunities if you do not have it. The certification exam is offered by the American Board of Psychiatry and Neurology (ABPN
). Your certification, once obtained, will be good for ten years. In order to maintain your certification, you must complete continuing education credits.
8. You will spend quite some time in school.
So, as you can see, the educational requirements that you must complete in order to practice as a psychiatrist is a long haul. The impact that meeting these educational requirements will have on your life is surely one of the important factors to consider while analyzing the pros and cons of being a psychiatrist. You will be spending twelve to fourteen years completing school and training before you can get out there and start your career. Can you afford to give that much time to your training, not to mention twelve to fourteen years without a substantial paycheck?
9. Your education will be costly.
All of the schooling and training you must complete will not be free. Having to complete twelve to fourteen years of training will be pretty expensive
. A bachelor's degree will cost you anywhere from $6,000 to around $25,000 a year. This figure does not take into account your room and board and any other incidentals. The MCAT as of 2021 will cost $320.00 to take. Then you have the cost of medical school. Medical school will cost anywhere from $120,000 to $200,000 to earn your degree. I hope you are good at financial planning.
10. You can get burned out easily.
Working in the field of psychiatry can be highly stressful. Day in and day out, you are helping mentally ill patients, which can lead to extremely emotional sessions. This can lead to burnout and a secondary trauma response
. Over time you will run the risk of becoming unhappy in your career. That would be unfortunate, given the amount of money and time you have dedicated to this journey.
11. You may find yourself working irregular hours.
Hey, let’s face it, when you are a psychiatrist, your patient’s needs are not going to fit into the perfect 9-5 schedule all the time. Sure, you will definitely have times when that type of schedule will work out, but not always. Your clients may need your services at any time of day, weekends, or holidays.
12. There may be some physical risk involved in your job.
Mental health illnesses or chemical dependency can sometimes make a person become volatile. You will sometimes find that your patients can become physically violent
towards others and threaten to hurt themselves. Unfortunately, this is not uncommon. Another common phenomenon that is seen is that the psychiatrist is stalked
by their patients and commonly blamed by their patients about occurrences in their lives. I guess you did not know that there was such risk involved with this career. Being placed in dangerous situations is another one of the notable disadvantages of being a psychiatrist.
13. You are incredibly prone to lawsuits.
The doctor-patient relationship is a highly personal relationship. This is never more true in the world of psychiatry. A lawsuit against you can jeopardize your career and what you have worked so hard for. The most common reasons for lawsuits against a psychiatrist are misdiagnosis, an error with a prescription, and exploitation of the doctor-patient relationship. Feeling like you could be the subject of a lawsuit at any point is another one of the biggest disadvantages of being a psychiatrist.
TOP PROS OF BEING A PSYCHIATRIST
(The following are the top 13 advantages of being a Psychiatrist.)
1. You will have a lucrative career.
As a psychiatrist, you have the potential to make a pretty impressive salary
. As of July 2021, the average psychiatrist made an annual salary of $234,144. Some psychiatrists who have gained years of experience, additional education, additional certifications, and special skills have the potential to make around $287,212. Earning an income like this can afford you many finer things in life and is definitely one of the biggest advantages of being a psychiatrist.
2. You will be in demand.
As a society as a whole, there is a recent focus on mental health. This could not be more true given the turmoil the world is in today. This makes the field of psychiatry and the need for psychiatrists even more pertinent. By 2030
there is projected to be a shortage of psychiatrists due to decreased entrance into the field and retirement of current psychiatrists. Due to these circumstances, you will become a vital part to the world of mental health. Being in high demand for your services is another one of the top advantages of being a psychiatrist.
3. You can work in many different settings.
You know what they say, “variety is the spice of life”. One of the top pros of being a psychiatrist is that you have the option to work in many different settings
. If you do not feel like one is a good fit, there are others you could try. Some of the settings that you could work in as a psychiatrist are: private practice, general and psychiatric hospitals, community agencies, courts and prisons, nursing homes, government agencies, military settings, schools and universities, rehabilitation programs, and hospices, to name a few.
4. You can specialize
Throughout your training, you may find that one particular population appeals to you over the others. The good news is that if you choose a career as a psychiatrist, you could specialize and work with the said population. Yes, additional training will be required in order to specialize, but it would be worth it if you are happy in your career. Some of the areas you could specialize in are child and adolescent psychiatry, geriatric psychiatry, forensic psychiatry, administrative psychiatry, addiction psychiatry, emergency psychiatry, consultation/liaison psychiatry, mental retardation psychiatry, community psychiatry and public health, military psychiatry, and psychiatric research. There are so many to choose from.
5. You are helping others.
When you embark on a career as a psychiatrist, you have chosen a career that is dedicated to helping people. You are not only bettering the lives of your patients, but also the lives of their families and friends. It has to make you feel good that you can positively impact so many people’s lives.
6. You could impact the field of psychiatry.
The field of psychiatry is a type of field that is founded in research. All of the treatments that are known for specific mental health and chemical dependency disorders were discovered by somebody. Well, you could be that somebody who helps advance the field of psychiatry by developing treatment modalities that can help patients with specific disorders. The potential to make such an impact on people’s lives is another one of the top advantages of being a psychiatrist.
7. You will have job security.
As I discussed earlier that there is a shortage of psychiatrists which can be one of the major pros of being a psychiatrist. Sounds a bit strange to say that a shortage is a pro, right? Hear me out. The upside to this shortage of psychiatrists means that you will always have a job
. There is so much of a need for mental health professionals, and there will always be a need for mental health professionals. These two facts alone mean that you will have job security for the length of your career. That is a pretty nice feeling.
8. You will have flexibility.
Yes, you may have some crazy hours that you will have to work sometimes, but for the most part, you will have the flexibility to schedule your patients when you see fit. This will allow you to have control over how you wish to organize your day. Hey, let’s say you have a dentist appointment, no problem, you can organize your patients around it.
9.You can have a self-employment opportunity
One of the significant benefits of pursuing a career as a psychiatrist is that you have the ability to open up a private practice. Opening a private practice
means that you will be your own boss which can be one of the pros of being a psychiatrist. Being your own boss means that you will have the ability to schedule your life and patients as you see fit. Owning your own practice can also be extremely lucrative once you get it off the ground.
10. Your every day will be different.
When you are a psychiatrist, you are seeing patients with many different disorders. This means that your every day will be different. You will not be encountering the same type of patients daily, making this line of work perfect for you if you get bored quickly. There is definitely no room for boredom here making it one of the great advantages of being a psychiatrist.
11. You have the potential to work from home
Due to technology and the need for mental health and chemical dependency care, the world of telepsychiatry
was born. As a psychiatrist working with patients via telepsychiatry
, you have the ability to work from home or anywhere for that matter. This can be appealing to you if you also need to work and balance a family. Evaluating your home and work-life balance when it comes to choosing a career is a critical piece that should always be considered. Telepsychiatry has the potential to give you the best of both worlds and is one of the critical elements to consider when weighing the pros and cons of being a psychiatrist.
12. You will have a prestigious job
Think of all the hard work you had to put into becoming a psychiatrist. That is a tremendous accomplishment. You have completed the educational requirements for this career. Not everyone can say that they have done this. Hats off to you!
13. You are saving lives without knowing it
Some patients you will encounter will have complications of their illness that can lead to self-harm in multiple ways. By working with these patients, you can potentially save their lives and put them on a path to healing. You are doing good for so many patients and their loved ones.
The Bottom Line
So, what are the pros and cons of being a psychiatrist? I’m sure you can answer this question now after reading my top 13 pros and cons of being a psychiatrist. At the end of the day, if you choose to pursue a career as a psychiatrist, you will have to examine the pros and cons of being a psychiatrist. You may find that maybe the pros outweigh the cons for you, or the cons will just be too persuading, and you feel that this is not your calling.
Jennifer Schlette MSN, RN
Jennifer Schlette is a registered nurse in pediatric critical care in New York City. She is the former Director of Undergraduate Nursing at a college located in New York. After obtaining her BSN from the College of Mount Saint Vincent, she went on to complete her MSN.