Psychiatry and Behavioral Medicine

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Considering a Career in Psychiatry

Psychiatrists are physicians who are specialists in the diagnosis and treatment of mental disorders. Mental disorders range vastly from the very severe and life-threatening to the mild and self-limiting.

Though psychiatry is one of the oldest medical specialties, it is also one of the frontier disciplines in medicine. Recent advances in the neurosciences have led to promising new technologies in the diagnosis and treatment of many psychiatric disorders.

Psychiatry is the 4th largest specialty with more than 45,000 psychiatrists in the United States.

The average full-time psychiatrist works less than 50 hours per week and earns about $165,000 annually. Most psychiatrists spend the majority of their time seeing patients in the outpatient setting. Psychiatrists also take care of patients in the hospital, partial hospital, and residential settings.
Like other physicians, psychiatrists may work in an employed or self-employed capacity. If employed, they may work for medical schools, healthcare organizations, or governmental agencies (e.g., Veterans Administration, state hospitals, and community mental health centers). If self-employed, they may work in solo practice or in group practices.


Clinically-oriented physicians who enjoy treating the “whole” patient, that is talking with and getting to know patients in a substantive way, are most suited for psychiatry.

In addition, physicians who are deeply curious about human psychology, their patients’ and their own, make good psychiatrists.
Finally, psychiatrists often have a broad range of interests and experience outside of medicine. They often are keenly interested in the humanities, social sciences, philosophy, law, and religion/spirituality.

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© 2014 Medical College of Wisconsin
Page Updated 10/03/2013