What Does a Psychiatrist Do?

Learn About the Salary, Required Skills, & More

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Psychiatrists are physicians who diagnose and treat people for mental illnesses. They use a variety of modalities to provide treatment including psychotherapy, psychoanalysis, cognitive-behavioral therapy (CBT), and medication. Psychiatrists see patients who come to their offices or are hospitalized. 

Psychiatrist Duties & Responsibilities

Psychiatrists’ job duties and responsibilities include:

  • Referring a patient for psychological testing to determine a diagnosis and its severity
  • Recommending and designing a treatment plan
  • Talking to the patients’ about their problems to try to resolve them (psychotherapy or talk therapy)
  • Exploring the patients’ past experiences to learn how they affect their current state of mind and behavior (psychoanalysis)
  • Helping patients change their thought processes and behavior (Cognitive Behavioral Therapy or CBT)
  • Prescribing medication that can alter chemical imbalances affecting the patient’s state of mind and behavior

Psychiatrists perform these duties to help their patients recover from mental illnesses or manage their symptoms.

Psychiatrist Salary

Psychiatrists’ earnings vary with experience and location. They earn a mean annual salary of at least $216,090. Psychiatrists are not the highest paid of all physicians nor are they the lowest.

Education, Training, & Certification

Psychiatrists attend medical school after earning a bachelor’s degree. Upon completion of medical school, they do a psychiatry residency in a hospital.

Psychiatrist Skills & Competencies

A psychiatrist, in addition to the professional skills acquired in medical school and on their residency, needs the following abilities:

  • Interpersonal Skills: A psychiatrist must be able to establish rapport with a patient and gain their trust.
  • Communication Skills: They need excellent speaking and listening skills to work with patients and their families as well as other healthcare providers.
  • Critical Thinking: Psychiatrists must weigh the merits of different treatments and decide how to best help their patients.
  • Monitoring: They must evaluate their patients’ response to treatment and make changes as needed.
  • Integrity: Psychiatrists, like all doctors, must honor the confidentiality of all interactions with their patients.

Job Outlook

Psychiatrists have an excellent job outlook. The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics predicts that employment for psychiatrists is expected to grow by 16%, which is faster than the average for all occupations. Growth is expected to be slightly slower than it will be for other specialties like anesthesiology, family and general practice, and internal medicine. 

Work Environment

Psychiatrists work in private practices, general and psychiatric hospitals, and nursing homes.

Work Schedule

The hours are usually full-time. Psychiatrists are often on-call to respond to emergencies.

How to Get the Job

APPLY: APA JobCentral lists jobs for psychiatrists and others in the psychiatric field. The New England Journal of Medicine also advertises employment opportunities for psychiatrists at NEJM CareerCenter.

WRITE A TARGETED RESUME: Learn how to write a medical curriculum vitae (CV).

Comparing Similar Jobs

People interested in becoming psychiatrists should explore the following occupations, listed here with their annual median salaries:

Article Sources

  1. American Psychological Association. "Different Approaches to Psychotherapy," Accessed Oct. 1, 2019.


  2. Bureau of Labor Statistics. "Occupational Employment and Wages, May 2017

    29-1066 Psychiatrists," Accessed Oct. 1, 2019.

  3. Bureau of Labor Statistics. "Physicians and Surgeons: Pay," Accessed Oct. 1, 2019.

  4. American Psychological Association. "Choosing a Program," Accessed Oct. 1, 2019.


  5. American Medical Association. "MCAT Scores and Medical Success: Do They Correlate?" Accessed Oct. 1, 2019.


  6. Accreditation Council for Graduate Medical Education. "ACGME Program Requirements for Graduate Medical Education in Psychiatry," Page 27. Accessed Oct. 1, 2019.


  7. American Board of Psychology and Neurology. "General Requirements," Accessed Oct. 1, 2019.


  8. Federation of State Medical Boards. "State Requirements," Accessed Oct. 1, 2019.


  9. Bureau of Labor Statistics. "Physicians and Surgeons: Job Outlook," Accessed Oct. 1, 2019.

  10. Bureau of Labor Statistics. "Psychologists: Pay," Accessed Oct. 1, 2019.


  11. Bureau of Labor Statistics. "Social Workers: Pay," Accessed Oct. 1, 2019.

  12. Bureau of Labor Statistics. "Substance Abuse, Behavioral Disorder, and Mental Health Counselors," Accessed Oct. 1, 2019.