Psychiatrist License Requirements


Psychiatrists are licensed physicians who diagnose and treat psychological problems ranging from depression and anxiety to serious psychotic disorders. To become a psychiatrist in the United States, you must fulfill all the state licensing requirements for the state where you plan to work. These requirements vary slightly, but all states require a physician's license and a federal license from the Drug Enforcement Administration that allows the psychiatrist to prescribe narcotics. Many psychiatrists must also obtain board certification from The American Board of Psychiatry and Neurology.


Psychiatrists may begin their psychiatry education as early as high school by taking related classes in biology or psychology. Psychiatry undergrads usually study something closely related to psychiatry, such as psychology, or do pre-med programs that integrate biology, chemistry, physics and other sciences to prepare students for medical school. Psychiatrists are doctors, and as such they are required to attend four years of medical school at an accredited school. Some students finish in fewer than four years, while others take a bit longer. After medical school, psychiatrists, like most doctors, must also complete a residency program, which usually takes place at a hospital associated with a particular university.


Psychiatry licenses require certain documentation to prove that you are who you claim to be and that you are eligible for licensing. You will need to provide precise information on your residency training, which may include letters of verification and copies of your certificate of completion. You also need to show proof that you are a graduate of an accredited U.S. medical school or an international medical school listed by the World Health Organization.


Each state has its own psychiatry licensing exams that you must pass if you want to practice psychiatry in that state. These exams consist of both oral and written portions that cover the essential knowledge of psychiatry, including basic sciences, clinical psychiatric science and information specific to certain subspecialties in the field, such as developmental psychiatry or geriatric psychiatry. The oral section of this exam tests your critical skills as you review an actual patient’s medical history and observe the patient's current state of mind.


Fees vary according to the type of license and the state in which you’re applying. As of 2010, the fee for the Federal Narcotics License, according to, is $210. The American Board of Psychiatry and Neurology, or ABPN, board certification license is pricey at $2,250 but is required by many managed care organizations, or MCOs, as well as by other organizations.

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