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How Do I Become a Psychiatric Practitioner?

A psychiatrist must complete an accredited medical school program.
Psychiatric nurse practitioner programs are graduate level, with students earning either a master's or a doctoral degree upon graduation.
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  • Written By: Mary McMahon
  • Edited By: Nancy Fann-Im
  • Last Modified Date: 03 September 2014
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To become a psychiatric practitioner such as a mental health nurse or doctor, it is necessary to pursue medical training in an accredited institution and to sit for a qualifying exam to certify competency. The amount of time spent in training can vary; nurses may attend two to three year programs for basic degrees, for example, while a psychiatrist may spend as many as 12 years in training before being ready for independent practice. A student who wants to become a psychiatric practitioner should think about the kind of work he wants to do when selecting a training program.

For high school students, taking extra math and science classes is a good idea, as is covering prerequisites that will come up in college. By taking these classes in high school, students can focus on medical topics in college, rather than having to take general education classes. Some colleges accept advanced placement test scores to waive prerequisite requirements. A student who wants to become a psychiatric practitioner may also want to consider taking some classes in human behavior and pursuing an internship, if possible, with a psychiatric practitioner.

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Prospective psychiatrists will need to take four years of undergraduate training and can get degrees in a variety of fields, including pre-medicine, psychology, and sociology. The student will need to attend medical school and must take a residency in psychiatry after graduation. The psychiatry residency provides valuable training for a doctor who wants to become a psychiatric practitioner, including clinical experience. Doctors can also pursue fellowships if they have an interest in a particular area of study and wish to learn more.

To become a psychiatric nurse practitioner, it will be necessary to go to nursing school. Nursing qualifications come at several levels, including a basic degree available to registered nurses as well as advanced master's and doctorate degrees in the field of nursing. The more training a psychiatric nurse practitioner has, the more services he will be able to offer patients. He may also be more employable, as psychiatric facilities seek out highly trained staff for their patients.

The path to become a psychiatric practitioner can be long. Students should pursue extracurricular opportunities when possible. These can provide additional learning opportunities in addition to professional networking. If a student intends to pursue advanced training, these experiences will also be necessary to bolster an application into a competitive training program. After graduation and certification with an exam, it is advisable to join a professional organization to keep pace with the latest trends in patient care.

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