College Freshman deciding between psychology and psychiatry

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College Freshman deciding between psychology and psychiatry

Postby Allison » Thu Sep 03, 2009 11:06 pm

I have done some research on what it takes to become a Psychiatrist and have found out it is a very challenging,costly, and rigorous path, just like any medical profession. The thing is, it is the one thing I can not get my mind off. I am in my first year of college majoring in psychology and I don't know if i should consider even trying to become a psychiatrist. I have been thinking about it for a year now and all I know is that I want to do one or the other. I want to be a psychiatrist because I'm really interested in abnormal psychology more than any other type and want to be able to help people through treatment more so than counseling. But I just do not have the brain of a scientist. Can someone whose weakest and most difficult subjects are math and science become a physician? Is that possible at all? And I come from a middle-class family where we are able to pay for my nearly $30,000 schooling, but medical school is not something my family could ever afford and I'm afraid would be a burden.
I am in much need of advice, please be honest.

Re: College Freshman deciding between psychology and psychiatry

Postby DrDave » Fri Sep 04, 2009 4:55 am

You have plenty of time to decide, so my suggestion is not to stress out much right now with which path you will ultimately want to pursue.

Math has very little role in getting into medical school or being a doctor. You don't even have to take calculus to get into medical school.

Even if science classes aren't your strongest subjects, you can still be a doctor. You do have to be good in the sciences though. While you will need to take chemistry, organic chemistry, physics, and biology as part of your pre-med coursework, I found that biology was the main area that is the focus of medical school. For me, biology was my weakest area of science; however, I still was good enough to survive pre-med level biology, good enough to pass my medical school coursework, and good enough to pass my board exams. I may be underestimating the amount of chemistry in medical school as I was a chemistry major as an undergrad so that work may have come much more easily to me. But my recollection is there was not much science outside of biology - and there was a LOT of biology. Anatomy, physiology, histology, pathology, immunology - all classes I view as part of biology more so than any other field of science.

You will have to do well enough in the required pre-med classes to get into medical school, so you'll have some idea fairly early in college whether you can do well enough in science to get into medical school.

Studying abnormal psychology is definitely not limited to just psychiatrists. Treatment of severe mental illness is typically done with medications by a psychiatrist, but there is a lot to learn and do within the psychology field seperate from prescribing medications.

As for the cost issue - medical school is expensive. You can get financial aid and take out loans, and then defer the loans during residency. When you are done with residency, though, you'll have a HUGE financial burden for yourself. You should check out what the tuition would be for your state school just so you have some idea. While there were plenty of medical students who came from wealthy families, there were also plenty of students who needed loans to get through. In the end, it is an individual decision whether you want to take on that financial burden.
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