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Psychiatry Specialty at a Glance

Psychiatry is devoted to the diagnosis, prevention, study and treatment of mental health disorders. Students must be committed to understanding the symptoms and neurobiological basis of mental illness and advancing psychiatric treatments, and have a strong background in general medicine, case history taking and mental status examination. Students should perform well in their Phase 2 psychiatry required clerkship.

Match Statistics

Mean USMLE Step 2 CK score: 241
25th percentile USMLE Step 2 CK: 232
75th percentile USMLE Step 2 CK: 251
Average number of research experiences: 3
Average number of abstracts, presentations and publications: 4

  • Why should a student choose psychiatry?

    Students choose a career in psychiatry for many reasons. Psychiatry combines physical and mental health, requiring the physician to consider the “whole person” perspective and to be expert in forming and maintaining relationships, even in the most challenging of situations. Students interested in advocacy, public health and working with underserved populations are often drawn to psychiatry. The practice of psychiatry offers a wide spectrum of settings and conditions to care for patients as a generalist or as a specialist. It also provides an opportunity to explore complex neuroscience and its clinical and research applications.

  • Are there things students should be doing in Phase 1 (year 1 and 2) to prepare?

    Work hard to understand content from Phase 1. This will prepare you to do well in clerkships, especially as the shelf exams play a role in your clerkship grades. Utilize extracurricular time to engage in activities that you are passionate about and/or want to develop skills in. Meaningful, longitudinal work in service, leadership, scholarship or research can demonstrate commitment and skills.

  • What electives are recommended for students pursuing pyschiatry?

    It is recommended to pursue at least two psychiatry electives. One of these should involve an inpatient unit or a consultation-liaison service, providing students with the opportunity to demonstrate sub-I like skills. Other recommended electives include rotations in neurology, toxicology, gender health and child abuse.

  • What sub-Is are recommended for students pursuing psychiatry?

    During your intern year of psychiatry, you will spend several months acting as an internal medicine resident. Given this, it is recommended that you complete a sub-I in internal medicine or family medicine. Occasionally, students who are interested in pursuing a fellowship in child and adolescent psychiatry will complete a pediatrics sub-I and students who are interested in pursuing a fellowship in women’s mental health will complete an OB-GYN sub-I.

  • Is an away rotation recommended for psychiatry?

    Generally, away electives are not needed. However, if you have a specific program or area of the country that you are very interested in pursuing, it may be helpful to use this as an audition elective.

  • How important is research? Does it have to be specialty specific?

    Research, for many programs, is not required. However, any form of scholarship will be considered a valuable addition. Specialty specific is great, but we recognize that many times students do not know that they want to pursue psychiatry until their clerkship.

  • How long is psychiatry residency training?

    Residency training in psychiatry is five years.

  • Are there any specialty-specific recommendations regarding letters of recommendation?

    For psychiatry, it is recommended to have one “medicine” letter from family medicine, internal medicine, ICU, etc. Two letters from psychiatrists are recommended. If you participated in a long-term project, a fourth letter from this person is helpful.

  • What are some useful resources for students considering psychiatry?

    Here are some helpful resources for this specialty:

  • How does career mentoring at IU School of Medicine work in psychiatry?

    Students can request a career mentor on the School of Medicine website.