Frequently Asked Questions by MS1s and MS2s

Exposure to the field is most important. This can be accomplished by shadowing a psychiatrist, reviewing the American Psychiatric Association website, participating in the Psychiatry Interest Group at the medical school, and volunteering in a psychiatry facility. (APA) offers free memberships to students and includes resources and publications students may find helpful.

Particularly if the student is interested in academic Psychiatry, then involvement in research is advisable. For a private practice career, research is not as important.

Research opportunities can be accessed through academic psychiatrists who are involved with the medical school. In addition, the Scholarly Project office may have ideas and a list of psychiatrists who would like medical students to be involved with their research. Feel free to also reach out to your Career and Professional Advisor for making connections with physicians and others who may be helpful in this process. 

Both of these endeavors are valuable in a balanced approach with medical school work. The volunteer experience is valuable, but the Step 1 score and the Block grades are most important. Similarly, extracurricular activities such as student government and clubs have many benefits, but not at the expense of schoolwork.

There are approximately 200 Psychiatry residency positions annually in the United States for the Match. The Step 1 mean score in the last few years has been around 225; Step 2 score in the high 230s. The National Resident Matching Program (NRMP) tracks statistical trends for matched students in each specialty.  Learn more about Psychiatry match trends here

Frequently Asked Questions by MS3s and MS4s

Most programs require three or four letters. At least one letter should be from Psychiatry, and preferably more. Typically, there should be a letter from Internal Medicine as well. A letter from Neurology also may be helpful. Requests for letters should occur by July or August. It is helpful for letter writers to have a copy of your CV and your personal statement. When possible, an appointment with the letter writer can be helpful so he or she gets to know you better. The faculty letter writers should be advised that the letter should be uploaded by September 15 to the Electronic Residency Application Service (ERAS). Any faculty members that you have established a very good relationship with in any clerkship who can provide a strong letter would also be a good option.

At least three, and preferably four for the ERAS application.

Yes, as noted above. Any faculty member who knows you well because of a strong relationship, or whom you’ve performed research with, or in a field that you’ve achieved an Honors grade, all may be requested to provide a letter of recommendation.

For some programs in Psychiatry the answer is yes, but not for all. It’s necessary to check with the individual departments to which you are applying.

This is an individualized issue. If candidates are interested in matching in a particular region or program, an away rotation at that site can be valuable, but not required. Completing an away rotation often allows students to obtain a letter of recommendation from highly recognized programs or physicians. Performing extremely well in an away rotation can go a long way to being able to match into a given program.

Information Specific for Psychiatry

Each year more and more students are choosing to pursue a career in psychiatry. Many psychiatrists continue training beyond the initial four years. They may study child and adolescent psychiatry, geriatric psychiatry, forensic (legal) psychiatry, administrative psychiatry, addiction psychiatry, emergency psychiatry, psychiatry in general medical settings (called "consultation/liaison psychiatry" or psychosomatic medicine), mental retardation psychiatry, community psychiatry and public health, military psychiatry, and psychiatric research. Some choose additional training in psychoanalysis at psychoanalytic institutes.

Psychiatrists practice in diverse settings including private practice, general and psychiatric hospitals, university medical centers, community agencies, courts and prisons, nursing homes, industry, government, military settings, schools and universities, rehabilitation programs, emergency rooms, hospices, and many other places. About half the 42,000 psychiatrists in the nation maintain private practice.


The information provided in this document has been compiled by members in the following organizations: ADMSEP (Association of Directors of Medical Student Education in Psychiatry), AADPRT (American Association of Directors of Psychiatric Residency Training), AAP (Association for Academic Psychiatry), PsychSIGN (Psychiatry Student Interest Group Network), and the American Psychiatric Association (APA). This document is meant to provide a global overview of the residency application process.

Psychiatry Student Interest Group

Click here to visit the Psychiatry Interest Group website

Psychiatry Specialty Newsletter Report

Additional Resources

Click here to visit the American Psychiatric Association (APA) website

Click here to visit the Association of Directors of Medical Student Education in Psychiatry website for a resource on LORs