Becoming a psychiatrist, was originally published in the Washington Post, live online Rockville, Md.:

I have a question about switching careers. I’ve been working in HR for the last 10 years and I’ve found that I have a knack for helping people. I want to go into psychiatry but I think I’m too old to go through all that schooling. Is there something else I can do that I can make a decent living but still do what I love to do which is to help people with their personal problems? What about work-life counseling? What’s that area like?

Becoming a psychiatrist

Lynn Friedman, Ph.D.: Yes. First of all, I don’t know how old you are. But, medical students are getting older and older and better and better. My best friend from college went at 40 and she was NOT the oldest in her class. I think the record is held by someone in their fifties. That having been said, here are some other options. Getting a graduate degree in organizational development allows you to do organizational consultation — you can work to make organizations healthy. You might want to consider a degree in clinical psychology — hardly fast but at least you are not burning the midnight oil, being on-call. A masters in social work or counseling will allow you to do therapy, too.

Because of the individual nature of your situation, you may want to consider career consultation with someone knowledgeable about these fields. Alternatively, you might consult your college’s health professions advisor — if you have moved, set-up a telephone appointment. Best of luck.

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