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Psychiatrist

Psychiatrists diagnose and treat patients with mental health problems.

Salary, a pound sign Salary: £26,350 to £102,500 average per year
Hours, a clock face Hours: 48 per week

1. Entry requirements

To become a doctor specialising in psychiatry you'll need to complete:

  • a 5-year degree in medicine, recognised by the General Medical Council (GMC)
  • a 2-year foundation programme of general training
  • a 6-year specialist training programme in psychiatry
If you don't have qualifications in science, you may be able to join a 6-year degree course in medicine. This includes a one-year pre-medical or foundation year. 

If you already have a degree in a science subject (minimum 2:1) you could take a 4-year graduate entry programme into medicine. Some universities will also accept non-science graduates. 

When you apply for a course in medicine, you may be asked to take the UK Clinical Aptitude Test (UKCAT) or the BioMedical Admissions Test (BMAT). This is used to check your suitability for a career in medicine by testing your mental abilities and behavioural characteristics, rather than your academic achievements.

You may be able to get NHS funding to pay for your course fees and help with your living expenses.

2. Skills required

You’ll need:

  • excellent listening and communication skills
  • the ability to put people at ease and inspire trust and confidence
  • good investigative skills
  • the ability to work under pressure and make well-judged decisions
  • leadership and management skills

3. What you'll do

Your work will depend on which area of psychiatry you specialise in. You could work in one of the following areas of psychiatry:

  • general adult
  • old age
  • child and adolescent
  • learning disability
  • medical psychotherapy
  • forensic

You'll assess your patient’s condition by asking them about their thoughts. You'll also get information from other sources, like their GP, relatives and social workers. You may carry out blood tests or scans to rule out other health conditions.

Afterwards, you’ll:

  • carry out psychiatric tests
  • prescribe medication
  • recommend treatments like counselling or cognitive behavioural therapy (CBT)
  • suggest practical ways to stay well

4. Salary

Starter: £26,350 to £45,750 (doctors in training)

Experienced: £37,500 to £70,000 (specialty doctors)

Highly Experienced: £76,000 to £102,500 (consultants)

Consultants working in the private sector may be paid more.

These figures are a guide.

5. Working hours, patterns and environment

You may work long hours including nights and weekends. You’ll also be part of an out-of-hours rota system.

You may be based on a hospital ward or an outpatient department. You could also work in the community as part of a community mental health team visiting schools, residential homes and prisons.

6. Career path and progression

With experience, you may go on to lead a team, or manage a unit or department. You may also progress to teaching and training students, trainee doctors and other healthcare professionals.

With experience and entry on the General Medical Council (GMC) Specialist Register, you could apply for senior (or consultant) roles.

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Last updated: 07 December 2016