Employers and Universities: Work with us?

How to become a psychiatrist

If you’re interested in what makes people tick and you’ve got a head for science, a career as a psychiatrist might just be perfect for you.

Mental illness is a lot more common than people think. This means that psychiatrists play an increasingly important role in society.

Mental health issues
It's estimated that 1 in 4 people will have a mental health

It’s a very exciting and varied career that allows you to make a real difference to people’s lives

In this guide, we'll tell you how to become a psychiatrist, and also answer: 

  • What do psychiatrists do?
  • What qualifications do you need to be a psychiatrist?
  • How long does it take to become a psychiatrist?

So what do psychiatrists do?

You may have seen so-called ‘shrinks’ on TV shows, treating patients from their couches, but the reality is a bit different.

A psychiatrist is a doctor who takes care of people with mental issues. They assess, diagnose and treat patients, usually working in a team of health and social care professionals.

Psychiatrists would support people with a very broad range of problems, including schizophrenia, depression, drug addiction, eating disorders, or phobias.

Psychiatrists assess patients
Psychiatrists ask patients about their thoughts and carry out
psychiatric tests

They may also help people to cope with difficulties in their lives, such as divorce or family problems.

They may then recommend counselling, prescribe medication and suggest practical ways for patients to stay well.

What skills and qualities do I need?

Good psychiatrists have a genuine interest in how people think and feel.

You will need to have excellent people skills, especially listening and communication abilities.

You will also need an interest in science and medicine, the ability to work under pressure, strong investigative skills and a willingness to keep your specialist knowledge up to date.

Here psychiatrist Arthita Das explains that the reason she went into psychiatry is because she’s really interested in people. She loves watching reality TV and thinking about what makes people tick.

So how long does it take to become a psychiatrist, and what qualifications do you need to be a psychiatrist?

To become a fully qualified psychiatrist you need to do:

  • A five-year degree in medicine
  • A two-year foundation programme of general training
  • A six-year specialist training programme in psychiatry

For the medical degree, you’ll typically need at least five GSCEs including English, maths and science, plus three A-levels at grades AAB in subjects including chemistry, biology and either physics or maths.

Psychiatrist listening to patient
To be a psychiatrist, you need the ability to listen and put
people at ease

During the two-year foundation training, you’ll work in a hospital to boost the key skills and knowledge you gained as a medical student.

Then comes the six years of speciality training. At this stage you will gain experience in the different areas of psychiatry. You could then choose to specialise in one of the following areas: general adult, old age, children, learning disability, medical psychotherapy or forensic.

Can I do work experience?

Yes! Work experience is a great way to see what’s involved in medicine and psychiatry, as well as give yourself the edge when it comes to applying for the medical degree. Ideas for a placement include: healthcare assistant in residential care; shadowing in a hospital or general practice surgery; or volunteering for St John Ambulance.  

How much will I get paid?

During your specialist training in psychiatry, the starting salary is £30,300. Fully qualified psychiatrist earn between £37,500 and £70,000.

Think you’ve got what it takes for a fast-paced and rewarding career in psychiatry? If you’re ready for the first step, read our article on work experience ideas

You might also like...

How to become a mental health nurse

Career Zone: Medicine and Healthcare

How to improve your people skills for work

Image credits