How to Become a Psychiatrist


Psychiatrists diagnose and treat mental health problems. They are doctors with a mental health specialism and can prescribe medication and administer psychiatric treatment. They will also often manage other mental health staff.

A psychiatrist is a medical professional who specialises in mental health problems. They will diagnose and treat patients who have various conditions, including: dementia, depression, anxiety, bipolar disorder, eating disorders, and schizophrenia. Unlike psychologists, psychiatrists can prescribe drugs and administer medical treatment.

There are five main types of psychiatry. A psychiatrist will generally specialise in one of these.

  • General adult psychiatrists deal with patients who are aged 18 to 65. They may work with them in inpatient (such as a mental health institution in a hospital) and outpatient settings. General adult subspecialties include substances, eating disorders, and neuropsychiatry. 
  • Child and adolescent psychiatrists deal with people who are up to 18 years old.
  • Old age psychiatrists will work with dementia patients and other conditions that are common in adults aged 65+.
  • Forensic psychiatrists work in prisons and secure hospitals, and they are witnesses in court trials. 
  • Intellectual disability psychiatrists treat people who have a learning disability.

The duties of a psychiatrist will differ slightly depending on who they are treating, but they will generally entail: 

  • Working with and treating patients who have mental health problems.
  • Assessing the psychological and physical health of patients, including their background and social situation.
  • Taking notes from sessions with patients. 
  • Administering psychiatric treatment to patients.
  • Prescribing medication to patients, for example, antidepressants.
  • Taking blood tests or scans of patients.
  • Referring patients to other mental health specialists, including psychologists and counsellors, for further support.
  • Reviewing treatment with patients and deciding whether to alter it.
  • Sometimes leading a team of other mental health professionals.

Becoming a psychiatrist takes a long time; therefore, candidates must be committed to the profession. First, they will need a degree in medicine, which takes around five years. They then need to complete two years of foundation training to become a junior doctor. After this, candidates must train to be a psychiatrist, which involves six years of study and placements. 

Candidates should have an impressive portfolio of work experience to become a psychiatrist. It is relatively easy to obtain work experience at a hospital, nursing home, or mental health trust, and through this, candidates can obtain an insight into working as a psychiatrist and be sure that this discipline is right for them. Students should also join relevant psychiatrist boards in their country.

There are particular skills that prospective psychiatrists should have. They should be empathetic and able to deal with patients who are in very distressing conditions. This means that psychiatrists should also have emotional resilience in challenging situations.

Psychiatrists should be able to work under pressure and make quick decisions, as the main course of treatment for the patient will be down to them. They should be able to understand people and their reactions – this will be covered in their training. Psychiatrists should also have leadership skills, as they will often be in charge of a team of people.

Psychiatrists may need to work nights or weekends or be on call, depending on their trust and speciality. Trainees are often expected to work on call. For established psychiatrists, part-time work is possible. Psychiatrists work in a range of settings, including hospitals, prisons, residential homes, schools, or in the community. 

Generally, psychiatrists gradually get more responsibilities as they gain experience. They may move into managerial roles, take medical leads, or become a clinical director or a medical director. They could move into patient care or academia surrounding psychiatry.

What degree is most commonly held by a Psychiatrist ?

  • Doctorate of Psychiatry
  • Masters Degree of Psychiatry
  • Doctors of Medicine

Career Transportability across Countries

Transportability: Medium
Specialist psychiatrists are relatively rare, so somebody with expertise may find themselves able to teach in another country. This is especially true if they have taken the academia route. However, candidates working abroad will need to have a strong understanding and cultural awareness of the general public in that country, as well as fluency in the local language.  

What is the Salary of a Psychiatrist ?

Experience Average salary | year
Psychiatrist 1-3 yrs $96,987 £70,000 $58,000
Psychiatrist 3-5 yrs $184,098 £80,500 $72,014
Psychiatrist 5-10 yrs $250,097 £110,000 $130,000

What skills are needed to become a Psychiatrist ?

  • Hospitality Management
  • Hotel Management
  • Hospitality Industry
  • Hospitality
  • Customer Service
  • Hotels
  • Food & Beverage
  • Front Office
  • Micros
  • Revenue Analysis
  • Pre-opening
  • Rooms Division
  • Management
  • Resorts
  • Event Management
  • Restaurants
  • Tourism
  • Banquets
  • Yield Management
  • Catering
  • Customer Satisfaction
  • Leadership
  • Property Management Systems
  • Training
  • Restaurant Management

Mental Health Focuses Courses

As there is so much education that goes into being a psychiatrist, it is recommended for candidates to take some supplementary courses. These will also strengthen an application to medical school. At FutureLearn, we have plenty of relevant courses to help candidates get an insight into psychiatry.

  • Psychology and Mental Health: Beyond Nature and Nurture

    Learn how a psychological understanding of our emotions and behaviour gives us new ways to improve mental health and wellbeing

  • Young People and Their Mental Health

    What are the most common mental health problems what can you do about them and how do you improve your mental health

  • Youth Mental Health: Helping Young People with Anxiety

    Get an introduction to managing anxiety disorders in teenagers with a course ideal for teachers and healthcare professionals

  • Beyond Diagnosis: Is Psychiatric Diagnosis helpful?

    An introduction to the history practice and functions of psychiatric diagnosis

  • Understanding Mental Health: Continuum, Culture and Social Media

    Enhance your knowledge of mental health and mental illness and develop your understanding of the mental health continuum

Mental Health Focuses Microcredentials

  • Impact of Trauma on Mental Health

    Get expert insights into the effects of trauma and establish an understanding of psychological wellbeing and its promotion

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