Career Guide


Ben Maples  · Nov 26th 2020

Plenty of people these days are in desperate need of someone to talk to. Someone who can help them when they are facing a number of issues, whether they be physical issues, mental issues or both, a Psychiatrist is always the person that you should be speak

An appointment with a psychiarist
Psychiatrist Career Guide

What is a psychiatrist?

The role of a psychiatrist involves the diagnosis and treatment of patients with mental health disorders, like, schizophrenia, bipolar disorder, dementia, depression and eating disorders. The psychiatrist career is best suited to those with a healthy scientific mind, excellent communication skills and anyone with the desire to improve the lives of people who are living with mental illness.

Under the psychiatrist job description, you will study psychiatric disorders which can be caused by illness and will be skilled in recognising body and mind symptoms which will allow you to evaluate and assess risk. Psychiatrists will also draw up treatment plans and prescribe medication to their clients. Psychiatry in the UK involves different areas, including; adult patients, child and adolescent, old age, forensic - also known as a criminal psychiatrist, medical psychotherapy and the psychiatry of intellectual disability.

Once past a senior level and working as a consultant, you’ll gain more experience and responsibility

What does a psychiatrist do?

Your responsibilities will vary depending on your specialism, but some tasks overlap. A psychiatrist will assess patients, review their physical and mental health, background, thoughts and potential risk factors. They’ll need to understand their past health issues and current social situation. Patients may suffer from a range of mental health conditions, so a psychiatrist will need to have in depth knowledge in the field.

People in this career keep detailed records of interactions, decisions, treatment plans and prescribed medications. Psychiatrists monitor and review treatments, supervise junior staff, carry out research and stay updated with relevant information and studies in the field. They may work with other healthcare professionals, from occupational therapists to psychiatric nurses. Also, they’ll use their excellent understanding of psychology, physiology, pharmacology, anatomy and mental health law to treat their patients.

Psychiatrist Career

How to become a psychiatrist in the UK?

If you’re thinking of becoming a psychiatrist in the UK, you will need to study a medical degree and undertake work experience within the field. Most psychiatrist jobs in the UK seek out candidates who have completed work experience at their local nursing home, hospital, mental health trust, or by shadowing a doctor. The background shows your commitment to your chosen career as well as providing an insight into working in medicine.

What qualifications do you need to be a psychiatrist? Psychiatrist qualifications in the UK are usually obtained via a degree in medicine, which is recognised by the General Medical Council (GMC). Achieving the psychiatrist qualifications needed to enter this career typically takes five years to complete.

Suppose you already hold a degree in a subject that isn’t medicine (a 2:1 or above in a science-related topic), in that case, you can apply for a four-year accelerated course, also known as the medical graduate entry programme (GEP).

How long does it take to become a psychiatrist in the UK? Well, after five years studying a psychiatry degree in the UK, candidates will then need to complete two years of Foundation Training, where they work as a junior doctor or in various departments in a hospital. One of the rotational roles will be in psychiatry, where you can gain valuable experience. After the two years, you will be awarded an FACD, known as a Foundation Achievement of Competency Document.

Once you have a medical or psychiatrist degree and completed the two-year training, you’ll then begin six years of training in psychiatry. The training is typically split into three years of core training followed by three years of higher training. During the first three years, you will work in various psychiatry settings, like in the community or at a hospital where you can gain as much experience as possible. Each role usually lasts between four and six months.

The psychiatrist career is best suited to those with a healthy scientific mind.

After the first part, individuals will choose a specialty and work in three different 12-month positions. Although, some people who are obtaining qualifications to be a psychiatrist, decide to take part in ‘dual training’, where they pick two areas of practice and train for five years instead of the final three.

After a candidate passes their work assessments as well as the Royal College of Psychiatrists (MRCPsych) exams, they will be awarded a Certificate of Completion of Training (CCT), and a Fellowship of the Royal College of Psychiatrists (FRCP). Individuals can then join the GMC Specialist Register and apply for consultancy positions. Some choose to take up posts as Specialty Doctors and Associate Specialists (SAS) instead of becoming consultants or trainees. A specialty doctor will also be registered with the GMC, and have four years of postgraduate training as well as two years of specialty training.

What skills are useful for a psychiatrist?

A psychiatrist needs superb communication, interpersonal, analytical and scientific skills for the role. Also, someone who can solve problems, lead a team, treat others with respect, empathy and understanding will be successful in this career.

Psychiatrists are resilient, able to work in challenging situations, under pressure and all the while make good decisions. Organisational, motivational and management skills are handy for the role as well. They should be able to work well with others, whether in the same field or part of a multidisciplinary team. Having clinical expertise in a specialist area, initiative and hard working ethic is beneficial.


How much does a psychiatrist earn in the UK?

How much do psychiatrists make in the UK? The National Health Service is the largest employer of the profession in the country and therefore sets their psychiatry salary. You can also work in the private sector, where psychiatrist pay will differ to the NHS, or you can set up a private practice where you can set your average psychiatrist salary.

So, how much do psychiatrists earn in the UK? The starting psychiatry salary in the UK for junior hospital doctor trainees is £26,614 for the first year, which then rises to £30,805 in the second year. Whilst working as a trainee at specialty level, the wage increases to £36,461 and can be as high as £46,208.

Specialty doctors (at staff grade), like a forensic psychiatry salary or child psychiatrist salary in the UK, can range from £37,923 to £70,718. Consultant psychiatrist salary in the UK is usually between £76,761 and £103,490, depending on the length of service and experience.

Consultant psychiatrist salary in the UK can increase even more if individuals work in private practice when not working for the NHS. Also, there are opportunities to earn allowances; for example, the forensic psychiatrist salary in the UK can be increased by working nights, being on-call, and on weekends.

For more information on the psychiatrist wage in the UK, you can look at BMJ Careers and the Royal College of Psychiatrists Job Board for an indication of how much does a psychiatrist make.

Psychiatrist qualifications in the UK are usually obtained via a degree in medicine, which is recognised by the General Medical Council (GMC).

Can you work as a psychiatrist remotely?

Some aspects of the role can be performed remotely, but meeting with patients, completing sessions and meetings with allied professionals will be in the office or practice environment. In some cases, you may be able to fill out paperwork, manage records and plan your schedule from home, but a large part of the job will be in the practice or NHS setting.

What are the prospects for psychiatrists?

If working within the NHS, you’ll follow the structured career path and progress to higher bands, and with the pay rise comes more responsibility. Once past a senior level and working as a consultant, you’ll gain more experience and responsibility.

Some move into supervisory and managerial positions, either as a lead consultant for a team (medical lead), then a lead consultant for a department (clinical director) before a lead consultant for a hospital trust (known as a medical director).

Although other psychiatrists choose to work in a specialist area, where they will gain experience in this field under a named consultant psychiatrist, after some time, they can progress to leadership roles, or teaching, research and committee work.

If the academic world appeals to you then you’d need to start planning this early on in Foundation Training as it’s a competitive field. But you can work towards the director of medical education, associate dean in charge or training programme director roles if teaching future doctors is the aspiration.

Other opportunities include working in the private sector or setting up a practice yourself. This would require extensive experience, client base and impressive networking.

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