How To Become A Psychiatrist In Australia: A Complete Guide

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Students want to know how to become a psychiatrist in Australia and how long it takes.


Are you an empathetic person who understands other people's feelings and emotions? Does the human mind and behaviour fascinate you? If yes, a career in psychiatry might be the right choice for you.


To become a psychiatrist, you must stay focused, study hard, and go through training for more than ten years. It includes your medical degree, internship, residency, and psychiatry training at the Royal Australian and New Zealand College of Psychiatrists (RANZCP).


Becoming a psychiatrist requires serious hard work and dedication. You have to be kind, compassionate, and vigilant. You should be able to analyse and think critically to diagnose your patient correctly. Staying objective and unbiased by your experiences is also crucial, as it may cloud your judgement.


It is essential to know that psychology and psychiatry are different disciplines, although they deal with many similar topics. Only a psychiatrist has the authority to prescribe medicine and admit patients. Click here to find out how to become a psychologist in Australia.


So if you want to become a psychiatrist and are willing to work hard for it, read the post below.


You will learn how to become a successful psychiatrist in Australia, including the available psychiatry courses and psychiatrist degrees, how long it takes, the enrolment processes, educational qualifications, and experience.



1. What Does A Psychiatrist Do?


A psychiatrist specialises in treating people with mental illnesses and disorders. The cause of a mental illness could be psychological, behavioural, or even physical. 


Psychiatrists diagnose their patients correctly, recommend proper treatment plans like medication and therapy, and, if needed, they have the authority to admit their patients. They should be able to connect with their patients to understand and identify their issues. 


However, the relationship between psychiatrists and their patients must be strictly professional. Any kind of deep personal relationship with the patient is highly discouraged.


The most common mental illnesses include clinical depression, anxiety disorders, schizophrenia, post-traumatic stress disorder, Alzheimer's, bipolar disorder, personality disorder, eating disorder, etc.



2. Major Duties And Tasks of A Psychiatrist


  • The following are the main tasks and duties of a psychiatrist:

  • Communicating with patients effectively about the problems they are facing.

  • Assessing and analysing the mental and physical health of the patient and diagnosing their illness.

  • Ordering imaging, lab tests, and any diagnostic procedures required.

  • Examining the results of the tests and confirming the diagnosis.

  • Establishing the appropriate treatment plan.

  • Prescribing medication and administering them, arranging therapy and other proper treatment and rehabilitation processes. 

  • Authorising treatment for patients who appear to lack decisional capacity or for people who pose a threat to themselves or others.

  • Teaching and supervising medical students.

  • Providing your expert opinion in any medical or legal consultation.

  • Administering medicine and evaluating the mental health status of patients on behalf of courts, law enforcement etc. 

  • Working closely with other healthcare professionals, especially mental health workers, to provide the best care and help for your patients and community.

  • Researching mental health studies to improve the understanding of it and to improve mental health treatment.



3. Skills Needed To Become A Good Psychiatrist


  • Empathy: You should be empathetic, compassionate, kind, and caring to the patient.


  • Patience: A psychiatrist should be very patient. You cannot force the patients to tell you something they are not yet ready to do.


  • Communication Skills: You should be a good listener. Excellent observation and communicative skills are required for a good psychiatrist.


  • Awareness: You should be able to read the room. Be aware of the nature and direction of your patient and their communication.


  • Not Prejudiced or Judgemental: You should be able to interact with people from different backgrounds without judging them.


  • Interpreting Skills: You should be able to analyse the information skillfully and reach the correct diagnosis.


  • Good Decision-Making: You should be able to make good decisions and work well under pressure.



4. Steps To Become A Psychiatrist in Australia


Below, you will find a comprehensive, step-by-step guide outlining the study pathways to pursue a career as a psychiatrist in Australia:



Step 1: Joining Medical School


Joining medical school is the first step towards your career as a psychiatrist. Many aspirants often wonder how to become a psychiatrist without a medical school. But it is only possible to become a psychiatrist by attending medical school. 


Different universities have different requirements. You should check in with the universities you would like to join to ensure that you have the required qualifications. 


The following are the major requirements asked by most universities:


  • You need to complete high school with a high ATAR score if you are in Australia. You must do the same in New Zealand with NCEA Level 3.


  • You will need to sit the University Clinical Aptitude Test (UCAT) in Australia and New Zealand and score high. The ATARs for entry to major universities in 2018 can be found here.


  • Some universities require pre-requisite subjects in school and scoring high in those. Biology, Physics, Chemistry, Maths, and English are the most common pre-requisite subjects.



In most universities, you will need to study for 5-6 years to get your medical degree. However, some universities allow you to go through an accelerated undergraduate course in a related subject if you have a provisional entry from high school into medicine.



Graduate Entry: You have the option to pursue medical school after completing an undergraduate degree in a different field.


If you don't have the required qualifications to attend medical school after high school, this is an option you can try. The requirements differ from university to university.


You will most likely be required to do some or all of the below:


  • GAMSAT: You might need to sit Graduate Medical School Admissions Tests and score very high.


  • Your marks in the undergraduate course might be considered an admission criterion. The higher your GPA, the better your chances will be.


  • You might also have to attend an interview and perform well. Many universities interview prospective students before admitting them.


Typically, graduate-entry programs are four years long in Australia. The seats are very limited at medical schools. It is a very competitive procedure, and you will have to work very hard if you want to get admitted to a medical school.


If you are a psychology undergraduate or an undergraduate student wondering how to become a psychiatrist with a psychology degree, you must apply for medical school after graduation.


There are a lot of alternate pathways into psychiatry if you are from remote and rural areas or if you belong to indigenous groups. Find out more about it here.



Medical Degree: As mentioned, medical degrees in Australia could last 4 to 6 years, depending upon your entry to medical school.



Step 2: Internship


You are required to do a mandatory internship at a hospital for one year. Typically, the internships are done in the hospitals of the medical schools you completed your degree. You will have to complete several rotations in various hospital departments.



Step 3: Residency


Residency is usually one year. However, many doctors choose to have more years of residency before their next step. The residency includes many more rotations in a hospital. Residency is a great learning opportunity and a chance to gain lots of experience.



Step 4: Training in Psychiatry at RANZCP


After gaining your medical degree and completing your internship and residency, you can apply for the psychiatry training program at the Royal Australian and New Zealand College of Psychiatrists. The Fellowship program takes at least five years (60 months). 


You will be required to complete rotations in various departments and be introduced to practising different specialisations like child and adolescent psychiatry, adult psychiatry, forensic psychiatry, addiction psychiatry, etc., during this period.


Your whole training period will be supervised by a senior psychiatrist and assessed throughout this time based on your performance. You are required to pass five assessments during this period as well. Due to the COVID pandemic, many new changes and adjustments have been introduced to the training program.


It is important to remember that the positions are very limited, and you are not entitled to the training position of your choice. Completing the 5-year training at RANZCP will finally make you a certified psychiatrist.


You can view more about the psychiatry training at RANZCP here.



5. How Long Does It Take to Become a Psychiatrist in Australia?


Before you step into a career in psychiatry, you need to know how long it takes to become a psychiatrist in Australia. 


It takes at least 11 and up to 13 years to complete your medical degree, internship, residency, and training at the Royal Australian and New Zealand College of Psychiatrists. This could be longer if you decide to do the residency for more than one year.


It is a very long process and needs a lot of patience and persistence if you want to achieve your dream of becoming a psychiatrist.



6. How Much Do Psychiatrists Earn in Australia?


The average salary for psychiatrists in Australia is AU$ 148,310. Within the profession, the salary range varies from AUD 80,000 per year as the lowest to AUD 350,000 per year as the highest.


Several factors can influence earnings within the profession:



Type of Medical Facility


Psychiatrists receive a fixed salary when working within government health institutions. However, private practice employees may earn more based on their patient volume, years of experience, location, and fees.





Specialised Psychiatrists in forensic psychiatry, geriatric psychiatry, or child and adolescent psychiatry may earn higher salaries due to the higher demand for their services.



Work Experience


  • Entry-level (<1-year experience): AU$102,129 per year 

  • Early career (1-4 years of experience): AU$124,996 per year 

  • Mid-career (5-9 years of experience): AU$195,743 per year 

  • Experienced (10-19 years of experience): AU$205,579 per year 

  • In their late career (20 years and above): AU$180,000 annually.



Geographical Location


Although urban areas offer higher remuneration due to higher living costs, the greater demand for psychiatrists in remote and rural areas can lead to competitive salaries in these areas as well).



Highest Paying Cities for Psychiatrists in Australia


  • Perth: $278,254 per year

  • Sydney: 243,335 per year

  • Canberra: $228,883 per year

  • Newcastle: $205,116 per year

  • Hunter Valley: $190,006 per year

  • Darwin: $168,956 per year

  • Brisbane: $164,806 per year

  • Hobart: $163,155 per year

  • Melbourne: $147,825 per year



7. How Good Are Job Prospects For A Psychiatrist in Australia?


Job prospects for psychiatrists in Australia and overseas are very high. There are many vacancies for psychiatrists in all major cities in Australia.


With the growing awareness of the importance of mental health and mental health care, job prospects in the field are also growing.


The stigma attached to mental health care is also declining now. According to, the projected job growth in psychiatry in five years is 5.1%. All these points towards increasing opportunities in the field.


A lot of vacancies are there for both the consultant psychiatrist position and the trainee psychiatrist position.


According to RANZCP, the chances of finding a job in psychiatry are very high because the available number of psychiatrists does not meet the demand in most parts of Australia.


The rural areas are facing this issue more than the towns and cities.



8. Major Specialisations in Psychiatry


Psychiatry is a very vast field. It addresses the needs and issues faced by patients of all ages, gender, race, and culture. The experiences of every patient are very different. So, there are many subspecialties in psychiatry. 


The following are the major specialisations you can pursue in the field of psychiatry:


  • Child and adolescent psychiatry

  • Adult Psychiatry

  • Forensic psychiatry

  • Addiction psychiatry

  • Old-age psychiatry

  • Consultation-liaison psychiatry

  • Indigenous psychiatry 

  • Neuropsychiatry



9. Where Do Psychiatrists Work?


Psychiatrists can practice in various environments based on their area of specialisation. For example, a geriatric psychiatrist usually works in a hospice program or nursing home.


A forensic psychiatrist may work at a psychiatric hospital or a correctional facility. They may also run their private practice or work for public healthcare facilities such as community clinics and hospitals.



10. Work Schedule Of Psychiatrists


The schedule of a psychiatrist varies based on their chosen specialty and their nature of employment (working at a facility or as self-employed).


Most psychiatrists have outpatient clients, so they have a variable work schedule that helps them strike a good work-life balance. Moreover, it gives them the freedom to decide their work hours.


Also, many psychiatrists work as independent contractors or own their practice to create a work schedule that best suits their lifestyle.



11. Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)



Are Psychiatrists Well-Paid in Australia?


Being a specialised medical profession in Australia, psychiatrists enjoy competitive salaries and rewarding employment opportunities.


Furthermore, their value to the medical community and the demand for mental health services throughout Australia make the profession lucrative.


As psychiatrists gain expertise and specialist skills, they can expect substantial remuneration.


Other ways that can lead to higher income without increasing work hours:


  • Employment in government agencies, communities, and courts can lead to higher earnings. 

  • Working in private practice or running their practice can be both financially rewarding and liberating. 

  • Working in specific Australian states like New South Wales that pay more than others. 

  • Considering more demand and vacancies for psychiatrists in rural areas than urban areas, you can expect higher compensation in remote and rural NSW areas than in NSW city.



What Type of Psychiatry Pays The Most?


Of the various psychiatrist specialties, the highest-paid Psychiatrist is the "locum psychiatrist," with an average earning of $340,000 annually. It is $135,000 more than the average of other specialised psychiatry earnings, i.e., $205,000!


Locum psychiatrists are specialists with a knowledge of various psychiatric specialisations, such as outpatient or adolescent psychiatry.


Due to their broad knowledge and skills, medical facilities or hospitals usually need them to fill a function temporarily. Based on their necessity, their work tenure can range from a few weeks to some months or even years.


Other high-paying psychiatry specialties are:


  • Psychiatrist consultant

  • Locum consultant psychiatrist

  • Outpatient Psychiatrist

  • Forensic Psychiatrist

  • Interventional psychiatrist 

  • Child and adolescent Psychiatrist



Are Psychiatrists in Demand in Australia?


Psychiatrists are a crucial component of the healthcare system of Australia. They play an inevitable role in safeguarding the mental health and well-being of people in the country.


As per the Australian Government Department of Health, the number of mental health professionals is inadequate to deal with the rising mental health conditions in the country. Therefore, there is a high demand for psychiatrists to provide specialised care to people with complicated mental health conditions.


According to Labour Market Insights, the government projects a 5.2% growth in the profession, and the number of psychiatrists will grow moderately from 5,600 in 2021 to 5,900 by 2026. Around 300 more jobs are expected to be created over this period.



How Many Hours Does A Psychiatrist Work in Australia?


Around 71% of employed Psychiatrists work full-time for an average of 45 hours per week. It is comparable to the average of all jobs, i.e., 44 hours per week.



Are Most Psychiatrist Male or Female?


According to Labour Market Insights, 56% of the psychiatrist workforce comprises males, and females make up 44% of the workforce.



What Is The Role of the Psychiatrist in Anxiety?


Psychiatrists specialise in the analysis, treatment, and management of anxiety disorders.


They help find the causes of anxiety, which includes psychological, genetic, and environmental factors, and develop a personalised treatment that addresses the unique needs of each patient with severe anxiety and provides long-term relief.


Psychiatrists use various therapies such as psychotherapy, exposure therapy, cognitive-behavioural therapy, and medications such as anti-anxiety medications, beta-blockers, and antidepressants to increase the levels of specific neurotransmitters in the brain and regulate mood and anxiety in a person.


Thus, psychiatrists use a combination of therapies and continuous support to help alleviate patients' symptoms and enhance their quality of life.



Do Psychiatrists Get Stressed?


Yes. A career in psychiatry involves a few disadvantages that, when not handled properly, can lead to stress in psychiatrists.


  • Psychiatrists may get stressed as they spend most of their time dealing with people's mental health issues. Patiently listening to the frustrations, disappointments, and problems of patients from all walks of life and devising a treatment plan that alleviates their suffering and enhances their life quality is a challenge.


  • Furthermore, developing an accurate diagnosis without the availability of standardised testing options can be a challenge. In this case, they rely on their education, experience, and intuition to discover a patient's issue.


  • Although psychiatrists find better work-life balance than other medical professionals, much time is dedicated to patient appointments daily. They must also devote time to plan, review, or write patient notes. Sometimes, they have to be on-call to handle emergency cases. Thus, finding a work-life balance can be a challenge in psychiatry.



How Much Does It Cost To Become A Psychiatrist in Australia?


The cost of studying psychiatry courses varies between universities.


Being a Commonwealth Supported Place, the indicative cost to study the first year of a Bachelor of Medical Studies/Doctor of Medicine degree at UNSW is $10,860.



How To Become a Psychiatrist in Queensland (QLD)?


It takes four steps to become and work as a psychiatrist role in Queensland:


  1. You can complete a Bachelor of Medical Studies and Doctor of Medicine at Bond University

  2. Next, complete at least 12 months of an on-the-job internship in a hospital.

  3. Once qualified, register yourself as a medical practitioner with the Medical Board of Australia via the Australian Health Practitioner Regulation Agency (AHPRA).

  4. Undertake specialised psychiatry training (at least five years) with the Royal Australian and New Zealand College of Psychiatrists.



How To Become A Psychiatrist in New South Wales (NSW)?


Follow the below steps to pursue a psychiatry career in NSW:


  1. Complete a Bachelor of Medical Studies/Doctor of Medicine - UNSW (6 Years Full Time)

  2. Complete an on-the-job internship in a medical facility like a hospital for at least one year.

  3. Obtain registration as a medical practitioner with the Medical Board of Australia.

  4. Complete specialised psychiatry training with the Royal Australian and New Zealand College of Psychiatrists.



How To Become A Psychiatrist in Melbourne?


Here are the four simple steps to pursue a psychiatrist profession in Melbourne:


  1. Complete a Bachelor of Medical Science and Doctor of Medicine at Monash University. It is a five-year course with direct entry from high school. 

  2. Course graduates must undertake an on-the-job internship in a hospital for at least 12 months.

  3. Apply for registration with the Medical Board of Australia to work as a medical practitioner in Australia.

  4. Complete specialised psychiatry training with the Royal Australian and New Zealand College of Psychiatrists. The fellowship program involves completing supervised rotations in different practice areas. 



12. What is The Difference Between Psychiatry and Psychology?


Both psychologists and psychiatrists are healthcare professionals who help clients better manage their behaviour and thinking through elaborate approaches.


However, there are some critical differences between these professions:





  • Psychiatrists are licensed medical doctors who can diagnose and treat complex mental health conditions using "medication," therapies, and other brain-stimulating techniques. 


  • Psychiatrists have to go to medical school and specialise in psychiatry. Working as a licensed psychiatrist can take eleven or more years of formal tertiary training.





  • Psychologists treat people with mild, short-term, or severe mental ailments. It includes stress, anxiety, substance abuse, or depression. They can assess and diagnose mental health conditions on cultural, environmental, and social factors. They are NOT authorised to prescribe medication and can only suggest potent therapies like cognitive-behavioural therapy to treat their patients.


  • Psychologists require six years of tertiary training with a university-based degree and supervised experience.



How To Become A Psychiatrist With a Psychology Degree in Australia?


Psychologists usually have a bachelor's degree in psychology, which is insufficient to become a psychiatrist in Australia.


Aspiring psychiatrists also need to complete a medical degree program and finish their internship and residency in psychiatry to practice this medical specialty.


They must complete hospital rotations in general medicine, neurology, and emergency medicine and gain experience working with patients with various disorders, including geriatric, eating disorders, and schizophrenia.


After completing a medical degree and internship, they can apply for the psychiatry training program at the Royal Australian and New Zealand College of Psychiatrists. The training takes at least five years (60 months) to complete.


Finally, register yourself as a medical practitioner with the Medical Board of Australia to work as a licenced psychiatrist in Australia.



12. Closing Words


Your career in psychiatry will be a very long journey, and you will need to put a lot of effort into it. But at the end of the journey, they will be well worth it because it is one of the most rewarding careers in the world. 


However, you should be careful enough not to get personally too involved with your patients and their lives that your mental health starts to deteriorate. Constant mental health check-ups are recommended for psychiatrists as well.


Hopefully, this guide on becoming a psychiatrist in Australia has made it easier for you to understand career choices, job prospects, and study pathways in psychiatry.


Investigating and exploring the choices before committing to your career in any field is imperative.


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