How To Become A Psychiatrist In Australia: A Complete Guide

Students want to know how much psychologists earn in Australia, and if it's hard to become one.

 

Are you an empathetic person who understands other people’s feelings and emotions? Does the human mind and behaviour fascinate you? Do you want to make a difference in the everyday lives of people by connecting to them? If yes, a career in psychiatry might be the right choice for you.


Dealing with the mental health of other people is a big responsibility, but it is very well worth the effort you put in. To become a psychiatrist you will need to 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 have the ability to analyse and think critically to diagnose your patient correctly. Staying objective and not biased by your personal experiences is also crucial as it may cloud your judgement.


It is important to know that psychology and psychiatry are two different disciplines although both of them 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 be a psychiatrist and are willing to work hard for it, read the post below. It contains all the information required to become a successful psychiatrist in Australia, including the available psychiatry courses, 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 for 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 for understanding and identifying 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.


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 consult.

  • 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.

  • Conducting research on mental health studies to improve the understanding of it and to improve the 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.

  • Communication skills: You should be a good listener. Great 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


Here is a step-by-step study pathways guide to becoming a psychiatrist in Australia:

 


Step 1: Joining medical school

 


Joining a medical school is the first step towards your career as a psychiatrist. Many aspirants often wonder how to become a psychiatrist without medical school. But it is not possible to be a psychiatrist without 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. In New Zealand, you need to do the same with NCEA Level 3.

 

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

 

  • Some universities require some pre-requisite subjects in school and score 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 can go to medical school even after completing a different undergraduate course. 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. Most likely, you will 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 as 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 yourself 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 need to apply for medical school after your 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.

 


Step 2: Medical Degree


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

 


Step 3: 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 at. You will have to complete a certain number of rotations in various departments of the hospital.

 


Step 4: 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 5: 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) to complete.

 

You will be required to complete rotations in various departments and you will be introduced to the practising of various 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. You will be 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.


More about the psychiatry training at RANZCP can be viewed 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 would take at least 11 years and up to 13 years to complete your medical degree, internship, residency, and your 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 would need a lot of patience and persistence if you want to achieve your dream to become a psychiatrist.

 


6. How Much do Psychiatrists Earn in Australia?


The salary of psychiatrists in Australia could vary according to your experience and your employer. A consultant psychiatrist would earn much more than a trainee psychiatry doctor.


According to Payscale, the annual average salary of psychiatrists in Australia is AU$126,780. In some cases, many additional incentives are received as well.

 


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


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


A lot of vacancies are there for both the consultant psychiatrist position and trainee psychiatrist position. According to RANZCP, the chances of finding a job in psychiatry are very high because the available number of psychiatrists do 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. 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 to not 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.


It is very important to investigate and explore the choices before you commit yourself to your career in any field. Hopefully, this guide on how to become a psychiatrist in Australia has made that a little easier for you by giving you a better understanding of the career choices, job prospects, and study pathways in psychiatry.


It is highly recommended to check the Royal Australian and New Zealand College of Psychiatrists website as they regularly update the latest information on requirements.

 

 

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