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Feb 2023
Career of the Month

Key Facts

Starter Salary
Experienced Salary
Working Hours
41 to 43 hours per week


Psychiatrists are qualified doctors who specialise in mental illness. They work with people with a range of problems, such as depression, psychotic disorders, anxiety, stress, dementia, addiction and personality issues. In addition, patients who have long-term physical conditions often develop mental health issues and psychiatrists form one of a team of specialists who work with them. In general the psychiatrist works with the patient to make a diagnosis and draw up a treatment programme which can involve a combination of measures, such as drugs, counselling and, perhaps, physical interventions. They continue to meet with their patient to follow up progress and make any changes to their treatment that may be needed. Psychiatrists also need to understand aspects of the law that refer to the Mental Health Act and the Mental Capacity Act.

What it takes

Key skills required:

  • counselling skills including active listening and a non-judgemental approach
  • knowledge of psychology
  • knowledge of medicine
  • the ability to understand people’s reactions
  • excellent verbal and written communication skills
  • active listening skills
  • sensitivity and understanding
  • the ability to accept criticism and work well under pressure
  • to be thorough and pay attention to detail
  • patience and the ability to remain calm in stressful situations
  • the ability to think clearly using logic and reasoning
  • analytical thinking skills
  • knowledge of teaching and the ability to design courses
  • a good memory
  • concentration skills
  • maths skills


  • pass enhanced background checks

Day to day

In this role you will:

  • take temperatures, blood pressures and pulse rates
  • help doctors with physical examinations
  • give drugs and injections
  • clean and dress wounds
  • set up drips and blood transfusions
  • use medical equipment
  • monitor patients' progress
  • update patient records and handover information to colleagues at the end of a shift
  • work with doctors and other healthcare professionals to decide what care to give
  • give advice to patients and their relatives

You could work in an NHS or private hospital, at a health centre, at a hospice, at an adult care home, at a client's home or in a prison.

You may need to wear a uniform.

Your working environment may be physically and emotionally demanding.


You will need

  • Top grade A-Levels in one sitting
  • An A-level (or equivalent) in chemistry
  • An A-level (or equivalent) in biology
  • A GCSE (4+/A*-C) (or equivalent) in English
  • A GCSE (4+/A*-C) (or equivalent) in maths
  • A GCSE (4+/A*-C) (or equivalent) in chemistry (or double science)
  • A GCSE (4+/A*-C) (or equivalent) in biology (or double science)
  • Work experience in medicine
  • A qualifying degree in medicine

You may need

  • An A-level (or equivalent) in maths
  • A GCSE (4+/A*-C) (or equivalent) in physics (or double science)

Academic and Vocational Notes

When researching medicine degrees, check out individual university requirements as they do vary. Applicants for medicine may also have to sit the UCAT or BMAT exam; find out more about when you need to register and when it takes place. During the degree, information is given on when and how to apply for the next stage, the two year Foundation Programme.

Work Based Training Notes

Specialist training takes place after the Foundation Programme. Specialist training in psychiatry take at least 6 years. The first three years is spent in developing core knowledge and the higher level training is in one of six specialities: child and adolescent, forensic, general adult, learning disability, old age and medical psychotherapy.

Other Routes

Whilst these are the usual routes to this career, there can be alternatives. You will be able to discuss these with your adviser.

To learn more about getting into a career in Psychiatry, take a look at our article - Career Focus of the Month: Becoming a Psychiatrist

Some data provided by NCS. May contain public sector information licensed under the Open Government Licence v3.0.

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