If you enjoy helping people and solving problems or you love to communicate and listen, in equal parts, then becoming a psychiatrist could be the career path for you, or possibly a career change if you are already involved in medicine. You will work with people of various religions and from different backgrounds and different races.
What is a psychiatrist?
It’s a medically qualified doctor who cares for patients suffering from mental illnesses such as schizophrenia, depression, eating disorders, drug and alcohol abuse, phobias, and anxieties. Psychiatrists work in several different places including hospitals, residential homes for elderly people and individuals with special needs, people’s own homes and even prisons.
What sort of person is suited to the job?
A ‘people’ person who has a real interest in how other people feel and think
Someone who enjoys investigating complex issues
A science lover
A person who is patient, bright and tactful
Someone who enjoys finding out what makes a person ‘tick’
A person who is strong enough to face somewhat difficult problems that a patient might tell you about
How can I become a Psychiatrist?
In order to become a psychiatrist you first need to become a qualified doctor, so the first course of action is to apply for a place at medical school. You will need three good A level passes, one of which must be a science subject (some medical schools insist on a chemistry). Competition is fierce so be warned. In order to be successful not only do you need good academic qualifications but you will also need to show enthusiasm coupled with great interpersonal skills, have some interest in a caring profession, and possess a wide range out outside interests.
What happens after medical school?
The medical degree usually takes five years and gives students an insight into different specialities within medicine.
This is followed by working 2 years in a hospital as a ‘foundation programme trainee’. This extends your knowledge and skills and helps you to develop the important skills necessary to become a successful doctor. The second year of the programme involves experience of working within different specialities.
Upon completion of the foundation programme you will be able to apply for speciality training in psychiatry, which usually takes around 6 years and includes assessments throughout that time.
Having successfully completed your speciality training you will be able to apply for a post as a consultant.
Gain some work experience
Work experience is the best way to learn more about psychiatry and will improve your knowledge and understanding of the subject. In addition it will:
Help you develop the skills and qualities needed to become a psychiatrist
Give you a chance to network
Improve your understanding of the work environment and what an employee expects
Provide solid experience which you can show on application forms and interviews, plus it helps improve your chances of acceptance into higher education
Gives you an insight into how the NHS operates
Helps you to develop key skills such as communication, problem solving and team work
There are several hospitals in the UK offering work experience to students in year 10/11, sixth formers and medical students.
Why psychiatry is so special
Working in this area of expertise can really make a difference to a person’s life and give them back their self respect and happiness. Each and every day will be different and each person you meet will be unique. There’s a number of different areas of psychiatry in which you can choose to work and the job ranges right across a lifespan, so you could be working with children right through to elderly people.
How much can I expect to earn?
You can expect to earn around £24,000 basic salary during your psychiatrist specialist training. This in turn is supplemented by receiving pay for any out of hours work that you do. So in essence, the more out of hours or on call work that you do, the more money you will earn. A consultant can earn around £70,000 to £90,000 a year.
So if you want a job which will frustrate you at times but be enormously challenging, then sound career advice would be to seriously think about psychiatry.