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Summary of occupation

Psychiatrists diagnose, assess, treat and prevent mental, emotional and behavioural disorders. Psychiatrists treat mental illness which encompasses conditions such as anxiety disorders, depression, schizophrenia, bipolar disorder, substance abuse and personality disorders.

Psychiatry uses all aspects of the biopsychosocial model and as such focuses holistically on the patient's body and mind. It is an important speciality with approximately one in five Australians suffering from a mental disorder.

There are approximately 143 psychiatrists practising in Western Australia. The majority are spread across the metropolitan area however a small percentage are located in major regional centres.

ANZSCO description: Diagnoses, assesses, treats and prevents human  mental, emotional and behavioural disorders. Registration or  licensing is required.
Alternative names: Psychotherapist (Medical)
Specialisations: Adolescent Psychiatrist, Alcohol and drug consultation, Child and Adolescent Psychiatrist, Child and adolescent psychiatry, Child Psychiatrist, Forensic Psychiatrist, Forensic psychiatry (legal and criminal cases) or Psychotherapy, Geriatric Psychiatrist, Medical Psychotherapist, Psychiatry of old age, Psychoanalysis (social and cultural psychiatry)
Job prospects: Good
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Knowledge, skills and attributes

A psychiatrist needs:

  • a high level of understanding of mental, emotional, and behavioural states and disorders, including knowledge of symptoms, treatment alternatives, drug properties and interactions and preventative health measures
  • to be able to counsel patients, including knowledge of principles, methods and procedures of mental dysfunctions
  • knowledge of human behaviour and performance
  • superior analytical, evaluation and critical thinking skills
  • advanced communication and interpersonal skills
  • deductive and inductive reasoning skills
  • to be able to effectively collaborate with physicians, psychologists, social workers, psychiatric nurses, or other professionals
  • social perceptiveness
  • to be patient, caring, sensitive and empathetic towards patients and their families
  • to be able to develop long term relationships with patients
  • integrity especially when dealing with highly personal issues
  • self control and attentiveness
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Working conditions

Psychiatrists generally practice according to personal preference and area of subspecialisation. Most work in private and public clinics or hospitals. Emergencies are few and on-call work tends to be. Work can be performed on an individual level or as a multidisciplinary team.

Although psychiatry work is considered a privilege and source of great satisfaction, at times it can be emotionally draining and stressful.

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Salary details

On average, psychiatrists can expect to earn between $2 692 and $3 462 per week ($140 000 and $180 000 a year), depending on the organisation they work for, and their level of experience. 

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Tools and technologies

Psychiatrists need to be familiar with advances in neuropsychiatry and psychobiology including atypical antipsychotics to procedures such as repetitive transcranial magnetic stimulation.
Electro-convulsive therapy (ECT) is a tool used by psychiatrists.

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Education and training/entrance requirements

To become a psychiatrist, you must first become a qualified medical practitioner and then specialise in psychiatry.

Postgraduate courses in medicine are offered by the University of Notre Dame and the University of Western Australia. These degrees usually take four years to complete. Entry requirements include completion of a bachelor degree in any discipline. You must also sit the Graduate Australian Medical Schools Admissions Test (GAMSAT) and attend an interview at your chosen institution. Contact the universities you are interested in for more information.

On completion of the postgraduate medical degree, you must work in the public hospital system for two years (internship and residency). To specialise in psychiatry, doctors can apply to the Royal Australian and New Zealand College of Psychiatrists to undertake further training and ultimately receive fellowship.

Related courses

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Apprenticeships and traineeships

As an apprentice or trainee, you enter into a formal training contract with an employer. You spend most of your time working and learning practical skills on the job and you spend some time undertaking structured training with a registered training provider of your choice. They will assess your skills and when you are competent in all areas, you will be awarded a nationally recognised qualification.

If you are still at school you can access an apprenticeship through your school. You generally start your school based apprenticeship by attending school three days a week, spending one day at a registered training organisation and one day at work. Talk to your school's VET Co-ordinator to start your training now through VET in Schools. If you get a full-time apprenticeship you can apply to leave school before reaching the school leaving age.

If you are no longer at school you can apply for an apprenticeship or traineeship and get paid while you learn and work.

Related apprenticeships

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Recognition of prior learning

If you think you already have some of the skills or competencies, obtained either through non-formal or informal learning, you may be able to gain credit through recognition of prior learning.

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