How to become a psychiatrist

Use your empathy, medical training and observational talents to treat patients who are experiencing mental health challenges.  

Begin your career as a psychiatrist

Becoming a psychiatrist is an incredibly rewarding career choice that involves diagnosing patients in need and prescribing medication. Because of this, you’re required to complete many years of medical training before you can practice. Here are the steps you need to take:

  1. Earn an undergraduate medical degree, such as a Bachelor of Medical Studies. If you’ve already completed relevant undergraduate study, you can apply to study a Doctor of Medicine.

    While you can’t complete these courses online through Open Universities Australia, we can help you enrol in postgraduate courses that may provide a pathway into the Doctor of Medicine, like the Graduate Diploma of Health and Medical Sciences. We can also help you enrol in psychology and mental health courses if you’d like to explore counselling or psychology instead.   

  2. Complete an on-the-job internship in a hospital for at least 12 months.
  3. Apply for registration as a medical practitioner with the Medical Board of Australia through the Australian Health Practitioner Regulation Agency (AHPRA).
  4. Apply to complete specialised psychiatry training with the Royal Australian and New Zealand College of Psychiatrists (RANZCP), which will take at least five years. As part of this fellowship program, you’ll go on supervised rotations in different areas of practice. 


What does a psychiatrist do?

Psychiatrists evaluate, diagnose and treat patients with mental health issues and behavioural disorders. They should have excellent analytical and critical thinking skills to assess their patients and monitor progress.

Duties and tasks

  • Arrange and schedule treatment methods including prescribing medication and referring patients to psychotherapy, physical treatments, hospital admission and residential treatment programs.
  • Authorise involuntary treatment programs for patients who appear to pose a threat to themselves or others according to mental health laws.
  • Collaborate with other medical professionals to provide holistic patient treatment.
  • Evaluate your patients' mental and physical condition to diagnose emotional, mental or behavioural disorders, taking into consideration medical and psychiatric history
  • Prepare files and reports on patients.
  • Provide in-patient treatments and work on behalf of courts and law enforcement to administer medication, manage patients and evaluate state of mental health, testifying on results.
  • Refer patients for additional tests such as lab work, neuro-psychological assessments and diagnostic screening.
  • Use patient appointments, lab and diagnostic results, history and observations to offer treatment options and recommend the most advantageous treatment approach. 

Industry bodies

Related jobs

If you'd like to work in the mental health field without earning a medical degree, there are many other roles you can explore, such as:

Discover related courses

Undergraduate CSU-HMS-DEG

Bachelor of Health and Medical Science

Postgraduate UOQ-SPM-GCE

Graduate Certificate in Sports Medicine

Postgraduate SCU-LMD-MAS

Master of Lifestyle Medicine

We're here to guide you there

Our student advisors can assist you with enrolment, help you plan your studies, and answer questions about how studying through Open Universities Australia can get you from where you are today, to where you want to be tomorrow.

Talk to a student advisor

We'll be in touch to answer your questions.

Student advisor Jason Student advisor Maria Student advisor Peter

Usually replies in 30 mins