This week: Psychiatrist

This week: Psychiatrist

Job description (what it says): A medical doctor, who specialises in the care and treatment of people with mental health problems.

Job description (what it means): Because of the enormous variety within psychiatry, you could be dealing with people suffering from numerous mental health problems such as: depression, alcoholism or drug addiction, schizophrenia, anxiety, personality disorders and learning disabilities. Be prepared to work within a multi-disciplinary team with other healthcare professionals, including: community psychiatric nurses, social workers, psychologists, psychotherapists and occupational therapists. You may work in hospitals, schools, special units, residential homes and even prisons.

Qualifications: First, you must complete your training in medical school (5-6 years). You then work for another year in pre-registration posts (ie House Officer posts). After this, you register with the General Medical Council (GMC). Then, as a Senior House Officer, you should try to gain experience recognised by the Royal College of Psychiatrists, such as general practice work. Once you are ready to specialise, your basic training in psychiatry takes place on Rotational Training Schemes, and lasts three years. You then spend about six months each in as many specialities as are offered by the training scheme. It is mandatory to fulfil the basic requirement to train (initially for one year) in general adult and old age psychiatry. After your initial training (and at least one year's experience of general psychiatry), you are ready to sit the first of two membership exams set by the Royal College of Psychiatry. To obtain the membership, you will need: a minimum of one year's psychiatric work experience before taking the first exam, followed by two to three years of further training before taking the second exam.

Way in: After completion of preregistration training, the minimum training is three years (or its equivalent part-time). At least one year must be as a senior house officer in a hospital and as a general practitioner registrar in general practice training. The remaining year may be spent in hospital posts or in general practice, or a mix of both.

Starting salary: A House Officer (or trainee medical student) can expect to earn £17,260 per annum. With additional duty hours, this figure can rise to around £26,000. Including duty hours, the salary of a Senior House Officer can rise to £40,264. In private practice your fees are likely to increase substantially.

Perks: Training costs are covered by the hospital. If you plan on working in the Greater London Area, you may receive what is called London Weighting, which is a £2,000-£3,000 living allowance in addition to your salary. Joining the British Medical Association (an independent trade union and association) provides many membership benefits, including a range of discounts on consumer goods, services and hotel accommodation.

Drawbacks: Anti-social hours.You may work different jobs at more than one location, and what little time you have to spare may be dedicated to further study.

More information: Visit the Royal College of Psychiatry website at, or call 020-7235 2351.

Role model: Robin Williams in Good Will Hunting. Tracey Ullman in Ally McBeal.

Need not apply: Those who work best with a fast pace and quick solutions. Nine-to-fivers. Those who shock easily.

Career prospects: Excellent, with a good selection of consultant posts on offer. Prospects are also very good for those wishing to work part-time.

Do say in interview: "I thrive in a challenging environment, and I am looking for a stimulating career that involves helping a wide variety of people."

Don't say: "You don't have to be mad to work here, but it helps!"