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The Royal College of Psychiatrists Improving the lives of people with mental illness

Information for Sixth Formers


What do psychiatrists do?

Psychiatrists are doctors who look after patients with mental health problems, such as depression, anxiety, personality disorders, learning disabilities and schizophrenia. Management of these disorders involves a combination of measures, such as drugs, psychological counselling, improving home environments and social networks. Therefore, treatment of patients with mental health problems depends on a wide range of professionals, including clinical psychologists, social workers, psychiatric nurses, and occupational therapists. The psychiatrist needs to work together with these professionals as part of a team.

How do I become a psychiatrist?

All psychiatrists are qualified doctors, so first you must first gain a place at medical school.


Academically, you will need good passes in 3 A Levels, at least one of which must be a science subject (chemistry is compulsory at some medical schools). There is a lot of competition for places at medical school. Successful candidates need:


  • Good academic qualifications
  • Enthusiasm with good interpersonal skills
  • A wide range of outside interests
  • Some interest in a caring profession.

You will find general information and advice on becoming a doctor, as well as a list of medical schools, on the British Medical Association website.

What makes psychiatry special?

As a doctor specialising in this area, you really could make a difference to someone’s life, and help them regain their self-respect and happiness. Psychiatry is an excellent career choice for anyone interested in how the mind works, and someone who enjoys working as part of a team. There is real variety in psychiatry. Every day can be different and every person you see will be unique. Psychiatrists work across a person’s lifespan, from childhood to old age.

What is the difference between Psychology and Psychiatry?

Psychiatrists, psychologists and psychotherapists are professionally trained people who see and help those suffering from psychological problems. The main difference is that psychiatrists are all medically qualified doctors, and as doctors can prescribe medication. Psychologists are non-medically trained professionals who are primarily concerned with how people think, act, react and interact.

Work experience in Psychiatry

Work experience is a great way to improve your knowledge and understanding of psychiatry and also:


  • Gives you the opportunity to develop skills and qualities which are needed to become a psychiatrist e.g. communication, teamwork and problem solving.
  • Provides solid experience to offer on application forms and interviews and helps improve prospects for entry to higher education.
  • Increases self-understanding, maturity, independence and self-confidence, especially in the workplace.
  • Improves the understanding of the work environment and employees’ expectations.

There are many hospitals throughout the UK which offer work experience to Year 10/11 students, sixth formers and medical students. The Royal College of Psychiatrists is not responsible for organising work placements so please contact your local hospital or mental health trust directly for further information.

Summer School for Sixth Formers

This will be updated once we have information regarding current Summer Schools for Sixth Formers.


Read all about Bristol's 2014 Summer School here.

Contact us

If you would like any further information regarding a career in psychiatry please contact:


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Student Associates

Hook up with other psychiatry enthusiasts! Find out if there's a Psychiatry Society at your university.