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

Sixth formers and school students

This section is for sixth formers and school students who are interested in a career in psychiatry.


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.

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.

For more information, see What is psychiatry?


How do I become a psychiatrist?

All psychiatrists are qualified doctors, so first you need to get 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). Here is a list of UK Medical Schools and their entry requirements.

You will find general information and advice on becoming a doctor, on the British Medical Association website.

Further information is available on How to become a psychiatrist.


I’m interested! What should I do next?

As well as studying hard so you can get the best possible qualifications, there are a few other things you can do:


Work experience

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

  • It helps you understand if you really want to be a doctor

  • 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 UCAS forms and application forms and helps improve prospects for entry to higher education.

  • Increases self-understanding, maturity, independence and self-confidence, especially in the workplace.

  • Improves your 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.

Contact your local hospital or mental health trust directly for further information.


Contact us

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



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Is psychiatry for me?

Find out about the benefits and challenges of a career in psychiatry from real psychiatrists – see Choose Psychiatry.