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


More about psychiatry

Q: I am interested in a career in psychiatry.

If you're a school leaver, you can find information about the psychiatric profession and how to become a psychiatrist by following this link: Careers Information For School Leavers - you can also take our quiz to see whether you'd make a good psychiatrist.

If you're a medical student who is interested in specialisingin psychiatry, you can find information about further training, day-to-day work and the areas of specialisationby following this link: Careers Information for Undergraduates

Q: What is the difference between a psychiatrist and a clinical psychologist?

Psychiatrists, psychologists and psychotherapists are all professionally-trained people who help individuals that suffer from psychological problems. The main difference between them is that psychiatrists are medically qualified doctors. Psychologists are not medically-trained professionals, and they are primarily concerned with the study of how people think, act, react and interact. For further information about psychology, visit the British Psychological Society (BPS) website.

Q: What are the main psychiatric specialties?

There are six main specialties within psychiatry:

  • general adult
  • old age
  • child and adolescent
  • psychotherapy
  • forensic psychiatry
  • learning disability.

For more information about each of these please follow this link: Psychiatric Specialties. The College also has its own areas of specialty within psychiatry. These are known as Faculties; please follow this link for more information about them: College Faculties.

Q: Where do psychiatrists work?

The majority of psychiatrists work within the National Health Service (NHS), whilst some work privately. Psychiatrists also work as part of community mental health teams (CMHTs) – see our page on 'The Mental Health Team' for more information.

Q: What makes a fully-qualified psychiatrist?

A qualified psychiatrist will have a medical degree, they will also have completed two years of foundation training and a further six years of specialty training within psychiatry.

To become a consultant psychiatrist, they would also need to obtain a CCT (Certificate of Completion of Training), be fully registered with the GMC (General Medical Council), and be included on their specialist register.

Q: What does the Royal College of Psychiatrists do?

The College is the professional and educational body for psychiatrists throughout the UK and Ireland. It organises the qualifying examination for psychiatrists, called the MRCPsych, and coordinates continuing professional development programmes to help qualified psychiatrists develop and update their skills.

The College also promotes excellence in mental health care, and aims to improve understanding about mental health problems. It is involved in an extensive range of public education initiatives designed to raise awareness and reduce the stigma of mental illness.

For further information about the rich history of the College and its work, visit the College Archives web page.

Q: What does it mean by being a Member or Fellow of the College?

Members of the College are awarded different grades of membership depending on various factors, including:

  • the contribution they have made to the field of psychiatry
  • their degree of experience as a professional psychiatrist
  • the amount of time they have been a member.

Visit the About College Membership page of our website to find about more about the various types of membership.

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