Rata Mate Hinengaro
Psychiatrists diagnose and treat mental illness and emotional and behavioural disorders by providing psychotherapeutic treatment and psychiatric medication.
Trainee psychiatrists usually earn
$74K-$182K per year
Experienced psychiatrists usually earn
$164K-$245K per year
Source: ASMS and RDA, 2021
Pay varies for psychiatrists depending on experience, hours, location and frequency of on-call or emergency cover.
- Registrars (trainee psychiatrists) working for a district health board (DHB) usually earn between $74,000 and $182,000 a year.
- Qualified psychiatrists working for a DHB usually earn between $164,000 and $245,000.
- Psychiatrists working in the private sector can earn up to $600,000.
Sources: Association of Salaried Medical Specialists (ASMS), ‘2020 to 2021 New Zealand DHB – Senior Medical and Dental Officers Collective Agreement’, March 2021; and Resident Doctors' Association (RDA), '2019 to 2021 RDA and DHB Multi Employer Collective Agreement (MECA)', March 2021.
(This information is a guide only. Find out more about the sources of our pay information)
What you will do
Psychiatrists may do some or all of the following:
- study patients' medical and psychiatric histories
- consult with patients and carry out tests to determine treatment
- provide personalised treatments such as psychological therapy
- prescribe and monitor medication
- help patients manage long-term mental health conditions
- work with patients and their families/whānau to understand patients' likely response to treatment
- work with other medical staff, such as nurses and psychologists, to co-ordinate and provide assessments, rehabilitation and recovery programmes
- admit patients to hospital if required
- mentor trainee psychiatrists
- prepare psychiatric reports and give evidence in court.
Skills and knowledge
Psychiatrists need to have knowledge of:
- how to diagnose psychiatric disorders
- how the brain and the human body work
- different diseases and illnesses, both mental and physical
- medicines and treatments, and the effects these have on patients
- medical ethics and law
- new research, treatments and practices in their field.
- usually work regular business hours, but may also be on call in evenings or weekends
- usually work in hospitals or clinics
- may work in emotionally draining and stressful circumstances
- may travel to attend conferences.
To become a psychiatrist you need to:
- complete the Health Sciences First Year programme at the University of Otago, or the first year of either the Bachelor of Health Sciences or Bachelor of Science in Biomedical Science at Auckland University
- complete a five-year Bachelor of Medicine and Bachelor of Surgery (MBChB) degree at Otago or Auckland
- work for one to two years as a house officer (supervised junior doctor) in a hospital
- complete another five years of training through the Royal Australian and New Zealand College of Psychiatrists Fellowship programme. This includes on-the-job training in different specialisations, and passing examinations to become a Fellow of the Royal Australian and New Zealand College of Psychiatrists.
You also need to be registered with the Medical Council of New Zealand.
- University of Otago website - information about the Health Sciences First Year programme
- University of Otago website - information about the Bachelor of Medicine and Bachelor of Surgery
- University of Auckland website - information about the Bachelor of Medicine and Bachelor of Surgery
- Royal Australian and New Zealand College of Psychiatrists website - information about psychiatrist training
- Medical Council of New Zealand website - information about psychiatrist training
The Vulnerable Children Act 2014 means that if you have certain serious convictions, you can’t be employed in a role where you are responsible for, or work alone with, children.
NCEA Level 3 is required to enter tertiary training. Useful subjects include maths, chemistry, physics, biology and English.
Psychiatrists need to be:
- good at observing, listening and communicating
- understanding of other cultures' attitudes to medical treatment
- able to communicate with people from various cultures
- able to manage their time and work well under pressure
- skilled at analysing and interpreting information
- good decision makers and problem solvers.
Our understanding of mental illness and psychiatric medications is still in its infancy. People with mental illness are complex and many don’t fit neatly into a diagnostic category. Because of this, you need to be able to deal with uncertainty and accept, at times, the trial-and-error nature of available treatment options.
Useful experience for psychiatrists includes:
- work in hospitals or other health-related work, such as in a clinic
- work involving psychology or counselling
- work in support and advice services such as Lifeline or Citizens Advice Bureau.
Find out more about training
- Royal Australian and New Zealand College of Psychiatrists (NZ)
- (04) 472 7247 - firstname.lastname@example.org - www.ranzcp.org
- Te Rau Matatini - Māori Mental Health Workforce Development
- 0800 628 284 - www.matatini.co.nz
What are the chances of getting a job?
Shortage of psychiatrists
There are not enough psychiatrists to meet demand. More psychiatrists are needed due to:
- New Zealand's growing and ageing population, which means increasing demand for mental health treatment
- an ageing workforce – nearly a third of specialist doctors, including psychiatrists, are over 55 years old and due to retire by 2027
- some psychiatrists moving overseas for better pay and working conditions
- a worldwide shortage of specialist doctors, including psychiatrists.
As a result, the job of psychiatrist appears on Immigration New Zealand's long-term skill shortage list, which means the Government is actively encouraging skilled psychiatrists from overseas to work in New Zealand.
According to the Census, 444 psychiatrists worked in New Zealand in 2018.
Extra payment for graduates working in hard-to-staff locations
The Ministry of Health runs a voluntary bonding scheme aimed at paying graduate doctors more to work in locations that are hard to staff, such as rural areas.
Types of employers varied
Most psychiatrists work for district health boards and work in public hospitals and community mental health services.
They may also work in:
- private practice and private hospitals
- medical schools at the Universities of Auckland and Otago, doing academic work.
- Immigration New Zealand, 'Long Term Skill Shortage List', 19 February 2018, (www.immigration.govt.nz).
- Kiwi Health Jobs, 'Health Workforce New Zealand - Psychiatry', January 2017, (www.kiwihealthjobs.com).
- Matthews, R, national manager, The Royal Australian and New Zealand College of Psychiatrists, Careers Directorate – Tertiary Education Commission interview, July 2017.
- Medical Council of New Zealand website, accessed July 2017, (www.mcnz.org.nz).
- Stats NZ, '2018 Census Data', 2019.
(This information is a guide only. Find out more about the sources of our job opportunities information)
Progression and specialisations
Experienced psychiatrists may become clinical leaders, work as university lecturers, or focus on an area of psychiatry such as:
- child and adolescent psychiatry
- psychiatry of older people
- forensic psychiatry (helping those who have a criminal record and a mental illness)
- consultation-liaison psychiatry (helping patients with multiple medical conditions, usually working with doctors in general hospitals).
Last updated 20 May 2021