Rata Mate Hinengaro
Psychiatrists assess, diagnose and provide treatment for people with mental, emotional and behavioural disorders. They study how the brain and nervous systems function and how these interact with people's environments and affect the way people think, feel and behave.
Trainee psychiatrists usually earn
$72K-$178K per year
Experienced psychiatrists usually earn
$152K-$217K per year
Source: ASMS, 2014; Resident Doctors' Association, 2017.
Pay varies for psychiatrists and registrars (those in training), depending on seniority, hours, location and frequency of on-call or emergency cover.
- Registrars working for a district health board (DHB) usually earn between $72,000 and $178,000 a year.
- Qualified psychiatrists working for a DHB usually earn between $152,000 and $217,000.
- Psychiatrists working in the private sector may earn up to $600,000.
Sources: Association of Salaried Medical Specialists (ASMS), '2013 to 2016 National DHB Collective Agreement (MECA)', 2014; Resident Doctors' Association, '2017 to 2018 DHB Collective Agreement', 2017.
(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
- understand patients' mental health state by talking with them
- provide personalised treatments such as talking therapy or meditation
- carry out tests, such as blood tests, to determine treatment
- prescribe and monitor medication
- work with patients and their families/whānau to understand patients' likely responses to treatment
- work with other team members, such as nurses, occupational therapists and psychologists, to provide assessments and intervention, and co-ordinate rehabilitation and recovery programmes
- mentor trainee psychiatrists
- prepare reports and give evidence in court
- advocate for improved services for people with mental health issues.
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 community mental health centres, hospitals or clinics
- may care for very distressed people, which can be stressful
- may travel locally and overseas to attend conferences.
What's the job really like?
What does your job involve?
"I look after people over the age of 65 who are experiencing mental problems or behavioural and psychological issues.
"I work in an integrated service, which means that if people under my care in the community need hospitalisation, I also look after them while they are an inpatient.
"While the vast majority of psychiatrists see patients in a hospital or clinic setting, we see most of our patients in their homes. The benefit of this is that you don't have to solely rely on their information but get to see their home environment, which may paint a different picture of how they are coping."
How do you find working with older people?
"I see a lot of people with depression and anxiety. These are very treatable conditions, which once treated returns their quality and enjoyment of life.
"I also see many people with dementia. This can be depressing at times given the inevitable progression of the disease and the current absence of any cure.
"However, I enjoy working with patients and their families to find a balance between maintaining an individual's independence while addressing any risks associated with their cognitive impairment."
What do you like about your job?
"Working with older people. In my experience older people in mental health are far more appreciative of our input than the younger generations!"
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 7 March 2020