How to Become a Psychiatrist – With and Without a Medical Degree

This is an essential guide to starting a career in psychiatry. There are multiple paths into this profession, and this blog will cover possible routes for:

  • People right at the start of their careers.
  • Fully qualified psychiatrists who want to find work or go independent.
  • People with a psychology degree who want to transfer into psychiatry.

For a more information about what a psychiatrist does, read our guide to the differences between psychiatrists and psychologists.

How to Qualify as a Psychiatrist

Assuming you’re right at the start of your journey, here’s the process for qualifying as a psychiatrist:

  • Medical Degree – Psychiatry is a branch of medicine, so you will need a MBBS or MBChB medical degree. Entry requirements for these degrees vary depending on the higher education institute. The University of Manchester, for example, requires three A-Levels (AAA), including specific subjects. These courses generally last 4-6 years.
  • Foundation Training – You’ll have to complete two years of foundation training. This usually involves up to six placements to allow you to sample a range of specialities and healthcare settings.
  • Core Psychiatry Training – Following your foundational training, you’ll have to complete three years of core training. This involves working and training in a number of different psychiatry sub-specialties. And at the end of the course, you’ll have to complete an MRCPsych exam.
  • Higher Psychiatry Training – This normally takes three years, and it allows you to choose an area of psychiatry to specialise in. This can include child and adolescent, forensic, general adult, old age, and more. You could also choose to work in other specialist areas, including addictions, eating disorders, rehabilitation, and so on.

Once you’ve completed this lengthy training process, you’ll get your Certificate of Completion of Training (CCT). You’ll also get entered onto the GMC’s specialist register, which will allow you to apply for consultancy posts.

Finding Psychiatrist Work

Consultant psychiatrists can work independently. If you want to establish yourself as an independent psychiatrist, then you’ll have to go take some steps to set up your business. This might include:

  • Registering with the government.
  • Choosing a trading name.
  • Finding some premises to work in.
  • Setting up a business bank account, a pension plan, and other financial arrangements.
  • Finding clients.
  • Getting medical malpractice insurance, and other specialist cover.

Our guide to going self-employed for the first time covers a lot of the steps you’ll need to go through. But please note that this is general guidance that’s not specifically tailored for psychiatrists.

If you don’t want to work as an independent psychiatrist, then you can apply for work at hospitals, healthcare centres, psychiatry practices, prisons, and other institutions.

There are a number of places you can search for psychiatry job listings, including:

Can I Become a Psychiatrist Without a Medical Degree?

Unfortunately, no. Psychiatry is a field of medicine. And as we’ve seen, you need to undergo a lot of specialist training to qualify. And before you even begin this training, you’ll need a medical degree.

If you cannot commit to the lengthy training process, then you could instead establish yourself as a therapist or a counsellor. You will probably still need to get a specialist qualification in counselling or therapy, but the entry requirements are likely to be lower, and you may not need so much formal training after you qualify.

You will, however, need medical malpractice or treatment liability cover.

Psychiatrists need Medical Malpractice insurance to cover themselves and their patients for certain risks

Can You Become a Psychiatrist with a Psychology Degree?

If you’re a qualified psychologist and you want to transfer to a career in psychology, you may be able to apply for a conversion course.

For more information, check the Royal College of Psychiatrists Career Essentials resources.

One Thing All Psychiatrists Need

Consultant psychiatrists need specialist medical malpractice insurance to cover you and your patients for certain risks. 

At Tapoly, we specialise in providing specialists in a range of fields with comprehensive cover for less. Get a free quote online in minutes.

If you have any questions, or if you’d like to discuss your insurance cover options, you can contact the Tapoly team at You can also call out help line on +44 (0)207 846 0108, or you can use our website chat.