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by Staff Reporter
If you have a scientific mind, good communication skills and a passion to help mentally ill people, a career as a Psychiatrist could be for you.

Career Overview

Psychiatrists are responsible for the diagnosis and treatment of mental illness.  To be a Psychiatrist, you need to be aware of others and of yourself, and have the bandwidth to confront the mental illness of others; unpacking the reasoning behind it and treating the diagnosis accordingly.

Required School Subjects

You will need to have taken the following subjects in high school in order to qualify for an MBChB or an equivalent degree (which you will need in order to get into Psychiatry):

  • English
  • Mathematics
  • Physical Sciences

Recommended subjects:

  • Life Sciences

Institution and APS

The following institutions are highly recommended for studies in Psychiatry:

  • Stellenbosch University
  • University of Cape Town (UCT)
  • University of Witwatersrand (Wits)
  • University of Pretoria (UP)
  • University of Kwa-Zulu Natal (UKZN)
  • University of Free State

Please note that there is no APS requirement at any of these institutions due to the fact that Psychiatry is a postgraduate qualification.  Each prospective student must be in possession of a MBChB degree OR a recognised equivalent degree to qualify for Psychiatry studies.

Required Qualification/s

To practice as a Psychiatrist, you need to have a Bachelor of Medicine and Bachelor of Surgery degree (MBChB), followed by a Masters in Medicine, specialising in Psychiatry. Prospective students also need to be registered with the HPCSA.

In addition to an undergraduate MBChB degree and registration with the HPCSA, you will need to meet the following requirements at each of the abovementioned institutions:

  • Stellenbosch University:
    • If not in possession of a MBChB then you will need a recognised equvalent degree for at least three years prior to M Med (Psychiatry) degree
  • University of Cape Town:
    • If not in possession of a MBChB, you willl need a qualification that the university deems equivalent to a MBChB degree, over at least two years,
    • Be registered with the HPCSA for at least a year
  • University of Witwatersrand
    • If not is possession of a MBChB degree, you will need an appropriate specialist or sub-specialist qualification awarded by one of the Colleges of Medicine of South Africa, or an institution recognised by the Senate as having equivalent standing
    • Be registered with the HPCSA as a physician for at least one year OR have a qualification from another university that would allow them to register as a medical practitioner
    • Accept the conditions of potential probation for a maximum of one year
    • Hold a training post in one of the teaching hospitals stated by the Faculty of Health Sciences of the University of Wits, OR the School of Pathology, OR any other institution approved by the Senate and the HPCSA
  • University of Kwa-Zulu Natal
    • If not in possession of a MBChB degree then the prospective student should have an equivalent recognised degree
    • Must have done post internship and community service
  • University of Free State
    • Be in possess of MBChB for at least three years OR a cognate qualification that the university deems to be equivalent

Required Skills

You will need to show:

  • Good communication, listening and observation skills
  • The emotional capacity to deal with tough cases
  • Analytical problem-solving skills
  • A comprehensive understanding and knowledge of physical and mental health
  • Empathy and a passion for helping people

Where you can work

You can specialise in one of the following areas:

  • Child and adolescent psychiatry
  • Addiction psychiatry
  • Consultation liaison psychiatry
  • Intellectual disability psychiatry
  • Neuropsychiatry
  • Psychopharmacology
  • Public and mental health psychiatry
  • Inpatient psychotherapy
  • Liaison psychiatry

Working Hours

Being a specialist can often involve early starts and very late finishes. In some settings, you may work 9am – 5pm but be on call in the evenings or over the weekend.

Expected Salary

According to PayScale, the average annual pay for a Psychiatrists in South Africa ranges between R6k – R1m per year, depending on experience.

What to expect

Here are a few things you can expect from a career as a Psychiatrist:

  • Unexpected and complicated cases, many of which will involve extensive problem-solving and research
  • The daily diagnosis, treatment and prevention of mental illness, and emotional and behavioural disorders
  • Work in a variety of contexts – from general and psychiatric hospitals to nursing homes, prisons and rehabilitation centres

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