Teenage girl talks with counselor

Careers in mental health: three types of professionals

Pursuing a career in mental health can be incredibly rewarding. It allows you to work with people, make real change to someone’s life and presents a wide range of opportunities for career progression and development.

There are plenty of various career paths available to those who are looking to enter into the field of mental health work, each with its own benefits that will appeal to different people. The roles you choose to apply for will likely depend on your personal interests and career goals, as well as your qualifications.

Here are three of the more common professions within the mental health area that could be ideal for those hoping to enter into this sector.


In a nutshell, a Psychiatrist is someone dedicated to the diagnosis, prevention, and treatment of mental disorders. Such disorders can include various maladaptations related to mood, behaviour, cognition and perceptions.

Psychiatrists can work in a range of setting, including public and private hospitals, community mental health facilities and private practices, and typically have a deep understanding of both physical and mental health and how they affect each other.

In order to practice as a fully qualified and authorised psychiatrist, approximately 11 years of training is required: firstly you will need to complete a medical degree, before spending a minimum of one to two years performing general medical training in a hospital setting. Following this you would then complete at least five years of psychiatry training under the supervision of the Royal Australian and New Zealand College of Psychiatrists (RANZCP), which is done while working in hospitals, rural health or community health services.

Despite the long and intensive period of study, there are an incredible number of benefits to pursuing a career in psychiatry. For instance, many Psychiatrists choose to focus on a particular area of interest, allowing them to work with cases they are most passionate about. There is also the opportunity to work regular business hours, as opposed to the on-call or shift work that is often required in medical professions. Finally, Psychiatrists typically receive some of the highest salaries within the mental health sector, with a salary range averaging from between $110k-$250k.


The major difference between psychologists and psychiatrists, is that psychiatrists are medically trained, meaning they can prescribe medications, unlike a psychologist. And while there are around 4000 psychiatrists working across Australia and New Zealand, there are about 27,000 registered psychologists.

The role of a Psychologist is to focus predominantly on psychotherapy and treating emotional and mental disorders. They are also qualified to conduct psychological testing, which is critical in assessing a person’s mental state and determining the most effective course of treatment.

To become a psychologist in Australia, typically a minimum of six years of education and training is required. Once this has been completed, an additional master’s degree or two years of interning is needed to practice.

One of the major attractions of becoming a psychologist is the opportunity to help others. And while it can be an intense vocation, it is also exceptionally rewarding. Much like psychiatrists, psychologists are often able to work flexible hours and have the opportunity to progress to beginning their own practice, allowing them to dictate their hours and the type of clients they see. Furthermore, the typical salary for a Psychologist in Australia is $110k, making it a well above the average Australian wage.

Mental Health Social Worker

In the public and community mental health sectors, social workers have well-established expertise in working with people with serious mental illness and associated problems. The role is becoming increasingly more common in the private sector too, as the treatment of mental health conditions grows in demand.

Social workers are the second largest group of allied health professionals, and rather than treating or diagnosing mental health conditions, they are more involved in the area of talking therapy, support, and advocacy, which enables their patients to manage social factors, such as relationships, housing, and employment.

To become an accredited social worker in Australia, you must complete a bachelor degree in Social Work, or alternatively, complete a two-year Master of Social Work program if you already have a tertiary qualification.

Social work offers great opportunity for career expansion, given that after several years’ experience there’s often the option to move into a specialised area (such as family therapy or adolescent mental health), academia or transfer into policy and management.

Austra Health regularly has jobs available for those looking to work in the area of mental health. Contact us today and find out how we can help you find the right job.