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Psychology or Psychiatry?

I'm applying to Uni for Psychology already, however, I might defer the year and go in 2025 instead of 2024.
I know the route to Psychiatry, and I'm 85% sure that Psychiatry is what I actually want to do.

I'm just not sure whether I should be doing Psychology or Med school (For Psychiatry) at university, and if I decide to go Uni in 2025 instead then I need to figure out soon if I want to do med school or psychology..

I love anything to do with mental health, emotions and internal struggles, not physical struggles.
I don't just want to work with people who have depression or autism and help them cope, but more with the people who have schizophrenia and psychotic disorders. I want to be a Forensic Psychiatrist.

So based on this, what should i do? Don't go this year and apply to med school in 2025? Do Psychology at Uni in 2024?

Any advice would be appreciated, i'm lost.
Reply 1
If you want to be a Psychiatrist as you've said need to go to medical school. I think it's worth considering whether all the other aspects of medical school are something you think you'd do well at/enjoy. Worth noting also that Psychologists can have a wide array of clinical roles, including working with people experiencing psychosis, and people in prisons/the criminal justice system. Being a forensic psychiatrist is a very niche job - obviously someone has to do it but there are not many places for that sort of thing and you should also think if you'd feel like it was worth doing a whole medicine degree to not end up in that role at the end of it (but tbh I think this is true of any forensic role, whether that's psychology or psychiatry - lots of people interested in what is a relatively small field). Also if you did study Psychology undergrad it wouldn't necessarily shut the door on Psychiatry as graduate entry medicine is an alternative route, but would obviously require several more years of study and a bunch more student debt.

Not really related but I'm kind of interested as to why you conflate working with people with schizophrenia or psychosis with forensic psychiatry - maybe it's just how you worded things and you didn't mean to link the two, but those disorders are not in any way exclusively associated with people who have committed crimes. I think before you start down any path related to clinical psychology or psychiatry you need to think about why you want to do it and any biases you might have about people living with mental illness.
Reply 2
Original post by eeeli
If you want to be a Psychiatrist as you've said need to go to medical school. I think it's worth considering whether all the other aspects of medical school are something you think you'd do well at/enjoy. Worth noting also that Psychologists can have a wide array of clinical roles, including working with people experiencing psychosis, and people in prisons/the criminal justice system. Being a forensic psychiatrist is a very niche job - obviously someone has to do it but there are not many places for that sort of thing and you should also think if you'd feel like it was worth doing a whole medicine degree to not end up in that role at the end of it (but tbh I think this is true of any forensic role, whether that's psychology or psychiatry - lots of people interested in what is a relatively small field). Also if you did study Psychology undergrad it wouldn't necessarily shut the door on Psychiatry as graduate entry medicine is an alternative route, but would obviously require several more years of study and a bunch more student debt.
Not really related but I'm kind of interested as to why you conflate working with people with schizophrenia or psychosis with forensic psychiatry - maybe it's just how you worded things and you didn't mean to link the two, but those disorders are not in any way exclusively associated with people who have committed crimes. I think before you start down any path related to clinical psychology or psychiatry you need to think about why you want to do it and any biases you might have about people living with mental illness.

Yeah I agree, to work in mental health you must be open minded. You can work with all types of groups if you do a Psychology degree the main difference is that psychiatrists can prescribe and they focus more on the medical side of things whereas psychologists do the therapy.
Both careers are equally hard to get into because there is a lot of competition to get into the DClinPsy (doctorate of clinical psychology and it requires a lot of extra experience on top of your degree. It all depends on your interests.
Forensic psychologists can work in a wide array of places but I think clinical psychology is probably the most versatile. This is what i'm pursuing at the moment and I plan to specialise in early intervention for psychosis.
Another thing to consider is people with schizophrenia often have other issues with it such as autism, depression etc, so you can't rule our woking with a particular client group when every patient is different. If you work in forensic it's probably more likely you will work with people who have personality disorders.

Hope that helps!
Original post by eeeli
If you want to be a Psychiatrist as you've said need to go to medical school. I think it's worth considering whether all the other aspects of medical school are something you think you'd do well at/enjoy. Worth noting also that Psychologists can have a wide array of clinical roles, including working with people experiencing psychosis, and people in prisons/the criminal justice system. Being a forensic psychiatrist is a very niche job - obviously someone has to do it but there are not many places for that sort of thing and you should also think if you'd feel like it was worth doing a whole medicine degree to not end up in that role at the end of it (but tbh I think this is true of any forensic role, whether that's psychology or psychiatry - lots of people interested in what is a relatively small field). Also if you did study Psychology undergrad it wouldn't necessarily shut the door on Psychiatry as graduate entry medicine is an alternative route, but would obviously require several more years of study and a bunch more student debt.
Not really related but I'm kind of interested as to why you conflate working with people with schizophrenia or psychosis with forensic psychiatry - maybe it's just how you worded things and you didn't mean to link the two, but those disorders are not in any way exclusively associated with people who have committed crimes. I think before you start down any path related to clinical psychology or psychiatry you need to think about why you want to do it and any biases you might have about people living with mental illness.

I'm not sure about Med School and I haven't researched enough to speak clearly about it, however, I feel that I wouldn't enjoy Med School that much and I never really thought it was for me, but thats the route to get to Psychiatry.
That's actually a really good point, like, I already knew that going for Psychology wouldn't shut the doors on Psychiatry, but I didn't think about the student debt part, so thanks for bringing that up.
Also, are you saying Psychiatry career is quite narrow? like there aren't many things I can go on to do?

To your question:
I don't necessarily mean they are linked, yes, some criminals might have those conditions but they aren't linked in any way. Schizophrenia does not mean you are a criminal obviously.
I want to be a Psychiatrist to diagnose, I used to want to be a Psychologist to listen and give therapy, but now I'm leaning more to Psychiatry, where I diagnose and prescribe medicine or the sort. I've also heard stories from actual Psychiatrists and the people they meet and the things they do are so...just I get that feeling like "this is what I want to do, experience and feel."

Also, to clarify, when I say "I don't want to work with ppl with just depression/anxiety/autism" I don't mean I don't ever want to work with them, I mean it's not just the general problems of the general population that I want to do, I also want to be working with the more severe side of mental health, and more into the diagnosing part than the therapeutic side of how to cope with those illnesses.
Reply 4
Original post by crazyhuman007
I'm not sure about Med School and I haven't researched enough to speak clearly about it, however, I feel that I wouldn't enjoy Med School that much and I never really thought it was for me, but thats the route to get to Psychiatry.
That's actually a really good point, like, I already knew that going for Psychology wouldn't shut the doors on Psychiatry, but I didn't think about the student debt part, so thanks for bringing that up.
Also, are you saying Psychiatry career is quite narrow? like there aren't many things I can go on to do?
To your question:
I don't necessarily mean they are linked, yes, some criminals might have those conditions but they aren't linked in any way. Schizophrenia does not mean you are a criminal obviously.
I want to be a Psychiatrist to diagnose, I used to want to be a Psychologist to listen and give therapy, but now I'm leaning more to Psychiatry, where I diagnose and prescribe medicine or the sort. I've also heard stories from actual Psychiatrists and the people they meet and the things they do are so...just I get that feeling like "this is what I want to do, experience and feel."
Also, to clarify, when I say "I don't want to work with ppl with just depression/anxiety/autism" I don't mean I don't ever want to work with them, I mean it's not just the general problems of the general population that I want to do, I also want to be working with the more severe side of mental health, and more into the diagnosing part than the therapeutic side of how to cope with those illnesses.

I think your next step is probably then researching medical school in more depth and working out if it would be right for you. It's a very competitive process as you are probably aware, and there are subject and grade requirements that are quite strict (good GCSEs, high scores on admissions tests, studying sciences usually to include chemistry, A* and A grades at A level). You also wouldn't get to fully specialise in psychiatry until 2 years after you completed your medical degree as you have to rotate through various placements in foundation training first. So those are all things to keep in mind and I'm sure there's plenty more info out there - I'm a Psychology PhD student so I don't know a ton about medicine degrees past what I've heard from medical student friends. What I do know is that they can be very intense and a lot of hard work, and being a junior doctor is similarly intense. If you don't think you'd enjoy it at all it's probably worth thinking about whether it's actually something you'd be able to complete in order to get to that point of starting to train as a Psychiatrist after potentially 7 or 8 years. I wanted to do medicine for a long time but came to the realisation I wouldn't be able to cope with it, and landed on Psychology instead (though I developed more of an academic research rather than clinical interest over my undergrad, hence the research PhD I'm now doing). But equally once you start learning more about what a medicine degree is like you might also find it actually sounds better than you thought!

It's true that only a Psychiatrist can prescribe medicine, but Clinical Psychologists are also involved in diagnosis (lots of NHS mental health services rely on multidisciplinary teams of different clinicians) and Psychiatrists are involved in treatment and management. So it's not like as a Clinical Psychologist you'd only be delivering talking therapy or as a Psychiatrist you'd only be involved in diagnosis and prescribing medicine. I'm not saying Psychiatry is narrow - there's a whole range of roles (but if you are setting your sights on Forensic Psychiatry or Psychology in particular you need to be aware they are particularly competitive as there aren't many roles available) Maybe it would also help to keep researching careers as a Clinical Psychologist and Psychiatrist too, to help you understand exactly what it is you want to do and how to get there.
Reply 5
Original post by eeeli
I think your next step is probably then researching medical school in more depth and working out if it would be right for you. It's a very competitive process as you are probably aware, and there are subject and grade requirements that are quite strict (good GCSEs, high scores on admissions tests, studying sciences usually to include chemistry, A* and A grades at A level). You also wouldn't get to fully specialise in psychiatry until 2 years after you completed your medical degree as you have to rotate through various placements in foundation training first. So those are all things to keep in mind and I'm sure there's plenty more info out there - I'm a Psychology PhD student so I don't know a ton about medicine degrees past what I've heard from medical student friends. What I do know is that they can be very intense and a lot of hard work, and being a junior doctor is similarly intense. If you don't think you'd enjoy it at all it's probably worth thinking about whether it's actually something you'd be able to complete in order to get to that point of starting to train as a Psychiatrist after potentially 7 or 8 years. I wanted to do medicine for a long time but came to the realisation I wouldn't be able to cope with it, and landed on Psychology instead (though I developed more of an academic research rather than clinical interest over my undergrad, hence the research PhD I'm now doing). But equally once you start learning more about what a medicine degree is like you might also find it actually sounds better than you thought!
It's true that only a Psychiatrist can prescribe medicine, but Clinical Psychologists are also involved in diagnosis (lots of NHS mental health services rely on multidisciplinary teams of different clinicians) and Psychiatrists are involved in treatment and management. So it's not like as a Clinical Psychologist you'd only be delivering talking therapy or as a Psychiatrist you'd only be involved in diagnosis and prescribing medicine. I'm not saying Psychiatry is narrow - there's a whole range of roles (but if you are setting your sights on Forensic Psychiatry or Psychology in particular you need to be aware they are particularly competitive as there aren't many roles available) Maybe it would also help to keep researching careers as a Clinical Psychologist and Psychiatrist too, to help you understand exactly what it is you want to do and how to get there.

Just wanted to say this is very good and informative advice.

Well done,

Greg
Original post by eeeli
I think your next step is probably then researching medical school in more depth and working out if it would be right for you. It's a very competitive process as you are probably aware, and there are subject and grade requirements that are quite strict (good GCSEs, high scores on admissions tests, studying sciences usually to include chemistry, A* and A grades at A level). You also wouldn't get to fully specialise in psychiatry until 2 years after you completed your medical degree as you have to rotate through various placements in foundation training first. So those are all things to keep in mind and I'm sure there's plenty more info out there - I'm a Psychology PhD student so I don't know a ton about medicine degrees past what I've heard from medical student friends. What I do know is that they can be very intense and a lot of hard work, and being a junior doctor is similarly intense. If you don't think you'd enjoy it at all it's probably worth thinking about whether it's actually something you'd be able to complete in order to get to that point of starting to train as a Psychiatrist after potentially 7 or 8 years. I wanted to do medicine for a long time but came to the realisation I wouldn't be able to cope with it, and landed on Psychology instead (though I developed more of an academic research rather than clinical interest over my undergrad, hence the research PhD I'm now doing). But equally once you start learning more about what a medicine degree is like you might also find it actually sounds better than you thought!
It's true that only a Psychiatrist can prescribe medicine, but Clinical Psychologists are also involved in diagnosis (lots of NHS mental health services rely on multidisciplinary teams of different clinicians) and Psychiatrists are involved in treatment and management. So it's not like as a Clinical Psychologist you'd only be delivering talking therapy or as a Psychiatrist you'd only be involved in diagnosis and prescribing medicine. I'm not saying Psychiatry is narrow - there's a whole range of roles (but if you are setting your sights on Forensic Psychiatry or Psychology in particular you need to be aware they are particularly competitive as there aren't many roles available) Maybe it would also help to keep researching careers as a Clinical Psychologist and Psychiatrist too, to help you understand exactly what it is you want to do and how to get there.

thank you, that makes a lot of sense actually.
What did you do your BSc in then? Psychology or a specific branch? I'm applying for Psychology as I wasn't sure if I wanted to do Clinical, Applied or another, so I went general as the application deadline was coming up and as much as I researched I was quite interested in those ones out of all of them.
You've said yourself you want to be a psychiatrist and to do that you need to do a medical degree. There's literally no point doing another unrelated degree first.

That said, mental health is pretty linked to physical health and there's a reason psychiatrists are medically trained. They need to be able to deal with the physical health issues that occur in parallel and sometimes because of the mental health issues (and vice versa) - also things like functional disorders where the two are one and the same. If you absolutely have zero interest in the physiological and molecular basis of medicine and medical treatment (in psychiatry and in general) then I think this is at odds with your stated goal of being a psychiatrist - as in that case you don't want to be a psychiatrist at all?

So you may need to ask yourself if your picture of what a psychiatrist is and does is actually accurate - or if you're picturing another profession altogether, such as some kind of professional psychology role. In which case your only option would be to do a psychology degree and go down that route.

Thus, you need to actually understand what each entails and the differences in the roles and not just seem them as somehow vaguely interchangeable with one "elevated" above another. Because they are fundamentally different professions that do different things.
(edited 2 months ago)
Reply 8
Original post by crazyhuman007
thank you, that makes a lot of sense actually.
What did you do your BSc in then? Psychology or a specific branch? I'm applying for Psychology as I wasn't sure if I wanted to do Clinical, Applied or another, so I went general as the application deadline was coming up and as much as I researched I was quite interested in those ones out of all of them.

I did a general Psychology degree, though it had a bit more of a research focus than others might I think (the course title was Experimental Psychology). It doesn't really matter what sort of Psychology degree you do for Psychology undergrad if you want to become a clinical psychologist as long as it is BPS accredited (which would make it pretty general anyway due to the breadth of content the BPS require degrees to cover).
Original post by crazyhuman007
I'm applying to Uni for Psychology already, however, I might defer the year and go in 2025 instead of 2024.
I know the route to Psychiatry, and I'm 85% sure that Psychiatry is what I actually want to do.
I'm just not sure whether I should be doing Psychology or Med school (For Psychiatry) at university, and if I decide to go Uni in 2025 instead then I need to figure out soon if I want to do med school or psychology..
I love anything to do with mental health, emotions and internal struggles, not physical struggles.
I don't just want to work with people who have depression or autism and help them cope, but more with the people who have schizophrenia and psychotic disorders. I want to be a Forensic Psychiatrist.
So based on this, what should i do? Don't go this year and apply to med school in 2025? Do Psychology at Uni in 2024?
Any advice would be appreciated, i'm lost.

What A Levels are you doing, and what are your predicted results?
Original post by SilverPebble
What A Levels are you doing, and what are your predicted results?

Maths, Chemistry and Physics. A*, A, B respectively
Original post by crazyhuman007
Maths, Chemistry and Physics. A*, A, B respectively

So, a Psychology degree is quite essay-based - are you happy with that?
And a Medicine degree has quite a lot of Biology-related content - are you happy with that?
Also, have you researched which Medicine degrees don't require Biology A Level?
It strikes me that an awful lot of a degree in Medicine isn't perhaps something you're interested in - anatomy, physiology, pathology, and microbiology etc.
Original post by SilverPebble
So, a Psychology degree is quite essay-based - are you happy with that?
And a Medicine degree has quite a lot of Biology-related content - are you happy with that?
Also, have you researched which Medicine degrees don't require Biology A Level?
It strikes me that an awful lot of a degree in Medicine isn't perhaps something you're interested in - anatomy, physiology, pathology, and microbiology etc.

Honestly, I'm more happy to go into Psychology than Medicine degree, i'm fine with essay-based subjects, but I never really liked Biology, which is why I was thinking that Medicine isn't for me as i know it will have a lot of Biology content in it.
And yes, i've checked which don't require biology a-level and there are quite a few unis who don't ask for biology.
Original post by crazyhuman007
Honestly, I'm more happy to go into Psychology than Medicine degree, i'm fine with essay-based subjects, but I never really liked Biology, which is why I was thinking that Medicine isn't for me as i know it will have a lot of Biology content in it.
And yes, i've checked which don't require biology a-level and there are quite a few unis who don't ask for biology.

Okay, so (and this is really only my own subjective advice and opinion) - I'd suggest Psychology rather than Medicine. Make sure it is BPS accredited. This then opens up further routes into a range of options, including DClinPsych, but also a widening array of vocational qualifications within both the NHS and Education, as well as potentially leading to a career in forensic psychology. This way, you will be studying humans and their minds from the beginning of your degree, rather than having 7 or 8 years (at least) of trawling through biological stuff before you get to that point. You will also be well placed to work within a social model of mental health rather than Psychiatry's (increasingly contested) medical model, taking into account systemic and political issues.
Original post by crazyhuman007
Honestly, I'm more happy to go into Psychology than Medicine degree, i'm fine with essay-based subjects, but I never really liked Biology, which is why I was thinking that Medicine isn't for me as i know it will have a lot of Biology content in it.
And yes, i've checked which don't require biology a-level and there are quite a few unis who don't ask for biology.


If you don’t like biology go down the psychology route, clinical psychology roles are competitive but if you have the drive you will get there, and you will get there a lot quicker than you would a psychiatrist post.
Plus studying psychology gives you some perspective, i went into my psychology with clinical psychology degree thinking that I wanted to be a clinical psychologist. Learning more about psychology from that point has put me in a different direction (one I have picked) but many of my friends are still determined to be clinical psychologists 😊
Original post by Autumn223
If you don’t like biology go down the psychology route, clinical psychology roles are competitive but if you have the drive you will get there, and you will get there a lot quicker than you would a psychiatrist post.
Plus studying psychology gives you some perspective, i went into my psychology with clinical psychology degree thinking that I wanted to be a clinical psychologist. Learning more about psychology from that point has put me in a different direction (one I have picked) but many of my friends are still determined to be clinical psychologists 😊

I've applied for general Psychology, not clinical Psychology, is it still okay? should i change the course during uni?
Original post by crazyhuman007
I've applied for general Psychology, not clinical Psychology, is it still okay? should i change the course during uni?


General psychology is perfectly ok too! Normally means you have some more options in terms of which modules you pick 😊
Just to add a few more things to the discussion...

You seem more interested in the hands-on experience of mental health, in which case psychology is the way to go. From what I understand, psychiatrists basically just see patients and then they either pawn them off to the psychologists or prescribe drugs to them, which seems like a pretty unfulfilling career in mental health to me.

Also, you mention you don't like biology - that should automatically tell you to not do Medicine, which has got a lot of biology. But heads-up, psychology also has a healthy dose of biology.
Original post by Scotland Yard
Just to add a few more things to the discussion...
You seem more interested in the hands-on experience of mental health, in which case psychology is the way to go. From what I understand, psychiatrists basically just see patients and then they either pawn them off to the psychologists or prescribe drugs to them, which seems like a pretty unfulfilling career in mental health to me.
Also, you mention you don't like biology - that should automatically tell you to not do Medicine, which has got a lot of biology. But heads-up, psychology also has a healthy dose of biology.


Yep spot on there! Psychology is far more involved in comparison.

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