How much do psychiatrists earn? The average psychiatrist in Canada earns $282,000 in gross billings, with the CMA reporting an average of 19% spent on overhead. This means that in Canada, psychiatrists overall take home about $228,420 per year. Psychiatrists are a highly in-demand and diverse specialty and one that is continuing to grow! How much you earn can depend on a number of different factors, including:
The province where you practice can make a big difference in how much you’ll earn in psychiatry. For example, according to CIHI data on gross billings, psychiatrists earn an average of $219,203 in Ontario and $270,313 in BC, which is a significant difference just based on where you choose to practice. This difference is mainly made up by the differences in primary billing codes, but can also be explained by billing premiums for patients in hospital care and for certain rural and northern areas. These can all impact the amount you can expect to earn, and these premiums are especially relevant for psychiatrists, who are often recruited to help with the shortages in underserved areas.
According to the Ontario Sunshine List, a report of the highest earning professionals in the province, psychiatrists from North Bay are overrepresented among the most highly paid psychiatry specialists in the province, earning incomes closer to 400-500k – which just goes to show how relevant location is for psychiatrists. In addition to different premiums, employer incentives or salary packages, the location of your practice can also impact how many patients you have available to see – a moderately busy outpatient practice will likely earn somewhere around the national average, but an inpatient role in a big hospital could earn you much more.
Psychiatric earnings can look very different depending on which subspecialty you end up choosing. For example, psychiatrists specializing in children, geriatric psychiatry, or forensic psychiatry will most likely have done a fellowship in those settings and can earn more when they bill for more specialized services, like consultations for geriatric or neurodevelopmental patients. Similarly, if you specialize in an area where group sessions are popular, you could potentially make more by billing for a number of patients at once.
Your subspecialty could also impact other income-altering factors as well, such as where you work and when – for example, if you’re an eating disorders specialist, you might work on an inpatient unit in the hospital (and be earning inpatient billing codes and premiums if you need to come into the hospital from another location) or you might be salaried as part of a family health practice. If your realm of psychiatry is especially relevant or specialized, you could also earn more as a consultant for other industries (like rehabilitation, corporate programs, or substance abuse centres), court appearances (for forensic psychiatrists), or through the publication of academic books, journals, or conferences.
3. Clinical Setting
No matter what your subspecialty, the type of clinical setting where you practice can have a big impact on your earnings – whether it’s using different billing codes for inpatient vs outpatient situations, palliative care codes, or group psychiatry services, the kinds of codes you use on a daily basis, and the eligible premiums that you can charge for your time will affect the amount you will ultimately earn. Similarly, certain clinical settings have different payment models, overhead fees, or other costs of doing business – a private outpatient practice where you split the overhead of your office and utilities with the other staff will be different than working from a hospital or offering consulting services independently.
4. Salary vs. Fee for Service
One of the main differences in how much psychiatrists earn is how much of their income comes from direct billings. In Canada, most doctors practise under the fee-for-service model, and this is also true for psychiatrists. However, according to the CMA data, the majority of those practicing in Canada use a blended payment model. This allows you to earn a portion of your income through salary, which could also mean access to employer incentives like benefits, paid holidays, or sick time.
Since psychiatrists are so in-demand, it’s not surprising that there is more flexibility for how you earn your income than in other specializations. As a psychiatrist, there’s no shortage of opportunities for you to combine the fees you bill in your clinical practice with salaried or contract positions. Many doctors find that by blending their payment models – for example, running a clinical practice and accepting a salary as a Medical Director or consultant, or teaching courses or contributing to research in your subspecialty – they can not only increase their income but also increase their enjoyment and passion for their work as nothing becomes mundane.
For more on Fee-for-service in Ontario, see our guide on Psychiatry Billing Guide.
5. How Many Patients You See
Mental health is a complex and ever-changing field of medicine that often involves the whole family unit. With so many subspecialties and so much demand for psychiatric services in Canada, psychiatrists have a lot of flexibility around the type of patients they see and when. A big part of this flexibility is how many patients you’re willing to take on, how you like to do your visits, and what your idea of work/life balance looks like. Some doctors might find it easy to see many outpatient medication consultations per hour, while others prefer more complex cases, more direct patient attention, or longer visits. Psychiatry as a specialization is fairly unique in this regard – unlike many specialties where tests, visits, and treatments (such as checking a patient’s blood pressure or deciding when to order a colonoscopy) are standard. Each psychiatrist will have their own style of consultation when it comes to psychiatric issues, and this can take more or less time per visit.
With almost half of psychiatrists working in a hospital setting and 62% of them taking on-call shifts, there’s plenty of opportunities for more patients. Psychiatrists are also unique in that they have the option to see more than one patient at once – billing codes are available not just for group visits but also for additional family members. But while it is certainly possible to tailor your career – especially in a field like psychiatry, there is always a trade-off between your home life and the hours you spend at work.
It’s also a good idea to watch out for burnout: psychiatrists as a whole have lower levels of burnout than other specialties, but this could be at least partially due to working fewer hours and reporting high levels of professional satisfaction. When you add in longer hours, less time spent with patients, or more difficult cases, the increase in income could end up not being worth the cost on your own mental health.
Like all doctors in Canada, the amount you earn as a psychiatrist can vary based on where you live and how you practice – but with psychiatrists being a highly in-demand (and professionally satisfied!) group overall, there is no shortage of opportunities to shape your career and earning potential in a way you love.