Mental health workforce

This section provides data on the number of psychiatrists, mental health nurses and psychologists who are employed in Australia. It reports on the average total hours, clinical hours worked and other selected characteristics. Both full-time equivalent (FTE) and clinical FTE figures have been reported to provide meaningful comparisons.

The workforce data is sourced from the National Health Workforce Data Set (NHWDS), which comprises data about employed registered health professionals collected through annual registration surveys administered by the Australian Health Practitioner Regulation Agency (AHPRA) since 2010. Responses to the surveys have been weighted to benchmark figures based on registration data supplied by AHPRA to account for the non-responses.

A different view of the workforce employed by state and territory specialised mental health care facilities can be found in the facilities section.

Data downloads:

Mental health workforce 2019 tables (490KB XLSX)

Mental health workforce 2019 section (547KB PDF)

Mental health workforce interactive data 

Data source and key concepts related to this section.

Data in this section were last updated in July 2021.

Key points

  • 3,615 psychiatrists (13.7 FTE per 100,000 population), 24,111 mental health nurses (90.2 FTE per 100,000 population) and 28,412 psychologists (95.3 FTE per 100,000 population) were employed in Australia in 2019.
  • 46.0 hours, on average, were worked per week by psychiatrists in Remote areas compared to 38.4 for those in Major cities.
  • 6.3 hours more per week were worked by male than female psychiatrists, on average, in 2019.
  • Nationally, the population rate of psychiatrists increased by 8.3% between 2014 and 2019
  • 17,060 women and 7,051 men were employed as mental health nurses in 2019.
  • 55.3% of all employed mental health nurses were aged 45 or over.
  • 82.2% FTE psychologists were employed in Major cities in 2019.
  • 35.5 hours, on average, was the total hours worked per week by male psychologists compared to 31.5 hours for female psychologists.

Psychiatric workforce

An estimated 3,615 psychiatrists were working in Australia in 2019, representing 3.5% of all employed medical practitioners and 9.8% of all specialist employed medical practitioners.

At a national level, there were 13.7 FTE psychiatrists per 100,000 population working in Australia in 2019. Rates ranged from 12.3 per 100,000 population in Tasmania to 16.9 in the Australian Capital Territory. In terms of clinical roles, there were 11.4 clinical FTE per 100,000 population in Australia in 2019. Rates ranged from 10.3 per 100,000 in the Northern Territory to 14.3 in the Australian Capital Territory (Figure WK.1).

Figure Wk.1: Employed psychiatrists, FTE and clinical FTE per 100,000 population, states and territories, 2019

Clustered bar chart showing the number of FTE and clinical FTE psychiatrists per 100,000 population by state or territory in 2019. ACT had the highest number of FTE and clinical FTE psychiatrists (16.9 and 14.3 per 100,000 population, respectively), followed by SA (15.3 and 12.7), Qld (14.5 and 12.2), Vic (14.1 and 11.6), NSW (12.7 and 10.5), WA (12.7 and 10.4), Tas (12.3 and 10.4) and NT (12.4 and 10.3). The national total was 13.7 FTE and 11.4 clinical FTE psychiatrists. Refer to table WK.3.

Visualisation not available for printing

Source data: Mental Health Workforce 2019 tables (490KB XLXS)

Remoteness area

Almost 9 out of 10 psychiatrists (87.1%) were employed in Major cities in 2019, compared to the 72.2% of the Australian population who lived in Major cities in 2019. There were 16.5 FTE psychiatrists per 100,000 population in Major cities, 6.9 in Inner regional, 5.5 in Outer regional, 6.7 in Remote areas and 2.6 in Very remote areas.

Hours worked per week

Psychiatrists reported working an average of 38.4 total hours and 31.9 clinical hours per week in 2019. Average working hours ranged from 36.1 hours per week for Tasmanian psychiatrists to 43.4 for Northern Territory psychiatrists (Figure WK.2). Average weekly clinical hours ranged from 30.3 for Victorian psychiatrists to 36.3 hours for Northern Territory psychiatrists.

On average, male psychiatrists worked 6.3 total hours and 5.4 clinical hours more per week than female psychiatrists. Psychiatrists employed in Remote and Very remote areas reported working the highest average number of total hours and clinical hours per week (Remote: 46.0 total hours per week and 38.4 clinical hours per week; Very remote: 42.8 total hours per week and 37.8 clinical hours per week). Employed psychiatrists working in Remote areas reported working 7.6 more hours on average than the national average.

Figure WK.2: Employed psychiatrists, average total hours and clinical hours worked per week, states and territories, 2019

Clustered bar chart showing psychiatrists’ reported average total and clinical hours worked per week by state or territory in 2019. Psychiatrists employed in NT reported the highest average total and clinical (43.4 and 36.3 respectively), followed by ACT (40.6 and 34.3), Qld (40.1 and 33.8) WA (39.1 and 32.2), SA (38.4 and 31.8), NSW (38.4 and 31.7), Vic (36.9 and 30.3) and Tas (36.1 and 30.6). The national average was 38.4 total hours and 31.9 clinical hours. Refer to table WK.3.

Visualisation not available for printing

Source data: Mental Health Workforce 2019 tables (490KB XLXS)

Characteristics

In 2019, almost three–quarters of psychiatrists were aged 45 and over (73.5%); over 2 in 5 (42.2%) were aged 55 and over and nearly 1 in 5 psychiatrists (18.0%) were aged 65 and over. Nationally, the population rate of psychiatrists increased by 8.3% between 2014 and 2019, from 12.6 FTE per 100,000 in 2014 to 13.7 in 2019. The proportion of female psychiatrists increased from 37.1% in 2014 to 41.3% in 2019.

Work characteristics

Just over 9 in 10 (92.3%) FTE psychiatrists reported their principal role as a clinician in 2019, followed by administrator (3.2%), researcher (1.6%), teacher or educator (1.5%) and other (1.3%). The most common work setting was hospital (27.3%), followed by solo private practice (23.0%), and community mental health service (20.0%). In the overall medical practitioner workforce, hospital (excluding outpatient services) is also the most common work setting, followed by group private practice and solo private practice (DoH 2020).

Mental health nursing workforce

In 2019, almost 1 in 15 (24,111 or 7.1%) mental health nurses (including both registered and enrolled nurses) employed in Australia indicated they were working principally in mental health. Over 4 in 5 of these were registered nurses (85.1%) , similar to the total nursing workforce (DoH 2020).

There were 90.2 FTE mental health nurses per 100,000 population working in Australia in 2019, with state and territory rates ranging from 78.5 in the Northern Territory to 105.3 in Western Australia (Figure WK.3). In terms of a clinical role, there were 83.6 clinical FTE mental health nurses per 100,000 population at a national level, with state and territory rates ranging from 72.6 in the Northern Territory to 98.9 in Western Australia.

Figure Wk.3: Employed mental health nurses, FTE and clinical FTE per 100,000 population, states and territories, 2019

Clustered bar chart showing the number of FTE and clinical FTE mental health nurses per 100,000 population by state or territory in 2019. WA had the highest number of FTE mental health nurses at 105.3 FTE and 98.9 clinical FTE per 100,000 population, followed by Vic (94.7 and 87.8), SA (93.8 and 86.7), Tas (90.9 and 85.2), ACT (86.0 and 78.7), Qld (85.6 and 79.7), NSW (84.1 and 77.4) and NT (78.5 and 72.6). The national total was 90.2 FTE and 83.6 clinical FTE mental health nurses per 100,000 population. Refer to table WK.11.

Visualisation not available for printing

Source data: Mental Health Workforce 2019 tables (490KB XLXS)

Remoteness area

Three-quarters of FTE mental health nurses (77.0%) were employed in Major cities in 2019. Major cities had the highest rate of FTE mental health nurses (96.1 FTE per 100,000 population), followed by Inner regional (85.7), Outer regional (56.8), Remote (56.2) and Very remote (34.8) areas. This distribution was different from the overall nursing and midwifery workforce, with the highest rate of FTE nurses found in Remote areas (1,340.8 per 100,000 population), followed by Very remote (1,331.4), Major cities (1,204.5), Inner regional (1,177.3) and Outer regional (1,139.3) areas (DoH 2020).

Hours worked per week

In 2019, mental health nurses reported working an average of 36.0 total hours per week, with averages ranging from 34.3 hours per week in Tasmania to 38.6 hours in the Northern Territory. The average clinical hours worked per week reported by mental health nurses was 33.4 hours at the national level, ranging from 32.2 hours in Tasmania to 35.7 hours in the Northern Territory (Figure WK.4).

Male mental health nurses worked more total and clinical hours per week on average than female nurses (males: 37.6 total hours and 34.7 clinical hours; females: 35.4 total hours and 32.9 clinical hours) in 2019. Registered nurses worked an average of 36.3 hours per week while enrolled nurses worked an average of 34.3 hours per week. Registered nurses and enrolled nurses worked similar clinical hours of 33.4 and 33.5 average hours per week respectively. Mental health nurses employed in Remote and Very remote areas reported working the highest average total hours (39.7 and 38.9 hours, respectively) and clinical hours (37.7 and 34.9 hours, respectively) per week in 2019.

Figure Wk.4: Employed mental health nurses, average total and clinical hours worked per week, states and territories, 2019

Clustered bar chart showing the average total and clinical hours worked per week by mental health nurses by state or territory in 2019. Mental health nurses in NT reported on average the highest number of total and clinical hours (38.6 and 35.7 respectively), followed by ACT (38.1 and 34.9), NSW (36.8 and 33.9), WA (36.3 and 34.1), SA (35.9 and 33.2), Qld (35.8 and 33.3), Vic (35.4 and 32.8) and Tas (34.3 and 32.2). The national average was 36.0 total and 33.4 clinical hours. Refer to table WK.11. 

Visualisation not available for printing

Source data: Mental Health Workforce 2019 tables (490KB XLXS)

Characteristics

About 3 in 5 mental health nurses (55.3%) were aged 45 and above in 2019; a third (31.3%) were aged 55 and older and 1 in 20 (6.3%) were aged 65 and over. The proportion of male nurses is nearly 3 times higher in the mental health nursing workforce when compared to the male proportion of all employed nurses and midwives in Australia (29.2% and 11.3%, respectively) (DoH 2020).

The supply of mental health nurses increased by 7.0% from 2014 to 2019 (from 84.3 FTE per 100,000 population to 90.2). The proportion of female mental health nurses increased slightly over this period (from 68.6% in 2014 to 70.8% in 2019).

Work characteristics

Most FTE mental health nurses (94.5%) reported their principal role at work to be a clinician, followed by administrator (2.9%) and teacher or educator (2.0%). The most common FTE mental health nurse work setting reported was hospitals (64.3%, excluding outpatient services), followed by community health care services (20.7%) and residential health care facilities (4.0%).

Psychologist workforce

In 2019, an estimated 28,412 psychologists with full registration were working in Australia. Provisionally registered psychologists did not complete the NHWDS survey and were therefore excluded from the analysis presented below. According to figures from the Psychology Board of Australia, there were an additional 5,221 provisionally registered psychologists in Australia in 2019 (Psychology Board of Australia 2020).

At a national level, there were 95.3 FTE psychologists per 100,000 population working in Australia in 2019. Rates ranged from 68.8 FTE psychologists per 100,000 population in South Australia to 161.8 in the Australian Capital Territory (Figure WK.5). In terms of time spent working in a clinical role, 70.5 clinical FTE psychologists per 100,000 population were employed in Australia, ranging from 48.9 in the Northern Territory to 114.4 in the Australian Capital Territory.

Figure Wk.5: Employed psychologists, FTE nd clinical FTE per 100,000 population, states and territories, 2019

Clustered bar chart showing the number of FTE and clinical FTE psychologists per 100,000 population by state or territory in 2019. ACT had the highest number of FTE and clinical FTE psychologists with 161.8 FTE and 114.4 clinical FTE per 100,000 populaton respectively, followed by Vic (101.0 and 74.1), NSW (96.8 and 72.0), WA (96.7 and 73.4), Qld (91.0 and 66.2), Tas (75.5 and 60.5), NT (69.8 and 48.9) and SA (68.8 and 52.5). The national total was 95.3 and 70.5. Refer to table WK.19.

Visualisation not available for printing

Source data: Mental Health Workforce 2019 tables (490KB XLXS)

Remoteness area

Over 8 in 10 FTE psychologists (82.2%) were employed in Major cities in 2019. There were 109.6 FTE psychologists per 100,000 population working in Major cities, 64.6 in Inner regional, 47.4 in Outer regional, 42.2 in Remote and 31.1 in Very remote areas.

Hours worked per week

Psychologists reported working an average of 32.3 total hours per week in 2019, with an average of 23.9 clinical hours. Average total hours worked ranged from 30.9 hours per week for psychologists working in Tasmania to 37.1 hours per week in the Northern Territory (Figure WK.6). The average clinical hours worked ranged from 23.2 hours per week for Victorian psychologists to 26.0 hours per week for Northern Territory psychologists. Male psychologists reported working on average more total and clinical hours than female psychologists (males: 35.5 total hours per week and 25.4 clinical hours per week; females: 31.5 total hours per week and 23.5 clinical hours per week).

Figure Wk.6: Employed psychologists, average total and clinical hours worked per week, states and teritories, 2019

Clustered bar chart showing the average total and clinical hours worked per week by psychologists by state or territory in 2019. NT psychologists reported working on average the highest number of total and clinical hours per week at 37.1 total and 26.0 clinical hours, followed by Qld (33.8 and 24.6), ACT (33.3 and 23.6), WA (32.1 and 24.4), NSW (32.1 and 23.8), SA (32.0 and 24.5), Vic (31.6 and 23.2), and Tas (30.9 and 24.8). The national average was total 32.3 and clinical hours worked per week 23.9. Refer to table WK.19. 

Visualisation not available for printing

Source data: Mental Health Workforce 2019 tables (490KB XLXS)

Characteristics

Half of all psychologists were aged 45 and over (51.4%) in 2019, with more than one-quarter (27.4%) aged 55 and over.

Nationally, there has been a 8.9% increase in the supply of psychologists from 2014 to 2019, from 87.5 FTE per 100,000 population in 2014 to 95.3 FTE per 100,000 population in 2019. The proportion of female psychologists has also increased over this period from 77.6% in 2014 to 79.7% in 2019.

Work characteristics

The majority (88.5%) of FTE psychologists reported their principal role at work to be clinician, followed by administrator (4.4%) and researcher (3.3%). The main area of practice (principal area of main job) nominated by almost 2 in 5 (39.1%) FTE psychologists was counselling, followed by mental health intervention (29.8%) and neuropsychological/cognitive assessment (4.5%). The most common work setting was solo private practice (19.0%), followed by group private practice (18.0%) and school (10.6%).

It should be noted that the principal area nominated by a psychologist does not imply that they hold area of practice endorsement. To be eligible to apply for an area of practice endorsement and use the associated title, a psychologist must have advanced training (an accredited qualification in the area of practice followed by a period of supervised practice) in addition to the requirements for general registration (Psychology Board of Australia 2021). In 2019, over one-third (39.9%) of psychologists held an area of practice endorsement. The most commonly held endorsement was as a Clinical Psychologist, held by almost 1 in 3 (30.1%) of all psychologists (endorsed and non-endorsed), followed by Counselling Psychologist (3.2%) (Psychology Board of Australia 2020).