Mental health workforce

A variety of health and social care professionals, including psychiatrists, psychologists, nurses, general practitioners and social workers, provide a range of mental health-related services to Australians. The workforce data for this section 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. Further details on the NHWDS and arrangements prior to July 2010 can be found in the data source section. Data on the size and selected characteristics of the workforce is available for the following health care professionals who work principally in mental health care and related areas:

  • psychiatrists
  • mental health nurses
  • psychologists

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 tables 2018 (489KB XLS)

Mental health workforce section 2018 (324KB)

Data in this section were last updated in July 2020.

Key points

  • 3,441 psychiatrists (13.3 FTE per 100,000 population), 23,083 mental health nurses (87.8 FTE per 100,000 population) and 27,027 psychologists (92.3 FTE per 100,000 population) were employed in Australia in 2018.
  • 9.8% (3,441) of all employed specialist medical practitioners were psychiatrists in 2018.
  • 43.3 hours, on average, is worked per week by psychiatrists in Remote areas compared to 38.7 for those in Major cities. 7.0 hours more per week was worked by male than female psychiatrists, on average, in 2018.
  • 16,218 women and 6,824 men were employed as mental health nurses in 2018.
  • 23,083 mental health nurses were employed in 2018, an increase from 14,959 in 2007.
  • 56.7% of all employed mental health nurses were aged 45 or over.
  • 67.9 clinical FTE psychologists per 100,000 population were employed in 2018.
  • 5.6% was the increase in FTE psychiatrists per 100,000 population from 2014 to 2018, followed by 5.5% for FTE psychologists and 4.0% for FTE mental health nurses.

The number of psychiatrists, mental health nurses and psychologists, and the average total hours and clinical hours worked are reported in this section. To provide a meaningful comparison, both full-time-equivalent (FTE) and clinical FTE figures have been reported. The FTE measures the number of standard hour week workloads completed, regardless of full-time or part-time working hours. By convention, a standard working week is defined as 38 hours for mental health nurses and psychologists, and 40 hours for psychiatrists.

Clinical FTE figures and average clinical hours worked provide measures of the time psychiatrists, mental health nurses and psychologists spent working in a direct clinical role.